On Writing and Reviewing…

This is an Accepted Manuscript of the article published by Taylor & Francis in EDPACS , Volume 58 Issue 4, available online: https://doi.org/10.1080/07366981.2018.1543835


This article addresses the perceived gap between authors and reviewers. The solution offered to close this gap is the concept of dual creatorship between writer and reader. The first part addresses the content development of a paper. Comments made in this part are separated into two sections; notes for writers and notes for reviewers. It is suggested that the quality of a paper is determined by the arguments and logic used, therefore these two aspects are expounded in detail. The concept of “dry loose wall building” is used with other metaphors to make a compelling case for writing “chunky and linky.” The second part focuses on the writing process itself. Considering four main phases, advice is given to aspiring writers from a practitioner’s point of view. The dual creatorship concept is expanded and shown in its practicality during the multiphased writing process. The paper does not finish, but hands over the continual creation to the reader.


Writing about writing. Well, about writing a peer-reviewed journal article to be precise. Now, that can be interesting. But why write about it when there is already plenty of material available on this subject matter?

The first answer to that is that while sources are available, they are either (a) behind paywalls of journal listings, (b) embedded in PhD workshop materials, (c) part of describing generic academic writing in course materials, or (d) in blogs, purporting to provide resources to academia. Some are good, but others — especially those in the last category — are often less than satisfactory.

Second, even in the good resources, the key elements of the overall publishing process, namely the writing and the peer reviewing, are usually considered in isolation. This consequently creates a certain gap between writers and reviewers. Transitioning this gap — in either direction — can itself be a struggle. I would argue however, that the gap can be narrowed significantly. It requires thinking before writing an article and requires thinking during the reviewing. The promise of this thinking is a more robust and more enjoyable publishing process as well as delivering better quality “products.”

The key aspects of a good paper in general are (a) quality of arguments, including cogency and coherency, (b) quality of logic, especially in analysis, and (c) originality, which determines contribution to the growth of knowledge and knowledge systems. Unfortunately, while papers — peer reviewed or not — claim to hold these aspects, reality seems to be somewhat different. My aim here is to show how the claim can be achieved using some pointers based on my own writing process in this article that can be equally useful to writers and reviewers.

I freely and cheerfully break a number of rules along the process. [i] This does not mean disagreeing with rules. I do so, even if I advocate a given rule, provided that it would improve the quality of writing. That means changing my overall writing style — which I discuss later — if necessary. I must allow for such variations to aid stylistic impact, otherwise it would be mechanical dictation.

Let us consider a rule such as not writing in first person. I break it, in general, to stress the point that writing is a creative process, therefore it is subjective. I wish to highlight this subjectivity using the first person. As I change the tense, or I change the pronouns, it stimulates the reader to change his point of view.

I brought the reader into the picture on purpose. Every text — whether it is an article, a letter, or a book — is a creation; an art form, which can only be completed by the reader as he reads and interprets the text based on his own experiences, views, and biases. This is where meaning may be derived — at the intersection of the text and the individual. The creation becomes alive as a possible application in the reader’s life. I want to remind the reader — even with my style changes — that he must do the application.

A good writer not just addresses the reader with his own thoughts. He calls upon the reader to consider those thoughts and to make a contribution to them in and by further thinking. Consequently, a writing always has two creators: the writer who writes it and the reader who reads it. The creative process continues even when the writing process has finished.

I want to make it very clear that the focus of my comments in this article is on a kind of writing that can be called conceptual writing as compared to presenting research results. Therefore, I am not going to comment on data collection, data analysis, and such. Instead, I aim to focus on the quality of arguments presented.


The very first thing to determine even before putting down a word is “Why to write?” This applies to all types of writing. First and foremost, I write for myself as a practice to keep my mind sharpened. Putting it in a different form, I write because I want to say something, not necessarily because readers have something they want to hear. Second, I write about topics on which I have something to say. Inherent in this statement is that I try to limit my writing to areas I can say something meaningful about. Some people make it an art form of having nothing to say, and saying it often. Speaking an empty mind though is not overly useful, even if one gets paid for it.

The purpose of writing — derived from the above question — determines the writing style. My chosen style is polemic writing, which is deliberately chosen over strict, impassionate academic style. That means I am not merely stating facts, I am not merely thinking. I am advancing propositions, I am defending a position, I am arguing, I am debating, I am reasoning.

The rationale for that is that thinking is not a pure act of the intellect. We all think emotionally up to a point; that is one reason why we all have our prejudices. Not even a scientist can deny the axiological aspects (the nature, the type, and the role of values) in his thinking. We all think with our whole being, intellect, and affections. The polemic style suits me best with this and keeps me from pretending otherwise.

In a manner, the first two points diminish the importance of considering the audience. But they do not diminish the importance of respecting them. Respect is a virtue. It is an active virtue. Having a sort of attitude of respect is not enough; there needs to be a continuous demonstration of it. Therefore, respect needs to be developed and constantly exercised so it becomes strong and firm.

Self-respect and respect for others are inextricably entwined. They belong together. They cannot exist without each other. The test of this condition — and therefore an utmost importance — is to consider how I can respect my prospective audience and how I can make them feel that respect through my writing. I aim to write therefore in a way that induces and educes thinking instead of doing the thinking for them; simply out of respect. Hence the importance of considering style and language.

Moving from the general to the particular; the purpose and the objective of the article to be written must be considered. The two are different and complement each other. In short, the purpose focuses more on the motives, while the objective focuses on the desired outcome. It is wise to write these two down, not just vaguely forming them in the mind. They help determining the title of the article and serve as active checkpoints along the writing process.

