No matter your field of research, completing a thesis is a lengthy and challenging undertaking. Once you begin actually writing your thesis, you might feel as though you’re endlessly repeating yourself as you reiterate your key findings and draw them back to your central argument. How do you know whether that repetition is helping or hindering your work? This post is all about knowing the difference between lazy repetition and necessary repetition, otherwise known as ‘positive redundancy’. The first thing to remember is that repetition is an important and necessary part of thesis writing. When you work on a thesis, you’re contributing new ideas and findings to your field, and it’s important not to undersell your work; after all, you’ve spent years on this project! Part of that process involves reminding your readers of key information and how it relates to your argument. However, this doesn’t mean just copying and pasting the same sentences and paragraphs at various points throughout your abstract and thesis chapters.
A useful way to think of necessary repetition is as positive redundancy. It might feel like it’s redundant information to you, since you’re so familiar with your research and arguments, but judicious repetition is a positive thing for your readers because it continually reinforces your ideas and relates them back to your hypothesis. You probably don’t need to be reminded of just how long your thesis is—but your readers (more importantly, your examiners) are going to want some signposts to help them along the way as they interpret your work!
The point of repetition isn’t simply to say what’s already been said, but to help connect and develop your major findings and concepts in the broader context of your thesis. This means returning to key words and phrases, but not restating basic facts or repeating entire sentences or paragraphs that you’ve used previously.
The best way to tell the difference between lazy repetition and positive redundancy is by thinking of your reader. You wouldn’t be impressed if you came across the exact same sentence or paragraph you had read in an earlier chapter if you were reading a novel; the same applies to reading a thesis. Of course, a thesis is not intended to entertain like fiction, but that certainly doesn’t mean it has to be a dull read. Don’t just copy and paste text when you need to restate key concepts—instead, find new ways to express your most important points and help your argument flow logically, coherently and engagingly. A thesaurus can be a handy tool for finding inspiration.
Updated 27July 2023