Common mistake #1: Writers often try to summarize every single finding in their final paragraph. This attempt results in a clunky concluding paragraph, that doesn’t highlight the most interesting/significant findings (it’s not possible that everything you found is equally exciting/novel, is it?), and doesn’t direct the reader’s attention appropriately.
Common mistake #2: Writers write very vague sentences that don’t really summarize anything specific reported in that particular paper (e.g., we found gender differences in sexual risk behavior).
Common mistake #3: Writers treat their findings as so revolutionary that all future research, interventions, and policy will be influenced by the findings in this one study of 100 students from one middle school (e.g., findings demonstrate that parents should avoid discussing alcohol with their middle school aged children, and that future interventions should train parents how to dictate complete abstinence from drinking in order to prevent their children from becoming early alcohol abusers).
Common mistake #4: Writers end with their limitations or future directions paragraph, rather than adding a concluding paragraph afterward. You want to include these topics in your discussion. But you don’t want to leave the readers thinking about the things you did wrong or what others should do, you want them remembering what you did.
What should you do?
1. Summarize 1-3 specific and interesting findings that add to past research. Think about your elevator speech. If someone asked you to tell them in a couple of sentences your most interesting findings from this paper, what would you say? Write that.
2. Be clear on the how these findings contribute to the literature – do they support or refute a prior theory? Do they have important public health implications? Do they show something novel about human behavior?
That’s it. Relatively short, clear, and memorable. Here are a few examples:
From a short article in an AMA-style journal:
“Our data suggest that the potential acceptability of the HPV vaccine is high in Argentina, given that there is acceptance among the professional community, that physicians recommend it, and that the vaccine is affordable. Special educational efforts must be undertaken to assure that physicians provide parents and women adequate, evidence-based information about the HPV vaccine.” (from Arrossi, Maceira, Paolino, & Sankaranarayanan, 2012).
A public health message:
“In conclusion, this research supported the notion that students consuming alcohol with a celebration mission reach higher levels of intoxication, thereby putting themselves at substantial risk for alcohol-related problems, including DUI. Interventions to prevent alcohol abuse on a college or university campus need to consider the impact of various celebrations. Perhaps it is possible to develop and promote alternative ways for college students to commemorate special occasions.” (from Glindemann, Wiegand, & Geller, 2007)
A developmental perspective:
“Patterning of risk behavior from late adolescence to almost 30 years of age differed depending on the type of behavior. Most risk behaviors decrease from late adolescence to young adulthood, but the age when decline begins differs. While drinking up to the point of drunkenness, smoking, cannabis use, and deviance decline during young adulthood, HIV-related sexual risk behavior still increases. This might indicate a distinct functionality compared with other risk behaviors.” (from Brodbeck, Bachmann, Croudace, & Brown, 2013)
A policy perspective:
“Beyond these limitations, however, results highlight the importance of considering housing in a multifaceted manner in order to address the underlying connections between multiple aspects of housing contexts. By assessing housing quality, stability, type, and cost in one comprehensive model, this study sought to delineate the relative contributions of these interrelated aspects of housing to children’s developmental trajectories in emotional, behavioral, and cognitive realms. Results underscore the central role of poor housing quality as potentially the most potent aspect of housing in inhibiting the healthy development of low-income children and youth, with housing problems showing the most consistent links with children’s and adolescents’ emotional and behavioral functioning, as well as with adolescents’ cognitive skills.” (from Coley, Leventhal, Lynch, & Kull, 2013)
I think that’s what I have to say about intentional writing for now. What other professional development topics would you like to see covered in the coming weeks?
“The post Intentional writing part 6: Leave them with something to remember first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on November 20, 2013.”