This brings up the topic of consistency. Not just consistency of an argument, but also the continual consistency between the purpose, the title, and the content of the article. I do not wish to spend much time on this here, since I will expound the concept later. What I cannot emphasize enough though is that consistency has to be planned before writing, maintained during the writing process and verified before publication.

Please note that there is effectively no writing until this point. I would strongly argue that a writing process without having these preliminary concepts worked out beforehand is a flawed one. It is very tempting to gloss over these underlying philosophical elements. We tend to think that we worked them out once and for all. But have we? To what level? Did we express them both negatively and positively? The result of doing so would be a more robust understanding of why and how we are doing the writing.

All the above was said provisionally. Armed with these general and particular principles, we have an approach to understanding and addressing some of the more detailed aspects of writing. I will first explore the major elements of writing starting with content development. I do this from a writer’s point of view but will provide some notes to reviewers in each section. After that I will make some practical observations about the writing process itself.

Notes for Reviewers

Reviewing an article is an important work. Do not deprecate it by doing it poorly.

● Spend time with the article.
● If you do not have the time or interest, hand the article back to the editor.
● Read the article multiple times. Each reading has a different purpose.

● First time: read the whole article without interruption (for familiarity)
● Second time: read the whole article and make notes of problem areas
● Third time: read the problem areas and make suggestions (correction, removal, rework, etc.)
● Subsequent times: read, review and revise your comments

● Casual skimming and superficial commenting does violence to the review process.
● There is a difference between criticizing and critiquing. Make sure you do only the second one.
● Do not take yourself overly seriously — it is not your writing.
● Keep in mind that others can write a good paper, not just you.
● Do not get imprisoned by your own views. It is fine to accept the author’s point of view even if you disagree with it. Stay with the writer’s point of view and evaluate its merit.
● Do not jump to conclusions. Work your way through to the overall end.
● Keep examining your own biases as you read.
● Use language tools such as notes, grammar books, and so on in the review process.
● In case the purpose of the article is not articulated clearly, ask for clarification. Do not assume and offer your own ideas.


I group my comments about content development into six areas: (a) structure, (b) abstract, (c) introduction, (d) content, (e) logic/argumentation, and (f) conclusion. There could be more areas, there could be less. As I stated in the beginning, the quality of writing is largely determined by the quality of logic and arguments used to make the key points. I could therefore reduce even my six areas; however, all these areas contribute significantly to the quality and consequently to the success of the writing.

The six areas represent the generic layout of a conceptual paper. I elevated structure and argumentation to emphasize the importance of these elements. Most of my comments are generic, highlighting underlying key concepts within each area. They are not exhaustive by any means. I aimed to provoke thinking about the areas more than anything else. The implementation of them is up to the reader.


I start with structure as it sets out the logical sequences and consequently the progress of arguments. The clarity of structure improves cohesion, readability, and learnability, therefore credibility. It also helps the writer to keep the overall paper in focus without getting lost in the details and possibly wandering away from the main purpose of the article.

Having a clear structure can also assist in achieving consistency, completeness, and simplicity. This means that all necessary arguments are presented in one place instead of being scattered across the paper and all arguments are well rounded, not lacking any necessary parts.

This structural clarity can be achieved by considering an article being made up of “chunks” or building blocks. At a macro level the introduction is a “chunk”; so is the body and the conclusion. A larger unit of thought might be made up of a number of smaller “chunks.” These “chunks” need to be organized into logical sequences within the larger unit, to let the writing — and the reading — flow easily and naturally.

At a more micro level an idea, a proposition, a claim, an issue is a chunk. Each one needs to be dealt with clearly, separately, and completely. The thoughts related to a given idea need to be carefully and fully explained. The idea advocated here is “unpacking” the thoughts until what the writer means is fully communicated. That includes drawing out the implications and possible objections.

Transition between “chunks” needs to be explained. The building blocks are to be held together; this is what mortar does to bricks. In a similar way, this is what transitioning does for the thought “chunks.” It links the “chunks” together. Writing “linky” establishes the connection between the thoughts expressed. Or, putting it yet another way, as the discussion might change direction between “chunks,” the reader needs to be notified of such change to know where you are going and why.

Above all, the starting point needs to be kept in sight. Referring back to the title and purpose often; explaining how the current thoughts are relevant to them is what some might call “signposting.” “Ringing the bells” often keeps both writer and reader alert and keeps the reader’s interest in continuing the reading alive.

This brings us to the topic of the use of punctuation marks and to the literary form in general. In speech, intonation provides insights into the speaker’s flow of thoughts and emotions. This device is not available to writers. Yet, carefully placed punctuation marks, such as hyphens, parentheses, brackets, colons, semicolons, ellipses, quotation marks, exclamation marks, and so on can be used to the same effect. Punctuation marks provide additional stress — and therefore cohesion — between words. They are also effective to produce different speech acts.

A speech act — called locution — is formulating an expression with a specific, intrinsic meaning. I am referring explicitly to the intent of what is being said or written.[i] Considering the expected effect on the listener or reader, aiming to elicit a particular behaviour from him is another speech act.[ii] Both punctuation marks and literary forms are useful to express them.

In relation to literary form I want to highlight one, and only one, here. This is the abrupt change, where the writer digresses from what he is saying, going off on to something else.[iii] He may or may not come back to what he had originally intended to say. This is considered a flaw in style. Yet occasionally — very occasionally — it can be beneficial to the reader. Do not take me wrong on this. While I do not advocate the use of it, I simply highlight that even a bad literary style can be helpful in certain circumstances.

