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Checklist of Common Formatting Errors

  • Is the entire page double-spaced?
  • Is your title in ALL CAPS? Did you check spelling of each word?
  • Does your study title match the original study title on your RTAF? And if not, is it just a change in title that better reflects the content of your study versus a title that reflects a significant topic change in your study?
  • In the middle section, is "in" on the 3 rd line lowercase?
  • In the bottom section, does your name match the rest of the document, including middle initials vs. middle names?
  • Do you list your graduation month and year, not defense date? It should only be December, May, or August, plus the year.
  • Omit any page number on the title page
  • Does your font size and style match the rest of your document and is it consistent with your style guide? Most style guides recommend Times New Roman, 12-point font.

Copyright Page (this page is optional - disregard if you do not have a copyright page)

  • Is the information at the bottom of the page?
  • Do you only list the year after the copyright symbol?
  • Does your name match your title page, signature page, and abstract, including middle names vs. middles initials?
  • Do you list All Rights Reserved?
  • Is the page number at the bottom and centered, using a lowercase Roman numeral ii?

Signature Page

  • Is this page single spaced?
  • Only have School of Graduate Studies and Research, omit The prior to School
  • Do you have the proper department listed?
  • Does your name match your title page, copyright page (if included), and abstract, including middle names vs. middle initials?
  • If there is no copyright page, does your page numbering begin on this page, at the bottom, centered, and in lowercase Roman numerals, with ii?

Abstract Page

  • Omit the word Abstract
  • Is the top portion single spaced?
  • Is your title in title case, with only major words (if MLA) and words with 4 or more letters (APA) capitalized?
  • Does the second line of your title align with the first word of the top line of your title?
  • Is there a blank line of space before your Dissertation Chair?
  • Is there a blank line of space before your Committee Members are listed?
  • Did you replace your committee members' degrees with Dr. or Mr./Ms./Mrs.?
  • Is the body of your abstract double-spaced?
  • Is the abstract 150 words for theses or 350 words for dissertations? If more, ProQuest will cut off extra words.

Acknowledgements Page (optional)

  • Make sure Acknowledgements is not bold or underlined, but is in ALL CAPS
  • You can do anything you would like in the Acknowledgements section

Table of Contents

  • Is this section single spaced throughout?
  • Is TABLE OF CONTENTS in ALL CAPS, but not bold?
  • Do you have Chapter and Page column headings on each page of your TOC?
  • Is there at least one tab between the chapter numbers and chapter titles?
  • Are chapter titles in ALL CAPS?
  • Is there a blank line of space above and below the chapter title?
  • Are you using dot leaders (as formatted by Word)? Do not just hold the period button down as this causes a lot of formatting issues. Do not use dashes.
  • If you are including headings in your TOC, are the first level headings aligned with the chapter title, the second level indented a few spaces, third level indented a few more spaces, etc.?
  • Do your headings match the capitalization within your document, as defined by your style guide?
  • Do your headings match word-for-word including punctuation? What is listed in the body of your document? Do not include italics, underlining, or bolding in the TOC.
  • Do your page numbers match?
  • Are References/Works Cited in ALL CAPS and under the chapter heading?
  • Is Appendices in ALL CAPS and under the chapter heading?
  • Do you list your Appendices as Appendix A - Title, Appendix B - Title, etc. and are they aligned with your other first level headings? Even if you have only one Appendix, this is how it should be formatted.

List of Tables

  • Is this on its own separate page?
  • Is LIST OF TABLES in ALL CAPS, but not bolded?
  • Do you have Table and page column headings on all pages of your LOT?
  • Are your table numbers separated from your table titles?
  • Are your table titles in title case with all major words capitalized (if APA, words with 4 or more letters)?
  • Do long table titles allow approximately one inch between the words and the page number?
  • Do your table titles match word-for-word what is listed in the text, including capitalization and punctuation?

List of Figures

  • Is LIST OF FIGURES in ALL CAPS, but not bolded?
  • Do you have Figure and page column headings on all pages of your LOT?
  • Are your figure numbers separated from your figure captions?
  • Are your figure captions in sentence case with only the first word and proper nouns capitalized?
  • Do long figure captions allow approximately one inch between the words and the page number?
  • Do your figure captions match word-for-word what is listed in the text, including capitalization and punctuation?

Body of Your Document

  • Is your entire document double-spaced?
  • Does Chapter 1 begin on page 1?
  • Chapter numbers and chapter titles are in ALL CAPS and are not considered a level of heading
  • Omit all extra spacing between paragraphs (right-click on your document, select paragraph, In "Spacing" make sure Before and After each say 0 pt and click on the box that says "Do not add spacing between paragraphs of the same style"
  • Do you follow your style guide for headings, in-text citations, table and figure formatting, etc.?
  • References are not in ALL CAPS or bold
  • Do your references match your chosen style guide?
  • There should be spaces between initials (APA)
  • Do not include a title page with APPENDICES
  • An Appendices header is not needed anywhere above the first Appendix
  • Format your Appendices as you do the rest of your chapters
  • If you include tables or figures here, they are not required to be in your LOT/LOF, but they must be properly formatted and cited
  • Make sure your provide proper documentation and citations for any forms, surveys, or work you used from someone else
  • Include any and all permissions and email exchanges for use of proprietary information
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Top 5 Common Mistakes To Avoid While Writing A Thesis

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Top 5 Common Mistakes To Avoid While Writing A Thesis

Avoid thesis writing pitfalls!

Writing a thesis paper can be a daunting task, especially for students who are new to academic writing. While it is a great opportunity to demonstrate knowledge and expertise in a particular subject, the process of thesis writing can be fraught with challenges.  Students often make common writing mistakes, such as not developing a clear and concise thesis statement or improperly structuring a paper. Explore the top five common thesis writing mistakes in this blog post, and use these thesis writing tips and strategies to avoid these pitfalls and achieve academic success.

What is a Thesis Paper?

A thesis paper is an extended piece of academic writing that presents an original research argument on a particular topic or issue. It is typically required for students pursuing master's or doctoral degrees but may also be assigned at the undergraduate level.  Writing a thesis paper can be challenging, requiring a high level of research and critical analysis. However, it is also an opportunity for students to demonstrate their expertise in a particular field and to contribute new knowledge to their disciplines. When writing a thesis paper, it is crucial to avoid common writing mistakes, such as failing to develop a clear thesis statement or to structure the paper effectively. With these tips to avoid common writing mistakes, thesis writing can be a rewarding and successful experience.

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Top 5 Common Thesis Writing Mistakes

Here are common writing mistakes that students make when writing a thesis paper. Avoid these pitfalls and produce a high-quality thesis paper by understanding these mistakes and following the recommended thesis writing tips.

1. Unclear Thesis Statement

Writing a thesis that is clear is the foundation of a strong thesis paper. Without it, a paper lacks direction and purpose. Many students make the mistake of either writing a weak thesis statement or failing to include one at all. 

‍ Proposed solution: To avoid this mistake, take time to develop a strong thesis statement that clearly presents the argument and scope of the paper. Revise and refine it as you continue to research and write your paper. For assistance perfecting your thesis statement, consult a professional editing service .

2. Ineffective Organization and Structure

Writing a thesis that is well-organized and well-structured helps the reader follow the central argument and better understand the research. However, many students struggle due to ineffective organization and structure, leading to readers' confusion and disengagement. 

‍ Proposed solution: To avoid this mistake, start by outlining your paper and breaking it down into clear sections and subsections. Ensure that the sections flow logically from one to the next and that your argument is presented cohesively throughout the paper.

3. Lack of Clarity and Conciseness

Writing a thesis paper requires a high level of research and analysis , but it's important not to get bogged down in unnecessary details. Many students make the mistake of including too much information or using overly complex language. 

‍ Proposed solution: To avoid this mistake, focus on presenting your research and analysis clearly and concisely. Use simple language and avoid jargon or technical terms unless necessary.

4. Failure to Follow Citation Guidelines

Properly citing sources is critical when writing a thesis paper. Failure to do so can lead to plagiarism or a lack of credibility. Many students make the mistake of either not citing their sources correctly or failing to include citations altogether. 

‍ Proposed solution: To avoid this mistake, familiarize yourself with the citation guidelines of your institution or discipline. Use reputable sources, and ensure that all sources are properly cited.

5. Neglecting the Revision Process

While writing a thesis, the revision process is a crucial step but many students neglect it. They rush through the process or skip it altogether, leading to mistakes and inconsistencies in their papers. 

‍ Proposed solution: To avoid this mistake, set aside time to review and revise your paper. Seek feedback from peers or advisors, and make necessary revisions to improve the coherence of your argument.

If your peers or advisors are too busy to help with your thesis paper, consider consulting an expert thesis editor . 

Writing a thesis paper is a challenging task, but by avoiding common writing mistakes and following effective thesis writing tips, students can successfully complete their papers and achieve academic success.  Failing to develop a clear thesis statement, ineffective organization and structure, lack of clarity and conciseness, failure to follow citation guidelines, and neglecting the revision process are common writing mistakes that students should be aware of.  To avoid these mistakes while writing a thesis, take time to develop a strong thesis statement, outline the paper, use clear and concise language, properly cite sources, and set aside time for revision. To perfect your thesis, you can always get thesis paper editing and feedback from a vetted expert.

By following these tips and strategies while writing a thesis, students can produce a well-written and coherent thesis paper that demonstrates their expertise in their chosen field of study. Make sure you checkout our detailed blog on how to write thesis statement .

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it ok to leave mistakes while writing a thesis, what is the hardest aspect of writing a thesis, are there certain words i should avoid when writing a thesis, how do i write a thesis, how much time do i need to write my thesis.

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How To Avoid The Most Common Mistakes

  •  /  Complete Your Degree
  •  /  Thesis and Dissertation Information
  •  /  How To Avoid The Most Common Mistakes
  • Get the name of your major absolutely correct (e.g., Psychology, not Clinical Psychology).
  • The thesis/dissertation title must be in all CAPITAL letters and double-spaced, and the date must be the month and year of your graduation.
  • Doctoral candidates: use “dissertation” instead of “thesis” throughout the document.

Front Matter (the section before the text of the thesis)

  • Front matter must be numbered with lower case Roman numerals.
  • In the table of contents, do not list the title page, committee page, abstract, or vita. Do include the list of tables, list of figures, acknowledgements, chapters, references or bibliography, and appendices (with titles).
  • Chapter titles in the table of contents should match the actual chapter titles in the text. Number chapters consistently (e.g., Chapter I, Chapter One, or Chapter 1).
  • No signatures should appear in the document (the committee page is not for signatures).
  • The committee page should be an exact list of those entered on the eTD submission, but do not list any name twice even if a professor has two roles (e.g., advisor and department head).

Page Numbers

  • The text must begin on page 1 and be numbered from beginning to end without breaking sequence.
  • Do not use running headers, and do not embellish page numbers (e.g., -1-, Page 1, 125a).

General Advice

  • There should be no blank pages in the thesis/dissertation.
  • Submit the format review as early as possible, but do not submit a second format review (even if you don’t finish until the next semester, a second format review is not necessary).
  • Carefully complete each step outlined in the format review.
  • When naming your pdf file, do not use special characters (e.g., /, ?, &), and do not make the file name extremely lengthy by using the entire thesis title.
  • Doctoral candidates: include a copy of the title page and abstract with the ProQuest/UMI Agreement.
  • Remember that, after approval of the final eTD by the Office of Theses and Dissertations, no further changes can be made.
  • Most importantly, carefully read and follow the Thesis and Dissertation Handbook .

Thesis and Dissertation Information

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  • Common mistakes

English Mistakes Commonly Made in a Dissertation | Examples

Students tend to make the same language mistakes over and over again in academic writing . Taking a careful look at these lists of mistakes that we often encounter may help you to break these habits. Avoiding them will set your writing apart and give it a more polished feel.

If you want to make sure your dissertation doesn’t contain any language errors, you could consider using a dissertation editing service .

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Table of contents

Spelling mistakes, word choice, capitalization, conjunctions and linking terms, nouns/noun phrases, prepositions/prepositional phrases, punctuating numbers, quantifiers, terms used in citations, verbs/phrasal verbs, words that are commonly confused.

