Commonly Made Mistakes of Writing Dissertations
PhD students encounter many pitfalls when writing a dissertation. A well-written dissertation is essentially a sustained analysis of a research topic and even the most careful student can succumb to commonly made mistakes in a work of this magnitude. The primary problems that PhD students encounter when writing a dissertation are related to the matters of clarity and organization. In an analysis of this length and breadth, it is easy to lose focus and direction. Because of the substantial research that goes into producing a dissertation, one can veer off track and lose stamina. This paper discusses commonly made mistakes of writing dissertations such as the danger of disorganization, the problem of writing a worthy conclusion and the problem of writing an analytical literature review and offers some strategies to overcome them.
One of the main problems of writing a dissertation is maintaining organized trains of thought. It is all too easy to fail to define concepts clearly and to waste time and energy on only marginally related topics. A good dissertation defines important concepts clearly and concisely and uses the same terminology and its attendant definitions consistently throughout the entire dissertation. Do not make the mistake of using different words to describe a particular terminology and do not define the terminology in one way in one instance and an in a different way in an another. It is important that the writer be consistent with definitions. Otherwise, the reader will not be able to understand the definitions presented in the dissertation. Another strategy to prevent disorganization is to write a table contents before actually starting on a dissertation. This way, the student can decide on what sections to work on first and to make decisions on how to organize the dissertation. It also provides an overview of the dissertation and a broad picture of the links between main ideas and concepts. Taking notes and creating a bibliography are organizational nightmares. Some students prefer the aid of software to organize their notes and bibliography. Some note-taking software are Revolution and Hypercard. Some bibliographic software are EndNote, Procite and Citation. Thus, by defining concepts the same way throughout the dissertation, writing a table of contents before starting the dissertation and using note-taking and bibliographic software, PhD students can better organize their dissertations.
The literature review is an important part of any custom written dissertation and students can all to easily fall into the trap of writing summaries of articles. This method prevents the student from showcasing his/her critical thinking and analytical skills and may also force the reader to lose interest in the research topic. The literature review essentially is a chance for the student to demonstrate his/her knowledge on the research topic and to provide evidence for the arguments presented in the paper. Because the dissertation demands a substantial amount of research, the student, being tired and frustrated, resorts to writing summaries of their research materials. This is a mistake. The purpose of the literature review is to provide a perspective on the research topic, to introduce and discuss important theoretical frameworks, to define key concepts and point out connections between main ideas. In short, it provides a reader with a model of what is going on in the dissertation. By organizing the literature review by categories of analysis, he/she can avoid organizing the dissertation by summary.
By the time that the student reaches the point where he/she is able to write a conclusion, he/she is drained of energy and willpower. It is important to remember that the conclusion is important for the reader because it ties together all of the ideas and concepts analyzed in the custom written dissertation. It reafirms what the reader has learned from the dissertation and explains key inferences. It essentially brings home what the dissertation is all about. The writer should avoid repeating the thesis and should concentrate on explaining what can be inferred from the evidence presented in the dissertation and should also discuss the implications of the points made. A good conclusion leaves the reader with the feeling that he/she has grasped the main ideas of the dissertation.
In conclusion, commonly made mistakes of writing a dissertation are disorganization and poorly constructed literature reviews and conclusions. Because the dissertation is a lengthy work, writers should heed the advice of their colleagues and write everyday. With time, practice and effort, one can correct these mistakes and improve the quality of his/her dissertation. Writing a dissertation is an arduous task and it is not hard to lose clarity and organization while engaged in this process. These strategies are meant as suggestions to overcome commonly made mistakes and aim to alleviate feelings of bewilderment that students encounter as they write their dissertations.