Coming back to the concept of “signposting” in general, it does not mean the creation of a forced path. Although the writer takes the reader on a journey, the reader should be able to wander away to a different thought path, even if temporarily. Remember, the writing needs to induce thinking, not do it for the reader.

Notes for Reviewers

● Read the abstract, introduction, and conclusion first to see the scope of work.
● The quality of the paper can be determined easily from the above three parts.
● Check the logical flow as demonstrated by the structure. Is it clear where the author is going, and how he gets there? How is this clarity maintained?
● Look for what

● is missing?
● is incomplete?
● does not fit?

● Is it easy to read the paper?
● Does the style suit the structure?
● Consider whether a final-year university student can understand the article?
● How is interest maintained?
● If the writing is not satisfactory from a stylistic point of view, request a re-write, but do not get involved in editing and writing.


An abstract is an integral part of a journal article. Yet it is often treated with ambiguity and as a chore. Using a metaphor, it is like a stepchild of the article. This should not be the case as the quality of the abstract has a strong influence on both reviewers and readers alike. It helps the reader to determine, for example, whether the whole article is worth reading.

The general view among the learned authorities is to write the abstract after the article is written. This way the abstract is treated as a summary of the overall paper. It is in some ways similar — in the matter of writing, I mean — to an executive summary in a business report. Another way of looking at it is that the paper drives the abstract. There are good reasons for that, especially when the paper describes research and presents findings. But, as indicated earlier, I am focusing on writing conceptual papers. For such papers, I suggest writing the abstract first.

I am not advocating to write differently. I simply suggest changing the writing order and letting the abstract drive the content. There are many benefits of doing it this way. Perhaps the most relevant in my view is that the thought process for developing the content this way is sharper and therefore of better quality.

A good abstract can stand alone. I would lay it down as a general principle that it is a lot harder to write a good abstract than an overall article. Just like creating the structure, writing the abstract can crystallize the writer’s thinking. If you can sum up what you plan to write in a couple of hundred words, expanding it is easier.

There are no definite rules of what an abstract should contain. In general, the following questions are addressed:

● Why should the reader be interested in reading the paper?
● What problem prompted the study (background)?
● How does this work attempt to solve such problems?
● Are there any limitations?
● What do the results arrived at imply (conclusions)?
● Miscellaneous observations.

The word limit restricts how much of the above information can be put into the abstract. The temptation to write too much or not enough are equally present. Precision and conciseness due to the required low word limit keeps the author honest. It is perhaps best to ask yourself: “Does my abstract tell the full story of my article?” If you were the reader, would you be satisfied with the information provided? Would you be interested in reading the whole article? Keep revisiting the abstract until the answers can comfortably be “yes.”

Notes for Reviewers

● Is the type of abstract suitable to the type of article?
● Is the abstract specific and precise, yet brief?
● Try to see the problem and the work from the writer’s eyes. Is it doable?
● Does the abstract cover the whole paper from problem identification to conclusion?
● Can it stand alone? Is it effective?
● Is the main message easily discernible?
● Is it obscured by overly technical language?
● What is the intellectual depth and rigor of the work?
● Is there information here that is not presented elsewhere?
● Is there something in the abstract that should not be there (such as citations, references)?


The importance of the introduction can be overstated but should not be underestimated. Do I exaggerate the case? I certainly hope so. I think it accurate to say that this is a fundamental and there- fore a vital principle.

The introduction sets the motive and tone of the paper both for writer and reader. The idea behind motive and tone for the reader is what can be termed as interestingness. The writer needs to put the topic in perspective, including background, problem, and solution offered (if any).

The reader can rightfully ask the question: “What is the value to me reading this instead of doing something else?” “Is it interesting enough to give up anything I might do instead for this?” The idea of opportunity cost in the realm of economics is perhaps a fitting analogy. The sooner a convincing answer is provided to these questions, the better.

It is a good time for the writer to re-assess the rationale and the relevance of the proposed writing. That goes beyond formulating a purpose statement. A number of questions need to be carefully considered and addressed, such as “Is it an important problem that needs discussion? Important to whom? Why is it important? Who would consider it unimportant or even a trivial issue? Why?” In case the rationale is ambitious, should it be limited? Where would the writer draw the limit lines?

Discussion of these questions need not be excessive; however, the burden is on the writer to make the problem seem to be important and in need of consideration. Reasoning out the rationale can be supported by a brief explanation of the key sections including the logic of their order. Key findings or solutions could be listed next. Finally, the outcome should be at least hinted at.

Notes for Reviewers

● Is the purpose of the paper clearly stated and understandable?
● What is the thing the writer is setting out to prove? Is the whole picture about the paper clear?
● Do not allow particulars to interfere with the whole!
● Is the importance of the paper understandable and agreeable?
● Is sufficient interest generated to continue reading beyond the introduction?
● Does the writer address all questions suggested earlier?
● Is the background, the rationale, the focus, and the conclusion of the paper clearly articulated?
● Are the limitations and solutions offered clearly presented?


The content is the essence of the paper. This is where knowledge created is disseminated. All other parts lead to it or flow from it. This is where propositions or claims are made and advanced. This is where supporting evidence is provided and possible objections are refuted. There might be subsections constructed within the main content, especially for academic papers. Methodology, theoretical foundations, experimental section (data, results, presentation, analysis, and interpretation), references, and figures are such sub- sections. I do not address them in detail as my focus here is not the creation of an academic research paper. Nevertheless, these can be considered even for a conceptual paper to a certain extent.

I attempt to provide only a few major headings about content here, mainly on claim creation. I will go into more details on argumentation and presentation in the next section. Nevertheless, I provide quite a few notes to reviewers. Writers would do well to carefully look at these notes, too, and measure up their content before submission.