Although spellcheck features catch many spelling mistakes, they cannot be relied on entirely. These words are still frequently misspelled in many theses.

Check for common mistakes

Use the best grammar checker available to check for common mistakes in your text.

Following these tips will help you to improve your written academic English in general. The next step is to fine-tune your writing depending on whether you are using American, British, or Australian English ! A grammar checker can also help you automatically fix mistakes you may have missed after proofreading.

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  • Thesis Statement

Thesis Statements: How to Identify and Write Them

Thesis Statements: How to Identify and Write Them

Students read about and watch videos about how to identify and write thesis statements. 

Then, students complete two exercises where they identify and write thesis statements. 

*Conditions of Use: While the content on each page is licensed under an  Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike  license, some pages contain content and/or references with other types of licenses or copyrights. Please look at the bottom of each page to view this information. 

Learning Objectives

By the end of these readings and exercises, students will be able to: 

  • define the term thesis statement
  • read about two recommended thesis statement models 
  • practice identifying thesis statements in other texts
  • write your own effective thesis statements

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What is a thesis statement?

The thesis statement is the key to most academic writing. The purpose of academic writing is to offer your own insights, analyses, and ideas—to show not only that you understand the concepts you’re studying, but also that you have thought about those concepts in your own way and agreed or disagreed, or developed your own unique ideas as a result of your analysis. The  thesis statement  is the one sentence that encapsulates the result of your thinking, as it offers your main insight or argument in condensed form.

We often use the word “argument” in English courses, but we do not mean it in the traditional sense of a verbal fight with someone else. Instead, you “argue” by taking a position on an issue and supporting it with evidence. Because you’ve taken a position about your topic, someone else may be in a position to disagree (or argue) with the stance you have taken. Think about how a lawyer presents an argument or states their case in a courtroom—similarly, you want to build a case around the main idea of your essay. For example, in 1848, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton drafted “The Declaration of Sentiments,” she was thinking about how to convince New York State policymakers to change the laws to allow women to vote. Stanton was making an argument.

Some consider all writing a form of argument—or at least of persuasion. After all, even if you’re writing a letter or an informative essay, you’re implicitly trying to persuade your audience to care about what you’re saying. Your thesis statement represents the main idea—or point—about a topic or issue that you make in an argument. For example, let’s say that your topic is social media. A thesis statement about social media could look like one of the following sentences:

  • Social media harms the self-esteem of American pre-teen girls.
  • Social media can help connect researchers when they use hashtags to curate their work.
  • Social media tools are not tools for social movements, they are marketing tools.

Please take a look at this video which explains the basic definition of a thesis statement further (we will be building upon these ideas through the rest of the readings and exercises): 

Attributions: 

  • The content about thesis statements has been modified from English Composition 1 by Lumen Learning and Audrey Fisch et al. and appears under an  Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. 
  • The video "Purdue OWL: Thesis Statements" by the Purdue University Online Writing Lab appears under a YouTube license . 

The Two-Story Model (basic)

First, we will cover the two-story thesis statement model. This is the most basic model, but that doesn't mean it's bad or that you shouldn't use it. If you have a hard time with thesis statements or if you just want to keep things simple, this model is perfect for you. Think of it like a two-story building with two layers. 

A basic thesis sentence has two main parts:

  • Topic:  What you’re writing about
  • Angle:  What your main idea is about that topic, or your claim

Examples: 

When you read all of the thesis statement examples, can you see areas where the writer could be more specific with their angle? The more specific you are with your topic and your claims, the more focused your essay will be for your reader.

Thesis:  A regular exercise regime leads to multiple benefits, both physical and emotional.

  • Topic:  Regular exercise regime
  • Angle:  Leads to multiple benefits

Thesis:  Adult college students have different experiences than typical, younger college students.

  • Topic:  Adult college students
  • Angle:  Have different experiences

Thesis:  The economics of television have made the viewing experience challenging for many viewers because shows are not offered regularly, similar programming occurs at the same time, and commercials are rampant.

  • Topic:  Television viewing
  • Angle:  Challenging because shows shifted, similar programming, and commercials

Please watch how Dr. Cielle Amundson demonstrates the two-story thesis statement model in this video:

  • The video "Thesis Statement Definition" by  Dr. Cielle Amundson  appears under a YouTube license . 

The Three-Story Model (advanced)

Now, it's time to challenge yourself. The three-story model is like a building with three stories. Adding multiple levels to your thesis statement makes it more specific and sophisticated. Though you'll be trying your hand with this model in the activity later on, throughout our course, you are free to choose either the two-story or three-story thesis statement model. Still, it's good to know what the three-story model entails. 

A thesis statement can have three parts: 

  • Relevance : Why your argument is meaningful

Conceptualizing the Three-Story Model: 

A helpful metaphor based on this passage by Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.:

There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects, and three-story intellects with skylights. All fact collectors who have no aim beyond their facts are one-story men. Two-story men compare, reason, generalize using the labor of fact collectors as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, predict—their best illumination comes from above the skylight.

One-story theses state inarguable facts. Two-story theses bring in an arguable (interpretive or analytical) point. Three-story theses nest that point within its larger, compelling implications. 

The biggest benefit of the three-story metaphor is that it describes a process for building a thesis. To build the first story, you first have to get familiar with the complex, relevant facts surrounding the problem or question. You have to be able to describe the situation thoroughly and accurately. Then, with that first story built, you can layer on the second story by formulating the insightful, arguable point that animates the analysis. That’s often the most effortful part: brainstorming, elaborating and comparing alternative ideas, finalizing your point. With that specified, you can frame up the third story by articulating why the point you make matters beyond its particular topic or case.

Though the three-story thesis statement model appears a little bit differently in this video, you can still see how it follows the patterns mentioned within this section: 

  • The content about thesis statements has been modified from Writing in College by Amy Guptill from Milne Publishing and appears under an  Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license. 
  • The video "How to Write a STRONG Thesis Statement" by Scribbr  appears under a YouTube license . 

Identifying Thesis Statements

You’ll remember that the first step of the reading process, previewing ,  allows you to get a big-picture view of the document you’re reading. This way, you can begin to understand the structure of the overall text. The most important step of understanding an essay or a book is to find the thesis statement.

Pinpointing a Thesis Statement

A thesis consists of a specific topic and an angle on the topic. All of the other ideas in the text support and develop the thesis. The thesis statement is often found in the introduction, sometimes after an initial “hook” or interesting story; sometimes, however, the thesis is not explicitly stated until the end of an essay. Sometimes it is not stated at all. In those instances, there is an  implied thesis statement.  You can generally extract the thesis statement by looking for a few key sentences and ideas.

Most readers expect to see the point of your argument (the thesis statement) within the first few paragraphs. This does not mean that it has to be placed there every time. Some writers place it at the very end, slowly building up to it throughout their work, to explain a point after the fact. Others don’t bother with one at all but feel that their thesis is “implied” anyway. Beginning writers, however, should avoid the implied thesis unless certain of the audience. Almost every professor will expect to see a clearly discernible thesis sentence in the introduction.

Shared Characteristics of Thesis Statements:

  • present the main idea
  • are one sentence
  • tell the reader what to expect
  • summarize the essay topic
  • present an argument
  • are written in the third person (does not include the “I” pronoun)

The following “How to Identify a Thesis Statement” video offers advice for locating a text’s thesis statement. It asks you to write one or two sentences that summarize the text. When you write that summary, without looking at the text itself, you’ve most likely paraphrased the thesis statement.

You can view the  transcript for “How to Identify the Thesis Statement” here (download).

Try it! 

Try to check your thesis statement identification skills with this interactive exercise from the Excelsior University Online Writing Lab. 

  • The video "How to Identidy the Thesis Statement" by  Martha Ann Kennedy  appears under a YouTube license . 
  • The "Judging Thesis Statements" exercise from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab appears under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. 

Writing Your Own Thesis Statements

A thesis statement is a single sentence (or sometimes two) that provides the answers to these questions clearly and concisely. Ask yourself, “What is my paper about, exactly?” Answering this question will help you develop a precise and directed thesis, not only for your reader, but for you as well.

Key Elements of an Effective Thesis Statement: 

  • A good thesis is non-obvious. High school teachers needed to make sure that you and all your classmates mastered the basic form of the academic essay. Thus, they were mostly concerned that you had a clear and consistent thesis, even if it was something obvious like “sustainability is important.” A thesis statement like that has a wide-enough scope to incorporate several supporting points and concurring evidence, enabling the writer to demonstrate his or her mastery of the five-paragraph form. Good enough! When they can, high school teachers nudge students to develop arguments that are less obvious and more engaging. College instructors, though, fully expect you to produce something more developed.
  • A good thesis is arguable . In everyday life, “arguable” is often used as a synonym for “doubtful.” For a thesis, though, “arguable” means that it’s worth arguing: it’s something with which a reasonable person might disagree. This arguability criterion dovetails with the non-obvious one: it shows that the author has deeply explored a problem and arrived at an argument that legitimately needs 3, 5, 10, or 20 pages to explain and justify. In that way, a good thesis sets an ambitious agenda for a paper. A thesis like “sustainability is important” isn’t at all difficult to argue for, and the reader would have little intrinsic motivation to read the rest of the paper. However, an arguable thesis like “sustainability policies will inevitably fail if they do not incorporate social justice,” brings up some healthy skepticism. Thus, the arguable thesis makes the reader want to keep reading.
  • A good thesis is well specified. Some student writers fear that they’re giving away the game if they specify their thesis up front; they think that a purposefully vague thesis might be more intriguing to the reader. However, consider movie trailers: they always include the most exciting and poignant moments from the film to attract an audience. In academic papers, too, a well specified thesis indicates that the author has thought rigorously about an issue and done thorough research, which makes the reader want to keep reading. Don’t just say that a particular policy is effective or fair; say what makes it is so. If you want to argue that a particular claim is dubious or incomplete, say why in your thesis.
  • A good thesis includes implications. Suppose your assignment is to write a paper about some aspect of the history of linen production and trade, a topic that may seem exceedingly arcane. And suppose you have constructed a well supported and creative argument that linen was so widely traded in the ancient Mediterranean that it actually served as a kind of currency. 2  That’s a strong, insightful, arguable, well specified thesis. But which of these thesis statements do you find more engaging?

How Can You Write Your Thesis Statements?

A good basic structure for a thesis statement is “they say, I say.” What is the prevailing view, and how does your position differ from it? However, avoid limiting the scope of your writing with an either/or thesis under the assumption that your view must be strictly contrary to their view.

  • focus on one, interesting idea
  • choose the two-story or three-story model
  • be as specific as possible
  • write clearly
  • have evidence to support it (for later on)

Thesis Statement Examples: 

  • Although many readers believe Romeo and Juliet to be a tale about the ill fate of two star-crossed lovers, it can also be read as an allegory concerning a playwright and his audience.
  • The “War on Drugs” has not only failed to reduce the frequency of drug-related crimes in America but actually enhanced the popular image of dope peddlers by romanticizing them as desperate rebels fighting for a cause.
  • The bulk of modern copyright law was conceived in the age of commercial printing, long before the Internet made it so easy for the public to compose and distribute its own texts. Therefore, these laws should be reviewed and revised to better accommodate modern readers and writers.
  • The usual moral justification for capital punishment is that it deters crime by frightening would-be criminals. However, the statistics tell a different story.
  • If students really want to improve their writing, they must read often, practice writing, and receive quality feedback from their peers.
  • Plato’s dialectical method has much to offer those engaged in online writing, which is far more conversational in nature than print.

You can gather more thesis statement tips and tricks from this video titled "How to Create a Thesis Statement" from the Florida SouthWestern State College Academic Support Centers: 

  • The video "How to Create a Thesis Statement" by the Florida SouthWestern State College Academic Support Centers appears under a YouTube license . 

Additional, Optional Resources

stack of books

If you feel like you might need more support with thesis statements, please check out these helpful resources for some extra, optional instruction: 

  • "Checklist for a Thesis Statement"  from the  Excelsior University Online Writing Lab  which appears under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. 
  • "Developing Your Thesis" from Hamiliton College which appears under a copyright. 
  • "Parts of a Thesis Sentence and Common Problems"  from the  Excelsior University Online Writing Lab  which appears under an Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.
  • "Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements" from the Purdue University Writing Lab which appears under a copyright. 
  • "Writing Thesis Statements & Hypotheses" by Hope Matis from Clarkson University which appears under a copyright. 
  • The content about these resources has been modified from English Composition 1 by Lumen Learning and Audrey Fisch et al. and appears under an  Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license. 
  • The content about these resources has been modified from Writing in College by Amy Guptill from Milne Publishing and appears under an  Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license. 
  • The untitled image of the books by OpenClipart-Vectors is licensed under Pixabay . 

