remembering to ask questions



Some phrases in academic argument are used to assert that an argument has been successfully been made. If someone’s really good at using them, it can make their arguments feel better than they actually are.

One countermeasure is to learn what those phrases are, and to use them as indications that it’s time to check to see if you agree with their argument.

A few examples of phrases that often work this way:

  • “It is clear that…”
  • “We have seen..”
  • “Now it is evident..”
  • “It has been demonstrated…”
  • “It follows from…”
  • “It goes without saying that…”

If you get into the habit of reading things like this as  questions, it becomes much easier to tell what you think the answer is.


  • Do you think it’s clear?
  • Have you seen the point being made? Do you agree with it?
  • Do you think it’s evident from the evidence the author brought?
  • Do you think it has been demonstrated?
  • Do you think it follows from that?
  • Do you think it goes without saying? Do you think it’s true at all? 

tl;dr Some rhetorical devices make arguments feel better than they are. Getting into the habit of seeing them as indications that it’s time to ask a question makes it easier to evaluate arguments on their merits.

rossbennett said:

Some particular fields (and journals) consider these to be “weasel words” and will get your paper bounced back faster than Netflix ships discs. 

In academic papers these tend to mean either, “I can’t be bothered to go get the citation,” or “If you don’t follow the logic here, I relying on you to let it slide instead of risking looking like the only idiot in the group who doesn’t see it.”

These little linguistic barnacles, along with “the fact that,” can be eliminated without changing the meaning of what’s around them. What remains will be better.

realsocialskills said:

Sometimes people use stuff like that essentially as punctuation. It can mean “I want to change the subject now” or “I’m moving on the my next point”.

It’s definitely better not to write that way. It’s just not always lazy argument - sometimes it’s not knowing good stylistic ways to indicate transitions in your writing.