© Damen, 2002

27. Repeated Phrases and Facts.

To some extent, repetition is unavoidable in academic writing. After all, if your job is to give a specific answer to a question or to discuss some issue relevant to history—that is, to put forward a theme—you will have to restate that theme several times. It entails quite a bit of repetition, and there's no way around it.

But it doesn't have to be tedious repetition, not if you vary the wording of the theme, in other words, tailor it to suit different circumstances each time you repeat it. For instance, in the introduction assert the theme as succinctly as possible and in the conclusion as fully as possible. In between those—that is, in the body of the paper where you will have to reiterate your thesis several times to ensure that the connection between fact and theme remains clear to the reader—highlight whatever aspect of it best supports each individual section. To put it bluntly, driving home a single point does not mean your writing has to be monotonous. You can repeat creatively.


Repeated Facts.
Repeating facts is a completely different matter. It's far more deleterious to your argument than monotonous phrasing, because by bringing up the same fact twice or more you leave the impression that, as far as you know, there are no other facts supporting the case. With so few data underlying it, how strong is your argument then? If, on the other hand, there are more and you know them, why aren't you citing them? The reader will conclude that either your case or your preparation is shaky, which doesn't help advance an argument. Instead, construct a better case and include more data, or re-modulate the argument so you can include more corroborating evidence. But whatever you do, don't repeat the same fact in a paper!

Please note that this pertains only to the body of your paper. For instance, it's perfectly fine to repeat facts in the conclusion when you're recapitulating your argument and reviewing the data at the end of the paper. There, in fact, you should repeat the specific information you've cited in the body. Just don't repeat facts anywhere else.

All in all, persuasive writing ought to encompass as wide a range of data as possible. The broader the array of facts and the more abundant they are, the more comprehensive an argument will seem and the more convincing it will be.

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