Exercise #1: Identify Thesis Statements

Throughout the readings, we have been learning what an effective thesis statement is and what it is not. Before we even get to writing our own thesis statements, let's look for real-world examples. It's your turn to locate and identify thesis statements!

map with an X indicating a location

Objectives/Goals

By completeting this exercise students will be able to: 

  • identify the main ideas within a text 
  • summarize the main ideas within a text
  • choose one sentence from the text which you believe is the thesis statement
  • argue why you believe that's the true thesis statement of the text

Instructions

  • Any print or online text (probably something around a page in length) will be fine for this exercise. 
  • If you have trouble finding a text, I recommend looking at this collection from  88 Open Essays – A Reader for Students of Composition & Rhetoric  by Sarah Wangler and Tina Ulrich. 
  • Write the title of the text that you selected and the full name(s) of the author (this is called the full citation). 
  • Provide a hyperlink for that text. 
  • Write one paragraph (5+ sentences) summarizing the main points of the text. 
  • Write one more argumentative paragraph (5+ sentences) where you discuss which sentence (make sure it appears within quotation marks, but don't worry about in-text citations for now) you think is the author's thesis statement and why. 

Submitting the Assignment

You will be submitting Exercise #1: Identify Thesis Statements within Canvas in our weekly module. 

Please check the assignment page for deadlines and Canvas Guides to help you in case you have trouble submitting your document. 

  • "88 Open Essays - A Reader for Students of Composition & Rhetoric" by Sarah Wangler and Tina Ulrich from LibreTexts appears under an  Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. 

Exercise #2: Write Your Own Thesis Statements

Now that you've had some practice with locating and identifying thesis statements, you are ready to write some practice thesis statements yourself. 

writing supplies/tools

  • write a two-story thesis statement 
  • write a three-story thesis statement
  • reflect on your thesis statement skills
  • Using the same text from Exercise #1, write a two-story thesis statement in response to that text. 
  • Using the same text from Exercise #1, write a three-story thesis statement in response to that text. 
  • Is it easy for you to identify thesis statements in other texts? Why or why not?
  • What methods do you use to identify/locate thesis statements?
  • In the past, how have you felt when you needed to write a thesis statement?
  • How did you feel about writing your own thesis statements in Exercise #2?
  • Which thesis statement writing strategies were the most beneficial to you? Why?
  • What challenges did you face when you were writing you thesis statement for Exercise #2?

You will be submitting Exercise #2: Write Your Own Thesis Statements within Canvas in our weekly module. 

  • The untitled image of the writing supplies by ptra  is licensed under Pixabay . 

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5 Common Mistakes When Writing a Thesis or Dissertation

While composing a thesis or dissertation, a student must experience some predicted traps. Falling into these traps can affect one’s academic career. However, handling potential blunders and pitfalls wisely, while developing a thesis, can lead you to success. The process of writing may be frustrating but learning about the probable pitfalls may ease your stress. Here, we bring you the list of the most common mistakes we have noticed as a professional proofreading and editing service provider.

thesis common error

This guide discusses the common 5 mistakes when writing a thesis or dissertation. To give you an opportunity to practice proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount.

Writing a thesis or dissertation is not just about collecting data and jotting it down. While writing, students need to organize the thesis statement and gather enough logical data to support the statement. Therefore, organizing all relevant information and maintaining the academic guidelines at the same time is no less than a struggle.

While composing a thesis or dissertation, a student must experience some predicted traps. Falling into these traps can affect one’s academic career. However, handling potential blunders and pitfalls wisely, while developing a thesis or dissertation, can lead you to success. The process of writing may be frustrating, but learning about the probable pitfalls may ease your stress. Here, we bring you the list of the most common mistakes when writing a thesis or dissertation.

Mistakes while writing a thesis/dissertation

Addressing all the mistakes is not an easy task. There are some common errors, but flaws vary from person to person. Lack of research while choosing the topic, lack of strength in the thesis statement, problems in formatting, writing bland information, mistakes in referencing and citation, failures in proofreading and editing, etc., are some common errors. However, Best Edit & Proof has drafted all these blunders into 5 sections for you.

1. Choosing the wrong thesis/dissertation topic

Choosing the wrong thesis/dissertation topic can weaken the entire plot of the thesis. Most of the time, it seems like students are in a hurry while choosing the topic. It leads them to choose the wrong thesis/dissertation topic. While picking up the topic, make sure to follow the following points:

Do proper background research .

Brainstorm different concepts. If the concept doesn’t interest you, the journey of writing will be boring.

You need to form your topic as a research question.

Research about the initial approaches to the chosen topic and think about the topic from different aspects of society and academics.

Dynamic research is always appreciated while choosing the thesis topic.

2. Failure to write an impactful thesis statement

Choosing the topic and developing a research question is not enough. A student needs to create a strong thesis statement. Students often make mistakes while forming this part. The process may be critical, but a student needs to avoid any mistakes while stating the viewpoint.

Take a note that the thesis statement must be precise, bold, and to the point. The statement must be reliable and attractive. A poorly written thesis statement disinterests readers to go through the thesis furthers.

Understand and analyze the thesis/dissertation topic.

The statement of the thesis/dissertation must give hints of further discussion.

Avoid grammatical and punctuation errors in this part.

Restrain yourself from writing anything that doesn’t have any concrete base or references.

3. Lack of rational association between thesis statement and written information

Making a logical connection between the chosen statement and supporting information is necessary to execute a successful thesis or dissertation. Due to a lack of research and brainstorming, many researchers often fail to build this connection. A well-versed research paper meets all the inquiries and fixes all the loopholes in it.

The initial explanation for this issue is the inability to discover supporting ideas or information that possess relevant resources. All the supporting statements must compliment your main topic. The entire paper should look like a photocopy where the thesis statement and supporting information are properly synchronized.

All the supporting information must be cited from trusted scholarly sources. Committing errors in citing references is not appreciated.

· 7 Tips to Write an Effective Research Paper

· How to Write the Best Theoretical Framework for Your Dissertation

· How to Structure a Dissertation: A Brief Guide

· How to Formulate Research Questions

4. Violating academic integrity

The study of academics holds strong integrity. Violating academic integrity is not entertained at all while preparing a thesis or dissertation. How can one break this integrity? Let’s have a look at them.

Violating university guidelines: Violating university guidelines while writing is nowhere allowed.

Plagiarizing content: Plagiarizing content from other sources is strictly prohibited.

False information: Making false claims is not a good practice for academics.

· What is Plagiarism | How to Avoid It

· How to Choose the Right Plagiarism Checker for Your Academic Works

· 5 Practical Ways to Avoid Plagiarism

5. Avoiding expert’s help for proofreading and editing

Proofreading and editing are an integral part of thesis writing. Committing mistakes refers to compromising the quality of a thesis/dissertation. Experienced proofreading and editing services check the entire thesis from beginning to end and make all the necessary changes in terms of grammar, punctuation, referencing, and even sentence construction. Especially, non-native English speakers make mistakes in terms of language and style.

However, irrespective of native or non-native speakers, they meet failures in formatting, referencing, and keeping the consistency of the thesis or dissertation from each aspect.

· 8 Reasons Why You Need Professional Proofreading and Editing Services

· How to Find a Reliable Proofreading Service: A Brief Guide

· Why Do You Need Academic Editing?

· How Much Do Proofreading and Editing Cost?

· 8 Things to Consider Before Hiring Online Editing or Proofreading Services

· Importance of Academic Referencing and Citing

6. Other common mistakes while writing a thesis or dissertation

The use of first or second person: Writing sentences in the first person and the second person is not an academic practice.

Fragment sentence: Using long and bland sentences can affect the tone of the article.

Grammatical errors: Mistakes in grammar and punctuation are considered substandard.

If you need us to make your manuscript shine, contact us unhesitatingly!

Best Edit & Proof expert editors and proofreaders focus on offering manuscripts with proper tone, content, and style of  academic writing,  and also provide an upscale  editing and proofreading service  for you. If you consider our pieces of advice, you will witness a notable increase in the chance for your research manuscript to be accepted by the publishers. We work together as an academic writing style guide by bestowing subject-area editing and proofreading around several categorized writing styles. With the group of our expert editors, you will always find us all set to help you identify the tone and style that your manuscript needs to get a nod from the publishers.

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You can also avail of our assistance if you are looking for editors who can format your manuscript, or just check on the  particular styles  for the formatting task as per the guidelines provided to you, e.g.,  APA,  MLA, or Chicago/Turabian styles. Best Edit & Proof editors and proofreaders provide all sorts of academic writing help, including editing and proofreading services, using our user-friendly website, and a streamlined ordering process.

Get a free quote for editing and proofreading now!

Visit our  order page  if you want our subject-area editors or language experts to work on your manuscript to improve its tone and style and give it a perfect academic tone and style through proper editing and proofreading. The process of submitting a paper is very easy and quick. Click here to find out how it  works.

Our pricing is based on the type of service you avail of here, be it editing or proofreading. We charge on the basis of the word count of your manuscript that you submit for editing and proofreading and the turnaround time it takes to get it done. If you want to get an instant price quote for your project, copy and paste your document or enter your word count into our  pricing calculator.

Common thesis mistakes

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Academic writing is a particular type of nonfiction writing, which is used in various academic works, such as reports of university research, proposals of new theories by the researchers, or papers released by scholars analyzing the culture of their fields. This article provides nine practical tips for academic writing that a writer must remember to improve his/her writing style.

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Although the rules of English capitalization seem simple at first glance, it might still be complicated in academic writing. You probably know you should capitalize proper nouns and the first word of every sentence. However, in some cases, capitalization is required for the first word in a quotation and the first word after a colon. In this article, you will find 15 basic capitalization rules for English grammer.

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Understanding the common types of plagiarism will help us to comprehend the scope of the question and answer the question of ‘‘what is plagiarism’’. Some common examples of plagiarism are copying texts or ideas without referencing, incorrect referencing, without referring to someone else's sentence structure even if you change words.

thesis common error

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The central tendency, mean, median, and mode depict where most data points concentrate, while variability illustrates how far they are. It is exceedingly crucial because the amount of variability demonstrates the generalization one can make from the sample to the population. Low variability is desirable because it implies that predicting information about the population using sample data is well-justified. Contrarily, high variability illustrates decreased consistency, making data predictions harder.

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The Most Common Mistakes when Writing a PhD Thesis

  • February 23, 2022

PhD-Thesis

You have got a chance to know about the most common mistakes that PhD candidates do while outlining a thesis writing or a PhD thesis writing format. As the thesis is already considered problematic, students want to make it simple and try to put fewer efforts into their doctoral program . Several Thesis examples should be observed while writing your own.

But they did not realise that by doing so they are doing great mistake since this makes their work complaint able and they need to write it again and again. So in such a situation, it is always better to take professional help if you find any difficulty in outlining a thesis writing.

One can quickly get confused because of the phrasing and sentence structure. But it is not rocket science; a well-written thesis requires good planning, time management and constructive writing skills.

PhD Thesis Writing is not a tough task if approached with proper planning and organization.

Mistake 1 – Not knowing what a PhD thesis is:

Understanding what a thesis is:.

Many students get their PhDs without ever having written a proper research paper . And we submit anything for publication, so they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes time to write a thesis . 

  • So it may surprise you that writing a PhD thesis isn’t related to papers at all, but rather is an independent piece of work.
  •  There are many different formats for a PhD thesis writing, including the so-called “ thesis proposal ” and the more traditional “thesis.” The first thesis writing format is usually used by students who are doing independent research , which is not part of a formal program of study or in collaboration with other students.

Mistake 2 – Not knowing what the task actually is :

Formulate your tasks accordingly:.

When you’re outlining a PhD thesis , you take on a huge task: to summarize your entire research career in one document. You have to be very thorough and well organized, and you need to be able to write clearly so others will understand what you’ve found.

