Dissertation Writing Tips: Phrases To Avoid

Are you working on a PhD dissertation or Master’s Thesis? After you have finished composing and defending your paper, you might want to edit and repackage it as a publishable journal article. This goal may seem far away, but successfully publishing your dissertation can have a massive positive impact on your career prospects after grad school.

But how to write a dissertation that is both academically adequate and well written enough to be published? First, you have to make sure you avoid a lot of jargon-dense phrases and clauses that are overused by many of your peers. Pay attention to the tics and trends that are common in dissertations and avoid them as much as possible -- your paper will really shine if you do so. Below are some particular choices to avoid when writing your dissertation or thesis.

Avoid Using Passive Voice

Passively voiced sentences lack the energy and interest of sentences written in the active voice. If you find yourself using the verb “to be” more than any other verb in your paper, you need to revise and find a way to restructure your sentences and make them more engaging. Passive, dull wording can be acceptable in student papers, but publishable journal articles should be more interesting than that. Use a variety of sentence structures and interesting verbs to propel the reader along and keep him or her interested in what you have to say.

Avoid Casual Slang

At the same time, you must be cautious to make sure your paper is still highly professional and respectable. Avoid the use of contractions, abbreviations, slang, and casual language. Even age-old words such as “okay” can seem highly informal and inappropriate in an academic paper. In addition, slang can confuse your committee and paper reviewers, who are probably much older than you and do not have the same conversational vocabulary you do.

Avoid Overly Long Phrases

Another common mistake for PhD students is writing sentences that are longer than needed. Ask yourself if there is a shorter or more efficient way to write what you intend to write. Don’t use adverbs or adjectives unless you need to, and definitely don’t use multiple redundant adjectives in one sentence. The reader will grow bored with lengthy prose pretty quickly, so keep your writing concise. Shorter, punchier language is easier to follow as well. Read your paper aloud to locate places where the language drags or gets especially boring. If a sentence feels like a mouthful, that’s probably because it is too long!