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Research Handbook
Research Handbook
Ayesha Kidwai
A SLL&CS Publication
July 2012
© Ayesha Kidwai, 2012
Materials in Appendix II and III ©©1995-2011 by The Writing Lab & The OWL
at Purdue and Purdue University, used with permission.
This handbook is intended to serve as a guide to students enrolled in the
M.Phil./PhD programme of the School of Language, Literature and Culture
Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Originally written for the students of
the Centre for Linguistics in 2007, this version of the document has been extensively rewritten to meet the needs of a more general audience. A special word
of thanks in this regard are owed to Madhu Sahni and Chitra Harshvardhan
for their critical reading of the original document, their comments, rewriting
and supply of examples relevant to research in foreign languages and translation studies.
In preparing the document, I have consulted and used a number of Internet
resources, including The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University and the
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill online resources. Much of the
source material has been rewritten and adapted to suit the context of humanities and linguistic research in JNU. Permission to use OWL Purdue has been
sought and obtained, and their use in the text and appendices below is with
written approval.
Ayesha Kidwai
January 2012
What Am I Doing Here?.......................................................................7!
1.1! Understand!what!the!experience!entails ........................................ 7!
1.2! Time!Management .................................................................................... 9!
1.3! Feel!and!behave!like!a!professional ............................................... 10!
1.4! You!are!not!alone! .................................................................................. 11!
1.5! Check!and!respect!the!rules! ............................................................. 12!
Seven Steps to a Research Degree....................................................13!
2.1! Choose!a!topic.......................................................................................... 13!
2.2! Work!WITH!your!supervisor ............................................................... 14!
2.3! Plan!your!research................................................................................. 15!
2.4! Write!a!synopsis ..................................................................................... 19!
2.5! Collect!and!organise!the!material\data ........................................ 23!
2.6! Interpret!and!analyse!the!material\data ..................................... 25!
2.7! Write!up/present!your!findings ...................................................... 25!
Interpretation and Argumentation...................................................27!
3.1! Interpretation .......................................................................................... 27!
3.2! Argumentation ........................................................................................ 28!
3.3! Honesty....................................................................................................... 36!
Issues of Organisation ........................................................................38!
4.1! Plan!an!Organised!Text........................................................................ 38!
4.2! Write!an!Organised!Text:!Coherence............................................. 42!
Chapter 5 ...............................................................................................46!
Issues of Academic Writing Style ....................................................46!
5.1! Write!Grammatically!and!Coherently............................................ 46!
5.2! Write!with!sensitivity!and!humility ............................................... 47!
5.3! Use!Correct!Punctuation ..................................................................... 49!
The Dissertation ..................................................................................54!
6.1! Introductions ........................................................................................... 54!
Abstracts .................................................................................................... 56!
Review!of!the!Literature ..................................................................... 57!
Conclusions............................................................................................... 63!
Documentation!of!Sources ................................................................. 64!
Formatting and Proofreading Your Thesis .....................................69!
7.1! Editing!your!draft................................................................................... 69!
7.2! ProofZreading!your!draft..................................................................... 71!
7.3! Formatting ................................................................................................ 72!
Chapter 1
What Am I Doing Here?
Welcome to the M.Phil. /PhD programme of the School of Language, Literature, & Culture Studies, and to a completely new world of academics.
This handbook is intended as your guide to the research process in general, and dissertation in particular, as well as to allay the unneeded anxiety and feelings of confusion and inadequacy that will almost inevitably
plague you over the next few years.
A dissertation is the culmination and the final product of an involved
process of research, critical thinking, source evaluation, organisation, and
composition. The dissertation serves not only to further the field in which
it is written, but also to provide you with an exceptional opportunity to
increase your knowledge in that field. The process of writing a dissertation can be one of the more rewarding experiences one may encounter in
academics, and is a test of your abilities of diligence, organisation, practice, a willingness to learn (and to make mistakes!), and, perhaps most
important of all, patience.
Writing the dissertation will enable you to start developing a set of valuable research and writing skills. Thinking analytically, synthesising complicated information, writing well, and organising your time will all serve
you well regardless of the career you embark upon after the dissertation.
If you choose a career in academia, the systems of support, research strategies, work schedules, and writing techniques you will learn in this period
will help you write books and articles for years to come.
If you take some care in developing your dissertation, the document can
be transformed after your degree has been awarded into a book or series
of articles that can help launch your academic career. Unlike earlier
course papers that just received a grade, your dissertation can be used and
revised for years to come.
Understand what the experience entails
Many people go into research because they have always been "good at
studies”, and want to continue with something that brings them success
and self-confidence. The dissertation, on the other hand, is a new kind of
academic project, unlike anything else you have done, and is the academic
project that marks your transition from student to scholar.
Writing a dissertation is a very large, very independent project. It is, by
definition, a self-directed process. There are usually no weekly deadlines
from professors, no regular discussions with classmates, no reading assignments, no one telling you what to do— you are on your own, writing
something longer than you have ever written, and doing it without a
safety net. This independence can make the process seem very intimidating
Writing a dissertation is stressful. When you embark on this project, you
may begin to ask yourself questions about your future in academia. When
you finish your dissertation, you will have to change your life dramatically —you will have to look for a job, begin work as an independent
scholar, develop classes, and move out of a community that you have
grown to love, and so on. You may also feel like your dissertation will
begin to define your professional identity. You may feel like your research
interests, your theoretical influences, and your skill as a writer may be
evaluated by this first piece of serious scholarship.
Understand that you may experience self-doubt. At various points in the
research degree, you may find yourself questioning your commitment to
your chosen profession or topic. In that event, consider these tactics:
o Do some soul-searching. This may be a time to ask yourself what the PhD
means to you, and whether you really want to continue. Remember
that what it means to you and what it means to your partner, family,
or friends may be very different. Ask yourself "What will make me
happy? And why?"
o Seek help from other sources of advice. Your supervisor or colleagues in
the Centre may be able to help you. Other research scholars, especially
those who are close to finishing or have finished, may be helpful.
o Remember that there is no shame in not pursuing this advanced degree.
Deciding not to continue with a research degree does not mean that
you have "quit", or that others who continue to pursue it are smarter,
more driven, or more virtuous than you are. Many people lead happy,
fulfilling lives, build lucrative and rewarding careers, make important
contributions to knowledge, and generally get along just fine without
doing either an M.Phil. or a PhD.
Time Management
Effective time management can be another way to alleviate some of the
external stresses of a research program. Here are a few tips:
Plan each day. Block out the thirty minutes, hour, three hours, or whatever that you want to work on the dissertation. Sometimes the biggest
hurdle to time management is not finding big blocks of time in which to
work, but remember that what is important is simply starting to work in
the available time. When all else fails, try the strategy of working on your
dissertation for five minutes a day. Once you work for five minutes (really
work—no computer games!), you may find that another five minutes
would not be so bad. Getting in the habit of working on the dissertation
every day, even for a short period, can be an important time management
Choose a scheduling strategy that works for you. Some people like to
schedule their daily dissertation work in terms of hours and minutes
worked, and others in terms of "problems solved" or "pages written”.
Figure out which works best for you, but remember to put in enough of
free time to do the other things you like.
Schedule the dissertation work along with the other work you need to do.
Do not fool yourself into believing that you can set long stretches of time
aside for exclusively the dissertation or the other work – all this will do is
cause panic as the time allotted will inevitably be inadequate.
Schedule research work at times most productive for you. Develop rituals
of work that might help you get more done. Critically think about your
work methods – you may LOVE to listen to music while you write, for example, but if you wind up singing half the time, it is not a strategy worth
When planning your long-range goals, work backwards. When do you need
to turn in the dissertation to the Centre? For PhDs, do not let immediate
concerns take over the time you want to devote to this important longterm project. It is easy to let the dissertation (with no regular or immediate deadline) sit on the shelf because something with a more concrete
deadline (a presentation to someone's class on a specific date, for exam!
ple) seems to be looming large. Plan for those events in advance, and do
not let them eat up all of your dissertation time.
Think about this process as an opportunity to build self-trust. When you
make a promise to yourself that you will work for five minutes or an hour,
keep it. Become someone you can count on. If you are anxious about the
quality of your work, remember that dissertations are not master works.
They are your first try at this, and no one's is really all that good, frankly.
Confront the Procrastination Monster. People procrastinate for many
reasons, some of which you already know. The key to beating procrastination, though, seems to be figuring out why you are procrastinating, so that
you can develop strategies for stopping it. Here is what to do when you do
not feel like writing:
o Make a list of all the little things you need to do for a given section of the
dissertation, no matter how small. Then when you do not feel like tackling something big, you can do something else, like photocopying an
article you need, or check citations.
o Do the more mundane things needed in a dissertation. Reformat margins;
work on the bibliography, tab examples, draw trees and diagrams, etc..
o Vent your frustration. Free-write about why you are stuck, and perhaps
even about how tired you are of your dissertation/ supervisor, etc.
This could even get you past the emotions of writer's block and move
you toward creative solutions.
o If you are really feeling disorganised, clean your workspace. A clear desk
and an organised set of notes can go a long way toward clearing your
head and getting you on track, but do not make the office-cleaningritual your first choice for procrastination.
o Emulate the students who are serious workers. If you do not know who
they are, ask your supervisor. Try not to emulate the non-workers in
your department – it can be easy to fall into a sort of fraternity of alleged dissertation writers who are bound by the mantra, "I'm not getting any work done”.
Feel and behave like a professional
One of the most important parts of becoming a scholar is feeling like one.
The transition from student to scholar is a huge mental step toward completion. Essentially, do things that help you feel like you have a legitimate
place in academia – here are a few tips:
o Think about the dissertation as a nine-to-five job.
o Organize and run Centre-level discussion groups on matters of common interest to your peers and/or specific to a sub-discipline.
o Attend seminars, conferences and workshop, and read broadly in your
field. Deliver papers on your research, and engage with the research of
your peers.
o Talk with scholars from outside your Centre who do similar work, and
engage in intellectual conversations.
o When faculty in the area of your research visit your Centre, make
appointments to meet them to discuss your own work. Keep in mind,
however, that everyone is very busy, so preferably you ask for such an
appointment well in advance, preferably by email. Make sure that you
are on time for the appointment and that the visitor has your contact
phone number.
o As far as possible, try and teach what you have learnt to others in the
same discipline, as teaching a subject is the best way to truly understand what it is. Although a research scholar cannot seek or accept
full-time employment, there is no bar to you taking classes and tutorials for free. Remember though that teaching carries with it a huge responsibility, so you must check and crosscheck the content of your
lectures. If there is something that you do not fully understand, or a
question that you cannot satisfactorily answer, there is no shame in
approaching another scholar to help you to resolve the question.
You are not alone!
In any university, and particularly JNU, everyone knows how you feel!
Your teachers, your peers, and your friends – they all know it, because
they went through it themselves! Never, ever, undervalue yourself and
your work, as all pursuit of knowledge is useful and worth it, if only for
those moments when the keenness of your own mind surprises even you!
In a University as engaged as JNU, there are a number of non-official fora
that you can raise your individual issues\problems, and do not hesitate to
do so. For more egregious problems, such as victimisation, ragging, caste
discrimination, sexual harassment, plagiarism and academic dishonesty,
and violence, or ethical issues, please approach the University-instituted
bodies for their resolution. Do not choose an informal route in these
matters or agree to some sort of peer- or teacher-led mediation, as such
solutions do not actually resolve the matter in your best interest.
Check and respect the rules!
Respecting the rules is as much your responsibility as it is your Centre’s.
Acquaint yourself with the rules and regulations applicable to your enrolment at JNU. Do not rely on the impressions of others or your own –
check the actual ordinances and Academic Council decisions, as these are
frequently amended, and your informants will most likely be unaware of
recent amendments.
Furthermore, the rules relating to your residency in JNU are extremely
serious ones, and a violation of them is not only a matter of discipline but
also of ethical behaviour. Taking up full-time or part-time employment
while being enrolled for a research degree in the University and receiving
a scholarship is not allowed by the rules. Keep in mind that this facility
has been afforded to you by the millions of Indians who pay taxes on the
most basic of necessities, and that to misuse it is to actually cheat their
Chapter 2
Seven Steps to a Research Degree
Although the initial year of the M.Phil./PhD programme may initially
appear to be some kind of continuation of your MA days – what with
classes, term papers, and so on – this is a significant period of initiation
into research. Along with your coursework, begin the processes we discuss
Choose a topic
Your dissertation will give you the opportunity to make an in-depth study
of a subject that interests you. For it to be a success, you need to find an
interest that is researchable – just simply wanting to learn more in an area
does not automatically produce a research question. While you must
choose something you really do find interesting, ensure that there are
genuine questions associated with the topic, that these questions are
answerable, and that there are no insurmountable practical difficulties.
You may encounter one of two scenarios when it comes to choosing a
topic for a dissertation. In the first scenario, a teacher suggests a list of
topics from which you may choose. As the teacher has deemed these
topics worthy; therefore, you should be confident in the topic s/he
chooses from the list. However, you may also find the topics provided to
be limiting; moreover, it is not uncommon for you to have a topic in mind
that does not fit with any of those provided. If this is the case, it is always
beneficial to approach the teacher with one's ideas.
The second scenario is when the teacher leaves the choice of topic up to
you. Typically, assignments and term papers that you did in earlier
courses are the areas from which possible topics may present themselves;
keep this in mind as you do the M.Phil./PhD coursework, and be on the
lookout for a topic that may interest you. Do not be anxious because you
think you lack authority or knowledge about the topic chosen. Instead,
realise that the process to becoming an experienced researcher in a field
takes practice.
At the PhD level, the topic must be novel, and the thesis must make an
original contribution to the field and at least parts of it must be publishable. The original contribution could be in terms of theory or methodology (e.g. how the data is collected or how it is analysed), but in all cases,
the thesis must be one that plugs a gap in the research area, as it were. At
the M.Phil. level, you must demonstrate both knowledge of existing research in an area of study you have identified and narrowed down, as well
as an ability to formulate a research statement. Your ability to critically
examine existing secondary sources is central to the writing of your
M.Phil. dissertation, as at this level, you are not required to necessarily
produce an original idea.
Work WITH your supervisor
Work out with your supervisor about how the two of you should proceed
during the dissertation process, at the very beginning itself. Stick to that
process. Any changes that you would like to make in this agreement must
be mutually agreed on well beforehand. Do not disappear for months on
end, and then appear with a draft of a dissertation that the supervisor is
expected to read, comment upon, and
approve in a few days.
Tell your supervisor what kind of feed- ! How often should I be in
contact with you about my
back would be most helpful to you.
Sometimes a supervisor can give un! Do you prefer to see whole
helpful or discouraging feedback withdrafts of chapters, relatively
out realising it. Let him or her know
polished drafts, or will you like
very specifically what kinds of reto see smaller chunks of lesssponses will be helpful to you at differwell-formed writing?
ent stages of the writing process.
! If I give you a draft of a chapter on Monday, what do you
Keep your supervisor informed. Superthink the turn-around time
visors can be most helpful if they know
would be?
what you are working on, what problems you are experiencing, and what ! Do you want to see the chapters in the order I write them,
progress you have made. A weekly, bior in the sequence they will
weekly, or monthly meeting or proend up?
gress report can prove helpful.
Understand that your supervisor has many other teaching and supervision
responsibilities, as well as a personal life. Your missing deadlines and
appointments may severely inconvenience her/him. If you think a dead!
line and/or appointment is too soon for you, discuss alternative dates
with your supervisor well in time for a mutually convenient rescheduling.
Moreover, when you do hand in written work to your supervisor, ensure
that the work has been checked for grammar and spelling, proofread and
Remember that rights as a human being are not suspended in the supervisor/research scholar relationship. There is no place for either intimidation, abuse, sexual harassment, slander, or plagiarism in this professional
relationship, and should any such situation arise, do not feel that you are
required to submit to this conduct. You may take up any of the official
avenues available for the redressal of such grievances. Remember also
that the same rights accrue to your supervisor as well, so make sure that
your conduct is such that it establishes a good professional relationship.
Plan your research
There is no one "right" research strategy, but some may work better than
others for certain topics, and for others, a combination of methods may be
best. Suppose for example, that you are studying verb agreement phenomena in Hindi, and you are a monolingual speaker of French (who of course
must have access to French-Hindi
bilingual informants). Your research Brainstorming is often a sucplan must therefore include an initial cessful way for you to get some
step of exploration of the literature to of these ideas down on paper.
Seeing one's ideas in writing is
glean the reported patterns, to be
often an impetus for the writing
followed by a crosschecking of these
process. Although brainstorming
patterns with native speakers, and is particularly effective when a
then a step of the elicitation of new topic has been chosen, it can
data. A research plan that began with also benefit you to narrow a
the elicitation of primary data would topic.
be wasteful in this context.
Even if you are a native speaker of Hindi embarking on the same research
project, the above strategy is perhaps still an optimal one, not only because it avoids a duplication of effort, but also because it will simultaneously acquaint you with the range of analyses of the phenomenon.