  • To do this, it’s important that you should refer to some thesis examples and especially the thesis writing format. If you’re not sure, talk to others who have been through the process. You should also read as many treatments of your field as possible, including those from other scholars who’ve written about the same topic.
  • You should be able to explain what you’ve discovered by organizing your findings into a coherent argument. By doing this, you’ll be better prepared for any questions that might arise at the committee meeting, but first, make sure your ideas are clear on their own.

thesis writing

Mistake 3 – Using Ineffective or Inadequate Research Methods:

Use proper research methods:.

  • You should be scrupulous about the quality of the methods you use for your research . This means finding a university library with an excellent research section and thesis writing format with reading every book on the subject matter. As well as doing countless hours of keyword searches and reviewing journal articles directly from reference websites. 
  • When you write your thesis , it should be clear that you’ve done everything possible to get your information. So don’t make silly mistakes like writing “weasel words” in your conclusion like “were” and “were-not” or using confusing language in your introduction like “arguably”. You also need to use academic terminology correctly, which is a lot more complicated than it sounds in thesis examples.

Mistake 4 – Researching the Wrong Ideas:

thesis writing

You should be scrupulous about the quality of the methods you use for your research . The statement “ A PhD thesis is a research report ” is a common misconception. It implies that PhD thesis examples is simply a collection of facts or data. It’s not.

A PhD thesis writing is to convince the reader that what you’ve written is correct. In other words, outlining a PhD thesis is not just about collecting facts, it’s about communicating those facts in such a way that your reader accepts them as true.

But sometimes it’s hard to tell which ideas are correct and which aren’t. That’s where your advisor comes in handy — he or she will tell you if your ideas are sound and help you refine them until they’re right.

Mistake 5 – Starting too big, too soon:

Steps to propagate a thesis/dissertation:.

The major step in outlining a thesis is to decide what the topic is, and then outline the structure. You need to make sure that you cover all of the major points in your argument. If you can’t do it all in one paper, you have to pick a manageable amount.

It’s tempting to try to write everything right away, but this usually leads to having too much material in the first draft and not enough in the second. This makes it difficult for others to read through it and for you to remember everything that you’ve written.

If you want others to get an idea of what your dissertation will look like, you need to leave room for revisions and review.

Mistake 6 – Getting caught up in Methodology and Missing Deadlines:

In a PhD thesis , there is no fixed word count. The word count will depend on the amount of work and how much research you have to do for your topic. You should always keep this in mind and make sure you don’t forget about it.

  • It’s not enough for you to think that your ideas are good; you also need to make sure that they are presented clearly and elegantly. 
  • You need to practice writing as part of your graduate coursework and throughout your graduate studies so that you can master the art of writing.
  • There’s no shortcut to learning how to write well; it takes time and effort and practice and not letting yourself panic. Organize and implement.

Mistake 7 – Failing to plan and Prepare Properly:

thesis writing

If you don’t plan thoroughly, you can run into trouble when writing your thesis . For example, if you’re doing an oral thesis presentation at the start of your PhD program , you need to ensure the material is well-rehearsed, otherwise, it becomes dry and difficult to deliver. If you don’t set out a clear outline of what you want to cover in your thesis examples and thesis writing format, it’s easy to become distracted by how many words you need to fit into that final page count. This can lead to a final product that doesn’t capture the reader’s attention and feels too rushed.

The most common mistakes are either a direct result of lack of planning or carelessness. We hope that the above list will serve as a checklist for students who are about to prepare or already working on their thesis examples. Then again, we all make mistakes once in a while and even the most experienced writer makes silly errors. But the trick is to minimize the appearance of mistakes overall, especially before deadlines.

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Webinar Transcripts: Grammar for Academic Writers: Identifying Common Errors

Grammar for academic writers: identifying common errors.

Presented August 14, 2018

View the recording

Last updated 9/5/2018

Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint title slide in the large central panel. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side.

The title slide says “ Common Grammar Errors and How to Address Them ” and the speakers name and information: Amy Bakke, Senior Writing Instructor, Multilingual Writing Specialist, Walden University Writing Center

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Housekeeping

  • Will be available online within 24 hours.
  • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Now: Use the Q&A box.
  • Later: Send to [email protected] or visit our   Live Chat Hours .
  • Ask in the Q&A box.
  • Choose “Help” in the upper right corner of the webinar room.

Audio:  Claire:  Hello everyone.  Welcome to today's webinar.  Before we get started and I have Amy present this wonderful, informative presentation I'm going to go over a few housekeeping notes to get started. So, first thing to note is, I am recording this meeting so that recording will be available online in our webinar archive within 24 hours.  So, if you need to leave or you missed part of the presentation, don’t worry, you’ll be able to go back and access it at a later time.  You can also interact during this webinar.  We have some polls, files, chats going on in today's presentation to engage more the material and work through some of these grammar issues. 

During the presentation you can use the Q&A box, I will be in there to answer questions that you have to the best of my ability.  If questions come up later, or you’re watching this as a recording you can send us questions at [email protected] or visit our live chat hours, that link it live right there. So, if you'd like to come in and ask us questions at another time, go ahead and use those services.  As I noted I will be there in the Q&A box so if you have some technical issues or need help during the presentation.  Let mean a and I will try to problem solve those with you.  However, you can also pick, help, in the upper right-hand corner of the room and that is Adobe support.  So, they will best be able to help you work through that.  Alright, I think I have covered everything for today so for now I will turn it over to our presenter, Amy.

Visual: Slide changes back to the following: The title slide says “ Common Grammar Errors and How to Address Them ” and the speakers name and information: Amy Bakke, Senior Writing Instructor, Multilingual Writing Specialist, Walden University Writing Center

Audio: Amy:  Thanks, Claire, hello, everyone, and welcome to grammar for academic writers identifying common errors.  I’m very happy to be here with you today, and as Claire mentioned I’m Amy Bakke, I’m one of the writing instructors in the writing center.  I'm also a multilingual writing specialist.  Today I’ll be focusing on a short list of some of the most common grammar errors we see when working with Walden students.  And this is across-the-board. 

Walden has students in many different programs, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral.  We do tend to see the errors that I'm going to talk about across-the-board with student writers.  Also identifying and explaining the errors we will have some opportunities to practice and revise a few errors in it will be an opportunity for you to reflect in your own writing, figure out, are these areas were making errors, or maybe not and then make some changes if needed.  So, with that, let's get started.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Learning Objectives

  • Verb Tenses
  • Punctuation Around Essential and Nonessential Clauses
  • Commas After Introductory Words and Phrases
  • Possessive Forms
  • Subject-Verb Agreement With Complex Subjects
  • Practice exercises to identify and fix errors

Audio: As I mentioned, I will focus on some of the most common error and sentence construction errors that we see in academic writing.  These include errors with verb tenses, punctuation around essential and nonessential clauses.  Commas after introductory words and phrases, possessive forms of nouns, and subject verb agreement with complex subjects.  Now, if this vocabulary seems a bit too technical to you, do not worry at all because I will be explaining them throughout the webinar and we will have a chance to practice as well.  So really the technical terms and understanding those are less important than being able to identify what is going on in a sentence and what needs to be fixed.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: What Grammar Is 

A set of rules that enables you tot communicate your ideas clearly

A way to help establish scholarly credibility

Important in all scholarly and professional writing

Audio: As we begin our webinars on grammar we want to outline what grammar is.  Essentially, it’s a set of rules that allows you to express your ideas clearly and following grammar rules can help you establish credibility as you write, maybe as you publish.  It’s important in all forms of writing but especially in academic and professional writing.  And finally, it’s learnable.  For anybody who is accustomed to language and communication that is not so academic, it may take some time to get used to the academic use of English, but it is certainly learnable.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Errors are Not the Enemy!

Errors are:

  • evidence of learning
  • often difficult to 100% eradicate
  • something all writers experience

Audio: It’s important to keep in mind that we all make errors and mistakes.  Errors are rather a normal part of the writing process.  They are evidence of learning, they are often impossible to entirely eradicate, even seasoned professional writers are going to occasionally make mistakes or errors and they are often aware of that.  Ensuring they work with other people and use some strategies throughout the writing process helps them catch the errors.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #1

Audio: With that, Let's look at common error number one which is related to verb tenses. 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Verb Tenses

  • English has more than a dozen verb tenses
  • Tenses show the time of the action or state, or general truths

She writes every day.

She is writing right now.

She wrote last night.

She was writing when he called.

She has written Chapter 1.

She has been writing for 2 hours.

Audio: Now if you have studied English as a second language, or if you have studied another or learned another language, you likely know what I mean by verb tense but just in case I will try and cover the basics.  English has more than a dozen verb tenses, or some experts might call them a mix of tenses and aspects.  The tenses show the time of the action.  Whether took place in the past or future.  The state or general truth. 

So, here are some examples.  She writes every day, she is writing right now, she wrote last night, she was writing when he called.  She has written chapter 1.  She has been writing for two hours. So, all of the verbs here talk about the same topic or the same action, writing, but they show us more information about when the action happened or when it happens when it will happen, that kind of thing.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Most Common Tenses in Academic Writing

  • The hospital  admits  patients whether or not they have proof of insurance.
  • Zimbardo (1998)  researched  many aspects of social psychology.
  • Numerous researchers in the field  have used  this method.
  • I will conduct semistructured interviews.

Audio: Keeping that in mind I do want to point out in academic writing, there are four tenses that make up the majority of sentences.  They are the simple present.  The simple past.  The present perfect.  And the future tenses.  The simple present is often used for general truths.  Things that are true in the past, now and likely future.  For example, the hospital admits patients whether they have proof of insurance.  This is something that is generally true.  In the past, now, and likely in the future.  The simple present is often used to explain the findings in a study.  What the authors have found to be generally true.  Maybe if they are saying, if they mention their findings or say more research is needed on a topic. 

And then the simple past is used to talk about something happening at a specific point in time in the past.  And/or that was completed entirely in the past.  For example, Zimbardo (1998) researched many aspects of psychology. One thing to note is that the simple past should be used when discussing what the authors and researchers said and did in their published works because this is something they said or did in the past when they published.  Often in writing we will see things like the researcher claimed or the authors explained -- all using the past tense.

The present perfect is used to explain action that happened over period of time in the past.  So, numerous researchers in the field have used this method.  And finally, the future tense.  In academic writing at Walden, we often see the future tense used when writing about a study you that will conduct such as a capstone study maybe for masters or doctoral students.  So, I will conduct semi structured interviews.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error: Tense Consistency

Bakke (2015) conducted the interviews and then transcribed them. (Both past tense)

Herrington (2014) found that the survey participants drink an average of 2.2 cups of coffee per day. (Past and present tenses)

The researchers explained that identifying a cause will be difficult. (Past and future tenses)

Audio: Regarding verb tense one place we sometimes see errors is in consistency throughout a sentence.  There are sometimes when the verb tense needs to be the same throughout the sentence and there are other times when it should or can change throughout the sentence.

So, let’s take a look at a couple of examples. So, in the first sentence, Bakke conducted the interviews and then transcribed them. Both of these actions are in the past tense and both of these actions belong to Bakke. So, it makes sense for them to be consistent both in the simple past tense. 

In the next two examples we see a shift in the verb tense.  Harrington found, past tense, that the survey participants drink, present tense, and average of 2.2 cups of coffee per day. Past and present tenses.  The researchers explained, past tense that identifying a cause will be, future tense, difficult.

            Bakke (2014) conducted the interviews and then transcribed them.

Herrington (2014) found that the survey participants drink an average of 2.2 cups of coffee per day.

The researchers explained that identifying a cause will be difficult.

Audio: One other characteristic of these last two sentences is the word, that.  In the sentence structure the word, that, introduces a noun clause and that’s not a term that you need to remember but this’s what it’s called.  These noun clauses are used to report what other people think, or have said such as when introducing a paraphrase or summary or a quote.  When introducing what a researcher said or did, in this sentence structure, you may need to shift the verb tense to explain a general truth or a future action. 

Note sometimes in English the word, that, is left out.  Especially in spoken language.  A person might say, the researcher said identifying a cause will be difficult.  It’s sometimes okay to drop the, that.  So just looking for the word, that, might not be an effective strategy.  But in deciding about whether to change the verb tense you may think about whether the sentence includes a report about what a researcher or a person said or did.

