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I am writing a 3000 word essay entitled 'Challenges and opportunities of future Civil Aviation'. For the essay, I have taken two aspects of the future of civil aviation in supersonic flight and biofuels. I then go into detail for each giving a little background followed by looking at the challenges of each aspect and weighing it against the positives.

I am now wondering whether it is worth adding a third aspect (with 700 words spare) or is better to go back to add to my previous points? I am just hesitant as to whether only 2 aspects cover enough breadth of the 'future'.

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TL;DR

I think you need three points. But you already have them!(Background, challenges, positives)

Long Winded Answer

At least 3 points have always been the "magic" number in all my essay and technical writing books. My High school teachers and college professors usually said the same(Although that was 10 years ago). Therefore I would say you should have at least that many.

The good news is that it sounds like you already have three points. Instead of looking at your paper as "supersonic flight", "biofuels", look at it as "background", "positives of each", "challenges of each". This might mean you need to reword your intro a little bit. Instead of saying "I'm going to talk about biofuels and supersonic flight" you'll say, "I'm going to talk about the background of two still-developing technologies in aviation(1), why the future might be bright for these technologies(2), and finally, the challenges that could hold them back(3)". (Don't actually write that verbatim, That's just a quick, off-the-top-of-my-head example).

So My recommendation would be to delve into further details of just those technologies, but with a slight restructuring to still "have" 3 points.

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  • Thank for the answer, it seems like the idea that works best for me. After my introduction, I currently have large section on biofuels followed by the supersonic section. I begin each of these sections with my background. To try and do what you've advised, would I need to move my background paragraphs out of these sections? I also prefer the idea of keeping the supersonic and biofuel points separate as I don't think switching back and forth with the positives of each followed by challenges is a good structure. – Linfan Siddiqi May 3 '18 at 14:51
  • If you don't want to move all background to the front, You could look at it as having 6 points. Biofuel Background, Biofuel positives, biofuel challenges, supersonic background, supersonic positives, supersonic challenges. To help the "background" sections stand on their own, instead of thinking about them as "background" think about them as "why it's important to evaluate". That might also help you fill out the last 700 words! – Dustin May 3 '18 at 15:00
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If you can think of a third aspect, I would include it. I would not add to existing answers I thought were complete, unless I can bring in another aspect to them.

Plus, your instinct to not have only two challenges is probably correct, surely there are more than two challenges / opportunities in almost any industry. On the challenge side, regulatory issues with noise pollution, suitable airfields, or concerning carbon footprints. Perhaps commercial challenges as well; with demand, or monopoly (of manufacturer or buyer; eg. only a few governments will buy.)

There are opportunities as well, Mechanical with new engineered materials, new simulation technologies are arising, perhaps new markets are emerging.

I think it would be better to keep your existing writing concise and add another topic, whatever other challenge/opportunity you find most compelling.

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A very generic guideline that is often used is to have three arguments/aspects/... This is often structured in the form of a Five-Paragraph-Essay where you have one paragraph that you use to introduce the general topic of the essay, then three different paragraphs exploring each argument/aspect/position/... and then one concluding paragraph.

You might have heard something similar to the following for the content of the three different parts of the essay:

First you tell your reader what you will talk about. Then you talk about it. Then you tell your reader what you have just talked about.

The problem with this is that such an extreme simplification tends to trivialize the process of creating a meaningful essay. I prefer the approach:

It's not perfect when you can't add anything - it's perfect when you can't remove anything.

While the introduction - content - conclusion structure itself is useful the length of each section should be as long as it needs to be to convey what you are trying to tell your reader. If those two points you already have are enough to tell your reader what he needs to know, then there is little need to add a third point. In fact, it would make your essay worse as you have to probably take away some parts from the two relevant points just to add a third point that you didn't consider to be relevant until now. As a reader I'd much rather read two useful points that the author is talking about in the appropriate length than three arguments where one feels a little off and all of them feel like they are too short. The content doesn't need to be arranged in the form of paragraphs, too. Just in the form distinct parts, no matter how many paragraphs each part consists of.

But ultimately this is not something that we can answer with certainty - it depends on your assignment/framework. If someone tells you to have at most 3.000 words then you ought to have at most 3.000 words (+/- 10% were usual for me, but this is up to the person giving you the task). If the requirements are that you ought to have three arguments than you need three arguments.

If you are free to choose the amount of aspects you can cover in your essay I'd say that you should stick to the two you have and put your energy into making them as good as possible instead of crippling them in favour of a third one that you have to find first.

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  • Thanks for the advice. I may just stick with the two points to prevent adding a point just for the sake of it as you describe. I do have 10 percent tolerance on my essay so I'm up to 2600 out of a possible 3300. With regards to the essay title, its literally the statement I put in the question with no further clarity on number of points or what to talk about .etc – Linfan Siddiqi May 3 '18 at 14:58
  • Apparently the sentence "It's not perfect when can't add anything" is... not perfect :-) maybe you can add something? Or remove... – Rolazaro Azeveires May 3 '18 at 19:12

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