Although you may feel that is not necessary to crosscheck the published
data with other native-speakers, taking this additional step is quite often
the most prudent measure. Using yourself as your sole informant, particu!
larly where interpretive judgements are at stake, can lead to misleading
conclusions – you may be inclined to “convince” yourself that your interpretations are the only permissible ones! Eliciting others’ judgements
cannot only remedy this possible bias, it can also reveal to you aspects of
the problem that you simply had missed while consulting yourself.
Another example: suppose your research is a feminist interpretation of an
autobiography written by a Dalit woman writer, whose work has not been
studied before. Your research plan should therefore be one that has an
initial step of exploring the literature for the ways in which Dalit/other
oppressed communities writing in general, and autobiographies in particular, has been approached, as well as feminist approaches to the novel
(and what makes them ‘feminist’). Given that your research is interpretive
in nature, the next logical step is for you to use this knowledge to build
your own feminist interpretation of the text. This must involve moving
beyond what has been said so far in the literature, so you will have to find
a point of critique or departure from earlier approaches, and embark on a
scholarship and reading that will enable you to move beyond existing
theories. It is only then that you can begin your feminist interpretation of
the actual text. (Note: remember to maintain a distance here between
yourself and the writer—it is you who is being the feminist here, not necessarily the writer concerned, so do not transfer your feminism to her
without serious introspection – she might be very patriarchal, in fact! As a
consequence, the feminist reading you give of the text may well be very
critical of her text.)
A final example: suppose that the object of your research is the translation
of the dialect occurring in a particular Hindi novel into German.1 Your
research plan must therefore include an initial step of exploration of the
literature on the use of dialect in literature in general, followed by the use
of dialect in novels in Hindi and the style of the concerned author in
particular. You must then explore the literature on literary translation
and literature on translating literary texts into European languages in
general and into German in particular. Finally, you must consider the
research and practical issues of translating Hindi literary texts into European languages in general and into German in particular, and of translating dialects in general and into German in particular.
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
Another aspect of planning your research is to break up your research
problem into autonomous sub-problems, and to work on them turn by
turn. For example, our first example of the study of Hindi verb agreement
– subject agreement in the non-perfective, agreement with direct objects
in the perfective, and agreement with non-subjects when the subject is
lexically marked non-nominative – will identify the following subproblems:
o The licensing of subject-verb agreement – in which conditions does it
take place?
o The role of perfective aspect in blocking subject-verb agreement –
why does transitivity and aspect create the conditions for (a) to be
o The role of lexical case in blocking subject-verb agreement – when are
subjects marked with a lexical Case? How does agreement with predicate nominals relate to (a) and (b)?
This systematic approach is sequential but cumulative – the results of
each step must serve as the premise at the next.
This sequential approach can be applied also to our second example of a
feminist interpretation of a Dalit woman writer’s novel. There can be at
least five sub-problems that may be postulated here:
o What are the distinguishing features of the autobiographical form?
o How have feminist interpretations treated other instances of such
forms? Why do you find them preferable? What are their shortcomings and strengths?
o How has Dalit writing in general, and autobiography in particular,
been viewed in the literature? What are their shortcomings and
o What needs to be added to or altered in feminist approaches to autobiography to make the approach that you will be ready to adhere to?
o How does your approach work when applied to the text you have
chosen? In what ways does it work better (for you) than other interpretations?
This approach can be applied also to our third example of the translation
into German of dialect in a Hindi novel. There can be at least six sub-
problems postulated here:
o Use of dialect in literature in general, and in Hindi literature in particular – in what kind of literary texts is there an occurrence of dialect? What is the frequency of dialect use in the text? How lengthy is
the passage in dialect? What is the manner of use of dialect – is it
paraphrased within the text or explained in a footnote, foreword, or
afterword, or is there no explanation of any kind? What is/are the
purpose(s) of using dialect?
o Is the use of dialect common to the style of the concerned author? In
what kind of writing does the author use dialect and why does s/he
normally use it? Why has s/he used it in the particular novel under
o How is literary translation to be approached? What are the theories
and strategies available to a literary translator? What are the consequences of the choice of a particular theory and strategy by the translator with regard to the reception of the translated work?
o Which translational strategy is the preferred strategy for translating
literary texts from dominant languages into German and /or other
dominant languages? Which is the preferred strategy for translating
literary texts from so-called minor languages into dominant languages? Which is the preferred strategy for translating Hindi literary
texts in particular into German? Is this the preferred strategy for
translating Hindi literary texts into other European languages? Is this
the preferred strategy for translating Hindi literary texts into IndianEnglish also? What conclusions can be drawn from your readings/analysis?
o How are dialects in literary texts normally transferred in translation?
How are dialects in literary texts normally translated into German?
Does this also hold good for the translation into German of dialect in
Hindi literary texts also? What are the reasons for translating dialect
in such a manner? Does the strategy being currently applied require
alteration or modification?
o What is the strategy that has been applied in the Hindi novel under
study? Is the strategy partially or wholly defensible? What kind of a
strategy would you propose in general in dealing with the issue of
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
translating dialect in literary texts? Is it possible to have a one-sizefit-all strategy or must flexibility be built into the proposal?
There can be many ways, however, of breaking down a problem – choose
whichever suits you and your research question best. Mostly, the objective
here is to use the plan to structure the research question and to make it
more tractable. In a good thesis, the plan need not translate directly into
chapterisation – you may choose to present your work by beginning with
your own approach and engaging with other approaches in a dialectical
way—but will still be detectable in the quality of your work.
Write a synopsis
Writing a thesis in a foreign language about a culture that is inaccessible
to you on a daily basis also poses certain specific problems. Unlike the
literatures in English, which thanks to the internationalization of the
Anglo-American academic and cultural worlds, do not require an immediate and live contact, studying the literatures in other European languages,
as well as Asian and African languages, will require you that you work
hard and read widely for a full appreciation of their impact and relevance.3 Critical editions are a particularly important resource in this
regard. Furthermore, it is imperative that your contact with the literary
text be in the language it was originally written. Therefore, a research
topic that proposes a study of female protagonists in the works of, say, Leo
Tolstoy, Premchand, and Theodor Fontane must not be attempted if you
do not read all three languages. Translated texts always reflect a particular reading of the translator concerned.
Another area of concern is the access to archival material.4 Think carefully before you choose a topic that will require you to spend a year or
more at the archives of say an author, as this may not always be possible.
Similar concerns inflect an area of research that would require you to do
extensive fieldwork in a foreign culture, such as the study of an urban
subculture in Japan. Instead, remember that you are in a unique position
of fleshing out an area of study, which a native speaker of a foreign literature/culture may have little access to. For example, your transcultural
positioning may provide insights and connections that would not necessa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Discussion by Madhu Sahni.
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
rily be those of a contemporary
Chinese scholar studying Chinese
literature of the 1940s.
! What problems will I address?
! What questions will I answer?
A final issue regarding writing your
synopsis, and later your thesis, is of academic writing style.5 If your
M.Phil./PhD is in Japanese or Arabic, you must take into account the
academic writing styles and research culture that may be in variance with
the dominant Anglo-American academic writing style. Reading only Anglo-American scholarly work whilst writing a thesis on Aime Cesaire
would be rather limiting. Reading academic/scientific writing in the
target language also helps build your vocabulary and style in that language.
JNU provides a format for PhD synopses, which may also be possibly used
as a guideline for preparing M.Phil. research proposals. Some tips on the
way that this format may be used:
Title: Take care to choose a title that is descriptive of your work, but at the
same time not too specific, as you may find during the actual research
that the title you began with is too narrow/wide. This is particularly true
for PhD dissertations.
Scope and Objective: Always begin the synopsis with a clear statement of
the objective of your proposed research. This is the “objective” part of the
section title. The “scope” part of the section title is in service of the fact
that research questions are generally of quite a broad nature, and an
individual research thesis does not usually cover the entire spectrum of
questions associated with a topic.
For example, a topic like verb agreement in Hindi can plausibly be approached from a phonological, morphological, syntactic, acquisitional,
semantic, variationist, typological, areal, or sociolinguistic perspective. If
you are going to adopt one, or a subset of these perspectives, you must
delimit the area of your research at the very outset. A good research
synopsis would then be one that first lists the full range of research questions that a particular topic relates to, and then demonstrates how the
topic is delimited in the research at hand.
Similarly, a topic that deals with the interpretation of a text – be it poetic,
fictional, philosophical, or dramaturgical – there are also a number of
Discussion by Madhu Sahni.
perspectives from which you can approach it: e.g., a comparative perspective, a critical perspective from the standpoint of an individual or a
constellation of literary theories, or a cultural\civilisational perspective.
Here again, not only must you be explicit about which approach you will
adopt, but also why you think that the approach is one that is applicable
to, and suits, the text.
Topics related to translation can also be approached from various perspectives.6 In the example of dialect, a comparative approach can also be
adopted with regard to either different theories or different texts where
there is a use of dialect. Alternatively, you may approach the subject from
the perspective of the actual translation of such a text and its defence.
Alternatively, you could employ the linguistic perspective, where the
literary text only functions as a corpus for studying dialects and their
potential translation.
Existing Research in the Area: In this section of the synopsis, show the
relevance of your research to larger theoretical questions as well as other
research on the topic. Take this opportunity to elaborate on the theoretical approach(es), and specific studies that form the context for your research.
Keeping to the example of verb agreement in Hindi, let us take that you will
adopt a generative approach. This ! Who else has worked on this
or similar problems?
section should then elaborate on the
generative treatment of verb agree- ! What were the conclusions of
previous research?
ment, the techniques(s) by which it is
effected, and the status of agreement ! Why is this question important?
in Universal Grammar (UG). This
should be followed by a discussion of
the existing work on Hindi verb agreement phenomenon in the generative
tradition. Ensure that you give good reasons why the existing research on
verb agreement in Hindi is insufficient. Finally, explore the kinds of questions that Hindi verb agreement raises for an understanding of UG principles.
Approach/Method/Technique: In this section, elaborate on how you will
use your data to answer your research question(s), to make generalisa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
tions, to defend assertions, to examine possible alternative outcomes to
construct a plausible argument. Discuss here also, how you will collect the
data, its nature (primary/secondary) and the steps involved in your analysis.
Keep in mind that different areas of
study and research require a differ- ! What theoretical approach will I
ent kind of knowledge about methods and theories.7 If, for example, ! What methods will I use to
collect data?
you were researching the interface
between multilinguality and lan- ! What technology or aids will
use I to process the data?
guage learning in a foreign language
! Will my research be divided into
classroom for adults, the method
would call for classroom-based action
research, involving class observation,
interviews, and questionnaires. Narrative data in this case is a perfectly
legitimate object of study. If, on the other hand, you were examining
nature and the literary imagination in the late twentieth century, you
would need to ask yourself which theoretical model will help you understand and access this topic most productively. For example, the material
in an ecocriticism reader would not offer an adequate theoretical model,
because ecocriticism is, at best, an approach and not a theory. While there
is no doubt that an ecocriticism offers a perspective on how we interact
with literature and nature, environmental literary studies is an interdisciplinary area of study that requires a theoretical underpinning, be it
Marxist literary criticism, post-structuralism or hermeneutics.
In what way is this research different?
posed research will be both novel and
well as results. Taking the verb
agreement example again, suppose
now that you will investigate it by
adding data from language impaired
subjects, and that using those results,
you will arrive at a generative analysis of the problem. This is a new
approach given the existing work,
Discussion by Madhu Sahni.
Here, demonstrate that your pronecessary, in terms of process as
! How is my theoretical and/or
methodological approach different?
! What new questions or
connections am I adding to
the research problem?
and easily demonstrated as necessary, given the widespread use of
using language deficit as a means of investigating unimpaired competence. Compare this now with a proposal of investigating the same topic
through Hindi remix music – while that is certainly novel, there is really
no justification for the belief that this will enhance any understanding of
the phenomenon!
Remaining with the example of translating dialect,8 you could delve into
the politics of translation and the prevalence of asymmetrical relationships between languages and cultures whilst engaging with this issue or
approach the issue as one of ‘untranslatability’ and the devices/means
available to the translator to compensate for this ’loss’.
Tentative Chapterisation: This is usually the most difficult section to conceptualise, as the dissertation has not been written yet! However, what is
sought here is a conceptual skill rather than a truth claim, so use the
section to summarise how you outline the problem being investigated.
Remember, you must not have too many chapters as that just amounts to
a listing rather than organisation – instead, try to develop the outline you
make of your research topic (see Chapter 4) in terms of a set of research
questions/issues each chapter will answer. Ensure that there is a progression towards the final argument of your thesis.
Bibliography\References: At the point of writing the synopsis, you are
allowed to list all the books that you have read or plan to read. Make sure
that you follow the style-sheet given in Chapter 6, and the examples in
Appendix I.
Abstract: Although not required, you may also consider putting in an
abstract – a paragraph summarising your topic of research, who or what
will be the object of data collection, how the data will be collected, how it
will be analyzed, and what results you expect.
Collect and organise the material\data
In areas such as linguistics and translation, the first decision you need to
make is whether your work will draw from primary (data and other information collected by you) or secondary (published or other material)
research sources. Largely, your research will determine this choice – for
any study based in literature, secondary material must constitute the
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
chief source, whereas for a task of description of synchronic linguistic
knowledge or a study of dramatic or other performance, fieldwork that
yields primary data is essential.
As far as translation studies is concerned, whilst secondary material is
indeed important, in many cases it is equally important to generate data
through interviews with/questionnaires sent to translators, publishers/editors and even authors, if living. Often cultural/historical or political aspects have to be additionally verified with experts in the field. An
extreme position would be to spend some time in the field either to reconstruct the phenomena/events mentioned in the text or to seek to understand these in their lived reality.9
In other cases, such as a synchronic study of the correlation between
bilingualism and gender, there may be a genuine option – you may choose
to study this exclusively by either primary (through fieldwork) or secondary sources (published records). Note, however, that in linguistics research, a reliance on secondary sources alone is often fraught with difficulties, even as they facilitate large-scale studies and generalisations –
secondary sources lack a consistency of perspective and biases. Inaccuracies in such sources cannot be verified/remedied by refinements of research instruments. As a further consequence, extreme caution must be
used in mixing both primary and secondary research options for a study.
Since it is virtually impossible to separate data from the methods it was
originally collected by and the context it was collected in, the results of
your own primary research may not speak to the same facts as that of a
secondary source.
It is also important to recognise that primary research may suffer from
many of the same limitations as secondary sources, as the instruments
(questionnaires, interviews, judgements) employed may limit the data in
the following ways:
o Closed questions may constrain the data (pre-empting a richer range
of response);
o Respondents may interpret the questions differently. This makes
comparison of the answers difficult. It is also impossible to check if
people are responding honestly.
o Researchers can bias the data by concept definition and question
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
An important lesson to be learned from these limitations of both primary
and secondary data is that as a researcher, you must fully elaborate the
steps in your investigative method.
In using data from secondary sources, elaborate on the reasons why you
consider such data admissible and adequate for your purposes – i.e. why
how the contextual and methodological differences from your study are
either irrelevant or insignificant. In primary data elicitation, explain the
rationale for all the instruments you have used, as well as for the revisions
you have made to them in the research process. It is particularly important for you to discuss why certain instruments failed/were unsuccessful,
as this discussion can serve as an important guide to the reader about the
context and objectives of your research.
Interpret and analyse the material\data
To interpret and analyse your data, the first thing you need is a theory. As
theory feeds not only into analysis, but also into the instruments you
employ to collect data, it is necessary that you give as full a discussion
possible of your theoretical assumptions and proposals. Linguistics research often involves a preliminary stage, for example, where you transcribe and/or organise your data into a form ready for analysis.
The analysis itself may involve various processes, depending on the kind
of methodology and the nature of the data. Two common stages are the
stages of a basic structural analysis—the first involves an identification of
the basic licensing conditions of the phenomena studied, and the second,
an integration of the results of a structural analysis in its theoretical and
empirical neighbourhood.
Write up/present your findings
Your research is not just the results. It is the process as well, so make sure
that this process is clearly presented in your report. Your methodology
and writing-up is just as important as your findings.
Even a negative result is useful. Though it may be disappointing that you
did not find what you originally expected, if you have carried out the
research properly, the process will have been useful to you as a learning
experience and may have led to useful discoveries about methodology or
other things.
Take ethics seriously. If there are ethical considerations that affect your
work, you need to include a short discussion of these and mention any
action you have taken, and make sure that you cite all sources in the
prescribed format.
Take the time to present your work neatly and to proofread accurately.
Common faults that detract from otherwise good dissertations are silly
typos, misspelled names of authors, references that are not done according to the guidelines.
Chapter 3
Interpretation and Argumentation
At the most rudimentary level, an academic work is evaluated by one’s
peers for the novelty and creativity of interpretative skills demonstrated
by its author, the rigour of its argumentation and the manner in which
both skills are showcased. This chapter lists the strategies by which the
skills of interpretation and argumentation may be enhanced.
Interpretation depends on a critical and questioning approach towards
reading, identifying the inevitable biases and the possible weaknesses in a
writer's argument. Interpretive skills require a familiarity with the theoretical perspectives and the ways in
which they are argued.
