CLARIFICATIONS

Premises can sometimes benefit from additional support. Clarifications provide additional information that help readers understand premises.


Science is a human process, and the impact of scientific research depends on people being able to clearly understand the questions and results of scientific studies. Therefore, the more people that can understand a research study, the better chance that the study will have an impact within and outside of science.


Limiting arguments to premises, logical transitions, and conclusions would be acceptable from a logical standpoint. However, many readers may have difficulty following arguments that involve only the most important elements of logic (premises and conclusions). Therefore, although not as important as premises or conclusions, clarifications can help to support arguments by explaining and contextualizing the elements of reasoning.


Three main clarifications that can contribute to clarifying premises and arguments are DEFINITIONS, EXAMPLES, and SUMMARIES.

1. DEFINITIONS. Definitions are useful for clarifying terminology or concepts. Definitions are most useful if they appear immediately before or after the term being defined. Definitions can be expressed in terms of concepts or sometimes in terms of procedures ("operational" definitions). Importantly, definitions are most useful if they use terminology that is substantially simpler (more common) than the term being defined. In scientific writing, definitions usually require references.


Common terms for definitions:


XX is...

XX is defined as...

XX can be considered....

2. EXAMPLES. Examples provide specific instances that clarify a premise. Examples are most useful if they appear immediately after the concept being illustrated. Examples are most useful if they are short (usually 1-3 sentences). In scientific writing, examples usually require references.


Common terms for examples:


For example...

Specifically...

In particular...

For instance...

3. SUMMARIES. Summaries provide a concise explanation of the main logical progression of complex arguments. Summaries are most useful if they do not simply re-state the conclusions of an argument, but explain the most important steps in reasoning leading to a conclusion. Summaries are typically placed immediately after the conclusion of one or several reasoned arguments.


Common terms for summaries:


In summary

In brief

In short

On the whole

Clearly.

However, some commonly-used phrases are NOT clarifications.


Some words and phrases may appear to be clarifications, but actually detract from arguments instead of supporting them. For example, the phrase "in other words" may seem helpful, but really should not be necessary. Writing or saying "In other words" is little more than an admission that the words used the first time were unacceptable in some way. There should be no need to re-state premises or conclusions if the arguments were clear the first time.

Clarifications can help to support reasoned arguments. However, clarifications are NOT the most important elements of arguments (i.e. premises and conclusions). Therefore, include clarifications only AFTER constructing a strong or sound argument from premises leading to a conclusion.