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  1. The overarching question guiding my research is how the societal development of human society changes the natural environment, as the answer to the question is the key to protect nature.

  2. The question – how does societal development affect the natural environment – has always underpinned my research, and I believe that research shedding light on this question is key to finding the answer to protecting nature

I wrote the first one, and my friend rephrases it to the second one. But I can't tell the differences. Can you help me to understand why the second one is better than the first one?

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    "the key to" is usually followed by a noun (or a gerund, in this case), so I'd rewrite it as "the key to protecting...". Other than that I actually like the first sentence better. Jul 20, 2020 at 7:29
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    I agree with @MaciejStachowski. Also the phrase "the answer to something" is often used when the something is bad and the required answer is how to overcome it. The first does not have this unwanted meaning.
    – Peter
    Jul 20, 2020 at 8:04

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The second sentence is not better than the first. It is convoluted and difficult to parse. It also adds verbiage and information that was never in the first sentence to start with.

If I were to edit the first sentence, I might turn it into something like the following:

The overarching question that guides my research is how human social development affects the natural environment. Understanding the impact of humans on nature is key to protecting it.

Unlike the second version in the question, this version actually shortens the wording, making it more concise. It also breaks it into two sentences, rather than trying to fit it all into a single (longer) sentence.

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