To develop these skills, it is first neces- ! What is this writer trying to
sary to understand that all academic
texts are opinionated accounts rather ! Does the writer have the facts
than factual explanations. Even textbooks
right? Is s/he arguing from
evidence or assumptions?
represent an author’s interpretation of
theory or practice and the subjective ! Does the argument lack
balance, combining bias with
selection of ideas and issues as a focus of
exposition. This is also transparently true
for works like research articles, papers, ! Is it logically flawed in some
books, and monographs, all of which
usually involve an author's attempts to
either argue for an analysis from a particular theoretical perspective, and,
in the process, to critique alternative accounts and/or competing theories
relating to the problem at hand. You need to be able to look at arguments
and to see whether the theories underpinning them are relevant to the
problem, and whether these theories are ideologically biased to a particular set of values.
The more influential a theory is the more academics rely on it to continue
to explore related problems, re-examine it, and determine whether it is
still valid. In each case, academics ask themselves how well a theory
"accounts" for what it claims to cover.
They will also explore the general
strengths and weaknesses of the
theory, and its applications to a spe- ! What grounds does s/he
have for this assertion?
cific context. As this usually involves
! How does s/he know this?
reference to other postulations in the
! On what authority is this
same general area, it is essential to be
assertion made?
familiar with the dominant theoretical
perspectives in your field.
However, ascription to a theory does not mean that you must agree with
every statement/ postulation just because it is written or spoken by a
specialist or person in authority. Similarly, a critique is not invalidated
because you find it unappealing. Both critique and ascription must be
based on reason and logical argumentation.
In academic writing, an argument is usually the chief/main idea of a
research work, often called a "claim" or "thesis statement”, backed up
with evidence that supports it. An ability to make some sort of claim and
use evidence to support it is essential for research in any field.
Two broad styles characterise argumentation in academic texts – inductive vs. deductive reasoning (although academic essays and research
reports are not exclusively inductive or deductive). The two approaches
are united in requiring supporting evidence for claims, but differ in terms
of how the manner of investigation is to be conceived. While deductive
reasoning involves working from a principle or central position on an
issue, and uses evidence to justify the stand taken at the beginning, inductive reasoning emphasises exploration and observation, and through the
drawing of inferences from evidence, lays claim to their validity.
Claims can be simple – "Hindi has object-verb agreement in the perfective”, or they may be complex – "Hindi object-verb agreement is not an
instance of formal agreement in natural language." In the former case, the
evidence must take the form of data from Hindi, but in the latter, this
evidence must also be accompanied by elaboration of the criteria identifying formal agreement in natural language, and the evidence that object
agreement in Hindi fails these criteria.
Another example: In a critical analysis of let’s say a woman Dalit
writer’s short stories, a simple claim could be something like this – “This
writer’s Dalit identity is expressed through the main protagonists of her
stories” – and a complex one could be – “This writer’s identity as a ‘woman’, as a ‘Dalit’, and as a ‘Dalit woman’ is expressed through the main
protagonists of her stories”. Here too in the first case, your claim will hold
water only if you can show that all the main protagonists have the properties you have defined to hold of a Dalit identity. In the more complex
claim, you will have to define the properties you ascribe to the identities
of ‘woman’, ‘Dalit’ and ‘Dalit woman’.
With reference to the example of translating dialect,10 a simple claim
could be, “Dialects from distant cultures are untranslatable.” – and a
complex one could be – “The socio-cultural embeddedness of dialects
from distant cultures makes them untranslatable.” Here too, in the first
case your claim would be validated only if you can show that dialects are
translatable in case of a shared cultural heritage and that this is not possible in case translation is between distant cultures. In the more complex
claim, you would have to define the socio-cultural features and contexts
that make translation of dialects from distant cultures an impossibility.
Whether your claim is simple or complex, your research must detail reasons and facts that have led you to believe that your claim is correct. The
strength of your evidence, and your use of it, can make or break your
argument. Every field has slightly different requirements for acceptable
evidence, so familiarise yourself with arguments from within your field,
instead of just applying whatever evidence you like best.
3.2.1 Justifying your assertions
You need to show that you have a sense of the relationship between the
strength of a claim (a position or assertion) and the support that you have
for that claim. As part of the persuasive presentation of their arguments,
hypotheses and findings, academic writers tend to make claims that are in
proportion to evidence they present, and carry the kind of support expected (e.g. authoritative citations, documented examples, etc.).
Importantly, remember that evidence does not speak for itself. After you
introduce evidence into your writing, you must say why and how this
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
evidence supports your argument. In other words, you have to explain
the significance of the evidence and its
function in your paper. What turns a fact
or piece of information into evidence is ! I have just stated this point,
the connection it has with a larger claim
but why is it interesting?
What does it imply?
or argument – evidence is always evidence for something, and you have to ! What are the consequences
of thinking this way?
make that link clear. Do not assume that
the reader already knows what you are ! I have just described a phenomenon, but why is it so?
talking about, or that the point is obvi! I have just said that something
ous. Although readers may be familiar
happens, but how does it
with many of the ideas being discussed,
come to be this way?
they do not know what you are trying to ! How is this idea related to my
do with those ideas. Try to spell out the
dissertation? Does it support
connections that you were making in
my thesis? How?
your mind when you chose your evidence, decided where to place it, and drew conclusions based on it. Remember, you can always cut prose from your work later if you find yourself stating the obvious.
Note that it is not necessary that all the evidence you use will be novel or
original to your research. Using the work of others to justify your claims
is not only acceptable, but also required in academic texts, as it is this that
integrates your work with the larger body of knowledge in your field.
However, in every instance, using the work and ideas of others must be
cited and attributed, the mechanics of which we discuss in Chapter 6.
3.2.2 Countering counterarguments
One way to strengthen your argument and show that you have a deep
understanding of the issue you are discussing is to anticipate and address
counterarguments or objections. By considering what someone who disagrees with your position might have to say about your argument, you
show that you have thought things through, and thereby dispose of some
of the reasons your readers might have for not accepting your argument.
You can generate counterarguments by asking yourself what someone
who disagrees with you might say about each of the points you have made
or about your position as a whole. Once you have thought up some
counterarguments, consider how you will respond to them – will you
concede that your opponent has a point but explain why your audience
should nonetheless accept your argument? Will you reject the counterargument and explain why it is mistaken? Either way, you will want to
leave your reader with a sense that your argument is stronger than opposing ones.
When you are summarising opposing arguments, be charitable. Present
each argument fairly and objectively, rather than trying to make it look
foolish. It is usually better to consider one or two serious counterarguments in some depth, rather than to give a long but superficial list of
many different counterarguments and replies. Be sure that your reply is
consistent with your original argument. If considering a counterargument
changes your position, you will need to go back and revise your original
argument accordingly.
3.2.3 Conceding and dismissing
Conceding a point to your opponent is not necessarily a sign of weakness.
Very often, your own argument can only increase in status and persuasiveness if you fully acknowledge the quality of the opposing and alternative views that provide its context.
There are a few connectors which are actually termed ‘concessive’ because they are used to concede a point before the speaker goes on to
relate an action or opinion which is in some ways ‘contrary’ or opposed to
that point. This is easier to explain through example. The connectors in
question are although, though, while and whereas; also; in spite of, despite,
nevertheless, however and but. Most of the time, they will feature at the head
of subordinate clauses, so that the main clause will feature the contrary
point or view.
Concessive markers (although, however) are used to indicate the views that
are being dismissed or rebutted because you disagree with them, as well
as those that you endorse or defend. Using these markers to acknowledge
alternative points of view shows awareness of, and respect for, the value
or stance of those views – even if you disagree with them.
3.2.4 Avoiding weak argumentation
A critical reader will detect attempts to disguise weak content by the mere
use of argumentative form; so avoid them in your own work, and use them
as grounds for disputing the argument’s of others’. Common instances of
weak argumentation are:
Straw Arguments: Like a straw, this argument is easy to demolish! Such
arguments are usually the outcome of treating extreme, and/or implausible aspects of an argument/theory as if it were genuinely representative
of the whole theory. Straw arguments can also result if you isolate part of
an argument, and identify it as a separate argument or complete position.
They can be avoided if you carefully question whether someone opposing
a position/ argument/theory is presenting a fair and accurate account.
Circular arguments: A circular argument involves drawing a conclusion
from a premise (baseline assumption) that is itself dependent on what is
asserted in the conclusion. In other words, as the conclusion essentially
appears at both the beginning and the end of the argument, it creates an
endless circle, never accomplishing anything of substance. For example,
take the statement, “women are more docile because women are less aggressive” or “dialects cannot be translated because they are untranslatable”-here the circularity lies in the denotation of the italicised terms is identical.
False analogies: In a false analogy, there is only a superficial or chance
similarity between the things that are compared; a small degree of similarity may be used to give the impression that the things are almost identical. For example, take the statement, “just as the female of every species
is more docile, women are less aggressive”. Here the false analogy assumes
that the property of being female is sufficient to establish mutual comparability, ignoring the fact that many biological and social differences/contexts distinguish the two.
Another example: “the use of dialects is predominantly by speakers who
are poorly educated or illiterate—therefore, all those speaking in dialect
must necessarily be either less educated or illiterate”. This is clearly a
false analogy, because even highly educated politicians may deliberately
lapse into dialect for creating empathy and identity with constituents,
whose votes they are canvassing for. False analogies can be avoided if you
ensure that the things compared indeed share all the characteristics that
are relevant to the conclusion.
Either-or arguments: This type of reasoning is also weak, based on the
assumption that there is no middle ground between two extremes! The
infamous statement “Either you are with us, or against us” is such an example. Further, an either-or statement, on an inclusive interpretation of the
connective, does not make an argument. For example, suppose we were
to state “A Hindi verb agrees with either the subject or the direct object.”
Although this statement looks like a rule, it is not one at all – it does not
predict what the agreement is when both subject and direct object are
present! Weak either-or arguments can be avoided if you use such arguments with sufficient specification of context of occurrence.
In translation studies,11 while critiquing and evaluating available and
accessible translations, including sometimes multiple translations of the
same original work, it is not sufficient to dismiss a translation as ‘bad’ or
‘poor’, or to laud it as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, as such judgemental statements
in themselves do not add to knowledge. Substantive value would only be
added if instead you were to reflect on why a particular strategy had been
chosen by a translator, and the likely consequences of this choice for the
representation of a culture and the reception of the translated text.
Finally, you should also point out why the choice of strategy is appropriate or inappropriate under the given circumstances.
Jumping to unjustified conclusions: This is a weak argument that derives
from an over-generalisation. For example, if we conclude that since verbs
in many languages carry tense inflections, inflectional tense is a definitional property of verbs in human language, we will not be able to consider action and activity predicates in Indian Sign Language (which lacks
tense altogether) as verbs. You can avoid jumping to unjustified conclusions if you always ask if it (yours or someone else’s) follows from the
premises adopted, and whether such conclusions are necessarily true.
Again, in translation studies,12 while reviewing or evaluating a translation,
if you apply your criteria rather than those applied by the translator in
determining the quality of translation, you would be jumping to unjustified conclusions. It behoves you as a scholar to first assess the translation
within the terms of reference of the translator’s chosen strategy and
theory. As a next step, you can rationally analyze the choice of strategy
and theory by the translator, if necessary.
Misuse of Statistics: Statistics are often used as evidence to support a
claim, but there is always a potential for misuse or abuse. Continuing with
the example above, the statement that 99.9% verbs inflect for tense still
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan
does not entail that we can take inflectional tense to be a necessary
condition for identification as a verb. You can avoid a misuse of statistics
if you interpret statistics logically, and in the context of other information
mentioned or that which is known to be true. Take care to explain why
apparent counterexamples are not significant. With reference to Translation Studies, in case of empirical research from a text linguistics perspective, it is important to have a sufficiently large corpus of texts for the
credibility of the results. A quantitatively inadequate corpus would result
in the falsifying of results and therefore, a misuse of statistics.
3.2.5 Choosing the right expressions
A good writing style invokes in your
readers a respect for the level of your If you choose to use an acronym
intellectual development, and your to refer to concepts or oft-cited
socialisation into your academic or sources, ensure that in the first
professional community. This, in turn, use, you refer to the full form of
leads the reader to take a positive view the citation. Introduce the shortof the power and persuasiveness of ened form you will use in parentheses immediately after this.
your argumentation.
E.g. Universal Grammar (UG).
Two aspects of academic writing where
the choice of expression is of utmost importance are in the writing of
descriptions and definitions. A description usually has one, clear dominant
impression, which guides the author's selection of detail. Some tips:
o Keep descriptions as objective as possible. Try giving all the details
first; the dominant impression is built from these details.
o Initially, select details to support the dominant impression. If there
are any complicating factors or exceptions, deal with them only after
you have completed representing the dominant expression.
Remember that the purpose of a description is to involve the reader, so
make sure that the specific and concrete details you give are consistent
with the dominant impression.
A formal definition is based upon a concise, logical pattern that includes as
much information as it can within a minimum amount of space. It consists
of three parts: (a) the term (word or phrase) to be defined, (b) the class of
object/concept to which the term belongs, and (c) the differentiating
characteristics that distinguish it from all others of its class. Some tips:
o Avoid defining with "is when" and "is where”. These adverb phrase
introducers do not work well when defining a word. A noun should
be defined with a noun, a verb with a verb, an adjective with an adjective.
o Do not define a word/concept by mere repetition, but in simple and
familiar terms.
o Keep your class small but adequate. It should be large enough to include all members of the term you define, but no larger.
o State the differentiating characteristics precisely.
Another aspect of appropriate expression in argumentation is the way
that you state your conclusions and finding. In general, choose your expressions carefully:
Probability/Certainty: Do not express your views in an over-certain manner. For example, the statement, “verbs inflect for tense because temporal
reference must be encoded in language”, is overly certain, as an infinitival/non-finite inflection is also a type of tense inflection (albeit [– Tense]).
In translation studies, while commenting on a translation, you cannot
attribute motives to a translator with any degree of certainty, unless the
translator him/herself has somewhere – in an interview, in an article, in
the foreword/afterword/ translator’s note to the translated text etc. made such a claim. If a pattern can be established within one translated
text, or within several by the same translator, or in the translations of
several translators from the same region and period, you can only provide
a probable reason for this in your analysis.13 ASK YOURSELF: Is that a fact?
Am I certain of that?
Scope/Generalisation: Define the referents or population of your terms
sufficiently narrowly and accurately, in relation to the claim you are
making. For example, the statement, “in Western Hindi, transitive verbs,
with the exception of conjunct verbs, may agree with objects in the perfective”, is a claim too broad in scope, as verb agreement is with only
direct objects. ASK YOURSELF: Is what I am saying true for all instances?
Fact/Belief Status: Do not state a future action as a definite fact (they will
…), and then use the simple present to imply certainty about a belief or
attitude (they think …). Take the example “nurses will go on strike because
they think...” – how do you know what they think or what they will do? ASK
YOURSELF: How do I know? Did I actually find this out?
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
Condition/Circumstance: Carefully specify the conditions or circumstances in which a proposition holds true. As an example of the correct
usage, consider the statement: “If a word inflects for gender, it is a noun,
unless this inflection marks agreement with a noun phrase in the sentence.” In Translation Studies, whilst dealing with functionalist theories
and pragmatic texts, you would, for example, need to ask yourself, “Under
what conditions is equivalence possible?”14 ASK YOURSELF: What are the
conditions in which my claim is true?
Relativity: Often an absolute measure needs replacing by a relative comment. For example, in order to reflect your understanding that not all
languages exhibit inflectional tense, you could amend a statement like “in
all languages, verbs inflect for tense in order to encode temporal reference, or the lack thereof” to “in many languages, verbs inflect for tense
….” ASK YOURSELF: Are there any exceptions? Is this always true?
Attribution: In academic communication, even our reconstructed formulation needs attributing to some source of information or opinion, e.g. “in
many languages, tense is not marked by inflection – e.g., Meiteilon (Chelliah 1997), Kannada (Amritavalli 2005).” ASK YOURSELF: What do I base this
on? Where did I read that?
Concession: Use only those formulations in concessive clauses that you
introduce (or subsequently) in the text. For example, the statement “in
Western Hindi, transitive verbs, with the exception of conjunct verbs, may
agree with direct objects in the perfective,” can be used only if you have
either already introduced what conjunct verbs are, or do so immediately
after this sentence. ASK YOURSELF: Is not the opposite true? What are the
strengths of X’s position?
Presupposition: This relates to the assumptions writers often make about
the things they are writing about, what they are referring to. If you define
all your premises clearly at the very outset, you will be minimising the
presuppositional load for a reader. Although a repetition of premises or
arguments you have made earlier is not necessary, but if you are going to
use an argument/premise from quite early on, begin with a recapitulation
of it. ASK YOURSELF: What does (X) mean? Was this introduced earlier?
Plagiarism is an attempt to steal and use the ideas and writings of another as one's own. It is an extremely serious offence within the academic
community. You plagiarise, whether you intend to or not, when you do
not credit others' ideas within and at the end of your work.
The common academic integrity problems that students encounter are:
o Relying too heavily on others' information,
o Relying too heavily on others' words in a paraphrase or summary,
o Citing and documenting sources incorrectly,
o Relying too heavily on help from other sources.
