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A to Z Guide to Dissertation

and Thesis Writing


Michael J Hunt, Freelance Academic Editor

Abstract: An easy-to-use Guide, copiously cross-referenced,


for students looking for quick solutions to the difficulties
that academic writing presents and for those who need to
know how dissertations and theses are structured, how to
prepare for them, what should be put into them, the best
way to present them and the problems theyre likely to
encounter when writing them. It will also be useful for
academics seeking career advancement or wishing to
submit articles to professional journals.

Keywords: Academics; Academic Editing; Academic Ter-


minology; Academic Writing; Cross-Referencing; Defini-
tions; Descriptions; Dissertation Writing; Editors; Editing;
Meeting University Deadlines; Proofreading; Reducing
Stress; References; Researching; Students Support; Thesis
Writing; Writing Difficulties; Writing Schedules

Introduction
I compiled this Guide primarily for my English as a
Second Language (ESL) students, since nearly all my
clients come from overseas, and also for some first lan-
Michael J Hunt, the author of guage English speaking students who have difficulties
the A to Z Guide to Dissertation and with reading and writing. However, I now realize it has
Thesis Writing is a graduate of Keele a much broader scope, since not every successful aca-
University, Staffordshire, and is now demic is, by definition, a natural writer. I believe, there-
an editor and novelist. He learned the
editing craft while serving a printing
fore, that it will be of value to anyone at all academic
apprenticeship many years ago, and levels to have in their computers an extensive range of
he has had over ten years experience references and cross-references to terminology and the
in editing essays, dissertations, and various writing difficulties in an easy-to-use format.
theses, mainly for ESL students and
About me: Im an editor of fiction and nonfiction. I learned
academics.
the craft many years ago when I was an apprentice
printer and I continued with it when I was writing histor-
ical fiction by editing my own books and those of other
authors. However, Im not a grammar specialist; there-
fore, there are likely to be some areas of disagreement
about my definitions and suggested applications; so, if
your supervisor believes something Ive recommended
is wrong, you must listen to him or her and not to me.

Expert Insights 1
A to Z Guide to Dissertation and Thesis Writing

About the Guide: its an easy-to-use refer- PART ONE


ence for anyone looking for quick solutions
to the many difficulties that academic writ- A to Z OF ACADEMIC TERMS,
ing presents and also for those who need
to know how dissertations and theses are
PRACTICES, AND PROBLEMS
structured, how to prepare for them, what
Part 2 Covers Dissertation and
should be put into them, the best way to
present them and the problems theyre
Thesis Writing
likely to encounter when writing them. It The italicized items at the end of the entries are
will also be of use to students seeking fur- cross-references designed to help you to find
ther advancement in their careers and to what youre looking for, no matter what words
established academics who submit articles or phrases you use in your search. They will
to professional journals. Although its pri- also direct you to those items in the Guide that
marily a reference, you might find it helpful will allow you to write about your subject with
to read through it so youll have an idea of its more confidence and in more detail.
scope and how it can be of help to you. A, An, The; Definite and Indefinite Ar-
What the Guide is not: its not a specialist ticles: the problems for ESL students is ei-
grammar manual and neither is it intended ther not knowing when to use one of these,
to replace the official Style Guides, which, or which one to use. An a or an should
although highly comprehensive, are diffi- be put before a noun thats used in a gen-
cult to digest and are not designed to deal eral sense, such as a house or an apple,
with the issues addressed in this Guide. while the should be put before a particular
About the entries: most have come from my noun, such as the Washington White House.
editing experiences although Ive used the Not all nouns require an article, but dont
highly detailed official Style Guides for the worry, because its unlikely that youll be
more prescriptive information, which Ive penalized for not knowing which one to
reduced in order to make it easier to under- use, or whether or not to use one at all; just
stand. I hope this combination will provide try to be consistent throughout your manu-
you with the support youll undoubtedly script. See Abbreviations for other exam-
need as you compile the all-important ples. (Abbreviations; Clarity; Consistency;
manuscript that will mark the culmination Grammar; Text)
of a great deal of hard work. If you should Abbreviations: spell them out the first
find any errors in the Guide, or wish to of- time you use them, but not in chapter head-
fer suggestions about how to improve it, ings. If you dont do this your examiner
please contact me on thesisdissertationedit. may have to look them up. Afterwards, you
co.uk or .com can continue with the abbreviation. How-
About You: dissertation and thesis writing ever, if you dont use it frequently and it
can be stressful; therefore, since the best appears several chapters later, spell it out
way to reduce stress is to be well prepared, again as a reminder.
as soon as you know your deadline, devise
a research and writing schedule and stick Example: This article first appeared
to it as closely as you can (see Part 2). in the Times Literary Supplement
I dedicate this Guide to all the brave people (TLS) on 15 November 19....
who study in a foreign language or who have
problems in understanding written English, Some abbreviations have entered the lan-
because I certainly wouldnt have the courage, guage and dont need spelling out. Note:
or the ability, to do the same in your language the definite and indefinite articles are in
or with a similar handicap. italics here:

