"To the best of my knowledge, I am the first to..."

"To the best of my knowledge, I am the first to..."

 

Every researcher faces the challenge of trying to make their paper stand out from the crowd, of having to make the case that their paper adds something worthwhile to all the other papers in "The Literature."  

 

 

In my opinion, this sentence is not the best way to take on that challenge:

 

"To the best of my knowledge, I am the first to..."

 

 

 

 

How should readers react?  Be impressed?  Pat the writer on the back for having reached some finish line first?  Help them better their knowledge by searching for someone else who might have gotten there first? Become complicit in establishing precedent?  For various types of readers, there is something uncomfortable about this sentence.

For writers, paradoxically, allowing yourself to think that you can write such a sentence, puts you on track to undersell your work.  If you know that somewhere in the Introduction, you can write this sentence, think of all the other opportunities you may not feel compelled to seize.  For instance, in framing your paper, you may not push yourself as hard to think about your paper's true merits because you feel that being the first to do something is a good enough contribution.

 

How you can do better

Instead why not show readers how your paper adds something worthwhile to the literature.

  • In paragraph 1 of the Introduction, carve out space for your paper: show the reader a gap in what is known instead of rambling on about only vaguely-relevant facts (no matter how grand those facts).  
  • In paragraph 2, present an argument about your research that lets the reader see what your paper brings to the literature instead of presenting details that readers are not yet ready to absorb.
  • In paragraphs 3-12, support your argument one point at a time, instead of chronicling your research journey.

 

 

 

The bottom line is you can do better and you should!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Knowing vs. Articulating

Knowing vs. Articulating

A useful description

A useful description