In order to avoid charges of academic dishonesty, it is necessary to document all your sources, i.e. to show where you got information that is not
your own. Given that research blends your ideas with ideas and information from other sources, documentation is necessary to reveal to the
reader what ideas are yours and what you have taken from a source to
support your point of view. By correctly documenting, you establish your
credibility as a writer and researcher. You are letting your reader know
that you have consulted experts whose ideas and information back up
your own thoughts and ideas. Consequently, you make your viewpoint or
argument more believable.
Chapter 4
Issues of Organisation
A well-written research dissertation does not simply put down interpretations, arguments, and analyses/results – it does all this in an organised
fashion. Merely extrinsic organisational principles such as appropriate
section breaks is not enough, your presentation must have a logical structure. In this chapter, we list some of the fundamental components that
any dissertation must have.
Plan an Organised Text
4.1.1 Structure the text
An outline is a good way to begin planning your dissertation, as it helps
you organise your ideas, and demonstrates the relationships among ideas
you are considering. It is also extremely useful when you begin writing, as
it presents an ordered overview of your writing. To get a preliminary
o Jot down ideas or key words in a rough list. Give order to the list by
arranging items into major and minor ideas.
o Drawing up a rough outline while you take notes helps you to locate
important information and eliminate useless information. Drawing up
a rough outline before you begin to write helps you organise your
ideas, so that you may present your material in a logical form. The
process of outlining reveals to you the relationships among ideas in
your writing, and provides you with an ordered overview of your writing.
To develop an outline, list all the ideas that you want to include, and then
group related ideas together. Then order these ideas by arranging the
material in subsections (from general to specific or from abstract to concrete) You can then label these groupings in terms of main and sub headings, remembering that main headings should feature ideas or concepts
that are of the same level of generality or importance. You do not have to
stick to your draft outline; it can be helpful to let it develop as you pro!
gress. You can add new topics and discard others, rearrange the order,
and subordinate minor elements.
Outlining strategies include outlines constructed by either procedure –
where the focus is on the research procedures – or content – where the
focus is on the subject itself. Structuring by function or procedure structures the report by the functional stages of the investigation, rather than
by describing aspects of the topic itself. The most suitable format is:
o Introduction: introducing your study in the context of other work and
why you did it
o Methodology: saying what you did in your study
o Results: saying what you found in your study
o Discussion: interpreting what your results might mean in the context of
other work
Structuring by content or topic involves headings based on an aspect of
the content. Topic outlines are reduced forms of full propositions – for
example, the topic outline heading "Case-marking and Hindu-Urdu
Agreement" is the shortened form of "The Role of Case-marking in HinduUrdu Verb Agreement". Another example: the topic outline heading “Alice
in Wonderland and Pun Translation” is the shortened form of “Puns as a
Problem of Translation: a Case Study of Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.” The advantage of topic outlines is that they establish concisely the
main areas of investigation by subject matter.
Both types of structuring strategies may also be combined, often with
procedural headings providing a framework for a more detailed topicbased set of sub-headings. In all cases, however, ensure that there is a
discernable logic to your sequence, even of sub-headings.
An effective outline maintains the following properties:
o Parallelism: Each heading and subheading should preserve parallel
structure. If the first heading is a noun, the second heading should be
a noun.
o Coordination: All the information contained in Heading 1 has the same
significance as the information contained in Heading 2. The same goes
for the subheadings (which should be less significant than the headings).
o Subordination: The information in the headings is more general, while
the information in the subheadings is more specific.
Division: Each heading is divided into two or more parts.
4.1.2 Make thesis statements
The thesis statement is that sentence
or two in the text that contains the
! What am I trying to explain?
focus of your section or chapter and
! How can I categorise my
tells your reader what it is going to be
about. It offers your readers a quick ! In what order should I present
and easy to follow summary of what
the section/chapter or dissertation will
be discussing, and what you as a writer are setting out to tell them. Generally, a thesis statement appears at the end of the first paragraph of a
dissertation or chapter, so that readers will have a clear idea of what to
expect as they read.
A thesis statement generally consists of two parts: the topic, and then the
analysis/explanation(s)/assertion(s) that you are making about it. In
narrative or descriptions, a thesis statement is sometimes less important,
but you may still want to provide some kind of statement in the first
paragraph that helps to guide your reader through the section/chapter/dissertation. It is a very specific statement – it should cover
only what you want to discuss, and should be supported with specific
Thesis statements can differ based on whether the section or chapter of
the research work is an exposition, an analysis, or an argument. For example, suppose you simply want to describe a phenomenon. In this case,
the thesis statement must tell your audience what you are going to explain to them, the categories you are using to organise your explanation,
and the order in which you will be presenting your categories. For example, suppose that you are describing the phenomenon of verb agreement
in Hindi, then an expository thesis statement like “Hindi verb agreement
shows that verb agreement may be either with the subject, or the direct
object, or in a default mode” is required. This will lead the reader to expect an exposition of these patterns (in this order) in the paragraphs/sections that follow.
Another example: In the case of puns, an expository thesis statement
could read, “The pun, as a literary stylistic device, is a play on words for
humorous or rhetorical effect.” This will lead the reader to expect an
exposition in the paragraphs that follow on how the pun is a play on
words, and how it is used humorously or
Elsewhere, you may feel the need to
! What is my claim or asserbreak down an issue or an idea into its
component parts, in order to evaluate it. ! What are the reasons I have
In order to present this breakdown and
in support?
evaluation to your audience, an analyti- ! In what order should I present
cal thesis statement will be necessary, as
that will explain what you are analysing,
the parts of your analysis, and give the order in which you will be presenting your analysis.
For example: An analysis of fantasy writing as a sub-genre of juvenile
literature reveals two styles of writing, one that uses the techniques of
modernism and the other that uses the techniques of post-modernism.
This would lead the reader to expect an explanation of the analysis of
fantasy writing in juvenile literature and then an explanation of the modern and post-modern features constituting certain forms of fantasy writing and their significance in the writing of fantasy.16
Finally, in instances that you make a claim about a topic – an opinion, a
proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. Given that a claim is a statement that people could possibly disagree
with, you have to convince your audience that your claim is true based on
your presentation of your reasons and evidence, an argumentative thesis
statement will be necessary. This will present your claim or assertion, the
reasons/evidence that support this claim, and give the order in which you
will be presenting your reasons and evidence.
For example, the thesis statement ”we show that Hindi verb agreement
does not involve argument raising or head movement, and that it is best
analysed in terms of in situ Agree relations,” would lead the reader to
expect arguments supported by evidence for each of these three claims,
presented in this order.
Another example:17 Deletion or ‘improvement’ of sections of a literary
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
Discussion by Chitra Harshvardhan.
work in translation is more common for translations from minor languages into dominant languages reflecting asymmetrical relations of
power in translation. The reader would expect to be provided substantial
evidence of such deletion/’improvement’ from translated works from
minor languages into dominant languages, as also the reverse, i.e. a
greater respect for the structure and content for literature translated
from dominant languages into dominant languages before s/he can be
convinced of the worth of your argument.
4.1.3 Direct the reader
Your structural and conceptual organisation must be made explicit to the reader
via comments on the text in the text that
signal to the reader about where the
author is going, where (s)he has got to, and
what (s)he has achieved so far. The author
"intrudes" to direct the reader in some
way. Reader directions function to preview
what is to follow, or to review the discussion thus far, or to provide an overview of
the discussion:
The whole thesis (the focus of
this thesis is...)
The current chapter (this
chapter will examine…)
Another chapter (as described in Chapter 5)
Another section (in section
1.1, it was argued)
The current example (as
example (1) shows)
Write an Organised Text: Coherence
Your efforts to structure the research text must be supported by an intrinsic organisation of the text into paragraphs chained together by effective transitions. In this section, we provide some tips on how you may
develop skills in these areas.
4.2.1 Paragraphs
Paragraphs are units of thought with one idea developed adequately.
Length or appearance is NOT a factor in determining whether a section of
text in a paper is a paragraph. Rather, a good paragraph should display (i)
unity: the entire paragraph should have a single focus; (ii) coherence: explicit transitional devices link ideas and entities from different sentences
are employed; (iii) development: every idea discussed is adequately explained and supported through evidence so as to shed light on the controlling idea of the section/chapter.
A 5-step process to paragraph development:
o Formulate the controlling idea by beSTART A NEW PARAGRAPH
ginning with the expression of the
main idea, topic, or focus of the ! When you begin a new idea or
paragraph in a sentence or a collec! To contrast information or
tion of sentences.
o Explain the controlling idea by follow- ! When your readers need a
ing this with an explanation of how
pause — which they need if
the reader should interpret the
the paragraph becomes too
proposition in the controlling idea
long or the material is complex.
o Support the controlling idea by provid- ! When you are ending the
introduction or starting the
ing some type of support or evidence
for the relationship of the idea and
the explanation that came before it.
o Explain the supporting ideas by examining each piece of evidence and its
relevance to the idea statement and its explanation.
o Conclude the paragraph in such a way that the last line of a paragraph
functions as a transition or preparation for the paragraph that follows.
The strategy of reminding the reader of the relevance of the information in this paragraph to the main or controlling idea of the paper is
one that often leads to unnecessary repetitions.
4.2.2 Transitions
The organisation of your written work includes two elements: (1) the
order in which you have chosen to present the different parts of your
discussion or argument, and (2) the relationships you construct between
these parts. Transitions cannot substitute for good organisation, but they
can make this organisation clearer and easier to follow.
Good transitions can connect paragraphs and turn disconnected writing
into a unified whole. Instead of treating paragraphs as separate ideas,
transitions can help readers understand how paragraphs work together,
reference one another, and build to a larger point. The key to producing
good transitions is highlighting connections between corresponding
paragraphs. By referencing in one paragraph the relevant material from
previous ones, writers can develop important points for their readers.
The following example should help to make these points clear. Basque has
been proposed to have verb agreement with indirect objects. Assume TRANSITIONAL EXPRESSIONS
! TO ADD: again, furthermore,
that you want to argue that Basque
next, moreover, in addition.
does not actually exhibit this prop! TO COMPARE: whereas, on the
erty. One way to effectively organise
other hand, however, meanyour argument would be to present
the conventional view and then to ! TO PROVE: because, for, since,
provide the reader with your critical
indeed, in fact.
response to this view. Then, in Para- ! TO SHOW TIME: thereafter, then,
later, previously, next,
graph A, you will want to enumerate
all the reasons that someone might ! TO REPEAT: in brief, as I have said,
as has been noted.
consider Basque to exhibit this phenomenon, while in Paragraph B you ! TO EMPHASISE: obviously, in fact,
indeed, in any case, always.
would want to refute these points.
The transition that would establish ! TO SHOW SEQUENCE: first, second,
third, next, then, subsequently,
the logical connection between these
finally, simultaneously, thus,
two key elements of your argument
therefore, hence,
would indicate to the reader that the ! TO GIVE AN EXAMPLE: for example,
information in paragraph B contrafor instance, in this case, take
dicts the information in paragraph A:
the case of, to demonstrate, to
o Paragraph A: Points in support of
the view that Basque exhibits ! TO SUMMARISE OR CONCLUDE: in
brief, on the whole, in concluverb agreement with indirect obsion, hence.
o Transition: However, there are
also many reasons that lead us to question whether this phenomenon
is an instance of verb agreement at all.
o Paragraph B: Points that contradict the view that the phenomenon is
an instance of verb agreement.
Another example, this time from criticism. Suppose that you wish to
argue that a particular woman Dalit writer who has been argued to be
feminist is not feminist at all. One way to make this argument is to begin
by presenting all the arguments why she has been considered feminist. (If
there are a large number of such approaches you could consider discussing them by type rather than individually.) The next (sequence of) paragraph(s) could then be devoted to enumerating why these arguments are
based on an incorrect understanding what is to be a feminist. The transi!
tion here would then be as follows:
o Paragraph(s) A: The arguments for characterising the writer as a feminist.
o Transition: All these arguments, however, are misplaced, as they are
based on the simple and incorrect view that just because the writer is
a Dalit woman and chooses Dalit women as protagonists, she can be
characterised as a feminist writer.
o Paragraph B: The properties that actually mark a writer as a feminist.
The types of transitions available to you are as diverse as the circumstances in which you need to use them. A transition can be a single word,
a phrase, a sentence, or an entire paragraph. In each case, it functions the
same way: first, the transition either directly summarises the content of a
preceding sentence, paragraph, or section, or it implies that summary.
Then it helps the reader anticipate or comprehend the new information
that you wish to present. A word of caution: Avoid an over-use use of the
transitional expression ‘on the other hand’, as it will leave the reader
wondering as to how many hands you have!
Transitions between sections: Particularly in longer works, it may be necessary to include transitional paragraphs that summarise for the reader
the information just covered and specify the relevance of this information
to the discussion in the following section.
Transitions between Paragraphs: If you have done a good job of arranging
paragraphs so that the content of one leads logically to the next, the
transition will highlight a relationship that already exists by summarising
the previous paragraph and suggesting something of the content of the
paragraph that follows. A transition between paragraphs can be a word or
two (however, for example, similarly), a phrase, or a sentence.
Transitions within Paragraphs: As with transitions between sections and
paragraphs, transitions within paragraphs act as cues by helping readers
to anticipate what is coming before they read it. Within paragraphs, transitions tend to be single words or short phrases.
Chapter 5
Issues of Academic Writing Style
A writing style appropriate for a dissertation is a formal one, where you
write to persuade an unknown audience. While you may use technical
terms whose meaning is well known to others in your field with no definition, ensure that any terms without this general currency are adequately
defined in the text. Equally important is to avoid using language that is
stereotypical or biased in any way. Biased language frequently occurs with
gender, but can also offend groups of people based on sexual orientation,
ethnicity, interest, or race.
Write Grammatically and Coherently
The importance of grammaticality, conciseness, clarity, and coherence
cannot be over-emphasised. You must understand that in order for your
dissertation to be evaluated for the merits of your analysis and proposals,
the language that carries your ideas must be able to bear their weight. A
text with grammatical errors or poor organisation will be the first thing
any reader notices.
5.1.1 Grammar
As the research that you are doing must be accessible to speakers of English outside the subcontinent, the English you employ will have to conform to international standards. Although many speakers of English in
India have different rules governing the use of articles verb agreement in
the spoken form of the language, the written form of English in India still
uses the norms operating in British/American English. In Appendix II are
enclosed some handouts on English grammar that will guide you to the
appropriate usage.
5.1.2 Conciseness
The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words. Concise
writing does not always have the fewest words, but it always uses the
strongest ones. See the handouts in Appendix III for strategies that you
may employ.
5.1.3 Sentence Clarity
Contrary to many prescriptions, a good academic writing style is not
always one that keeps sentences “short and simple”, but rather captures
the writer’s mature evaluation of the propositions he/she is expressing.
See the handouts in Appendix III for tips.
5.1.4 Coherence
Coherence in a text is first effected by the logical coherence of the ideas
that are expressed by effective paragraphing and transitions; however,
anaphoric uses of language play an equally pivotal role. Two strategies of
achieving discourse cohesion are of immediate relevance to academic
writing: (i) the correct use of pronouns, and (ii) consistency of verb tenses.
Consult the handouts in Appendix III.
Write with sensitivity and humility
5.2.1 Use gender-sensitive language
Tackling gender sensitivity in your writing is no small task, especially
since there is not yet (and there may never be) a set of concrete guidelines
on which to base your decisions. Fortunately, there are a number of different strategies the gender-savvy writer can use to express gender relationships with precision.
Pronouns: Although most of us learned in elementary school that masculine pronouns (he, his, him) should be used as the "default" in situations
where the referent (that is, the person or thing to which you are referring) could be either male or female, that usage is generally considered
unacceptable now. So, what should you do when you are faced with one of
those gender-neutral or gender-ambiguous situations? Use SHE OR HE,
SHE/HE, or (S)HE as generic and indefinite pronouns when your observation
holds without regard to sex.
Man and words ending in -man are the most commonly used gendered
pronouns, so avoiding the confusion they bring can be as simple as watching out for these words and replacing them with words that convey your
meaning more effectively. For example, do not say “all men are created
equal; rephrase it to as "all people are created equal”.
Use the same rules to discuss women subjects as you use when you are
writing about men. Refer to women subjects by only their last names –
just as you would do for men subjects. In
circumstances where you are writing
about several people who have the same
last name, try using the full name of the
person every time you refer to him/her.
Also take care to refer to women subjects
by their full titles – just as you would
refer to male subjects.
5.2.2 'I': When to Use It
Have you used "man”, “men”,
or words containing one of
them to refer to people who
may be female?
If you have mentioned someone's gender, was it necessary to do so? Unless gender
and related matters are relevant to your point, leave
them unmentioned.
Have you used any occupational stereotypes?
Have you used language that
in any way shows a lack of respect for either sex?
Have you used "he”, "him",
"his”, or "himself" to refer to
people who may be female?
In many cases, using the first person !
pronoun can improve your writing, by
offering the following benefits:
o Assertiveness: In some cases you might
wish to emphasise agency (who is !
doing what), as for instance if you
need to point out how valuable your
particular project is to an academic
discipline or to claim your unique perspective.
o Clarity: Because trying to avoid the first person can lead to awkward
constructions and vagueness, using the first person can improve your
writing style.
o Positioning yourself in the essay: In some projects, you need to explain
how your ideas build on or depart from the work of others, in which
case you will need to use the first person.