Let me start with the statement: the paper as a whole needs to be considered. The overall topic is to be developed in a way that uncertainties cannot arise in the mind of the reader. The analysis and, the thinking applied should be thorough. The ideas presented need to be thought through to their logical conclusion. It can be rather embarrassing to learn later that a claim or proposition presented actually proves the opposite of what was intended.

It is advisable to have one major topic in a paper. If there is more than one topic, it is often better to split the paper into two separate ones. Competing topics in a paper carry the inherent danger of under-developing each. Another danger is to have “orphaned” topics. Revisiting the structural unity during the writing process is helpful in this aspect as well.

This brings us to the issue of balance. It goes over and beyond cohesion, structure, or even word economics. Balance means that all thoughts should be developed sufficiently and in relation to their importance and contribution to the overall topic. None should suffer at the expense of another thought.

The balance of view itself needs to be considered. Preconceived ideas, unchecked assumptions, or selective treatment of data can distort the view. When inferences are made based on the first two, more danger can be looming on the horizon. We can create a solution that is worse than the problem we try to solve. Evaluating implications and consequences of our reasoning should also be part of our thinking.

Let me highlight the issue of balance of view with an illustration. Writers of conceptual papers are often tempted to gaze into the future and make overzealous claims. Chesterton described this as ‘the fear of the past’. This is the way he puts it: “The future is a refuge from the fierce competition of our forefathers” (Chesterton, 1910, p. 29). It is so, because predictions of the future are not expected to be verifiable as the future has not happened yet.

Aspirant writers of artificial intelligence for example could benefit from reading the brave scientific predictions in the 1960s about climate control or about interacting with extra-terrestrial civilizations and compare them with today’s reality. This does not mean avoiding ambitious claims. What it means is that the claims — with counter-claims — should be carefully evaluated from all possible angles. The consequences that likely flow from the proposition need to be considered. Then, and only then, should the claims be presented.

Propositions or arguments that are balanced will make more sense to the reader. They are easier to understand, easier to validate, and the reader can therefore relate to them better. They can be generalized; applied in different circumstances and even possibly in different contexts. They foster better internal and external validity. All these make a proposition more interesting and there- fore easier to accept. In short, the paper with more established arguments is a paper that is more meaningful to the reader.

It is therefore essential to develop the propositions advocated by the writer carefully and thoroughly. This goes beyond the general headings of content development. How the writer makes his assertion, how he reasons and argues it out belongs more to argumentation or argument development. Let us now turn to con- sider certain general rules concerning this area.

Notes for Reviewers

● Evaluate the depth, the simplicity, and the necessity of the content.
● What is the main topic advocated in the paper?
● Is the topic sufficiently developed?
● Are there competing topics in the paper, taking the focus of the reader away?
● Is the paper balanced?
● Should have more work been done, more analysis, more thinking applied?
● Is there contradiction between a proposition and its logical conclusion?
● Follow through the writer’s logic to its logical conclusion. Is it different from what is presented?
● Are the solutions offered beneficial? Do they solve the problem? Do they create new problems?
● Are the propositions understandable?
● Are the justifications believable?
● Are the assumptions identified and verified?
● Can different inferences be drawn than what are provided?
● Are all thoughts fully developed?
● Is each sub-topic relevant to the whole?
● Become familiar with theoretical linguistics and information theory.

● Can you differentiate between syntax, semantics, lexis, pragmatics and apobetics?
● Has the writer built the text consistently between these levels?
● Understand speech acts.
●  Are speech acts employed appropriately?

● Become familiar with literary devices at least to the point that you are able to detect them.
● Keep an eye out for tautology. Do not take eloquence as an excuse for tautology, yet do not discount any literary forms nor any rhetorical devices. Do not rush to classify detailed explanations of subtle differences within a topic as tautology either. Do not jump to conclusions; look for the ultimate purpose of the paper. How do the individual parts contribute to the whole? What is the purpose of the perceived tautology? Does it add value to the whole? Does it make the meaning richer, clearer? If it does not, be merciless and ask for removal. If it — even possibly — does, be gracious!


I start this section by stating that language is what makes us human. It is an absolute statement and as such it is a sort of over simplification. Nevertheless, it is a useful starting point for discussing the importance of reasoning.

Man comes into contact with things, looks at the world around himself, and thinks about this world. He perceives and reflects on reality. He uses words to describe and name things. The words he uses do not just describe but create the kind of reality he perceives. He uses words to think with. When put into a particular order, words express complex ideas. Interestingly, the Greek word “logos” is the root for both “word” and “reason” and consequently for “logic.”

Words create meanings. They also exclude certain other meanings. Words put together become phrases. Phrases put together become clauses and clauses put together become sentences. And so on. The consistent relationship between these parts is what logic is about.

An illustration might be helpful here. Consider building a wall using rocks from a quarry without having mortar. Called dry loose wall building, such walls can be seen in the Gozitan countryside in Malta, in Britain, and in other countries, separating paddocks.

A number of observations can be made about such a wall. The individual rocks are not a wall, yet without the rocks there is no wall. The rocks have to be the right type, the right size, and the right shape. There are rocks beneath, there are rocks on each side, and there will be rocks placed above. They need to be fitted in. They might need to be shaped; hammered and chiselled before they are placed into their particular places. They are not put in until they are the right shape as they need to be fitted together with those around them with care. There is a certain stress, a burden and a load upon each stone because the stones are held together by the tension between them.