2 Expert Insights
A to Z Guide to Dissertation and Thesis Writing

Examples: (i) an indispensable piece Identification Number); scuba


of equipment in a hospital is an elec- (self-contained breathing apparatus;
troencephalogram (EEG) machine, laser (light amplification by stimu-
(ii) During WW1, trench warfare be- lated emission of radiation).
came commonplace ... (iii) UNESCO
has produced numerous papers on the (Abbreviations; Brackets (round);
subject of ... (iv) The US and the Terminology)
UK have a special relationship; both
are key supporters of the UN, (v) A Anxiety; Stress: this is the most common
UN initiative in the Middle-East .... of all feelings as your Dissertation and
Thesis deadline approaches. The ways to
Abbreviations in lower case should have reduce it are, (i) make a research and writ-
full stops after each initial; a.m., e.g., ing plan as soon as you know what your
i.e.; however, if you use etal., in a refer- subject and deadline will be, (ii) stick to it,
ence, always add the full stop to al. and (iii) dont waste time, and (iv) dont neglect
follow it with a comma, since al. is the ab- your eating and sleeping, so do everything
breviated word. you can to stay healthy. (Deadline; Disserta-
Dates of significant events are abbrevi- tion and Thesis Writing in Part 2; Time, the
ated in terms of locality; for instance, 4.19 use of)
and 5.16 in Korea, while some are used Apostrophes: (Lists; Possessives)
universally, such as 9/11. However, 9/11 Applications for University Places,
is not the usual way to express a date in the Courses, or Jobs: when you write any-
UK, even though its universally accepted, thing to order, always be aware of the pur-
since in the UK the month always comes pose for which it is being written. Imagine
after the day of the week; hence, simi- you are the receiver and ask yourself what
lar usages are ambiguous in the UK, and you would need to see included for the po-
in academic writing clarity is important. sition and not necessarily what you would
(Acronyms; Brackets (round); Clarity; Dates; like them to know about yourself. They
Definite and Indefinite Articles; Lists; Termi- need to know not only if you have the ca-
nology; Time Periods) pacity to complete a course, or do a job, but,
Abstracts: an Abstract will be about 120 more importantly, if it is the right one for
words for dissertations and between 300 you, given your working and educational
and 500 words for theses; but check these experience, and that youre not likely to
numbers with your Style Guide. It should leave prematurely to do something else.
describe, (i) the scope of the work youve un- Course leaders and employers hate to lose
dertaken, (ii) your methods of investigation, people, since it means they themselves
(iii) the conclusions youve reached, and have failed to choose the right candidates.
(iv) any contribution youve made to knowl- Also, dont send more information than
edge about the subject. (Lists; The Structure they ask for. (CVs)
of Your Dissertation or Thesis, Part 2) Article Writing for Professional Jour-
Acknowledgments: (Editing; The Structure nals: unlike a dissertation or thesis an
of Your Dissertation or Thesis, Part 2) article for publication must be grammati-
Acronyms: are words based on initial let- cally perfect; there isnt any latitude, since
ters, phrases, or syllables of other words. its intended for professional publication.
Heres what you need to know:
Examples: UNESCO (United Nations Publishers should give you a guide to pub-
Educational, Scientific and Cul- lication so you can write it and organize
tural Organization); PIN (Personal it according to their specifications.

Expert Insights 3