In an academic paper, I have written "There are three main arguments for why X is not Z."

I have then discussed them like this:

"First, ....​ (of medium length)
The second argument is that ... (a bit long)
The third and most important argument is that ... (longer)"​ **

** I did not simply use "First,... Second,... Third..." because there is some distance between the arguments. For example, the second argument is two pages long. I think writing "The third and most important argument ..." reminds the reader what these arguments are for.

​ Now I have realized that I have to make one more argument. And I want to start with "A fourth argument is that ..." after the third one.

Is it a problem that I stated in the beginning that I will give "three main arguments" but I give four? I don't want to say "four main arguments".

The three main arguments are widely discussed by experts in the field. The fourth argument is something that has only been pointed out (in two lines) by one author. Thing is, my supervisor likes this fourth argument and thinks I should include it in my essay. That is why I want to mention it. I don't want to say that it is trivial because it can become important sometime in the future - just that it is not a main argument (or widely discussed) for why X is not Z.

Question: What is the best way to introduce the fourth argument after the third while maintaining that the first three are the main arguments?

I think this has to do with style and organization and is perhaps on-topic for this SE. ​

  • "NOOOOoobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 11:14

1 Answer 1


It depends on one detail you didn't mention. Is the "essay" the same as your "paper", or is the paper already published?

If you're able to edit what you wrote before because it's still being drafted, the question is really about what you want to convey early on. In that case, you can say there are three widely recognized reasons, and you will discuss them and a fourth underappreciated reason. That's academically valuable, of course.

If on the other hand the argument "three main arguments" has already been published, the question is about how to make clear your addendum isn't back-tracking. In that case, you can say that you summarised the literature's three main arguments against X being Z in a prior publication, and that in the current publication you're mentioning another that is less important but poorly appreciated.

  • It's my thesis, and it won't be published or anything. Should I mention the that there is a fourth reason in this sentence "There are three main arguments, and a fourth underappreciated argument, for why X is not Z." or should I just mention that when I am writing the fourth reason?
    – AIQ
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 6:49
  • @AIQ You can double-check any wording choice with your supervisor. The obvious first point on which I cannot predict their response is whether you should mention up front that you'll discuss reasons of varying recognition, or whether you'll only mention when discussing the fourth reason that it's underappreciated. On the former approach, the wording is very much up for tweaking. For example, "I will review four arguments in the literature against X being Z, the last of which is important but has been poorly cited."
    – J.G.
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 7:03

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