An instance in which using the first person would help avoid problems
with clarity:
In studying American popular culture of the 1980s, the question of to what degree materialism was a major characteristic of the cultural milieu was explored.
BETTER: In my study of American popular culture of the 1980s, I explored the
degree to which materialism characterised the cultural milieu.
The original sounds less emphatic and direct than the revised version;
using "I" allows the writers to avoid the convoluted construction of the
original and clarifies who did what.
The first person grounds the experience heavily in the writer's subjective,
individual perspective, so if the writer's purpose is to describe a phenom!
enon that is in fact objective, or independent of that perspective, the
first person should be avoided. This is shown in the example below, where
avoiding the first person creates the desired impression of an observed
phenomenon that could be reproduced, and creates a stronger, clearer
As I was reading this study of medieval village life, I noticed that social class
was clearly defined.
BETTER: This study of medieval village life reveals how clearly defined social
class was.
The use of the first person also signifies a more casual writing style,
deemed by many as inappropriate for a dissertation. In the example,
below, there is no real need to announce that what follows is your
thought; you can just go ahead, make the claim assertively, and let the
fact that it is your paper clear up the issue. The revised version avoids
that problem and renders the statement more assertive and direct.
I think that Aristotle's ethical arguments are logical and applicable to contemporary cases, or at least it seems that way to me.
BETTER: Aristotle's ethical arguments are logical and applicable to contemporary cases.
Use Correct Punctuation
When speaking, we can pause or change the tone of our voices to indicate
emphasis. When writing, we use punctuation to indicate these places of
emphases. In this section, we provide a brief overview of common punctuation conventions.
5.3.1 Comma
Use a comma to:
o Join two independent clauses (a clause that has a subject and a verb
and can stand alone) by a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and,
but, or, for, nor, so). Road construction can be inconvenient, but it is necessary.
o After an introductory phrase, prepositional phrase, transitional element, or dependent clause (a clause that has a subject and a verb but
cannot stand alone). To get a good grade, you must complete all your assignments.
o To separate elements in a series. On her vacation, Lisa visited Greece,
Spain, and Italy.
To separate nonessential elements from a sentence. More specifically, when a sentence includes information that is not crucial to the
message/intent of the sentence, enclose it in or separate it by commas.
John's truck, a red Chevrolet, needs new tires.
Between coordinate adjectives (adjectives that are equal and reversible). The irritable, fidgety crowd waited impatiently for the rally to begin.
With quoted words. "Yes," she promised.
In dates, in a personal title, and to separate a city name from the state.
E.g., October 25, 2000; Pam Smith, MD; Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Use a semicolon to join:
o Two independent clauses, when the second clause restates the first or
when the two clauses are of equal emphasis. Road construction in Dallas
has hindered travel around town; streets are covered with bulldozers and
o Two independent clauses, when the second clause begins with a conjunctive adverb or a transition. Terrorism in the United States has become
a recent concern; in fact, the concern for America's safety has led to an
awareness of global terrorism.
Elements of a series, when individual items of the series already include commas. Recent sites of the Olympic games include Athens, Greece;
Salt Lake City, Utah; Sydney, Australia.
5.3.3 Colon
Use a colon:
o To join two independent clauses to emphasise the second clause. Road
construction in Dallas has hindered travel around town: parts of Main and
West Street are closed.
After an independent clause when it is followed by a list, a quotation,
or appositive. Julie went to the store for some groceries: milk, bread, coffee,
and cheese.
To separate the hour and minute(s) in time notation. 12:00 p.m.
To separate the year and page number in a citation. Chomsky (1995:22)
5.3.4 Parenthesis
Parentheses are used to emphasise content. They place more emphasis on
the enclosed content than commas. Use parentheses to set off nonessential material, such as dates, clarifying information, or sources, from a
sentence. Muhammad Ali, the greatest athlete of all time, claimed he would
"float like a butterfly, sting like a bee."
5.3.5 Hyphens and Dashes
Use a hyphen:
o To join two or more words serving as a single adjective before a noun:
a one-way street. However, when compound modifiers come after a
noun, they are not hyphenated: The author was well known.
o With compound numbers: forty-six.
o To avoid confusion or an awkward combination of letters: re-sign a
petition (vs. resign from a job), shell-like (but childlike), semi-independent
(but semiconscious).
o With the prefixes ex- (meaning former), self-, all-; between a prefix and
a capitalized word; and with figures or letters: ex-husband, self-assured.
Although hyphens can also be used as substitutes for the word “to” when
discussing value ranges and scores in games, it is better to use the word in
formal writing situations: The high temperature will be 87-89 degrees.
Dashes (—) can be used to indicate an interruption, particularly in transcribed speech: The chemistry student began to say, “An organic solvent will
only work with—” when her cell phone rang. They can also be used as a substitute for “it is, “they are,” or similar expressions. In this way they function like colons, but are not used for lists of multiple items, and are used
less frequently in formal writing situations: There was only one person
suited to the job—Mr. Lee.
Dashes can also be used as substitutes for parentheses: Mr. Lee is suited to
the job—he has more experience than everybody else in the department—but he
has been having some difficulties at home recently, and would probably not be
Note that dashes are double the length of hyphens. When you type two
hyphens together (--), most word processors automatically combine them
into a single dash. When you use a dash, do not leave any space to the left
and right of it.
5.3.6 Quotation Marks and Quotes
Do not use quotation marks in indirect or block quotations. Use quotation
o To indicate the novel, ironic, or reserved use of a word. History is
stained with blood spilled in the name of "justice”.
Around the titles of short poems, song titles, short stories, magazine
or newspaper articles, essays, speeches, chapter titles, short films, and
episodes of television or radio shows. "self-reliance," by Ralph Waldo Emerson
to enclose direct quotes. Commas and periods are placed inside the
closing quotation mark, and colons and semicolons are placed outside.
The placement of question and exclamation marks depends on the
situation. He asked, "When will you be arriving?" I answered, "Sometime after 6:30.”
In quotations:
o Capitalise the first letter of a direct quote when the quoted material is
a complete sentence. Mr. Johnson, who was working in his field that morning, said, "The alien spaceship appeared right before my own two eyes."
o Do not use a capital letter when the quoted material is a fragment or
only a piece of the original material's complete sentence. Although Mr.
Johnson has seen odd happenings before, he stated that the spaceship "certainly takes the cake" when it comes to unexplainable activity.
o If a direct quotation is interrupted mid-sentence, do not capitalise the
second part of the quotation. "I didn't see an actual alien being," Mr. Johnson said, "but I sure wish I had”.
Use single quotation marks to enclose quotes within another quotation. The reporter told me, "When I interviewed the quarterback, he said
they simply 'played a better game.'"
Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard dialogue tag, a
brief introductory phrase, or a dependant clause. The detective said, "I
am sure who performed the murder."
Put commas and periods within quotation marks, except when a parenthetical reference follows. He said, "I may forget your name, but I
never forget a face”.
Place colons and semicolons outside closed quotation marks. Williams
described the experiment as "a definitive step forward"; other scientists dis-
Place a question mark or exclamation point within closing quotation
marks if the punctuation applies to the quotation itself. Place the
punctuation outside the closing quotation marks if it applies to the
whole sentence. Phillip asked, "Do you need this book?"
5.3.8 Italics
Underlining and Italics are often used interchangeably. Although the
general trend has been moving toward italicising instead of underlining,
you should remain consistent with your choice throughout your paper.
o Italicise the titles of magazines, books, newspapers, journals, films,
television shows, long poems, plays of three or more acts, operas,
musical albums, works of art, websites, and individual trains, planes,
or ships. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
o Italicise all words/morphemes from foreign (to English) sources. Jaa"to go” is a light verb.
Italicise a word or phrase to add emphasis. The truth is of utmost concern!
Chapter 6
The Dissertation
In this chapter, we examine four necessary components of dissertations/theses – the nature and role of introductions, conclusions, the literature review, and abstracts – and two properties they must have –
academic integrity and honesty, and good design. The material in this
chapter is based on the guidelines listed by The Writing Centre University
of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (henceforth, UNC), available online as
handouts at http://writingcenter.
writing -the-paper/.
Introductions to dissertations and/or chapters can be the most difficult
parts to write, but they serve perhaps the most crucial purpose: they act
as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the
"place" of your analysis. By providing an introduction that helps your
readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will
be writing about, you give your readers the tools they need to be engaged
with your topic.
The Introduction is your first chance of making a good impression. The
opening paragraph of your dissertation will provide your readers with
their initial impressions of your argument, your writing style, and the
overall quality of your work. A vague, disorganised, error-filled, off-thewall, or boring introduction will probably create a negative impression.
This section suggests some of the strategies you may employ for writing
an effective introduction to your dissertation.
Your introduction must necessarily contain a thesis statement that will
assert your main argument. However, that is not all an introduction
should be – you may also use this space to locate your research topic
within broader issues and questions, and/ or to provide information that
constitutes the background of your study.
Try writing your introduction last. Writing the introduction first is not
necessarily the most effective way to craft it. You may find that you do not
know what you are going to argue at the beginning of the writing process, and only through the experience of writing your dissertation do you
discover your main argument. An introduction written at the beginning of
that discovery process will not necessarily reflect what you wind up with
at the end. You will most probably need to revise your dissertation to
make sure that the introduction, all of the evidence, and the conclusion
reflect the argument you intend.
Do not be afraid to write a tentative introduction first and then change it
later. It is perfectly fine to start out thinking that you want to argue a
particular point, but wind up arguing something slightly or even dramatically different by the time you have written most of the research work.
Some people find that they need to write some kind of introduction in
order to get the writing process started. That's fine, but if you are one of
those people, be sure to return to your initial introduction later and rewrite if need be.
Open with an attention grabber. Sometimes opening with something
catchy can help. Options could include: an intriguing example, a provocative quotation, a puzzling scenario, or a thought-provoking question. The
UNC guidelines suggest that you try to avoid:
o The Place Holder Introduction. This is essentially a set of observations on
the topic that are generally known and accepted to be true, and
merely exists just to take up the "introduction space" in your dissertation. If you had something more effective to say, you would probably
say it, but in the meantime, this paragraph is just a placeholder. WEAK
Verb agreement is a property of most natural languages.
o The Dictionary Introduction. This introduction begins by giving the
dictionary definition of one or more of the words in the topic. Giving a
dictionary definition is useful only if you want to establish the important terms of the discussion, discuss the counter-examples to the definition, and/or develop your own definition of the term in the specific
context of your research topic. WEAK EXAMPLE: The Glossary of Linguistic
Terms defines agreement as “Agreement refers to a formal relationship between elements whereby a form of one word requires a corresponding form of
Pay special attention to your first sentence. If any sentence in your work
is going to be completely free of errors and vagueness, it should be your
first one. Start off on the right foot with your readers by making sure that
the first sentence actually says something useful and that it does so in
an interesting and error-free way.
An abstract must be a fully self-contained, capsule description of the
paper. It cannot assume (or attempt to provoke) the reader into flipping
through looking for an explanation of what is meant by some vague
statement. Despite the fact that an abstract is quite brief, it must do almost as much work as the multi-page paper or dissertation that follows it.
Use the following as a checklist:
Motivation: Why do we care about the problem and the results? If the
problem is not obviously "interesting" it might be better to put motivation first; but if your work is incremental progress on a problem that is
widely recognised as important, then it is probably better to put the problem statement first to indicate which piece of the larger problem you are
breaking off to work on. This section should include the importance of
your work, the difficulty of the area, and the impact it might have if successful.
Problem statement: What problem are you trying to solve? What is the
scope of your work (a generalised approach, or for a specific situation)? Be
careful not to use too much jargon. In some cases, it is appropriate to put
the problem statement before the motivation, but usually this only works
if readers already understand why the problem is important.
Approach: How did you go about solving or making progress on the problem? What was the extent of your work? What important variables did you
control, ignore, or measure?
Results: What's the answer? Avoid vague, hand waving results such as
"very", "small", or "significant” and state, as simply as possible, the central results of your study.
Conclusions: What are the implications of your answer? Are your results
general, or specific to a particular case? What generalisations can be made
based on your results?
Another kind of abstract is the abstract of a research topic that academics
write for selection to present your work in academic meetings like conferences, workshops, and seminars. Announcements of such academic meetings always provide you with information about the format and limita!
tions of page numbers, etc., as well as its theme.
o Abstracts for conferences, seminars, and workshops typically have a
word count limitation. Be succinct; do not waste any words. You will
need as many words as you are allowed.
o Keep the scope of the abstract modest. State a smaller problem and
focus on your solution to that. Abstracts are often rejected because
what the author claims (s)he will present in 15 or 25 minutes would
take 2 hours to present adequately.
o Refer by citation to relevant previous work; this helps to put your
work in context. Provide a one or two-line summary of other work
only if your paper will be addressing specific issues in the work of others
o Keep your readers in mind. Even if a generalist cannot evaluate all the
details of your argument, (s)he should appreciate some of your points
and above all the tightness of your reasoning.
o Deadlines and other submission requirements are strictly enforced.
Follow all specifications to the letter.
Review of the Literature
A literature review constitutes an essential part of a dissertation, and
involves a survey of books, monographs, journal articles, computerised
databases, conferences proceedings, dissertations and theses, empirical
studies, government reports and reports from other bodies, historical
records, and/or statistical handbooks. The purpose of a literature review
o To justify your choice of research question, theoretical or conceptual
framework, and method, and to establish the importance of the topic.
o To provide background information needed for the study.
o To show readers you are familiar with significant and/or up-to-date
research relevant to the topic.
o To establish your study as one link in a chain of research that is developing knowledge in your field.
A review of the field will enable you to carry on from where others have
already reached, and avoid reinventing the wheel, as it were. It therefore
provides the initial conditions for your original contribution, as it enables
you to build on the platform of existing knowledge and ideas. By provid!
ing the intellectual context for your own work, it facilitates you to
position your project relative to other work as well as enables you to
access and identify opposing views to your claims, information, methods
and ideas that may be relevant to your project. A good literature review
must therefore place each work in the context of its contribution to the
understanding of the subject under review, describe the relationship of
each work to the others under consideration, and identify new ways to
interpret, and shed light on, any gaps and contradictions in previous
Although it is usually assumed that the literature review must be an independent chapter in the dissertation and that the nature of the overview
must be historical, neither of these assumptions is immutable. Actually, a
mere chronological listing of all that you have read, bundled together
without a unifying thematic, makes for poor reading. Moreover, a standalone chapter is not always the best strategy for all topics. A stand-alone
literature review is not feasible if:
o The topic of your research is new or scantly studied,
o It involves unrelated sub-topics; as in, say, a grammatical description
of a language; or
o The topic of your research has been examined from a variety of perspectives, all of which you will address in your analysis.
In all these cases, it makes more sense to have a distributed review that is
embedded in the discussion of your description/analysis of the problem.
You may then be better off having more than one chapter/section distributed across the dissertation/theses. You may also choose a mixture of
the embedded/stand-alone/ distributed methodology of reviewing.
Whatever your choice of reviewing strategy, the following tips will be
6.3.1 Find a focus
A literature review is usually organised around ideas, not the sources
themselves (as an annotated bibliography would be organised). This
means that you must not just simply list your sources and go into detail
about each one of them one at a time. As you read widely but selectively in
your topic area, consider instead what themes or issues connect your
sources together. Do they present one or different solutions? Is there an
aspect of the field that is missing? How well do they present the material
and do they portray it according to an appropriate theory? Do they
reveal a trend in the field? A raging debate? Pick one of these themes to
focus the organisation of your review.
6.3.2 Construct a working thesis statement
Use the focus you have found to construct a thesis statement, but here,
your thesis statement will not necessarily argue for a position or an opinion; rather it will argue for a particular perspective on the material.
6.3.3 Be organised
Just like most academic papers, literature reviews also must contain at
least three basic elements: an introduction or background information
section; the body of the review containing the discussion of sources; and,
finally, a conclusion and/or recommendations section to end the paper.
Develop an organisation for your review at both a global and local level by
first choosing e the most effective way of presenting the information you
gather, in terms of the most important topics, subtopics, etc. Next, decide
the order in which they should be presented. The options are:
o Chronological: you can write about the materials according to when
they were published, or by the trends they exemplify. Use this strategy only if chronology is actually important for the growth of the
field. A good candidate for choosing this methodology is when your
topic is itself historically grounded – e.g., the growth of functional categories in UG.
o Thematic: Thematic reviews of literature are organised around a topic
or issue, rather than the progression of time. A review organised in
this manner would shift between time periods within each section, according to the point made. A good candidate for choosing this methodology would be when your topic has many facets – e.g., approaches to
the study of gender and language.
o Methodological: A methodological approach differs from the two above
in that the focusing factor usually does not have to do with the content of the material. A good candidate for choosing this methodology
would be when your topic has many facets – e.g., methods of linguistic
Once you have decided on the organisational method for the body of the
review, the sections you need to include in the paper should be easy to
figure out. They should arise out of your organisational strategy. In
other words, a chronological review would have subsections for each vital
time period. A thematic review would have subtopics based upon factors
that relate to the theme or issue.
