The Uneven U technique developed by Dr. Eric Hayot is a simple but powerful way to engage readers in your writing (although more common in the humanities). By moving from broad ideas to specific examples and back again, you can create flow and coherence in your paragraphs that keeps readers interested.
Unfortunately, many academic writers struggle with paragraph writing and their papers end up dull or disjointed. Readers quickly lose interest or have trouble following the writer's logic.
Academics often share ideas that are too broad or too specific.
- They start with an overly general claim not supported by evidence.
- They provide too many subtle nuances without explaining their relevance.
- They jump between broad themes and specifics in a random, unconnected way.
- They end paragraphs abruptly without tying ideas back to their main point.
Hayot's Uneven U technique is a strategic approach to presenting evidence, categorized into five distinct levels:
5. Abstract Solution Orientation: This is the highest level, where the reader is subtly steered towards an overarching idea or a potential solution. It's a conceptual framework that sets the tone for the discussion that follows.
4. Problem Setup via Idea Consolidation: At this level, a slightly less abstract plane is introduced. Here, different ideas are brought together, building up a problem or a query that captures the reader's attention and curiosity.
3. Broad Example Introduction via Main Idea Summary: The third level involves summarizing the crux of the argument or discussion. This summary is typically illustrated using one or more broad examples, giving the reader a tangible context and establishing a connection with the main idea.
2. Raw Example Framing via Detailed Interpretation: At the second level, a detailed interpretation or description is provided. This serves as a frame or lens through which the reader can understand and scrutinize the raw example or data.
1. Unmediated Facts and Observations: Finally, the lowest level presents the raw, unfiltered data, facts, or observations. This is the concrete, unmediated evidence that forms the foundation of the argument or discussion. It's the ground reality that the entire discourse is built upon.
The purpose of writing a paragraph is to end with a sentence that captures a more abstract or "big picture" conceptual level than the sentence that began the paragraph. When you’re trying to communicate a single idea within a paragraph, this is useful. Typically, paragraphs start with level 4 ideas, then move down to levels 3, 2, and 1, before concluding with a level 5 idea that effectively closes the paragraph. By using the Uneven U technique, you can avoid the problems mentioned above and craft engaging, persuasive paragraphs. Here's a quick step-by-step guide to how to do it:
Start broad, then narrow your focus
It is critical to begin a paragraph with a solid foundation that establishes the context for your theme. Start with a broad statement that provides an overview of your discussion. This will give readers an idea of where your thoughts are headed and help them prepare mentally for what's to come.
It's not sufficient to make a general statement. You need to give specific examples or points of evidence that back up that initial statement. These examples should be pertinent and closely connected to the subject matter, and should help explain what you're trying to say. This approach guides readers to a deeper understanding of the subject matter by showing how different pieces fit together and how ideas contribute to the overarching theme. Starting broad and narrowing down keeps readers engaged and helps them navigate more complex ideas later in the paragraph.
For example, you might write: "Gestural interfaces, like the ones used in virtual reality (VR) systems, have revolutionized the way users interact with digital environments. Multi-touch devices allow for more intuitive control, while haptic feedback enhances user experience by providing tactile sensations. These innovations enable efficient and immersive interactions, transforming the relationship between humans and computers."
Narrow in on details, then broaden out
When presenting evidence, it is important to not only present it, but also explain its significance. Support your argument with relevant evidence when you construct it, rather than including random facts. The evidence that is directly related to your argument will strengthen your point and make it more convincing. To avoid confusion and strengthen your argument, always clarify relevance. Carefully tie each evidence back to your argument for a compelling, memorable paragraph.
For instance, continue the example: "Imagine a user navigating a virtual architectural walkthrough in a VR system. They can intuitively control their view and inspect details with gestural interfaces. Their natural hand movements allow them to zoom in or pan across rooms with multi-touch devices. Haptic feedback provides tangible sensations, adding realism. The user can feel the texture of materials, the push of a button, or the grip of a door handle. The result is a more immersive computer interaction than usual."
End by reconnecting with your main theme
Wrap up your paragraph by explicitly linking your specifics back to the broad idea with which you began. Reiterate why this discussion matters to your overall point. Conclude on a resonating note.
For example, you could conclude with a statement like this: "Virtual reality technology like gestural interfaces, multi-touch devices, and haptic feedback are transforming how we use computers. Due to the lack of input devices, users can manipulate their digital environment naturally. This heightened level of immersion enhances user engagement, turning interaction into an experiential journey. It shows how we are closing the gap between humans and machines, and hints at how much further we can go. This discussion shows how technology can change our relationships. We're redefining what's possible as we innovate."
In summary, the Uneven U approach to paragraph writing—moving from broad thoughts to particular examples and back again—can transform disjointed writing into a compelling exploration of ideas. By following its principles, you can craft coherent, persuasive paragraphs that keep your readers engaged from start to finish. Your academic papers and essays will benefit immensely as a result. Definitely consider adding the Uneven U technique to your writing toolkit.