Words are like those rocks in the wall. They are thoughts that are expressed in sentences; arguments with verification that are grouped into paragraphs; topics that are discussed across multiple paragraphs. Then there are the major groupings such as introduction, conclusion, and everything in between them. All these parts, small and big, need to be “chiselled” carefully until they are held together cohesively. Each one carries its own weight; each one contributes to the whole paper, so the whole is more than the individual parts added together.

I referred to these major groupings as “chunks” in the “Structure” section. It is still applicable here, but I want to draw out the careful and solid formulation of the thoughts, hence the “rock” picture. I use the word “rocks” here consciously instead of bricks or building blocks. These latter carry the meaning of pre- manufacturing and as such, uniformity. Uniformity, however, is mechanic, not creative. As suggested earlier, writing a journal article is more of a unique, creative process than a mechanic mass production. Extending the analogy of the “chunks,” if transitioning is the mortar, logic is the tension holding the “chunks” together. Therefore it can be argued that writing “chunky,” “rocky” (but chiselled!), and “linky” builds a paper into a cohesive whole.

Or one might want to look at that inner bond holding the parts together considering writing as a body, consisting of many body parts. I find it useful to think of writing in this way as well. A finger has no sense or meaning in and of itself; neither does the hand. They are part of a whole. They are part of the body. Moreover, a body is not a collection or aggregate of independent parts stuck together in a casual manner. It is not a mere loose attachment of fingers and hands and forearms and arms. In a sense it is impossible to define where the fingers finish, and the palm starts. They are parts one of another; none can exist in isolation. There is an intimate and living relationship between the parts.

One cannot throw a few additional fingers to the arm, expecting that they somehow become connected. The whole essence of the unity of a body is that it is vital and organic. The individual parts form this organic, vital unity with each other and with the whole; but the whole is greater than a mere summation of the parts. The whole gives sense and meaning to the parts. That’s why the individual body parts need to be considered always in relation to the whole.

This vital relationship between the elements of writing is created and maintained by the logic of thoughts. It holds the words and sentences together. The ability to think logically and critically is therefore of essence. Going further, the ability to express those thoughts in a logical way is just as essential. Otherwise the wall — or the body — falls apart.

One might consider these multiple illustrations too much, even overwhelming and therefore unnecessary. I agree, there are common elements and certain similarities in the two pictures, but there are also certain dissimilarities. However, having multiple pictures is in no sense wrong, but essentially right, as it is quite obvious that any one picture cannot convey the whole concept. By means of a change of illustration I attempt to look at the matter from a different angle. Each additional angle highlights subtleties of the concept. The more angles we look at, the more robust the understanding becomes.

Inherent in both pictures is the suggestion of connectivity. Beyond that, the wall picture highlights strength and tension between the parts, therefore robustness and durability. The body picture also has this strength, but it points out the dynamic inter-dependence and vitality between the parts. It conveys life, energy; in essence, an active nature. Such elements are missing in the wall picture. That is why I use different pictures here; no one of them is sufficient in and of itself.

I can sum up what we have found so far by saying that until now I have focused on logic. But there is more to be considered. Logic is synonymous with reasoning, and arguments are the steps in the reasoning process. I focus therefore on developing acceptable, relevant, and believable arguments in the rest of this section.

The basic structure of an argument is a starting premise, followed by an indicator word leading to a conclusion. It is not uncommon to have a number of premises, but there should be only one conclusion. An argument demonstrates why it should be accepted, why it is relevant, and it offers justification. Essential to this is the concept of deductive entailment. It means that it is logically impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.

Inherently and implicitly an argument is linear in nature. It is also unidirectional, leading from a premise to a conclusion. Doing it in the opposite direction is to argue from results. Being bidirectional creates the opportunity for circular arguments. One can prove anything with that, which leads to an argument being invalid.

A valid argument is therefore cogent, sound, and coherent. Cogent arguments are rationally acceptable and support the conclusion in a way that it is relevant and on good grounds. A sound argument has true premises and the conclusion is a consequence of those premises (deductive entailment). An argument is coherent when it is both cogent and sound.

Let me emphasize again, in passing, certain other aspects of this principle. There is an important difference between assertion and argument. An assertion is a claim without sufficient supporting grounds. The truth value is binary with a close to even prob- ability. It might be factual and therefore true, yet the writer is essentially asking the reader to accept the assertion as true without reasoning and without verification. It is good at this point to remind ourselves that assertiveness is not a substitute to truth.

I take this one further step. Since assertion does not include supportive evidence, a conclusion cannot be deduced. The purists would probably even go further and suggest that an assertion has neither premise, nor conclusion.

It follows of necessity, and by a logical inevitability, that the writer needs to be acutely aware of his own reasoning process. What is the purpose of his reasoning at a given point? What is the information he has at hand? What are the assumptions made, the points of view taken, the underlying concepts employed? All these should be adequately answered before inferences are drawn. In short, critical thinking is essential for developing logical arguments.

From that certain other things also follow inevitably, which bring us to clarity and simplicity again. If the writer’s mind is not clear and he is not able to express himself clearly, it is not only a sign of confusion. It usually is an indicator of lacking the ability to think logically and critically. This lack of ability is often manifested by unnecessary complexity in expression. The good writer is characterized by always reducing complexity to simplicity. That does not mean being simplistic. It means that the writer is able to demonstrate that what appears to be complex is but a collection of a number of very simple elements.

I emphasize all this because they are vital and essential parts of good writing. Yet many do not see the inevitable implication. How can a writer make the reader think if he himself cannot think clearly? As I stated at the beginning, writing is a creative process with two creators. Although the writing stops at a certain point, the thinking does not. And this brings us to the essence of the “conclusion” section, which I discuss next.