Sometimes, though, you might need to add additional sections that are
necessary for your study, but do not fit in the organisational strategy of
the body. What other sections you include in the body is up to you. Here
are a few other sections you might want to consider:
o Current Situation: Information necessary to understand the focus of the
literature review.
o History: The chronological progression of the field, the literature, or an
idea that is necessary to understand the literature review. Of course,
this can be used only if the body of the literature review is not already
a chronology.
o Methods and/or Standards: The criteria you used to select the sources in
your literature review or the way in which you present your information. For instance, you might explain that your review includes only
peer-reviewed articles and journals.
o Questions for Further Research: What questions about the field has the
review sparked? How will you further your research as a result of the
6.3.4 Be selective
Resist the temptation to review everything you have read in the research
period, and select only the most important points in each source to highlight in the review. The type of information you choose to mention should
relate directly to the review's focus, whether it is thematic, methodological, or chronological.
6.3.5 Use tenses meaningfully
Use the present tense to indicate that a research outcome is a generally
accepted finding. If the situation held only for a particular point in the
past, use the past tense:
According to Chomsky (1992, 1995, 2001, 2006), the EPP is responsible for
the displacement property of human language. (GENERAL STATEMENT).
According to Chomsky (1986), the displacement property of human language was derived from movement for Case as well as the EPP. (SPECIFIC
However, Chomsky (1992, 1995) eliminates Case as a trigger for displacement.
Use present tense if you want to indicate that the statement is an assumption drawn from research, based on specific research, which can be in the
Chomsky (1995, 2001) shows that Case is not a trigger for displacement. Although in Chomsky (1995), he argued that Case might be analysed as a free
rider on EPP-checking, his (2001) argument was that Case-assignment
must not involve any displacement.
Use of the present perfect implies that the research is salient, relevant to
the current topic. The present perfect tense indicates that the event a in
the past and continued until the present:
Chomsky (1995, 2001) has shown that Case is not a trigger for displacement. We will assume the essential correctness of his arguments in this research.
Use the simple past to describe background and ideas not immediately
connected to your research.
The survey area for this thesis is Raipur (THE STUDENT'S RESEARCH IN PRESENT
TIME) the capital of Chattisgarh after a protracted agitation for Statehood
that engulfed (BACKGROUND EVENT) much of the erstwhile South Bihar. The
movement began (BACKGROUND EVENT) over two decades ago, and hundreds
of activists were jailed (BACKGROUND EVENT) in the struggle.
6.3.6 Give examples
In general, the use of examples is a good strategy in any type of dissertation, as examples demonstrate your ability to generalize beyond the immediate context of your research area offers. However, using an example
is a tricky business; as the success of an example lies in the chain of logical
reasoning, you have used to process and\or construct it. Suppose you wish
to show that a particular theoretical postulation you have made for a
particular social fact covers other social facts as well, you must be sure
that all the examples fully ‘fit’ your theory. For example, if you have
arrived at the conclusion that “to be a Dalit woman writer is to be a protofeminist’, your examples must be ones that show this claim to be true
across a spectrum of Dalit women writers.
In formal linguistics and applied linguistics research, examples are imperative. Note however, that there exist rigid conventions about how
examples must be presented and formatted. Consult your teachers
about these conventions, and proceed accordingly.
In both cases, the most important point about using examples is that each
example must be introduced and discussed. Typically, you should provide
a few sentences about each example before you introduce it, discussing
what the example illustrates. A fuller discussion about how the example
feeds back to the theory, or how it carries your argument forward, can
follow the example.
6.3.7 Footnotes
Academic conventions differ from subject area to subject area regarding
the function and use of footnotes. While in both the social sciences and
the humanities, footnotes are used as a device for citation, footnotes are
used sparingly in linguistics writing. For the former two subject areas, a
footnote is used to mark every reference to a published or unpublished
source, and to point the reader to an entry in the bibliographic references
section of the work. The objective of a citation footnote is to acknowledge
the relevance of the works of others to the topic of discussion at the spot
where the citation appears. Generally, the combination of the reference in
the text body, the footnote, and the bibliographic entry constitutes what
is commonly thought of as a citation (whereas bibliographic entries by
themselves are not). In linguistics and the sciences, however, an in-body
reference and inclusion in the bibliography is sufficient to mark citation.
Beyond this difference in academic conventions, footnotes are used for
much of the same reason – for example, the mention of material or arguments that would otherwise interrupt the flow of the argument, or some
extra clarification/ material for further thought that would be digressions
if they were put in the main text. Furthermore, all direct quotations must
be footnoted, as could be controversial facts or opinions must also be
In a research paper, the first footnote is often an acknowledgement, and is
often placed at the end of the title of the paper. In a dissertation however,
you may have a separate page for acknowledgements; therefore, acknowledgements must not be footnoted in an M.Phil. /PhD dissertation. Similarly, while research papers require that the abbreviations used in the
article be listed in a footnote to the first example of the text, a full page
must be use d for abbreviations in dissertations.
Just as the Introduction acts as a bridge that transports your readers from
their own lives into the "place" of your analysis, the Conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily
lives. Such a conclusion will help them see why all your analysis and
information should matter to them after they put the dissertation down.
Understand that the Conclusion allows you to have the final word on the
issues you have raised in your dissertation, to summarise your thoughts,
to demonstrate the importance of your ideas, and to propel your reader to
a new view of the subject. You can use the space to go beyond the confines
of the topic and allows you to consider broader issues, make new connections, and elaborate on the significance of your findings. Some strategies
for writing Conclusions are given below.
Try to avoid clichéd conclusions. If you are stuck and feel like your conclusion isn't saying anything new or interesting, read the statements from
your conclusion, and ask yourself, "So what?" or "Why should anybody
care?" The UNC guide suggests that you try to avoid:
o The "Sherlock Holmes” Conclusion: This involves stating the thesis for the
very first time in the conclusion. Do not keep the reader in the dark
until the end and then "wow" her with the main idea, much like a
Sherlock Holmes mystery.
o Return to the theme or themes in the introduction. This strategy brings the
reader full circle. For example, if you begin by describing a scenario,
you can end with the same scenario as proof that your essay is helpful
in creating a new understanding. Try and avoid:
o The "That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It" Conclusion, as this conclusion
just restates the thesis and is usually painfully short. It does not push
the ideas forward.
o The "America the Beautiful"/"I Am Woman"/"We Shall Overcome" Conclusion. This kind of conclusion usually draws on emotion to make its appeal, but while this emotion and even sentimentality may be very
heartfelt, it is usually out of character with the rest of an analytical
dissertation. A more sophisticated commentary, rather than emotional praise, would be a more fitting tribute to the topic.
Synthesise, do not summarise: Include a brief summary of the dissertation's main points, but do not simply repeat things that were in your
dissertation. Instead, show your reader how the points you made and
the support and examples used fit together. Pull it all together for them.
Try to avoid introducing a new idea\subtopic in your conclusion, and
including evidence (quotations, facts, etc.), as that should be in the body
of the dissertation.
Propose a course of action, a solution to an issue, or questions for further
study. This can redirect your reader's thought process and help her to
apply your ideas to her own academic endeavours or to see the broader
Documentation of Sources
The basic rule for documentation is: Document any specific ideas, opinions, and facts that are not your own. The only thing you do not have to
document is common knowledge.
There are two categories of common knowledge—information that is
known to the public and information that is agreed upon by most people
in a professional field. Yet, sometimes, common knowledge can be tricky
to define. A good rule is if in doubt, document. However, if you find yourself needing to document almost every sentence, then it means you have
not thought enough about your topic to develop your own ideas. A research work should not just be a collection of others' ideas and facts, and
sources should only support or substantiate your ideas.
You must identify your sources in two places in your research paper: at
the end in the form of a bibliography or reference list, and in your paper,
as you use direct quotations or paraphrases and summaries of ideas and
information from the sources you have researched. A bibliography is a list
of sources (books, journals, websites, periodicals, etc.) one has used for
researching a topic, and includes even that work which has not been
actually cited in your thesis/dissertation. In research work other than
dissertations/theses, a reference list (i.e. a list of the work actually cited
in the text) and not bibliographies are employed. In linguistics, the style
most commonly used is the American Psychological Association (APA)
format, which is reproduced below.
6.5.1 Strategies for the Attribution of Sources
Three most commonly used strategies for representing the work of others
are quotation, summary, and paraphrases. We discuss each in turn.
! Quotation
Used ineffectively, quotations clutter your text and interrupt the flow of
your argument. Use quotations at strategically selected moments, remembering that packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily
strengthen your argument. Points in the text ideal for quotations are
when you want to:
o Discuss specific arguments or ideas. In particular, when you wish to
debate with clarity and specificity the ideas of others, you may want to
quote those ideas word for word.
o Give added emphasis to a particularly authoritative source on your
o Analyse how others use language.
Once you have carefully selected the quotations that you want, you must
weave those quotations into your text. Follow these guidelines for "setting
up" and "following up" quotations.
o Select quoted material judiciously
o Excerpt fragments – you should quote short fragments, rather than
whole sentences.
o Use block quotations sparingly – only when you fear that omitting any
words will destroy the integrity of the passage. If that passage exceeds
four lines, set it off as a block.
o Provide a context for each quotation. Set the basic scene for when,
possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was
spoken or written.
o Attribute each quotation to its source. Even if you place an internal
citation after a quotation, you must still attribute the quotation within
the text. A good rule of thumb is this: Try reading your text aloud.
Could your reader determine without looking at your paper where
your quotations begin?
o Explain the significance of the quotation for the argument you are
o Provide a citation for the quotation. All quotations require a formal
citation. Paraphrase
When the source of an idea is
another person (rather than a
work in the public domain), the
A paraphrase is your own rendition of essential information and ideas
expressed by someone else, presented in a new form. A paraphrase must
also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrasing is one of the legitimate ways (when accompanied by accurate documentation) to borrow
from a source, and is a more detailed restatement than a summary. It is a
valuable skill because the mental process required for successful paraphrasing helps you to grasp the full meaning of the original. It also helps
you control the temptation to quote too much.
Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, taking a
somewhat broader segment of the source and condensing it slightly. To
make an effective paraphrase:
o Reread the original passage until you understand its full meaning.
o Set the original aside, and write your paraphrase on a note card.
o Jot down a few words below your paraphrase to remind you later how
you envision using this material. At the top of the note card, write a
key word or phrase to indicate the subject of your paraphrase.
o Check your rendition with the original to make sure that your version
accurately expresses all the essential information in a new form.
o Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or phraseology you
have borrowed exactly from the source.
Record the source (including the page) on your note card so that you can
credit it easily if you decide to incorporate the material into your paper. Summary
Summarising involves putting the main idea(s) into your own words,
including only the main point(s). Once again, it is necessary to attribute
summarised ideas to the original source. Summaries are significantly
shorter than the original and take a broad overview of the source material.
o Read the entire text, noting the key points and main ideas.
o Summarise in your own words what the single main idea of the essay
o Paraphrase important supporting points that come up in the essay.
o Consider any words, phrases, or passages that you believe should be
quoted directly.
Take care not to document paraphrases and summaries only at the end of
paragraphs, as this leaves your reader confused. Show where the
source's information starts as well as ends. The easiest way to do this is to
use a phrase such as "According to Dr. James Watts. . ." or "Carly Simon
maintains that..."
6.5.2 Documentation in the Text
Today most research work put the basic source information inside parentheses right in the text of the paper. In the APA style, citations to sources
are placed in the text of the paper in order to briefly identify sources for
readers and enable them to locate the source of the cited information in
the Reference List. These parenthetical (in text) references include the
author's last name and the year of publication enclosed in parentheses.
Citations are placed within sentences and paragraphs so that it is clear
what information is being quoted or paraphrased and whose information
is being cited.
Works by a single author: The last name of the author and the year of
publication are inserted in the text at the appropriate point. In a recent
study (Walker, 2000)... If the name of the author appears as part of the
narrative, cite only the year of publication in parentheses. Walker (2000)
compared reaction times.
Works by multiple authors: When a work has two authors, always cite both
names every time the reference occurs in the text. In the narrative text,
join the names with the word "and." as Nightlinger and Littlewoord (1993)
demonstrated. In parenthetical material, join the names with an ampersand (&). as has been shown (Joreskog & Sorbom 1989)
When a work has three, four, or five authors, cite all authors the first time
the reference occurs. Wasserstein, Zappulla, Rosen, Gerstman, and Rock (1994)
found. In all subsequent citations per paragraph, include only the surname
of the first author followed by "et al.", and the year of publication. Wasserstein et al. (1994)
Works by associations, corporations, government agencies, etc: The names
of groups that serve as authors (corporate authors) are usually written out
each time they appear in a text reference. (National Institute of Mental
Health [NIMH] 1999). When appropriate, the names of some corporate
authors are spelled out in the first reference and abbreviated in all subsequent citations. The general rule for abbreviating in this manner is to
supply enough information in the text citation for a reader to locate its
source in the Reference List without difficulty. (NIMH, 1999)
Works with no author: When a work has no author, use the first two or
three words of the work's title (omitting any initial articles) as your text
reference, capitalising each word. the book College Bound Seniors (1979).
Place the title in quotation marks if it refers to an article or book chapter,
or italicise it if it refers to a book, periodical, or report.
6.5.3 Documentation in the Reference List
Works cited in the text of a research work must appear in a Bibliography
or Reference List. This list provides the information necessary to identify
and retrieve each source.
o Entries should be arranged in alphabetical order by authors' last
names. Sources without authors should be alphabetically by title
within the same list.
o The first line of entries should be flush with the left margin, and all
subsequent lines are indented to form a hanging indent.
o Capitalise only the first word of a title or subtitle, and any proper
names part of a title.
o Use an ampersand (&) instead of "and" when listing multiple authors
of a single work.
o Use the abbreviation p. or pp. to designate page numbers of articles
from periodicals that do not use volume numbers, especially newspapers. These are also used to designate pages in encyclopaedia articles and chapters from edited books.
The American Psychological Association (APA) style guide for most common types of sources are given in Appendix I. For others, consult the APA
Chapter 7
Formatting and Proofreading Your Thesis
Your thesis must be written clearly and grammatically. Proofread it carefully before you submit it. Marks will be lost for careless presentation:
format and presentation are important aspects of the task you have been
set and it is expected that you will present your argument in a professional manner. You are making an original contribution to the discipline
and you should think of your thesis as potentially a publishable piece of
Listed below are the most typical components of JNU dissertation, with
the ! marked ones being obligatory. Consult the Centre office at the time
of submission for the procedures to be followed for the submission of your
o !Title page (in a prescribed format; available from your Centre)
o !Declaration (in a prescribed format; available from your Centre)
o !Certificate (in a prescribed format; available from your Centre)
o !Table of Contents
o !Abstract: (in a prescribed format; available from your Centre)
o !List of Abbreviations
o List of Tables
o List of Figures
o Acknowledgements
o Maps and Illustrations
o ! Body of the thesis
o Appendices.
o ! References.
Editing your draft
Writing is a process of discovering, and you do not always produce your
best stuff when you first get started. Therefore, revision is a chance for
you to look critically at what you have written to see if it is really worth
saying, if it says what you wanted to say, and if a reader will understand
what you are saying.
Here are several steps that could be used when you begin to revise your
first draft. However, do not try them all at one time. Instead, focus on a
few main areas during each revision session.
Wait awhile after you have finished a draft before looking at it again. The
Roman poet Horace thought one should wait nine years, but that's a bit
much. A day – a few hours even – will work. When you do return to the
draft, be honest with yourself and don't be lazy. Ask yourself what you
really think about the dissertation. At this stage, you should be concerned
with the large issues in the dissertation, not the commas.
Check the focus of the dissertation: Is it appropriate to the assignment? Is
the topic too big or too narrow? Do you stay on track through the entire
Think honestly about your thesis: Do you still agree with it? Should it be
modified in light of something you discovered as you wrote the dissertation? Does it make a sophisticated, provocative point, or does it just say
what anyone could say if given the same topic? Does your thesis generalise instead of taking a specific position? Should it be changed altogether? For more information, visit our handout on thesis statements.
Think about your purpose in writing: Does your introduction state clearly
what you intend to do? Will your aims be clear to your readers?
Examine the balance within your dissertation: Are some parts out of proportion with others? Do you spend too much time on one trivial point and
neglect a more important point? Do you give lots of detail early on and
then let your points get thinner by the end?
Check that you have kept your promises to your readers: Does your dissertation follow through with what the thesis promises? Do you support all
the claims in your thesis? Is the tone and formality of language appropriate for your audience?
Check the organisation: Does your dissertation follow a pattern that makes
sense? Do the transitions move your readers smoothly from one point to
the next? Do the topic sentences of each paragraph appropriately introduce what that paragraph is about? Would your dissertation work better if
you moved some things around?
Check your information: Are all your facts accurate? Are any of your
statements misleading? Have you provided enough detail to satisfy read!
ers' curiosity? Have you cited all your information appropriately?
Check your conclusions: Does the last paragraph tie the dissertation together smoothly and end on a stimulating note, or does the dissertation
just die a slow, or abrupt, death?
Proof-reading your draft
Producing a clean, error-free final draft isn't easy. Even the most carefully
edited professional publications contain occasional typos. Most readers
understand this and are not bothered by such infrequent problems. Yet,
when errors occur often, they undermine the writer's authority and disrupt communication.
