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Common Dissertation Writing Mistakes to Avoid

In this article you will learn how to avoid the most common mistakes when writing your dissertation.

5:04 min read
  Ashley Wheeler  —  Grammar Tips
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Your dissertation sure is important! It can make or break your time at university. The thing is, as you’ve never written anything this long before, writing a text like this can be quite overwhelming and there are a lot of opportunities for new mistakes to emerge as well as for old mistakes that were only minor annoyances in shorter essays to become entirely unmanageable.

For that reason, it’s a good idea that we sit down and discuss some of the big mistakes that you might run into. In that way, you’ll know what to look out for, which is most certainly the first (and most vital) step to avoiding most of them.

Sound good? Then let’s get on with it!

That preamble stuff

When you hand in your dissertation, you need a bunch of pages at the front. This includes the front page and the abstract (And might include a bunch more, depending on your university). These have to be done correctly! After all, they are the first impression that people get with your work — and first impressions count.

That’s because of our psychology. Our first impression gives us a base impression, which we then recalibrate based on what comes after. The thing is, that recalibration is surprisingly inflexible, with us generally sticking very close to our anchor point. And so, if you give a bad first impression that’s going to drag down your whole score!

So make sure you keep track of what documentation you need and that it’s done beforehand so that you don’t have to rush it and do a poor job at the end.

He said, she said

A lot of students think that essays are about repeating what other people, like the academics they’ve read, said. As a result, they write essays which seem more like a timeline than an actual argument. You can often identify these because paragraphs start with time references, such as ‘then’, ‘after that’, ‘next’ and ‘finally’. Alternatively, they’ll use lots of listing words like ‘also’, ‘another’ and ‘in addition’.

These can be red flags that you don’t actually have an opinion of your own to share. And if that’s the case, then your dissertation isn’t going to be very interesting to read. After all, your reader already knows the material. Why would they want to read your summary of it?

If you find that this is what you’re doing, you have to tighten your thesis. Take it from descriptive to challenging the status quo. When you do that, you’ll both have something more interesting to write as well as more to write about. That’s because you’re defending a position.

You broke the rules

You might not have meant to, but that won’t sway your university much if they catch you in the act of, say, plagiarism. And it’s far more common than you may realize. You see, even if you don’t copy somebody’s text word for word but rewrite it, that can still count as plagiarism. That’s because you’re supposed to not just respect people’s words but also the ideas behind them.

The way to avoid plagiarism is easy enough. Just don’t forget to cite people’s research when you’ve taken an idea from them. In fact, citing all the sources that you drew arguments from isn’t just a good way to protect yourself from plagiarism but to show that your material actually has a strong theoretical base. That’s a double win!

You’ve fallen into the scientific gobbledygook trap

Here’s a problem with academic writing: Most of it’s absolutely horrific! That’s because academics are often researchers first and writers second. As a result, their writing is often unclear and uninteresting.

The thing is, when you’ve been reading that kind of stuff for a couple of years, you might end up thinking that’s the right way to write! It isn’t. Though there are plenty of rules about academic writing, like writing in the third person and sticking to facts, writing obtusely — as any dissertation writing service will tell you – does not belong among them.

Some things that people think are necessary in scientific writing but are not:

·         Long sentences: Beginning writers often use long sentence because they don’t know where one sentence ends and the next one starts. And so, their sentences stretch over multiple lines and confuse the audience. Don’t do that. The moment a sentence stretches longer than a line and a half it’s time to see if you’ve not included two clauses which can be separated out and given their own sentence. That doesn’t mean you always have to follow through, but it is an exercise you should carry out. It will make your writing clearer and also help clarify the thinking in your head.

·         Crappy introductions: So many scientific articles start so poorly! They’ll say something like ’20 years of research have shown…’ or ‘research suggests that…’ boring! Don’t fall into that trap. Your first line is a great line to make a bold statement, as long as defend it lower down. At least then, you’ll have caught your reader’s attention. And that’s never a bad thing.

·         Jargon: Yet another mistake is to not explain jargon words. There are a lot of them in science and  because of the curse of knowledge  most academics are barely aware that they’re using them. That does not excuse their use. Your grandmother should be able to understand what is written. If you’re using language that she wouldn’t be able to understand, then define your terms!

Take her home

Your dissertation can be intimidating or exhilarating. Most of us never get to write anything that long again in our lives. So, take this opportunity to really put some incredible thoughts on paper. You never know where it will lead to. Some dissertations change the world.

But if you ignore the ideas I’ve outlined here, you can be pretty sure yours won’t be among them. 

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