Notes for Reviewers

● Is the thought process adequately described?
● Is the argument development robust and rigorous?
● Consider the comprehensibility and incomprehensibility of the thought process. (They are not the opposite poles of the same scale!)
● Is the thought process incomprehensible?
● What is the main line of argument?
● Can the premises of the argument be supported?

● Are the different premises consistent with each other? Are they vague? Are they ambiguous?
● Is an argument a circular one?

● Is the thought process comprehensible?

● Can the reader “buy into” the thinking process?
● Are there flaws in the logic? Is the premise based on a value judgment or on a fact?
● Is the writer building the argument from conclusions or from premises?
● Is the conclusion acceptable, yet the premise is not?
● Are the sub arguments all cogent?

● Search for premise indicators (since, because, for, given that, etc.)
● Search for conclusion indicators (therefore, consequently, accordingly, indicates that, etc.)
● Try to identify the writer’s elements of thought.
● Are there unchecked assumptions?
● Was all available information considered?
● Are the concepts applied appropriate for the topic?


Before we proceed to discuss aspects of the conclusion section, there is an interesting technical point to note. It is the noun of “conclude” itself. Made up from two Latin words — “con,” which means “together” and “claudere,” which means to “shut up”; “conclude” means “shut up together.” Again, here is the vital, dynamic, requisite, indispensable interaction between writer and reader. I use all these synonymous adjectives here for the purpose to emphasize the nature of this relationship.

Armed with the knowledge of the original — although forgotten — meaning of the word, we are now in the position to ask the question: “What is the role of the conclusion section in a journal article?” First let me answer the question negatively. It is not a summary and it should not be a total closure either. To get a more appropriate understanding, one needs to consider it in the context of the creative writing process. In particular, within the concept of the dual creatorship between writer and reader.

A text is not complete when the writer finished writing. It gets its full life when the reader reads it, applies it in his life, thinking the writer’s thoughts further. In other words, the writing process might come to an end. The creative process and the thinking process goes on. Only the author has changed. This is — again — a vital and therefore essential principle. The writer hands over the creation process to the reader. The conclusion therefore needs to facilitate this handover. I cannot emphasize it enough to remind both writer and reader.

Implicit in the above is that no new material should be introduced in this section. Neither should the existing material be mechanically repeated as a glorified summary. The writer already stated his arguments and defended them addressing the question “what if not?” before. He has drawn inferences and is now addressing the question “so what?” “What does this all mean to me, the reader?” “Where can we go from here?” The writer needs to entice the reader to step in and continue the thinking.

This seems to be best done when the conclusion is considered as a new beginning, not an end. Or perhaps as a pre-beginning, a germination if you like. Ideally the possible application of the information provided in the article should be at least hinted at. This would encourage the reader to do his own extrapolations, thus continuing the creative process the writer has started.

Notes for Reviewers

● Are there surprises? Is new material produced?
● How do the results the writer arrived at tie back to the purpose of the paper?
● Is there a logical flow from the body of the paper to the conclusion?
● What are the implications for further study and practice?
● Are there limitations in the paper the reader might want to investigate? Are they pointed at sufficiently?
● Does the writing feel “finished” at the end of the conclusion?
● Is the reader engaged until the end?
● How does the writer prompt the reader to continue the creative process?


After having laid down some principles relating to the elements of content development, I now move on to discussing the process of writing itself. This brings us, then, to the notion that writing is a multiphased process. But that does not exhaust the meaning. Writing, I suggest, is also a cyclical process. Or, using another mental picture, it is a funnelling process. As the writer progresses through the writing, he might come back to a given sub-topic or concept; adding to it, expanding it, or providing a slightly different emphasis. Bringing the two pictures together, the different phases are repeated in an ever-widening cycle.

There is a commonly agreed view about the major writing phases, although the number of phases people consider can range from three to seven, or rarely even more. I consider four distinct phases, which are (a) preparing, (b) composing, (c) revising/proofreading, and (d) reviewing. I do not wish to argue that this is the only acceptable view. Considering less or more phases has its own merit. Along the practical suggestions I will make for each phase, I hope to provide a somewhat more detailed rationale why I use this structure. For the time being I wish to state that these four taken together set and maintain the parameters of thought, therefore this works best for me.

I hasten to add that while they are distinct phases, they are not separate phases. They are but individual links in a chain forming a whole that is qualitatively more than the individual parts. I said this twice already in slightly different forms, and I am not ashamed to say it again and again as I believe that this has to be impressed upon the mind of writers and readers alike.

Every link is necessary, and they can only be understood in their relationship to other links and to the whole chain. They are intertwined, and often happen concurrently. They cannot be divided. Every phase has a prevailing activity, yet the activities that are dominant in another phase are still practiced to a somewhat lesser degree. Let me now turn to consider these dominant activities in detail.


It is almost too obvious, yet it sadly still needs to be stated that the writer should be familiar with the topic he wants to write about. That means research, as it provides the necessary orientation to the topic. So, in a sense, reading comes before writing. Reading about the field of the topic broadly first, then narrowing the reading to specifics. The aim is to understand the issues involved in the topic and to become acquainted with key representatives of the given views.

That requires the ability to ask questions, which is behaviour. This ability is learned and developed by doing it. One needs to know what one wants to know. That includes, implicitly, knowing what one does not want to know. This is often “un-thought” of, or at best, done superficially and intuitively. Yet it is essential in order to define the area to be investigated.

Flowing from the above is the need to know what to ask. Exploratory, broad questions help to develop sensitivity to relevance and depth of interrelated issues and concepts. Focused questioning follows, pursuing problematic areas of thoughts and perspectives. This would result in clarity and accuracy of thoughts; both of authors in the field and of the writer’s own.