Visual: Common Error: Progressive Tenses

Progressive tenses :

  • I am writing my paper.
  • She is earning her doctorate in business.
  • The researcher is finding that the new staff need more professional development.
  • The researcher found that the new staff need more professional development.

While grammatically correct, this tense is rarely used in academic writing:

  • Focus on what has already been completed
  • Focus on explaining general truths

Audio: One of the tenses I'm mentioned a couple slides ago was the progressive tense.  Which shows what is happening, it’s the-ING form.  I am writing my paper. She is earning her doctorate in business. The researcher is finding the new staff need more professional development.  However, this tense is not really used in academic writing so rather than saying is finding, in that sentence, it’d be much more common to talk about published research and what researchers found.  It’s a common tense in English it’s just not typically used in academic writing because of the focus on what has already been completed, as I mentioned published research, the focus on explaining general truths.  So, as your writing, you might be on the lookout for the progressive tense in your writing and just think about whether a different tense might be more appropriate.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error: Appropriate Tense

            Verbs that do not make sense in the context of the sentence

  • I would complete my master’s program in 2019.

Revision: I will complete my master’s program in 2019.

  • Most children experienced some form of rebellion against their parents.

Revision: Most children experience some form of rebellion against their parents.

  • I am working on homework every night.

Revision: I work on homework every night.

Audio: Some other issues we see with verb tense are included on this slide.  And it’s mostly about them not being appropriate in the context of the sentence.  The first example, I would complete my Master's program in 2019, is written in the hypothetical tense, it is something that might happen.  However, it is more likely the person writing the sentences talking about what they will do, and we use will to talk about future plans. 

In the second example, most children experienced some form of rebellion against their parents.  The verb, experienced, is in the past tense and I guess, maybe the assumption here is this is referring to a finding or a general truth.  Because it refers to most children and seems to explain a general truth it should be in the present tense.

And finally, I am working on homework every night, here’s another instance where the sentence discusses a general truth, something that happens on a regular basis and also because we mentioned the-ING form is not used in academic writing, we would probably say instead, I work on homework every day.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice

Choose one of the sentences below. Revise the sentence to fix the error in verb tense/use.

I was contacting all of the possible participants.

Prince (2017) stated that more research on the topic was needed.

Audio: There's a lot of information about verb tenses.  I thought we would try to do practice with a couple of example sentences I have here.  Based on what I've talked about so far, read through these two example sentences.  And then choose one of the sentences to correct and to type in the chat box.  I will take a minute to mute and take a short break while you are doing that.

[Participants working on exercise]

Great, so I’m seeing some great options in the chat area.  I just pulled out a couple of them on the left-hand side, you can see the answers I pulled from your contributions.  In the first example, we would want to avoid using the-ING form, but it looks like we're talking about the past, so something like I contacted all of the possible participants, would be just much more probably appropriate for an academic writing context. 

And then also, in the second example, I included that one but it also might depend a little bit on the context of how it’s used.  Say this was published in 2017.  Prince stated that more research on the topic, we’d probably say is needed, because that was the assertion that Prince made.  Of course, if this were something that happened, it might depend a little bit on the context, if this were something that was written a long time ago, in 1990, and depending on how we are using the idea we might say for example, Prince stated that more research on the topic was needed.  And these other authors followed up with more research. You know, so I have given some general practices of what we we’ll do in academic writing, but again, a little bit depends on context.  Great.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #2

Audio: Alright, we will move on to our second topic.  And this is, oops, my slide should say essential and nonessential clauses.  And I will say this is probably the most complex topic we will cover today.  So, do stick with me and I’ll start by explaining briefly what I mean by essential and nonessential clauses and I will provide some examples and explanations.  If you do not get it right away, do not worry, we’ll keep going and providing more info.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Essential Clauses Phrases

Main clause: Part 1     Dependent phrase/clause      Main clause: Part 2

The students who had completed their projects early did not have homework over the weekend.

Main clause: Part 1     Dependent phrase/clause

I read the article that was assigned for Week 3

Audio: So, I’ll start with essential clauses.  And show what they look like in sentences.  When I say, clause, first of all, in this case I mean a clause or phrase are basically a group of words.  These are clauses that are to  -- sorry, that are added to sentences to provide extra information for clarifying information.  So, I have two basic models here on this slide and we’ll take a look at what they look like in sentences.

The students who had completed their projects early did not have homework over the. So this extra information, who had completed their projects early, explains which students did not have homework over the weekend. It adds extra clarifying information.  Another model for the sentence could be that the essential comes at the end.  I read the article that was assigned for week three.  Again, this clause that was assigned for week three, ads extra information about which article I read.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Essential Clauses/Phrases

Essential (Restrictive) Clause:

  • Restricts or defines meaning of the noun
  • Essential to the intended meaning of the sentence
  • Not separated by commas

Audio: Essential clauses may also be called restrictive clauses.  That’s because they restrict or define the meaning of a noun, they basically explain more about the noun.  They become essential information to the sentence.  It would not have the same meaning without this extra information.  And you might have noticed they are not separated from the sentence by comments. 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: repeat prior slide

Audio: So, I’m just going back to that same slide, one thing to notice is the examples here, in the examples, the clauses start with words like, that and, who.  Just something to note before we move on.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Nonessential Clauses/Phrases     

Interrupting/Nonessential

Main clause: Part 1,    Dependent phrase/clause,     Main clause: Part 2

The students, who are in their third week of the program , did not have homework over the weekend.

Main clause: Part 1,    Dependent phrase/clause

I read the article, which only took me 15 minutes.

Audio: So, the other focus in this section is nonessential clauses or phrases.  Sentences with nonessential clauses or phrases follow the same structure as we saw in the previous slide but with a slight difference.  You can see in the model that we added commas here. And in my example, the students who are in their third week of program did not have homework over the weekend.  This is what we call an interrupting or nonessential clause.  We are adding extra information, like oh, by the way they are in their third week of the program.  But the main focus of the sentence is that they did not have homework.

Another model is for the nonessential clause to come at the end of the sentence.  I read the article, which only took me 15 minutes.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Nonessential Clauses/Phrases

Nonessential (Nonrestrictive) Clauses:

  • Add extra information
  • Not essential to intended meaning of the sentence
  • Separated by commas

Audio: So, the characteristics of these nonessential clauses, sometimes called nonrestrictive phrases, are that they add extra information to the sentence but this information, like I said is additional or interrupting and not essential to the core meaning of the sentence.  It is always separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

Audio: And you might notice that these clauses, I just clicked back to the same slide, you might notice, that these clauses often start with words like, who or, which.  I know this can be a bit confusing so if it is not quite clear yet, no worries we’ll be continuing to look at examples in the next slides.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Examples: Essential

The extra information is essential because it describes a noun/pronoun.

  • The employees who work remotely requested further training.
  • She received the article that she requested from the library.
  • The printers that malfunctioned are now working again.

*That is only used in essential clauses/phrases(without commas).

Audio: Alright, so, here are some additional examples of sentences with essential clauses.  The extra information is essential because it describes a noun as in a "person, place or thing" or a pronoun something that stands in for a noun.  The employees who work remotely requested further training.  In this case, who work remotely explains more about the employees, which employees are we talking about?  She received the article that she requested from the library.  Which article?  The one she requested from the library.  The printers that malfunctioned are now working again.  Again, the essential phrase, that malfunctioned, describes which printers I mean.

Something to note is that the word, that, is only used in essential clauses and phrases.  The ones that don’t need commas.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Examples: Interrupting/Nonessential

The extra information is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, so it is between commas.

  • The students despite being warned about the test’s difficulty did not adequately prepare.

Revision: The students, despite being warned about the test’s difficulty , did not adequately prepare.

  • Some students however still earned passing grades.

Revision: Some students, however , still earned passing grades.

Audio: Here are a couple more examples of interrupting or nonessential clauses.  The students despite being warned about the tests difficulty did not adequately prepare.  Some students however still earned a passing grade. So, notice that these phrases, despite being warned about the test difficulty and in the last sentence the word, however, add extra information and also kind of interrupt the sentence.  They are not essential to the sentence having a complete meaning, we could say the students did not adequately prepare, and that would communicate the main message without that interrupting phrase.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Essential vs. Nonessential Clauses

The book that she read was important for her literature review.

  • Restricts or defines meaning of noun

The book, which she read while sitting by the pool, was important for her literature review.

Nonessential (Nonrestrictive) Clause:

  • Adds extra information

Audio: And then, let's take a look at the couple of sentences side-by-side.  The book that she read was important for her literature review.  And the book which she read while sitting by the pool, was important for her literature review.

So, the first one is an essential or restrictive clause, one clue is that it begins with, that.  Remember that the word, that, can only begin essential clauses, the ones without, commas. Also, that she read, explains which book she read and is not separated by commas.

In the second example with the nonessential clause, the clause adds extra information.  Specifically, the clause does not explain which book she read, rather it adds extra information about the context.  And it is separated by commas.  If we took it out it wouldn’t really change the overall meaning of the sentence or the main meaning of the sentence that the book was important for her literature review.

So, while these sentence structures might still look really similar, one thing to notice that as a writer you can make some decisions about whether the information is essential or not based on the context of the sentence.  And provide better clarity for your reader by indicating that something is essential or not.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Consider the following:

  • My sister Alice is a nurse.

I have more than one sister, but only Alice is a nurse.

  • My sister, Alice, is a nurse.

I have one sister named Alice, and she is a nurse.

  • The employees who work remotely requested further training. 

Some employees work remotely, and they requested training.

  • The employees, who work remotely, requested further training.

All of the employees work remotely, and they requested training.

Audio : So, we’ll take another look at what that means here in the next slide where we have a couple of similar sentences.  Let's focus first on the first two sentences on the side.  These are almost identical.  One just has commas around Alice and then the other does not.  And you might notice to, how there is a slight difference, as I read them. My sister Alice is a nurse.  My sister, Alice, is a nurse.  In the first example, there are no commas.  The word Alice is essential because it is explaining which sister I am referring to as in, I have more than one sister but only my sister Alice is a nurse.

In the second example, the nonessential version, the name, Alice, is extra information.  My sister, her name is Alice, is a nurse.  So, I’m saying that I have only one sister, her name is Alice and she’s a nurse. 

Let's take a look at a couple more.  Again, these two sentences are quite similar, so we have the employees who work remotely requested further training.  And, the employees, who work remotely, requested further training.  In the first example who work remotely is not in commas, so it’s an essential clause, this means that only the employees who work remotely requested further training, but the local ones did not. As in, some employees work remotely, and those employees, requested further training.

In the second example, who work remotely, is set off in commas so that means it’s extra, nonessential information.  This sentence shows that all of the employees work remotely, and that they have requested further training.

Again, as a writer you get to make decisions about where you place commas and what you want to indicate to the reader.  So, indicating that something is essential or nonessential helps just, as you decide how to communicate the ideas, it will help you use strategies to do that.

Read the sentences below.  In the chat box, explain the difference in meaning.

The students, who turned in their assignments early, did not have homework over the weekend.

The students who turned in their assignments early did not have homework over the weekend.

Audio: So, we’ll have another practice to check and see maybe how well I’m explaining and check your understanding.  Let's take a minute to think about these two sentences.  I included the same sentence here twice.  One with comments and one without.  Based on what we talked about, consider what the difference in meaning between the two sentences.  And type your response in the chat box.  Again, I will mute myself for moment, so you will have a chance to read and think about it and type in.

Great, thank you for your contributions in the chat area.  And I typed out the basic difference that I pulled from some of your answers in the bottom left hand corner.  So, the first sentence with commas, that is what we call the nonessential clause.  The meaning there is that the students -- so we could say -- one thing to keep in mind is when you have a nonessential clause you could pull it out, and the sentence would have the same meaning.  So, if we pulled out what is between the commas, we could say, the students did not have homework over the weekend.  We are saying all the students turned in their assignments early and all of the students did not have homework over the weekend.