To proofread well, it helps to know the basics of grammar and mechanics,
but equally important are good editing practices. You will need to be
patient and attentive to detail. Use the suggestions below to improve your
Know what you are looking for. What types of errors do you tend to make
most often? Do you have problems with Subject/Verb Agreement or with
Tense Shifts? Look for patterns in your errors and focus on eliminating
the more serious and higher frequency errors first. Then check for less
obvious problems.
Proofread printed copy. If you are writing at the computer, check your
work quickly on the screen and run a spell-check. Then print out a draft
to go over meticulously, looking for anything you may have missed.
Proofread actively. Go through your draft carefully, pencil in hand. Actually, touch each word with your pencil. Look especially at word endings.
Have you dropped any -s or -ed endings? Do subjects and verbs agree?
Does each pronoun have a clear antecedent?
If possible, proofread with a partner. Read your draft slowly aloud while
your partner, pencil in hand, reads another copy of the draft. Have your
partner stop you whenever there might be a problem. Discuss each questionable punctuation mark or word choice.
All this may seem tedious at first, but it pays big dividends. A clean, wellproof-read final draft makes a good impression. It shows that you care
about your writing, and when readers sense your care, they will care, too.
See Appendix IV for instruction on formatting theses-length documents in
MS Word.
Your dissertation must be printed (double-sided) on A-4 paper. Leave a 1inch margin on the top, bottom, and right-hand sides, and a 1.5-inch
margin on the left.
Fonts and Paragraph Spacing
Use a font size of 12 in Times New Roman, Palatino or Palatino Linotype,
or Georgia (do NOT use fonts that occupy space larger than these) as well
as any IPA\foreign language fonts of your choice. Use 1.5-paragraph
spacing. New paragraphs begin at two keystrokes of the ENTER key.
Chapters must be numbered in Arabic numerals, and should begin on a
new page. First-level section headings must be in bold and numbered in
Arabic numerals.
Prefix the chapter number (as in this document) to section headings. Subheadings must be in bold italics, and numbered in Arabic numerals. Prefix
the chapter and section number (as in this document) to sub-headings.
Try to avoid sub-sub headings, but if you do need them, present them in
(not bold) italics.
Examples must be numbered chapter-wise. Footnotes (do not use endnotes) should be numbered chapter-wise, and be in a 10-point size of the
font used for the main body of the text.
All prefatory pages, including table of contents; list of charts, graphs,
illustrations and the like; acknowledgments; dedication; and preface are
to be numbered with lower-case Roman numerals, beginning with i and
numbered consecutively. They must be cantered at the bottom of the
page, beginning with “i”, no closer than one half inch from the bottom
edge of the page.
All other pages, including the main body of the dissertation (which contains the introduction, chapters, graphs, photos, figures, and tables) bibliography, and appendices should be numbered with Arabic numerals,
starting with 1. They must be distinct from the text and no closer than
one half inch from the top edge of the paper and one inch from the
right edge of the paper. The bibliography and appendices should be numbered consecutively with the main body of the dissertation.
Appendix I
APA-Style Referencing
Start your reference list on a new page with the word
References or Bibliography centred at the top of the page.
APA style has hanging indents, which means that for each
reference you indent all lines ½ inch, other than the first line.
Type all your references first, and then format. Use (n.d.) if
the date is not known. When there is no author for a web
page, the title moves to the first position of the reference
entry. In the reference list use the following styles:
Book with a single author
Marsden, J. (2007). While I live. New York: Scholastic Press
Books with more than one author
Holmberg, D., Orbuch, T., & Veroff, J. (2004). Thrice told
tales: Married couples tell their stories. Mahwah, NJ:
Sewell, A. (2005). Black Beauty: the autobiography of a
horse. Retrieved from
presenttitledetaiform. do
Edited books
Langwith, J. (ed.) (2007). Stem Cells. Farmington, MI:
Greenhaven Press.
Langwith, J. and Marshall M. (eds.) (2007). Stem Cell
Biology. Farmington, MI: Greenhaven Press.
Article in a book
Begley, S. (2007). Embryonic stem cell research may one
day cure Alzheimer’s disease. In J. Langwith (Ed.), Stem cells
(pp. 54-57). Farmington, MI: Greenhaven Press.
Article in a reference book (e.g. encyclopedia, dictionary
Bercuson, D. J. (2005). Canada. In World Book Encyclopedia
(Vol. 3, pp. 98-127). Chicago: World Book.
Magazine article
Chamberlin, J., Novotney, A., Packard, E., & Price, M. (2008,
May). Enhancing worker well-being: Occupational health
psychologists share their research on work, stress, and
health. Monitor on Psychology, 39(5), 26-29.
Online magazine article
Clay, R. (2008, June). Sciences vs. Ideology: Psychologists
fight back about the misuse of research. Monitor on
Psychology, 39(6). Retrieved from
Online newspaper article
Cleverley, B. (2011, March 4). Victoria set to go ahead with
bridge without rail. Times Colonist. Retrieved from
Journal Article with DOI from online database
Wozniak, M. A., Shipley, S. J., Dobson, C. B., Parker, S. P.,
Scott, F. T., Leedham-Green, M., & Itzhaki, R. F. (2007). Does
apolipoprotein E determine outcome of infection by varicella
zoster virus and by Epstein Barr virus? European Journal of
Human Genetics, 15(6), 672-678.
Journal article from online database – no DOI
Epidemiological summary of pandemic influenza A (H1N1)
2009 virus -- Ontario, Canada, June 2009. (2009).
Weekly Epidemiological Record, 84(47), 485-491.
Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Webpage within a website, no author
Gadhafi vows retaliation against no-fly zone: Report. (2011,
March 8). CBC. Retrieved from 2011 /03/09
Webpage within a website, author given
Payton, L. Speaker rules against government, Oda. (2011,
March 8). CBC. Retrieved from 2011/03/
! Author, A. (year). Site or Chapter Title. Title or homepage title. Place:
! Author, A. (year). Title of article, Title of periodical, xx, pp-pp.
! Author, A. (year). Title of work. Retrieved from http:// www.xxxx
! Author, A. (year). Title of book. Location: Publisher.
Appendix II
Some Common Grammatical Mistakes in
English and How to fix them
Using Articles
What is an article? Basically, an article is an adjective. Like
adjectives, articles modify nouns. English has two articles:
the and a/an. The is used to refer to specific or particular
nouns; a/an is used to modify non-specific or non-particular
nouns. We call the the definite article and a/an the
indefinite article. For example, if I say, "Let's read the book," I
mean a specific book. If I say, "Let's read a book," I mean any
book rather than a specific book.
Here is another way to explain it: The is used to refer to a
specific or particular member of a group. For example, "I just
saw the most popular movie of the year." There are many
movies, but only one particular movie is the most popular.
Therefore, we use the.
A/an is used to refer to a non-specific or non-particular
member of the group. For example, "I would like to go see a
movie." Here, we're not talking about a specific movie. We're
talking about any movie. There are many movies, and I want
to see any movie. I don't have a specific one in mind.
Indefinite Articles: a and an
A and an signal that the noun modified is indefinite, referring
to any member of a group. For example:
"My daughter really wants a dog for Christmas." This
refers to any dog. We don't know which dog because we
haven't found the dog yet.
"Somebody call a policeman!" This refers to any
policeman. We don't need a specific policeman; we need
any policeman who is available.
"When I was at the zoo, I saw an elephant!" Here, we're
talking about a single, non-specific thing, in this case an
elephant. There are probably several elephants at the
zoo, but there's only one we're talking about here.
Remember, using a or an depends on the sound that begins
the next word. So...
! A + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a boy; a
car; a bike; a zoo; a dog
! An + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an elephant;
an egg; an apple; an idiot; an orphan
! A + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a user
(sounds like 'yoo-zer,' i.e. begins with a consonant 'y'
sound, so 'a' is used);a university; a unicycle
! An + nouns starting with silent "h": an hour
! A + nouns starting with a pronounced "h": a horse. In
some cases where "h" is pronounced, such as
"historical," you can use an. However, a is more
commonly used and preferred. A historical event is
worth recording.
Another case where this rule applies is when acronyms
start with consonant letters but have vowel sounds:
An MSDS (material safety data sheet) was used to
record the data.
An SPCC plan (Spill Prevention Control and
Countermeasures plan) will help us prepare for the
If the noun is modified by an adjective, the choice between a
and an depends on the initial sound of the adjective that
immediately follows the article:
a broken egg
an unusual problem
a European country (sounds like 'yer-o-pi-an,' i.e. begins
with consonant 'y' sound)
Remember, too, that in English, the indefinite articles are
used to indicate membership in a group:
I am a teacher. (I am a member of a large group known
as teachers.)
Brian is an Irishman. (Brian is a member of the people
known as Irish.)
Seiko is a practicing Buddhist. (Seiko is a member of the
group of people known as Buddhists.)
Definite Article: The
The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns
when the noun is specific or particular. The signals that the
noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a
group. For example:
"The dog that bit me ran away." Here, we're talking about
a specific dog, the dog that bit me.
"I was happy to see the policeman who saved my cat!"
Here, we're talking about a particular policeman. Even if
we don't know the policeman's name, it's still a particular
policeman because it is the one who saved the cat.
"I saw the elephant at the zoo." Here, we're talking about
a specific noun. Probably there is only one elephant at
the zoo.
Count and Noncount Nouns
The can be used with noncount nouns, or the article can be
omitted entirely.
"I love to sail over the water" (some specific body of
water) or "I love to sail over water" (any water).
"He spilled the milk all over the floor" (some specific milk,
perhaps the milk you bought earlier that day) or "He
spilled milk all over the floor" (any milk).
"A/an" can be used only with count nouns. Most of the time,
you can't say, "She wants a water," unless you're implying,
say, a bottle of water.
I need a bottle of water.
I need a new glass of milk.
Geographical use of the
There are some specific rules for using the with
geographical nouns.Do not use the before:
! Names of most countries/territories: Italy, Mexico,
Bolivia; however, the Netherlands, the Dominican
Republic, the Philippines, the United States
! Names of cities, towns, or states: Seoul, Manitoba,
! Names of streets: Washington Blvd., Main St.
! Names of lakes and bays: Lake Titicaca, Lake Erie
except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
! Names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji except
with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Rockies
or unusual names like the Matterhorn
! Names of continents (Asia, Europe)
! Names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West)
except with island chains like the Aleutians, the
Hebrides, or the Canary Islands
Do use the before:
! Names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Nile, the Pacific
! Points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
! Geographical areas: the Middle East, the West
! Deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara, the
Persian Gulf, the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula
Omission of Articles
Some common types of nouns that don't take an article are:
! Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese, English,
Spanish, Russian (unless you are referring to the
population of the nation: "The Spanish are known for
their warm hospitality.")
! Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball
! Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology,
history, computer science
Copyright ©1995-2011 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Adjectives with Countable and Uncountable Nouns
The Basic Rules: Adjectives
A countable noun is one that can be expressed in plural
form, usually with an "s." For example, "cat--cats," "season-seasons," "student--students." An uncountable noun is one
that usually cannot be expressed in a plural form. For
example, "milk," "water," "air," "money," "food."
Usually, you cannot say, "He had many moneys." Most of the
time, this doesn't matter with adjectives. For example, you
can say, "The cat was gray" or "The air was gray." However,
the difference between a countable and uncountable noun
does matter with certain adjectives, such as the following:
! some/any
! much/many
! little/few
! a lot of/lots of
! a little bit of
! plenty of
! enough
! no
Both some and any can modify countable and uncountable
There is some water on the floor.
There are some Mexicans here.
Do you have any food?
Do you have any apples?
Much modifies only uncountable nouns.
They have so much money in the bank.
The horse drinks so much water.
Many modifies only countable nouns.
Many Americans travel to Europe.
I collected many sources for my paper.
Little modifies only uncountable nouns.
He had little food in the house.
When I was in college, there was little money to spare.
Few modifies only countable nouns.
There are a few doctors in town.
He had few reasons for his opinion.
A lot of and lots of are informal substitutes for much and
many. They are used with uncountable nouns when they
mean much and with countable nouns when they mean
They have lots of (much) money in the bank.
A lot of (many) Americans travel to Europe.
We got lots of (many) mosquitoes last summer.
We got lots of (much) rain last summer.
A little bit of is informal and must precede an uncountable
There is a little bit of pepper in the soup.
There is a little bit of snow on the ground.
Plenty of modifies both countable and uncountable
They have plenty of money in the bank.
There are plenty of millionaires in Switzerland.
Enough modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.
There is enough money to buy a car.
I have enough books to read.
No modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.
There is no time to finish now.
There are no squirrels in the park.
Copyright ©1995-2011 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Making Subjects and Verbs Agree
When the subject of a sentence is composed of two or
more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural
She and her friends are at the fair.
When two or more singular nouns or pronouns are
connected by or or nor, use a singular verb.
The book or the pen is in the drawer.
When a compound subject contains both a singular and a
plural noun or pronoun joined by or or nor, the verb should
agree with the part of the subject that is nearer the verb.
The boy or his friends run every day.
His friends or the boy runs every day.
Doesn't is a contraction of does not and should be used only
with a singular subject. Don't is a contraction of do not and
should be used only with a plural subject. The exception to
this rule appears in the case of the first person and second
person pronouns I and you. With these pronouns, the
contraction don't should be used.
He doesn't like it.
They don't like it.
Do not be misled by a phrase that comes between the
subject and the verb. The verb agrees with the subject, not
with a noun or pronoun in the phrase.
One of the boxes is open
The people who listen to that music are few.
The team captain, as well as his players, is anxious.
The book, including all the chapters in the first section, is
The woman with all the dogs walks down my street.
The words each, each one, either, neither, everyone,
everybody, anybody, anyone, nobody, somebody, someone,
and no one are singular and require a singular verb.
Each of these hot dogs is juicy.
Everybody knows Mr. Jones.
Either is correct.
Nouns such as civics, mathematics, dollars, measles, and
news require singular verbs. Note: the word dollars is a
special case. When talking about an amount of money, it
requires a singular verb, but when referring to the dollars
themselves, a plural verb is required.
The news is on at six.
Five dollars is a lot of money.
Dollars are often used instead of roubles in Russia.
Nouns such as scissors, tweezers, trousers, and shears
require plural verbs. (There are two parts to these things.)
These scissors are dull.
Those trousers are made of wool.
In sentences beginning with there is or there are, the real
subject follows the verb. Since there is not the subject, the
verb agrees with what follows.
There are many questions.
There is a question.
Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person
but that are considered singular and take a singular verb,
such as group, team, committee, class, and family.
The team runs during practice.
The committee decides how to proceed.
The family has a long history.
My family has never been able to agree.
In some cases in American English, a sentence may call for
the use of a plural verb when using a collective noun. This
sentence is referring to the individual efforts of each crew
The crew are preparing to dock the ship.
Expressions such as with, together with, including,
accompanied by, in addition to, or as well do not change the
number of the subject. If the subject is singular, the verb is
The President, accompanied by his wife, is travelling to
All of the books, including yours, are in that box.
Copyright ©1995-2011 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Appendix III
Issues of Academic Style
The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective
words. Concise writing does not always have the fewest
words, but it always uses the strongest ones. Writers often
fill sentences with weak or unnecessary words that can be
deleted or replaced. Words and phrases should be
deliberately chosen for the work they are doing. Like bad
employees, words that don't accomplish enough should be
fired. When only the most effective words remain, writing will
be far more concise and readable. This resource contains
general conciseness tips followed by very specific strategies
for pruning sentences.
Replace several vague words with more powerful, specific
Often, writers use several small and ambiguous words to
express a concept, wasting energy expressing ideas better
relayed through fewer specific words. As a general rule,
more specific words lead to more concise writing. Because
of the variety of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, most things
have a closely corresponding description. Brainstorming or
searching a thesaurus can lead to the word best suited for a
specific instance. Notice that the examples below actually
convey more as they drop in word count.
Wordy: The politician talked about several of the merits
of after-school programs in his speech (14 words)
Concise: The politician touted after-school programs in
his speech. (8 words)
Wordy: Suzie believed but could not confirm that Billy
had feelings of affection for her. (14 words)
Concise: Suzie assumed that Billy adored her. (6 words)
Wordy: Our website has made available many of the
things you can use for making a decision on the best
dentist. (20 words)
Concise: Our website presents criteriafor determining
the best dentist. (9 words)
Wordy: Working as a pupil under someone who develops
photos was an experience that really helped me learn a
lot. (20 words)
Concise: Working as a photo technician's apprentice was
an educational experience. (10 words)
Interrogate every word in a sentence
Check every word to make sure that it is providing
something important and unique to a sentence. If words are
dead weight, they can be deleted or replaced. Other sections
in this handout cover this concept more specifically, but
there are some general examples below containing
sentences with words that could be cut.
Wordy: The teacher demonstrated some of the various
ways and methods for cutting words from my essay that
I had written for class. (22 words)
Concise: The teacher demonstrated methods for cutting
words from my essay. (10 words)
Wordy: Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood formed a new
band of musicians together in 1969, giving it the ironic
name of Blind Faith because early speculation that was
spreading everywhere about the band suggested that
the new musical group would be good enough to rival the
earlier bands that both men had been in, Cream and
Traffic, which people had really liked and had been very
popular. (66 words)
Concise: Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood formed a new
band in 1969, ironically naming it Blind Faith because
speculation suggested that the group would rival the
musicians’ previous popular bands, Cream and Traffic.
