Write Like a Tour Guide
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Hi. I’m Chris Wells of the Department of Environmental Studies and the subject of this microlecture is writing like a tour guide. I love museums, but I don’t like visiting them alone. My tendency is to walk slowly from painting to painting reading the wall labels. After a room and a half, my feet hurt, my back hurts, I’ve already forgotten the last few pieces of art, and I still haven’t seen most of the collection. So why do I like museums? Because I discovered tours. What’s different about a tour? Well, tour guides are genuinely knowledgeable and usually enthusiastic about their subjects. And good tours advance a clear and compelling argument backed by strong analysis of carefully selected representative evidence. Good tour guides don’t discuss every piece of art on the wall. Instead, the pick the most interesting and relevant pieces and guide their groups to them in a logical, compelling sequence. After half an hour with a good tour guide, I’m always rejuvenated rather than worn down, excited by a new idea, a clear interpretation, and a compelling presentation. To often, students write like museum collectors trying to build a comprehensive collection on a particular subject. Instead, write to make a clear, compelling argument illustrated with the best, most relevant evidence from your research. In other words, write like a tour guide. Good luck, and write well.