The second option, the second sentence is that essential clause, so who turned in their assignments early is describing which students we are talking about.  So only the students who turned in their assignments early did not have homework over the weekend.  Essentially, some students had homework, some did not, it depends on if they already turned in their homework.  Or their assignment.  It looks like there are a lot of people who are on board with that as well.  If it’s something that still seems a little bit confusing you can always check out our webpage on essential and nonessential clauses.  I think we actually call it relative, restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.  So, we just use that other terminology for it on the webpage but that something you can check out at another time, as well.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #3

Audio: Alright, so now that we got past the trickiest one, we’ll keep going with a few other areas of common grammar errors.  The next area of focus is commas after introductory words or phrases.  So, let's take a look.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Introductory words/phrases

Introductory word/phrase ,  Sentence

Introductory word/phrase: Not necessary for grammatically correctness of sentence

Sentence: Subject + predicate (complete sentence)

Between September and December, the student completed 40 hours of observation .

Audio: The structure that we’ll be looking at in this section is when there is a word or phrase that comes basically before the sentence.  This introductory word or phrase is not necessary for the grammatical correctness of the sentence.  So, it’s really an add on to the beginning of the sentence.  Sometimes introductory information or a transition word, that kind of thing. 

You can see this example, between September and December, the student completed 40 hours of observation.  Notice the second part of the sentence, the student completed 40 hours of observation that could function as its own complete sentence.  In this case we are just adding extra information at the beginning about the timeframe.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Examples: Introductory Words/Phrases

            Words                                     Phrases

            However                                 According to Bakke (2015)

            Furthermore                          Typing quickly

            Therefore                               Between September and December

            Often adverbs

Audio: As I mentioned, introductory information could be a word or a phrase.  So here are some examples, some words that might come before a sentence, words like, however, furthermore, therefore, these words are often adverbs. You might also see a sentence that starts with similarly and then follow, with the idea that’s similar to maybe a previous sentence. 

There are also a number of phrases that are often used. Like according to Bakke (2015). Typing quickly. Between September and December. So, this is the kind of introductory information or kind of the word or phrase that I’m referring to.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Examples sentences

According to Bakke (2015), allergies in dogs are on the rise.

However, new medications can help reduce the scratching behavior caused by allergens.

Typing quickly, he accidently deleted a sentence he wanted to keep.

Audio: And here are some examples in sentences. We have, according to Bakke, allergies in in dogs are on the rise.  However, new medications can help reduce the scratching behavior caused by allergens.  Typing quickly, he accidentally deleted a sentence he wanted to keep.  One thing to notice, is that there are commas after each introductory phrase or word. Often any phrase or information that comes before the subject of the sentence will be separated by a comma. So the subject is often a person place or thing, and in this case allergies, new medications, he, so the information that comes before the subject is typically what needs to be separated by the comma.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Exception to the rule

Short introductory phrases with four words or fewer that begin with prepositions (e.g. for, by, from, in) may not need to be followed by a comma:

For many weeks I have been searching for relevant articles.

However, it is typically also correct to include a comma:

Audio: One relevant exception to this rule is that short introductory phrases with four words or fewer that begin with prepositions such as for, by, from, in, these may not need to be followed by a comma. So, for many weeks I've been searching for relevant articles.  This is correct.  However, it is typically also correct to include the comma, so we can say for many weeks comma I have been searching for relevant articles.  So, if you are ever unsure, it is usually just safe to add the comma, and then you do not have to count how many words, you don't have to figure out is this first word a preposition -- so when in doubt it is not a bad idea to add the comma after an introductory phrase.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice:

Choose one of the sentences below. Decide if there is an error.  If so, revise the sentence to fix the error in comma use.

When attending a conference it is a good idea to dress professionally.

In addition it is important to have a notebook and a pen to take notes or write down contact information of potential future employers.

Audio: Alright, so that was kind of a quick one.  Let's take another minute to practice what I just discussed about commas after introductory clauses.  Read through the sentences, choose one or both and write a revised version in the chat box.

Amy:  Great.  I see a number of correct revisions there.  In both sentences, we added commas, so when attending a conference comma in addition comma again to come back to that final rule that I mentioned if it is a short phrase and begins with a preposition like, in, for example, it would not so much be a requirement to have the comma, but it does help with the readability.  So, it is often a good idea to add that comma even if the prepositional phrase that begins the sentence is short.  Great.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #4

Audio: Alright, onto my favorite topic next.  The fourth common error that we’ll look at is possessive forms and I think I say this is my favorite topic because it’s maybe more of, not so much pet peeve but something that stands out to me.  I really noticed this one and as a writing instructor I think we have things that we really notice.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Possessive Form

The possessive form, typically created with an apostrophe (’) and an s shows that something belongs to a person, people, or thing(s).

Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning

Audio: So, we will get started here, the possessive form is created with an apostrophe and an s. I know this is something you've seen before but I will go through it anyway.  It shows that something belongs to a person or people or a thing or things.  One example is Pavlov's theory of classical conditioning.  In this case we are explaining that the theory basically belongs to Pavlov.  That it was created by Pavlov.  And so, we show that by using the possessive form, that apostrophe and s.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Singular Possessive

Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning is based on his experiments with dogs.

The company’s code of conduct is included in the employee manual.

Jones’s (2015) research revolved around online academic writing feedback.

Audio: The possessive form can be singular or plural, so it depends on whether we’re talking about something that belongs to just one person or thing or if we’re saying that it belongs to a group.  Again, we have, these are all the singular possessive forms here.  Again, we have Pavlov's theory of classical conditioning is based on his experiments with dogs.  We are using the singular possessive form here because Pavlov is just one person.  We might also say; the company's code of conduct is included in the employee manual.  So, the code of conduct that belongs to the company.  Jones’s research revolved around online writing feedback.  So, we're talking about things that belong to, or were created by a person or company in these examples.

The final example is unique because even though that name ends in an S, we add another S after the apostrophe.  And this just follows APA guidelines, some writing style say you do not need to include the additional S after Joneses.  But just note, according to APA you do need to do this.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Plural Possessive

The Nurses’ Association has a code of conduct.

The researchers’ methods were sound.

Irregular plurals:

The Children’s Museum has a dinosaur exhibit this month.

Audio: Next will take a look at the plural form.  So, this is when we’re making the possessive form of a group.  Because these words are already in the plural and they end in ‘s’, we just add the apostrophe.   So, in this first sentence, the nurses' association has a code of conduct we're talking about the association of the nurses, the association that belongs to the nurses. So, we add the apostrophe to nurses to make it possessive, the plural possessive form.

Also, the researchers’ methods were sound, we’re referring to the methods of the researchers, as in more than one researcher. So, we add the apostrophe at the end of the plural word. One kind of fun thing about English, is that some nouns are irregular in the plural form.  As you can see in the example at the bottom of the page, Child becomes children rather than child's so when a noun is irregular in the plural form or when it does not end in S.  You can just add the apostrophe and S, as in this example. The Children’s Museum has a dinosaur exhibit this month.

So, as I mentioned, this is a common error and I see it quite a bit and it can be a bit confusing if you have not reviewed the rules recently and just a little reminder in practice can set you off on the right track.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: When to Not Use the Possessive Form

  • Incorrect : Cell phones became commonly used in the 1990’s.
  • Correct : Cell phones became commonly used in the 1990s.
  • Incorrect : The CEO’s met at the technology summit.
  • Correct : The CEOs met at the technology summit.
  • Incorrect : The teacher’s attended the conference.
  • Correct : The teachers attended the conference.

Audio: Before we finished the section, I wanted to note some specific instances when not to use the possessive form when we don’t need to use the apostrophe.  I explained that we use possessive form when something belongs to a person or a group, so we don’t need it in these instances.  The first is when referring to periods of years, such as decades, when we say cell phones became commonly used in the 1990s, no apostrophe is needed.  Similarly, when making acronyms plural we do not need an apostrophe.  We can add the S.  The CEOs met at the technology Summit.  And finally, remember the difference between making something plural meaning more than one, versus showing possession, that something belongs to a person.  In the final example we don’t need an apostrophe because we are talking about teachers as in more than one teacher.  Not something that belongs to the teacher.  The teachers attended the conference.

Choose one of the sentences below. Revise it to fix any errors related to apostrophes or the possessive form.

The companies policy is to report violations within 48 hours.

The local Teacher’s Association has meeting’s on the first Wednesday of the month.

Audio: Once again, let us try it out.  I included two sentences here that have errors related to the possessive form. You can read them through, pick one or both and write a correction in the chat box.

Great, it looks like many people caught a couple of the errors going on in these sentences.  And I saw a couple of versions of the first one.  There are two different options of how to fix it, depending on the intended meaning of the sentence of course.  So, we could say, the company, as in the singular company, apostrophe s, policy, so the first example that I have in my revision box.  That is assuming that it’s the policy of one company.  That might be the most more common use.  If we are discussing a specific policy it’s probably one that belongs to an individual company.  Of course, it could be the companies' plural possessive policy, so that second option I have in the box. That would be assuming more than one company but that they have the same policy.  Because policy is singular. Of course, we might also say the company's policies.  So, there would be different ways to revise depending on the intended meaning of the sentence.

It looks like many of you caught the couple of errors in the second example.  We’d want to move that apostrophe over so we are using plural teachers' association.  Probably, because, well because an association would belong to more than one teacher.  The association of the teachers rather than the association of the teacher.  And then has meetings on the first Wednesday of the month meetings of course just needs to be plural and not in the possessive form, so we do not need the apostrophe for meetings.  Great work, everyone.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #5 

Audio: The final common error that I’ll discuss today is subject verb agreement.  Specifically, I will focus on subject/verb agreement with complex subjects.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Review: Simple Sentences

Subject + Predicate .

  • Tom retired after 30 years of teaching .
  • All of the employees will attend the retreat .

Audio: In some of our other grammar webinars, in the mastering mechanics series, hopefully you checked those out. If not, it’s a great series about the basics and fundamentals of sentence construction and combining sentences. So, in those webinars we have focused quite a bit on some of the more basic sentence construction including things like subjects and predicates.  I just want to give a brief overview before we talk about subject-verb agreement just to make sure everybody is on the same page.

The main sections of a simple sentence are the subject, which is usually a person, place or thing.  And the predicate, which shows the action or the state of being.  And any extra information about the sentence.  Here are a few examples.  I am a master's student. Tom retired after 30 years of teaching.  All of the employees will attend the retreat.   The firsts part of the predicate in blue, kind of the italics there, is the verb, and you can see the verbs underlined here on this slide. Throughout this last section we’ll focus there on just this subject and the verb which is underlined there.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject -Verb Agreement

Subject + Verb .

Need to agree in number:

  • Deborah writes.
  • They write.

A regular present tense verb for the singular third person (she, he, it)

includes an “s”.

However, irregular verbs will function differently.

Audio: So, the subject and verb need to agree in number.  In English, this follows a rather regular pattern, I write, you write, Deborah or he or she writes.  Notice that this one ends in an S. We write. They write. In the present tense, the only form that is different, is when we’re talking about what we linguist and grammar nerds, call the single or third person. Meaning, when we are talking about one person or thing that is not me and it is not you.  Normally it might make sense to add and S to something when we make it plural, but this rule is different for verbs. We add an S when the verb is singular.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject-Verb Agreement

2+ Subjects + 1 Verb .

  • The committee members and the student  write  every day .

When the subject of the sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by  and , use a plural verb.

Audio: So now that we have that pattern in mind. Let’s look at some common errors and subject verb agreement, and when it gets a little tricky in when we have those rather complex subjects. 

The first type is when we have two or more subjects in one sentence.  The committee members and the student write every day.  So, we have those two or more subjects, we have the committee members and the student.  So even though the subject closest to the verb is singular, because as a whole we are talking about more than one, we use the plural form of the verb, write. So, for example if the sentence were just about the one student, we would use writes with an ‘s’, the student writes every day but because we’re talking about a group the committee members and the student, we use a plural form of the word, write.

Complex Subject + Verb .

  • The nurse who normally works with pediatric patients volunteers at the blood drive every year .

When a phrase comes between the subject and the verb, the verb still agrees with the subject, not the noun or pronoun in the phrase following the subject of the sentence.