Finally, it is essential to know what is being asked. The form of the question can determine the answer. Slight alteration of a question might even result in antithetical answers. Dependent on how it is formulated, the question can pose obstacles, or ease the way of understanding. Understanding the meaning of words is important here.

Selecting key words to search online is therefore a good way to start the process. I would suggest adding “filetype:pdf” to the search, separated by a comma from the searched word(s). The reason for this is that it can bring up and show access to peer- reviewed articles that are otherwise available only by subscription. The result is similar to searching Google scholar, but empirical evidence shows the first is more accurate and closer to the searched word. Notwithstanding that a paywall might still be there in the latter.

Once a peer-reviewed journal article is found, I suggest going directly to the reference list and studying it carefully. Doing this with a few articles would identify what is worth knowing and who the important (and perhaps the seminal) authors are. More specifically, these would be indicators of the ideas, assumptions, and conceptual problems of the field.

This would lead to the planning of the article structure. I find visualization a rather helpful instrument here. Whether it is like a mind map or an organizational chart, does not really matter. What matters is that it must support how the mind works. Note, in passing, that the mind does not work in a linear fashion, but rather like a magnet, drawing information from all direction at any given time. Hence, creating an initial table of contents or a top-down outline is not the most intuitive. The writer needs to select the approach that allows the mind working at its best.

Once completed, I move the mind map to a PowerPoint presentation, creating an organizational chart type of outline on one slide, and then having a separate slide to each major component, such as introduction, conclusion, and so on. It enables me to see how the different parts fit together, how they support each other. I can use it as a checkpoint tool later, along the writing process, eliminating repetition or exclusion.

This structure can be modified and extended throughout the writing process. One benefit is that I can place the additional “chunk” at the place where it fits bets. It helps consistency and I can ensure that that fantastic idea I had in mind will not be forgotten.

One more point before I move on to the specifics of content creation. The writing process needs to be carefully planned as well. Time of day, frequency, focus come to mind. We all have our most creative and productive period during the day. Identify and use it for writing the article.

I aim to write at least a couple of hundred words a day as a minimum, just to stay “in practice.” It is good at this point to note that writing is a high-performance activity. It needs some- thing athletes know as a warm-up. Using another metaphor, it is like a surgeon “washing-in” for surgery. The mind needs such preparation just like the body needs it before physical exercise.

Before getting down to writing, collect your thoughts on the topics to be written. Research them if necessary, even just to refresh and tune your mind. Reviewing the structural diagram as suggested earlier pays dividends in situations like this.

Uninterruptible time is also important. Distractions — human or machine — need to be minimized, if not eliminated. We do well to remember that every interruption puts us back to the condition we were before that warm-up time. This is equally true to follow- ing a hyperlink, letting the phone ring, or starting a conversation. Better quality writing can be achieved by having at least a little preparation time before typing the first word of the day and not having distraction during the writing.


I have chosen the word composing deliberately. Inherent in the meaning is a reflection on art, especially on poetry and music. They are creative acts, forming and arranging something with care and thought from various parts. It is good to remind ourselves regularly that writing an article is such a creative act.

Good preparation lays the foundation to good writing. Both for quality and for ease of writing. The more one understands the concept he is about to discuss, the better one can pour his thoughts into words and sentences. Here is where revising first comes into the picture, ever so slightly. The writer needs to make sure that what he wrote is what he meant.

So, writing and reading occur together. Even if the sentences and paragraphs are not perfect, they need to be written. Without writing it down, there is no writing… Then, after checking what is written, more writing is done. Then reading it again, writing again. Writing and reading, writing and reading, until everything is written that the writer wanted to write about the topic.

Writing down the ideas does not and should not happen in one go. These ideas need to germinate, and it takes time. I try not to write until this process is in an advanced state. How do I know that? This question must detain us for a moment because it can so easily be handled in a wrong, and even foolish, manner. Well, I suggest to you that this is a method of procedure. The idea is germinated when non-writing starts to become almost unbearable. The idea wants to get out. This is when the writing flows.

It is possible, on the other hand, that this process gets stuck. Writer’s block is not uncommon. I find it better not to force the writing in such a situation. Instead I either take a break from writing or write about something else. That does not mean I stop thinking about the idea or the point where I got stuck. As I think about the idea — for example in my walkings — sentences, even whole paragraphs are formed in my mind. In other words, I restart the germination. Having a voice recorder at hand can be highly beneficial there.

In closing this section, let us have a hurried glimpse at the development of arguments. I explained the structure of arguments in the “Logic” section. Here I want to highlight the argument writing process, not the structure.

The writer has something in mind and communicates it. But he does not content himself with a positive assertion of his idea. He states the idea in another way to establish and to prove it. One way of stating the idea differently is to put it negatively. It achieves two things. First, it sets the boundaries. What the idea is, and what it is not. Second, it enables the writer to deal with difficulties and objections that arise in people’s minds with regard to the idea, meeting them beforehand. He supposes them, and then takes them up and answers them. After having noted the answers, he works out the argument.

A particularly good way of doing so is to ask a series of questions that the reader would most likely ask, and to deal with them one by one. Again, the ability of asking questions comes into focus. This does not mean the questions need to be written down every time. They need to be thought of, asked, and the answers need to be written down. The writer needs to provide not only statements that are supportive of his view, but the non- supportive or even opposing statements as well. Both sides need to be treated fairly before committing to the selected position.

Considering the directional flow of the argument is useful in this context. Readers — in general — are more receptive to a new proposition that flows from a wider, well-established view. Therefore, it is beneficial to argue from the greater to the lesser; deducing the particular from the general.


Once the first draft is in satisfactory shape, revising can start. Revising is the process of improving the quality of what is writ- ten. Reading what has been written, again. Preferably it is done using a different medium than what the writing was done in.

I prefer to print the draft and read my own writing aloud just to be sure that it flows smoothly. Physicality of the medium makes a significant difference, hence the printing. If printing is not possible, I try to save the writing in .pdf file format as a minimum. Errors stand out differently, becoming more noticeable somehow.

During the revising process words and sentences can be rear- ranged. Overused words can be changed. Unclear words can be replaced with synonyms of subtle difference. In such a matter there should be exactitude and precision exercised to clarify what the writer means.

A dictionary is rather useful here, especially one that provides synonyms and antonyms. I make good use for example of words- myth.net every time I write an article, picking up definitions, nuances of meaning. Words are not only tools to think with. They increase our understanding, and our understanding increases our words. Writing is a learning process just as well as it is a creative process.

Just a small caution here. A vocabulary problem can be manifest not only by limited word usage, but also by pomposity; using fancy words unnecessarily. Style or the form of writing should not be used to cover the absence of substance.

It is not only words that can be added or taken out. Even whole paragraphs can be deleted or moved to where they fit better. I use friends regularly during the composing phase to read my para- graphs and ask them whether what is written makes sense. If need be, I am willing to revisit my structure and make modification as necessary.

Finally, and almost too obvious to mention, I save the text with a different file name each time after these changes. It enables me to reverse changes quicker if needed. Having all versions available helps me go back in the thought process that created them. It is also helpful to know which version a reviewer’s comments are based on.


While reviewing is similar to revising in a sense, it is quite different. Of course, technicalities such as ensuring that all sentences are complete need to be done. So is checking punctuation, spelling, and capitalization. They are remnants and the transformation of penmanship. However, the purpose of reviewing is more than that. It is to ensure that what is written is correct both grammatically and in terms of content.

The first aspect is done mostly as part of revising. The difference here is that revising focuses on the parts; on the surface level of the text. Of course proofreading does a similar act, yet reviewing focuses on the whole. Transitioning from the part to the whole opens the way for the first readers to engage in the creation process. While revising — strictly speaking — is the activity of the writer, reviewing becomes a joint effort between the writer and selected readers.

I select my own reviewers before releasing the initial draft to a wider audience or submit it to a journal. This helps me perform a more robust revision and review process. The reviewers I ask to comment on the draft can be put into the following categories: field practitioner, practitioner in a loosely related field, linguist, and layman.

The field practitioner works in the subject matter I write about. He is in the best position to identify gaps in the arguments. The practitioner in a loosely related field helps to identify gaps in the content or in the point of views taken. He also provides indications whether the ideas progressed can be extrapolated. The linguist helps to improve both my style and grammar, which — lamentably — is badly needed.

The most important person in my reviewer group is the layman. I make every effort to select someone who is not familiar with the subject I am writing about. I gain from his responses both directly and subversively. As per the latter, if he is able to finish reading what I wrote, it is probable that others will be able, too. If not, revision is needed.

The layman can provide a perspective that I, being so close to the topic might have not considered. My choice of words and sentences define my level of perception at which I approach a matter. Consequently, they define and create a reality. Yet the words might mean something else to the layman and the perceived reality might be different than what I intended. The questions raised can identify this and I want to give ample attention to such possibilities.

So, how does this work out? Sometimes the different reviewers provide contradictory comments. There is nothing more disconcerting, to put it mildly, than to have uniform responses. Especially when they are complimentary. My task is to consider those comments carefully and balance them with each other, including my own views. As a final act, I do my own critical review; at least twice, with quite a few days in between them. It is fascinating to learn how many changes result from them.

I believe I am not mistaken in saying that receiving reviewers’ comments can also be an unsettling experience. After all, it is not unheard of that readers have the ability to misinterpret or rationalize what is written in ways they were not intended. I would go so far as to state that they are entitled to do so. It is actually a privilege to see how my writing is developed further in the mind of the reader and how the writing gets its own life through that.

Here I wish to conclude by making two observations, similar yet quite different. First, the reviewers’ comments are not personal attacks — generally — and second, as a professor used to say every time entering class, “it is not about you.” Writers and reviewers alike should keep that in mind!


There it all is, as plain as I could make it. I do not claim for a moment to know all the intricacies of article writing. There could have been many other areas considered. For example, title formulation. The ethics of writing and reviewing. The difference between explanation and argument. Or the phenomenon that some people find it difficult to start writing, while others find it hard to stop. When and how to stop writing, how to make less writing more, and the others are just a few such areas left to be explored.

I discussed both doing the writing and reviewing the writing. Naturally I have my own questions. Is it clear what I tried to say here? Is it helpful? How is it so? Having done my best, I am sure there will still remain certain other questions and queries in people’s mind.

I do hope the questions outnumber the answers I provided. The reader must attempt to find his own answers. In doing so he shall incidentally not only be dealing with the particular questions but also will arrive at a method whereby any perplexity in writing an article can be dealt with.

Let me end on a practical note. My writing process has come to an end, but the creative thinking process goes on. It is over to you, the reader. I left plenty of correctable items, both deliberately and — unfortunately — naturally. I suggest to any reader to go through this very article and analyse it in the light of what was said. The matter we have been considering must be applied; it does not apply itself.

The joint creative act of writer and reader should continue. It really is as simple as that.

Why not?


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[i] Just as a side note here, I use the male personal pronoun; however, gender-specific references are interchangeable.

[i] Illocutionary act

[ii] Perlocutionary act

[iii] Called anacoluthia

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