Audio: When a sentence is a complex subject it can be a bit tricky to decide which form of the verb to use and what to match it with.  Let us take a look at the sentence, the nurse who normally works with the pediatric patients -- so what we need to do is, we need to look for the main subject because there are two different people or groups here.  There’s the nurse at the beginning of the sentence, and there’s also the pediatric patients.  In this case, the main subject, the main person or thing we are talking about is the nurse.  The rest of the subject is a phrase describes which nurse it is.  The one who works with pediatric patients.  So, we need to match our verb to nurse and not to the noun right next to the verb, in this case is, patients.

So, it’s, the nurse volunteers at the blood drive each year.  So, when a phrase comes between the main subject to end the verb, the verb still needs to agree with or match with the number of the main subject.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject – Verb Agreement

Noncount Subject + Verb .

  • Information about Walden’s Master’s degree programs in education is available on the website .

Noncount nouns take a singular verb.

Audio: The final point, that I have, about subject-verb agreement is related non-count noun. In English, some nouns or things are categorized as non-count nouns meaning they are a type that cannot be counted.  So, some examples are information or furniture, for example we do not say one information are three furniture.  It sounds a bit odd in English and is not grammatically correct.  Rather, we might say something like three pieces of furniture or one bit of information.  These special kinds of nouns, non-count nouns, always take the singular form of the verb.  For example, in this sentence, we use is with information rather than are.  So, information about Walden's master's degree programs in education IS available on the website. Because our main noun is information, information is available. We need to match the subject and the verb.

Choose one of the sentences below. Revise the sentence to fix the error in subject-verb agreement.

The interns and the coordinator attends lunch meetings every Wednesday.

The lesson plans for Chapter 3 is available in the shared folder.

Audio: Alright, final practice.  Let’s take a minute to just take a look at those examples.  You can choose a sentence or both, revise for subject-verb agreement and put your answer in the chat box.  I will take a short break.

Great.  I see some corrections continuing to come in.  Lots of correct corrections here in the chat area.  Yes, so I think everyone identified that we just need to adjust the verbs in these two sentences.  The entrance on the coordinator attend lunch meetings.  We have multiple people and so we need to use a plural form of the verb.  And in the second example, again, the lesson plans for chapter 3 are available in the shared folder.  Again, we need to match the verb with, plans, which is plural.  And change it from is to are. Awesome!

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Proofreading Tools & Tips

Audio: Great. So, just to wrap this up here, and thinking about everything we have discussed so far, I just wanted to finish off with some tips, to try out as you continue to try writing and revising your work.

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Tips

            Identify the most common patterns in your writing.

  • Analyze a paragraph or two of your work.
  • Pay attention to feedback you receive from faculty or writing Center staff.
  • Keep a grammar journal to keep track of common issues.
  • Use Grammarly.
  • Ask for help!

Audio: And really the main tip is to identify patterns in your writing.  Now that we have gone through five main areas of focus that may or may not be common errors for you, it might be a great idea to go back to some of your recent work, maybe your last couple of course papers or other things that you’re working on and be on the lookout for those specific errors that we talked about.  Kind of figure out, do I have any of them in my writing?  And which ones.  And keep those in mind as things to look out for in the future.

Some strategies to do that are -- like I just mentioned, to go back to your finished work, see if you identify anything after viewing this webinar.  Of course, if you have received feedback from faculty or from the writing center staff through our paper review service, taking note of what types of errors are often being pointed out, how can I focus my attention when I’m proofreading or revising to look out for those, for any additional errors that may happen.

We, as humans, as writers, we tend to make similar mistakes over and over again especially if we don’t realize that they are mistakes.  So, if you can identify patterns, that is a great strategy.  You might even keep a grammar Journal to keep track of the common issues, if you are noticing some of them and you can find that grammar Journal in the files pod on the bottom right-hand part of the slide now.  Something you can download, and keep and fill out. 

You can also try to use Grammarly, Grammarly is a software system that can help identify grammar errors. It can be really helpful but one thing to note is it’s not human, so it does not have the intuition of how language works.  So, while it may give some helpful tips, it is not perfect so use any advice from Grammarly along with your own judgment of the English language and how you think it works.  And of course, also ask for help.  We have a number of ways to reach out to us directly and of course we have many resources you can view on your own and I will probably let Claire give an overview of those here just as she wraps us up.  Because that is everything I have for you today.  Claire, did you want to take it away?

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions: Ask Now or Later

[email protected] •  Live Chat Hours

Learn More:

Check out the other webinars related to grammar and sentence construction in our Mastering the Mechanics Series .

Audio: Claire:  Sure thing.  Thank you so much, Amy, for that wonderful presentation.  I am not seeing any lingering questions.  But if you do have questions that come up as your thinking about this webinar or if you have watched this webinar as a recording, you can go ahead and let us know by writing into writing support at [email protected] . And that is a 24-hour turnaround inbox.  So, if you have a pressing question, somebody will get back to you. 

We also have live chat hours also, I know I work on the live chat, so if you ever have a question about grammar or anything else writing related, you can come in and talk to a live writing instructor such as myself and we will help you find the right resources and answer to your question.

You can also learn more about grammar as well as other topics through our webinar archive, and you could watch the mastering the mechanics series, which is also led by Amy and all about really breaking down sentence structures and those sort of grammar basics.

So, if you think that is something that sounds helpful after reviewing this webinar, that would be another great place to start, especially if you are a non-native speaker.  Again, that’s available in our webinar archive.  We will have a recording of this webinar posted within 24 hours of this presentation.  So, if you missed any or want to come back to it later you can find it there as well.

Thank you all for coming in today and I will go ahead and end our presentation.

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How to avoid common errors in writing scientific manuscripts

  • Master Class in Plastic Surgery
  • Published: 10 April 2018
  • Volume 41 , pages 489–494, ( 2018 )

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  • Franco A. Maiorana 1 &
  • Horacio F. Mayer 1  

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When writing scientific manuscripts, many important details are left a side which many times causes the rejection of the manuscript from high impact journals. Scientific writing is a combination of a comprehensive literature search and study, collection of statistical data, and a clear and concise structured writing, while avoiding common and known errors. The knowledge and implementation of basic rules of style, structure, and presentation when writing a scientific paper increase the chances of success and ultimately publication. This article aims to contribute with the existing information on how to recognize and avoid common errors for a successful scientific writing and consequently being published.

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Maiorana, F.A., Mayer, H.F. How to avoid common errors in writing scientific manuscripts. Eur J Plast Surg 41 , 489–494 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00238-018-1418-z

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Grad Coach

Writing A Research Proposal

8 common (and costly) mistakes to avoid 🤦.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) & David Phair (PhD) . Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2021

At Grad Coach, we review a lot of research proposals , including dissertation proposals and thesis proposals. Some are pretty good, while others are, well, not fantastic. Sadly, many students only approach us after their proposal has been rejected , meaning they’ve wasted a lot of time and effort.

We’ll look at 8 common mistakes and issues we see cropping up in research proposals so that you can craft your proposal with confidence and maximise the chances of it being approved.

Dissertation and thesis research proposal mistakes

Overview: 8 Research Proposal Killers

  • The research topic is too broad (or just poorly articulated).
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align .
  • The research topic is not well justified .
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation .
  • The research design is not well articulated well enough.
  • Poor writing and sloppy presentation.
  • Poor project planning and risk management.
  • Not following the university’s specific criteria .

#1: The research topic is too broad.

One of the most common issues we see in dissertation and thesis proposals is that the research topic is simply too broad . In other words, the focus of the research is not ringfenced tightly enough (or just not defined clearly enough), resulting in a proposal that has an unclear direction or attempts to take on too much.

For example, a research project that aims to “investigate trust in the workplace” would be considered very broad. This topic has no specific focus and leaves many questions unanswered, for example:

  • What type(s) of trust?
  • Between whom?
  • Within what types of workplaces?
  • Within what industry or industries?

As a general rule of thumb, you should aim for a fairly narrow focus when you craft your research topic. Doing this will allow you to go deep and investigate the topic in-depth , which is what the markers want to see. Quality beats quantity – or rather, depth beats breadth – when it comes to defining and refining your research topic.

A related problem is that oftentimes, students have a more refined topic within their mind, but they don’t articulate it well in their proposal. This often results in the proposal being rejected because the topic is perceived as being too broad. In other words, it’s important to ensure you not only have a clear, sharp focus for your research, but that you communicate that well in your dissertation or thesis proposal. Make sure that you address the who , what , were and when, so that your topic is well defined.

Let’s look at an example.

Sticking with the topic I mentioned earlier, a more refined and well-articulated research aim could be something along the lines of:

“To investigate the factors that cultivate organisational trust (i.e. a customer trusting an organisation) within the UK life insurance industry.”

As you can see, this is a lot more specific and ringfences the topic into a more manageable scope . So, when it comes to your research topic, remember to keep it tight .

In your proposal, make sure that you address the who, what, where and when, so that your topic is well-defined.

#2: The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align.

Another common issue that we see with weaker research proposals is misalignment between the research aims and objectives , as well as with the research questions . Sometimes all three are misaligned , and sometimes there’s only one misfit. Whatever the case, it’s a problem that can lead to proposal rejection, as these three elements need to link together tightly.

Let’s look at an example of a misaligned trio.

Research Aim:

To identify factors that cultivate organisational trust in British insurance brokers.

Research Objectives:

To measure organisational trust levels across different demographic groups within the UK.

To investigate the causes of differences in organisational trust levels between groups.

Research Question:

What factors influence organisational trust between customers and insurance brokers within the UK?

As you can see, the research aim and research question are reasonably aligned (they are both focused on the factors that cultivate trust). However, the research objectives are misaligned, as they focus on measuring trust levels across different groups, rather than identifying what factors stimulate trust. This will result in a study that’s pulling in different directions – not good.

A related issue we see is that students don’t really understand the difference between research aims (the broader goal), research objectives (how you’ll achieve that goal) and research questions (the specific questions you’ll answer within your study). So, when you’re preparing your proposal, make sure that you clearly understand how these differ and make sure they’re all tightly aligned with each other.

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

#3: The research topic is not well justified.

A good research topic – in other words, a good set of research aims, research objectives and research questions – needs to be well justified to convince your university to approve your research. Poor justification of the research topic is a common reason for proposals to be rejected.

So, how do you justify your research?

For a research topic to be well justified, you need to demonstrate both originality and importance .

Originality means that your proposed research is novel , or at least that it’s novel within its context (for example, within a specific country or industry). While the extent of this novelty will vary depending on your institution, programme and level of study (e.g. Masters vs Doctorate), your research will always need to have some level of originality. In other words, you can’t research something that’s been researched ad nauseam before.

Simply put, your research needs to emerge from a gap in the existing literature . To do this, you need to figure out what’s missing from the current body of knowledge (by undertaking a review of the literature) and carve out your own research to fill that gap. We explain this process in more detail here .

Importance is the second factor. Just because a topic is unique doesn’t mean it’s important . You need to be able to explain what the benefits of undertaking your proposed research would be. Who would benefit? How would they benefit? How could the newly developed knowledge be used in the world, whether in academia or industry?

So, when you’re writing up your research proposal, make sure that you clearly articulate both the originality and importance of your proposed research, or you’ll risk submitting an unconvincing proposal.

You have to justify every choice in your dissertation defence

#4: The study has a weak theoretical foundation.

As I mentioned in the previous point, your research topic needs to emerge from the existing research . In other words, your research needs to fill a clear gap in the literature – something that hasn’t been adequately researched, or that lacks research in a specific context.

To convince your university that your topic will fill a gap in the research, your proposal needs to have a strong theoretical foundation . In other words, you need to show that you’ve done the necessary reading and are familiar with the existing research. To do this, you need to provide an integrated summary of the existing research and highlight (very clearly) the theoretical gap that exists.

Some common signs of a weak theoretical foundation that we’ve encountered include:

  • A general lack of sources and a reliance on personal opinion and anecdotes, rather than academic literature.
  • Failing to acknowledge and discuss landmark studies and key literature in the topic area.
  • Relying heavily on low-quality sources , such as blog posts, personal websites, opinion pieces, etc.
  • Relying heavily on outdated sources and not incorporating more recent research that builds on the “classics”.

While it’s generally not expected that you undertake a comprehensive literature review at the proposal stage, you do still need to justify your topic by demonstrating a need for your study (i.e. the literature gap). So, make sure that you put in the time to develop a sound understanding of the current state of knowledge in your space, and make sure that you communicate that understanding in your proposal by building your topic justification on a solid base of credible literature.

The literature review knowledge gap

#5: The research design is not articulated well enough (or is just impractical).

Once you’ve made a strong argument regarding the value of your research (i.e., you’ve justified it), the next matter that your research proposal needs to address is the “how” – in other words, your intended research design and methodology .

A common issue we see is that students don’t provide enough detail in this section. This is often because they don’t really know exactly what they’re going to do and plan to just “figure it out later” (which is not good enough). But sometimes it’s just a case of poor articulation – in other words, they have a clear design worked out in their minds, but they haven’t put their plan to paper.

Whatever the reason, a dissertation or thesis proposal that lacks detail regarding the research design runs a major risk of being rejected. This is because universities want to see that you have a clearly defined, practical plan to achieve your research aims and objectives and answer your research questions.

At a minimum, you should provide detail regarding the following:

  • Research philosophy – the set of beliefs your research is based on (positivism, interpretivism, pragmatism)
  • Research approach – the broader method you’ll use (inductive, deductive, qualitative and quantitative)
  • Research strategy – how you’ll conduct the research (e.g., experimental, action, case study, etc.)
  • Time horizon – the number of points in time at which you’ll collect your data (e.g. cross-sectional or longitudinal)
  • Techniques and procedures – your intended data collection methods, data analysis techniques, sampling strategies , etc.

For more information about each of these design decisions, check out our post detailing the Research Onion.

Of course, your research design can (and most likely will) evolve along the way , but you still need a starting point. Also, your proposed research design needs to be practical, given your constraints. A brilliant design is pointless if you don’t have the resources (e.g. money, equipment, expertise, etc.) to pull it off. So, get detailed in this section of your proposal and keep it realistic to maximise your chances of approval.

Need a helping hand?

thesis common error

#6: Poor writing and sloppy presentation.

As with any document, poor writing and sloppy presentation can heavily detract from your research proposal, even if you tick all the other boxes. While poor writing and presentation alone probably won’t result in your proposal being rejected, it will definitely put you at a disadvantage , as it gives a negative impression regarding the overall quality of your work.

The main issues we see here are:

  • Directionless or scattered writing – for example, writing that jumps from one point to another with poor flow and connectivity, disjointed points, etc.
  • Poor argument formation – for example, a lack of premises and conclusions, disconnected conclusions and poor reasoning (you can learn more about argument development here ).
  • Inappropriate language – for example, using a very informal or casual tone, slang, etc).
  • Grammar and spelling issues, as well as inconsistent use of UK/US English.
  • Referencing issues – for example, a lack of references or incorrectly formatted references.
  • Table and figure captions – for example, a lack of captions, citations, figure and table numbers, etc.
  • Low-quality visuals and diagrams.

The good news is that many of these can be resolved by editing and proofreading your proposal beforehand, so it’s always a good idea to take the time to do this. It’s also a good idea to ask a friend to review your document, as you will invariably suffer from blindspots when editing your own work. If your budget allows, having your work reviewed by an academic editor will ensure you cover all bases and submit a high-quality document.

#7: Poor project planning and risk management.

While different universities will have varying requirements, there is usually a requirement (or at least an expectation) for a project plan of sorts. As I mentioned earlier, a strong research proposal needs to be practical and manageable, given your constraints. Therefore, a well-articulated project plan that considers all the practicalities (and risks) is an important part of a strong research proposal.

We generally recommend that students draw up a fairly detailed Gantt chart , detailing each major task involved in the dissertation writing process. For example, you can break it down into the various chapters ( introduction , literature review, etc.) and the key tasks involved in completing each chapter (research, planning, writing, etc). What’s most important here is to be realistic – things almost always take longer than you expect, especially if you’re a first-time researcher.

Gantt chart

We also recommend including some sort of risk management plan . For this, you could make use of a basic risk register , listing all the potential risks you foresee, as well as your mitigation and response actions, should they occur. For example, the risk of data collection taking longer than anticipated, the risk of not getting enough survey responses , etc.

What’s most important is to demonstrate that you have thought your research through and have a clear plan of action . Of course, as with your research design, plans can (and likely will) change – and that’s okay. However, you still need to have an initial plan, and that plan needs to be realistic and manageable, or you’ll risk your proposal getting rejected.

#8: Not following the university’s specific criteria.

While research proposals are fairly generic in terms of contents and style, and tend to follow a reasonably standardised structure, each university has its nuances in terms of what they want to be included in the dissertation or thesis proposal.

Some universities want more or less detail in certain sections, some want extra sections, and some want a very specific structure and format (down to the font type and size!). So, you need to pay very close attention to whatever institution-specific criteria your university has set out.

Typically, your university will provide some sort of brief or guidance document to direct your proposal efforts, so be sure to study this document thoroughly and ask the faculty for clarity if you’re uncertain about anything. Some universities will also provide a proposal template . Pay careful attention to any specific structure they recommend as well as formatting requirements (such as font, line spacing, margin sizes, referencing format, etc.).

If your university provides an assessment criteria matrix , you’ve hit the jackpot, as that document will detail exactly what you need to achieve in each section of the proposal. Study that matrix inside out and make sure that your research proposal tightly aligns with the assessment criteria.

Research proposal criteria

Recap: 8 Research Proposal Mistakes

We’ve covered a lot here – let’s recap on the 8 common mistakes that can hurt your research proposal or even get it rejected:

  • The research design is not articulated well enough.
  • Not following the university’s specific criteria.

If you have any questions about these common mistakes, leave a comment below and we’ll do our best to answer. You may also want to have a look at some examples of successful proposals here . If you’d like to get 1-on-1 help with your research proposal , book a free initial consultation with a friendly coach to discuss how we can move you forward.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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Literature review mistakes

Thanks a lot for sharing these tips, very usefull and help me a lot, Many thanks

Winny

I just want to express my sincere gratitude for everything you guys are doing. You held my hand when I was doing my dissertation. I successfully completed it and got good marks. I just got myself reviewing this so I could help others struggling. May God bless you. May he bless you abundantly.

Tilahun K Balcha

Thank you so much, I got it very important, and your presentation is also very attractive.

Torgbui Awusu

I find the text very educative. I am just preparing to start work on my PhD thesis. I must admit that I have learnt so much about how to organize myself for the task ahead of me. Thank you so much for being there to support people like me.

Hajara Salihu Bawa

I found this video highly educative, it gave me a full glance at what is ahead of me – starting my Ph.D. now! Thank you for these amazing facts.

Fatima Saleem

Thanks a lot for such an insightful video and explanation on Research Proposal design. I’m a beginner and pursuing my B.ed , these tips are really helpful to get a good start.

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Common Mistakes in Academic Writing & How to Avoid Them

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Common-mistakes-Definition

Academic writing, while demanding, can be mastered with a good grasp of language rules and careful attention to common pitfalls. Mistakes ranging from structuring, style, to grammatical errors can distract from your argument and undermine the credibility of your work. Most of these common mistakes are avoidable, so it’s important to know which mistakes you’re likely to make. Explore our guide to transform these challenges into opportunities for improvement in your academic writing.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

  • 1 Common Mistakes – In a Nutshell
  • 2 Definition: Common mistakes
  • 3 Common mistakes: British vs. American English
  • 4 Common mistakes: Citation terms
  • 5 Common mistakes: Quantifiers
  • 6 Common mistakes: Nouns & plurals
  • 7 Common mistakes: Punctuating numbers and dates
  • 8 Common mistakes: Adjectives
  • 9 Common mistakes: Verbs/phrasal verbs
  • 10 Common mistakes: Words that are mixed up
  • 11 Common mistakes: Conjunctions and prepositions

Common Mistakes – In a Nutshell

  • There are many common mistakes in writing.
  • Researchers can use British or American English in their work, although it must be consistent throughout.
  • Students should ensure their work is free from any mistakes before submitting their work.

Definition: Common mistakes

Common mistakes are errors in academic writing that most students fail to notice in their research. There are different common mistakes ranging from inappropriate punctuation to improper sentence structure and more. Proofreading and editing your work is essential to correct language mistakes and other errors, as they can give you a lower score even if your research is well-structured.

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Common mistakes: British vs. American English

British English and American English are the main languages used in academic writing by students and researchers. However, some words are spelled differently, and students should use the instructed language in their work to avoid common mistakes in language use.

Common mistakes: Citation terms

Terms used in a citation, including et al. are commonly miswritten as Et al or Et all. For example:

✘  The spread of the bubonic plague was largely influenced by trade and immigration (Gretel et all. , 1976)

✘  The spread of the bubonic plague was largely influenced by trade and immigration (Gretel et. al. , 1976)

✓  The spread of the bubonic plague was largely influenced by trade and immigration (Gretel et al. , 1976)

Common mistakes: Quantifiers

Common mistakes: nouns & plurals.

Some common mistakes in noun plurals include:

Common mistakes: Punctuating numbers and dates

Using commas correctly ensures proper punctuation of numbers, as follows:

Common mistakes: Adjectives

Students also make some common mistakes when using adjectives correctly. For instance:

Common mistakes: Verbs/phrasal verbs

Some common mistakes include:

Common mistakes: Words that are mixed up

It is common for students to mix up certain words, especially those that have similar pronunciations, such as:

  • Effect – noun
  • Affect – verb

The effect of the pandemic was widespread, it affected many people in the world.

  • Personnel – noun
  • Personal – adjective

The school’s personnel like to keep their personal items in their cars.

  • Principal – adjective
  • Principle – noun

The principal theme of the study draws on principles defined in the main source.

  • Were – verb
  • Where – adjective

They were found in the park where they like to play.

  • Bear – verb
  • Bare – adjective

The axle bears the load on a bare surface.

Common mistakes: Conjunctions and prepositions

Conjunctions and prepositions are used frequently in academic writing. Some common mistakes include the following:

What are the common mistakes in academic writing?

The most common mistakes in writing are grammatical errors from incorrect punctuation, spelling, and word groups. They also include misuse of phrases and confusing similar words.

How can you avoid common mistakes in your written work?

Proofreading and revising is the best way to find errors. Also, confirm the correct forms of words and spellings before using them.

What is the difference between American and British English?

There are different spellings for certain words in these forms of writing. For instance, the use of “s” and “z” may vary, such as analyse and analyze.

How do you punctuate numbers correctly?

Use a comma in the right place to show a number correctly. For instance 10,000 not 10.000.

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IMAGES

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  1. Top 6 Most Common Thesis Statement Mistakes

    Improved thesis:To be a quality comedian, you must develop your craft in a way that inspires laughter and smiles at every performance. 6. The Statement Lacks Connection to the Rest of the Essay. Even if you have a decent thesis statement, it will mean nothing if the rest of the essay strays from your main idea.

  2. Checklist of Common Formatting Errors

    Include any and all permissions and email exchanges for use of proprietary information. School of Graduate Studies and Research. 101 Stright Hall. 210 South Tenth Street. Indiana, PA 15705. Phone: 724-357-4511. Fax: 724-357-2715. List of common errors found in the formatting of a thesis or dissertation.

  3. Top 5 Common Mistakes To Avoid While Writing A Thesis

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  4. PDF Thesis Common Errors

    The following checklist highlights common errors found during the Editor Review. Presence of these errors in a document, has been found to significantly delay the editing process. PRIOR to submitting your thesis to Graduate Studies for Editor Review, please review this list and confirm that your document adheres to each item. Failure

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    Title Page. Get the name of your major absolutely correct (e.g., Psychology, not Clinical Psychology). The thesis/dissertation title must be in all CAPITAL letters and double-spaced, and the date must be the month and year of your graduation. Doctoral candidates: use "dissertation" instead of "thesis" throughout the document.

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    Jack wants to rest awhile, but he has to go to work in a while. Awhile = for a period of time. A while = a period of time. Apart vs a part. The twins were born 2 minutes apart, and when one of them a way, it feels like a part of them is missing. Apart = separation, distance. A part = a piece.

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    This thesis paper first provides the reader with background information and introduces the study's aim, research questions, and thesis structure. ... techniques to increase students' writing proficiency and exclude common errors. According to Lekova, the teacher should also know the system of the L1 and L2 to minimize language

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