(32 words)
Combine Sentences.
Some information does not require a full sentence, and can
easily be inserted into another sentence without losing any
of its value. To get more strategies for sentence combining,
see the handout on Sentence Variety.
Wordy: Ludwig's castles are an astounding marriage of
beauty and madness. By his death, he had
commissioned three castles. (18 words)
Concise: Ludwig's three castles are an astounding
marriage of beauty and madness. (11 words)
Wordy: The supposed crash of a UFO in Roswell, New
Mexico aroused interest in extraterrestrial life. This
crash is rumoured to have occurred in 1947. (24
Concise: The supposed 1947 crash of a UFO in Roswell,
New Mexico aroused interest in extraterrestrial life. (16
Eliminating Words
Eliminate words that explain the obvious or provide excessive
detail. Always consider readers while drafting and revising
writing. If passages explain or describe details that would
already be obvious to readers, delete or reword them.
Readers are also very adept at filling in the non-essential
aspects of a narrative, as in the fourth example.
Wordy: I received your inquiry that you wrote about
tennis rackets yesterday, and read it thoroughly. Yes, we
do have... (19 words)
Concise: I received your inquiry about tennis rackets
yesterday. Yes, we do have...(12 words)
Wordy: It goes without saying that we are acquainted
with your policy on filing tax returns, and we have every
intention of complying with the regulations that you have
mentioned. (29 words)
Concise: We intend to comply with the tax-return
regulations that you have mentioned. (12 words)
Wordy: Imagine a mental picture of someone engaged in
the intellectual activity of trying to learn what the rules
are for how to play the game of chess. (27 words)
Concise: Imagine someone trying to learn the rules of
chess. (9 words)
Eliminate unnecessary determiners and modifiers
Writers sometimes clog up their prose with one or more
extra words or phrases that seem to determine narrowly or
to modify the meaning of a noun but don't actually add to the
meaning of the sentence. Although such words and phrases
can be meaningful in the appropriate context, they are often
used as "filler" and can easily be eliminated.
Wordy: Any particular type of dessert is fine with me. (9
Concise: Any dessert is fine with me. (6 words)
Wordy: Balancing the budget by Friday is an impossibility
without some kind of extra help. (14 words)
Concise: Balancing the budget by Friday is impossible
without extra help. (10 words)
Wordy: For all intents and purposes, American industrial
productivity generally depends on certain factors that
are really more psychological in kind than of any given
technological aspect. (26 words)
Concise: American industrial productivity depends more
on psychological than on technological factors. (11
Omit repetitive wording
Watch for phrases or longer passages which repeat words
with similar meanings. Words that don't build on the content
of sentences or paragraphs are rarely necessary.
Wordy: I would appreciate it if you would bring to the
attention of your drafting officers the administrator's
dislike of long sentences and paragraphs in messages to
the field and in other items drafted for her signature or
approval, as well as in all correspondence, reports, and
studies. Please encourage your section to keep their
sentences short. (56 words)
Concise: Please encourage your drafting officers to keep
sentences and paragraphs in letters, reports, and
studies short. Dr. Lomas, the administrator, has
mentioned that reports and memos drafted for her
approval recently have been wordy and thus timeconsuming. (37 words)
Wordy: Our branch office currently employs five tellers.
These tellers do an excellent job Monday through
Thursday but cannot keep up with the rush on Friday and
Saturday. (27 words)
Concise: Our branch office currently employs five tellers,
who do an excellent job Monday through Thursday but
cannot keep up with Friday and Saturday rush periods.
(25 words)
Omit Redundant Pairs
Many pairs of words imply each other. Finish implies
complete, so the phrase completely finish is redundant in
most cases. A related expression that's not redundant as
much as it is illogical is "very unique." Since unique means
"one of a kind," adding modifiers of degree such as "very,"
"so," "especially," "somewhat," "extremely," and so on is
illogical. One-of-a-kind-ness has no gradations; something is
either unique or it is not.
Wordy: Before the travel agent was completely able to
finish explaining the various differences among all of the
many very unique vacation packages his travel agency
was offering, the customer changed her future plans.
(33 words)
Concise: Before the travel agent finished explaining the
differences among the unique vacation packages his
travel agency was offering, the customer changed her
plans. (23 words)
Omit Redundant Categories
Specific words imply their general categories, so we usually
don't have to state both. We know that a period is a
segment of time, that pink is a colour, that shiny is an
Wordy: During that time period, many car buyers
preferred cars that were pink in colour and shiny in
appearance. (18 words)
Concise: During that period, many car buyers preferred
pink, shiny cars. (10 words)
Wordy: The microscope revealed a group of organisms
that were round in shape and peculiar in nature. (16
Concise: The microscope revealed a group of peculiar,
round organisms. (9 words)
Changing Phrases
Using phrases to convey meaning that could be presented in
a single word contributes to wordiness. Convert phrases
into single words when possible.
Wordy: The employee with ambition... (4 words)
Concise: The ambitious employee... (3 words)
Wordy: The department showing the best performance...
(6 words)
Concise: The best-performing department... (4 words)
Wordy: We read the letter we received yesterday and
reviewed it thoroughly.
Concise: We thoroughly read the letter we received
Wordy: As you carefully read what you have written to
improve your wording and catch small errors of spelling,
punctuation, and so on, the thing to do before you do
anything else is to try to see where a series of words
expressing action could replace the ideas found in nouns
rather than verbs. (53 words)
Concise: As you edit, first find nominalizations that you
can replace with verb phrases. (13 words)
Change unnecessary that, who, which clauses into
Using a clause to convey meaning that could be presented in
a phrase or even a word contributes to wordiness. Convert
modifying clauses into phrases or single words when
Wordy: The report, which was released recently... (6
Concise: The recently released report... (4 words)
Wordy: All applicants who are interested in the job
must... (9 words)
Concise: All job applicants must... (4 words)
Wordy: The system that is most efficient and accurate...
(8 words)
Concise: The most efficient and accurate system... (6
Change Passive Verbs into Active Verbs
See our document on active and passive voice for a more
thorough explanation of this topic.
Wordy: An account was opened by Mrs. Simms. (7
Concise: Mrs. Simms opened an account. (5 words)
Wordy: Your figures were checked by the research
department. (8 words)
Concise: The research department checked your figures.
(6 words)
Avoid Common Pitfalls
Avoid overusing expletives at the beginning of sentences/
Expletives are phrases of the form it + be-verb or there + beverb. Such expressions can be rhetorically effective for
emphasis in some situations, but overuse or unnecessary
use of expletive constructions creates wordy prose. Take the
following example: "It is imperative that we find a solution."
The same meaning could be expressed with this more
succinct wording: "We must find a solution." But using the
expletive construction allows the writer to emphasize the
urgency of the situation by placing the word imperative near
the beginning of the sentence, so the version with the
expletive may be preferable.
Still, you should generally avoid excessive or unnecessary
use of expletives. The most common kind of unnecessary
expletive construction involves an expletive followed by a
noun and a relative clause beginning with that, which, or
who. In most cases, concise sentences can be created by
eliminating the expletive opening, making the noun the
subject of the sentence, and eliminating the relative
Wordy: It is the governor who signs or vetoes bills. (9
Concise: The governor signs or vetoes bills. (6 words)
Wordy: There are four rules that should be observed: ...
(8 words)
Concise: Four rules should be observed:... (5 words)
Wordy: There was a big explosion, which shook the
windows, and people ran into the street. (15 words)
Concise: A big explosion shook the windows, and people
ran into the street. (12 words)
Avoid overusing noun forms of verbs
Use verbs when possible rather than noun forms known as
nominalizations. Sentences with many nominalizations
usually have forms of be as the main verbs. Using the action
verbs disguised in nominalizations as the main verbs--instead
of forms of be--can help to create engaging rather than dull
Wordy: The function of this department is the collection
of accounts. (10 words)
Concise: This department collects accounts. (4 words)
Wordy: The current focus of the medical profession is
disease prevention. (10 words)
Concise: The medical profession currently focuses on
disease prevention. (8 words)
Avoid unnecessary infinitive phrases
Some infinitive phrases can be converted into finite verbs or
brief noun phrases. Making such changes also often results
in the replacement of a be-verb with an action verb.
Wordy: The duty of a clerk is to check all incoming mail
and to record it. (15 words)
Concise: A clerk checks and records all incoming mail. (8
Wordy: A shortage of tellers at our branch office on
Friday and Saturday during rush hours has caused
customers to become dissatisfied with service. (23
Concise: A teller shortage at our branch office on Friday
and Saturday during rush hours has caused customer
dissatisfaction. (18 words)
Avoid circumlocutions in favour of direct expressions
expressions that take several words to say what could be
said more succinctly. We often overlook them because
many such expressions are habitual figures of speech. In
writing, though, they should be avoided since they add extra
words without extra meaning. Of course, occasionally you
may for rhetorical effect decide to use, say, an expletive
construction instead of a more succinct expression. These
guidelines should be taken as general recommendations, not
absolute rules.
Wordy: At this/that point in time... (2/4 words)
Concise: Now/then... (1 word)
Wordy: In accordance with your request... (5 words)
Concise: As you requested... (3 words)
Wordy: It is possible that nothing will come of these
preparations. (10 words)
Concise: Nothing may come of these preparations. (6
Wordy: She has the ability to influence the outcome. (8
Concise: She can influence the outcome. (5 words)
Wordy: It is necessary that we take a stand on this
pressing issue. (12 words)
Concise: We must take a stand on this pressing issue. (9
Copyright ©1995-2011 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Improving Sentence Clarity
There are many strategies for improving the clarity of your
sentences and your papers.
Go from old to new information
Introduce your readers to the "big picture" first by giving
them information they already know. Then they can link
what's familiar to the new information you give them. As that
new information becomes familiar, it too becomes old
information that can link to newer information. The following
example sentence is clear and understandable because it
uses old information to lead to new information:
Every semester after final exams are over, I'm faced with
the problem of what to do with books of lecture notes
(new information). They (old) might be useful some day,
but they just keep piling up on my bookcase (new).
Someday, it (old) will collapse under the weight of
information I might never need.
Here is a sentence that is not as clear. It moves from new
information to old information:
Lately, most movies I've seen have been merely secondrate entertainment, but occasionally there are some
with worthwhile themes. The rapid disappearance of the
Indian culture (new) is the topic of a recent movie (old) I
Did you find the second sentence hard to read or
understand? If so, it could be because the old information
comes late in the sentence after the new information. A
clearer version that moves from old information to new
information might look like this:
Lately, most movies I've seen have been merely secondrate entertainment, but occasionally there are some
with worthwhile themes. One recent movie (old) I saw
was about the rapid disappearance of the Indian culture.
Transitional words
There are many words in English that cue our readers to
relationships between sentences, joining sentences
I like autumn, and yet autumn is a sad time of the year,
too. The leaves turn bright shades of red and the
weather is mild, but I can't help thinking ahead to the
winter and the ice storms that will surely blow through
here. In addition, that will be the season of chapped
faces, too many layers of clothes to put on, and days
when I'll have to shovel heaps of snow from my car's
Be careful about placement of subordinate clauses
Avoid interrupting the main clause with a subordinate clause
if the interruption will cause confusion:
Clear (subordinate clause at the end): Industrial spying is
increasing rapidly because of the growing use of
computers to store and process corporate information.
Clear (subordinate clause at the beginning): Because of
the growing use of computers to store and process
corporate information, industrial spying is increasing
Not as clear (subordinate clause embedded in the
middle): Industrial spying, because of the growing use of
computers to store and process corporate information,
is increasing rapidly.
Use active voice
Sentences in active voice are usually easier to understand
than those in passive voice because active-voice
constructions indicate clearly the performer of the action
expressed in the verb. Changing from passive voice to active
often results in a more concise sentence. So, use active
voice unless you have good reason to use the passive. For
example, the passive is useful when you don't want to call
attention to the doer; when the doer is obvious, unimportant,
or unknown; or when passive voice is the conventional style
among your readers.
Clear (active): The committee decided to postpone the
Not as clear (passive): A decision was reached to
postpone the vote.
Use parallel constructions
When you have a series of words, phrases, or clauses, put
them in parallel form (similar grammatical construction) so
that the reader can identify the linking relationship more
easily and clearly.
Clear (parallel): In Florida, where the threat of hurricanes
is an annual event, we learned that it is important (1) to
become aware of the warning signs, (2) to know what
precautions to take, and (3) to decide when to seek
Not as clear (not parallel): In Florida, where the threat of
hurricanes is an annual event, we learned that it is
important (1) to become aware of the warning signs. (2)
There are precautions to take, and (3) deciding when to
take shelter is important.
In the second sentence, notice how the string of "things to
be aware of in Florida" does not create a parallel structure.
Also, notice how much more difficult it is for a reader to
follow the meaning of the second sentence compared to the
first one.
Avoid noun strings
Try not to string nouns together one after the other
because a series of nouns is difficult to understand. One way
to revise a string of nouns is to change one noun to a verb.
Unclear (string of nouns): This report explains our
investment growth stimulation projects.
clearer: This report explains our projects to stimulate
growth in investments.
Avoid overusing noun forms of verbs
Use verbs when possible rather than noun forms known as
Unclear (use of nominalization): The implementation of
the plan was successful.
Clearer: The plan was implemented successfully.
Avoid multiple negatives
Use affirmative forms rather than several negatives
because multiple negatives are difficult to understand.
Unclear (multiple negatives, passive): Less attention is
paid to commercials that lack human-interest stories
than to other kinds of commercials.
Clearer: People pay more attention to commercials with
human interest stories than to other kinds of
Choose action verbs over forms of be
When possible, avoid using forms of be as the main verbs in
your sentences and clauses. This problem tends to
accompany nominalization (see above). Instead of using a be
verb, focus on the actions you wish to express, and choose
the appropriate verbs. In the following example, two ideas
are expressed: 1) that there is a difference between
television and newspaper news reporting, and 2) the nature
of that difference. The revised version expresses these two
main ideas in the two main verbs.
Unclear (overuse of be verbs): One difference between
television news reporting and the coverage provided by
newspapers is the time factor between the actual
happening of an event and the time it takes to be
reported. The problem is that instantaneous coverage is
physically impossible for newspapers.
Clearer: Television news reporting differs from that of
newspapers in that television, unlike newspapers, can
provide instantaneous coverage of events as they
Avoid unclear pronoun references
Be sure that the pronouns you use refer clearly to a noun in
the current or previous sentence. If the pronoun refers to a
noun that has been implied but not stated, you can clarify
the reference by explicitly using that noun. This, that, these,
those, he, she, it, they, and we are useful pronouns for
referring back to something previously mentioned. Be sure,
however, that what you are referring to is clear.
Unclear (unclear pronoun reference): With the spread of
globalized capitalism, American universities increasingly
follow a corporate fiscal model, tightening budgets and
hiring temporary contract employees as teachers. This
has prompted faculty and adjunct instructors at many
schools to join unions as a way of protecting job security
and benefits.
Clearer: With the spread of globalized capitalism,
American universities increasingly follow a corporate
fiscal model, tightening budgets and hiring temporary
contract employees as teachers. This trend has
prompted faculty and adjunct instructors at many
schools to join unions as a way of protecting job security
and benefits.
Unclear (unclear pronoun reference): Larissa worked in
a national forest last summer, which may be her career
Clearer: Larissa worked in a national forest last summer;
forest management may be her career choice.
Copyright ©1995-2011 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Sentence Fragments
Fragments are incomplete sentences. Usually, fragments
are pieces of sentences that have become disconnected
from the main clause. One of the easiest ways to correct
them is to remove the period between the fragment and the
main clause. Other kinds of punctuation may be needed for
the newly combined sentence.
Fragment: Purdue offers many majors in engineering.
Such as electrical, chemical, and industrial engineering.
Possible Revision: Purdue offers many majors in
engineering, such as electrical, chemical, and industrial
Fragment: Coach Dietz exemplified this behaviour by
walking off the field in the middle of a game. Leaving her
team at a time when we needed her.
Possible Revision: Coach Dietz exemplified this behaviour
by walking off the field in the middle of a game, leaving
her team at a time when we needed her.
Fragment: I need to find a new roommate. Because the
one I have now isn't working out too well.
Possible Revision: I need to find a new roommate
because the one I have now isn't working out too well.
Fragment: The current city policy on housing is
incomplete as it stands. Which is why we believe the
proposed amendments should be passed.
Possible Revision: Because the current city policy on
housing is incomplete as it stands, we believe the
proposed amendments should be passed.
You may have noticed that newspaper and magazine
journalists often use a dependent clause as a separate
sentence when it follows clearly from the preceding main
clause, as in the last example above. This is a conventional
journalistic practice, often used for emphasis. For academic
writing and other more formal writing situations, however,
you should avoid such journalistic fragment sentences.
Some fragments are not clearly pieces of sentences that
have been left unattached to the main clause; they are
written as main clauses but lack a subject or main verb.
No main verb
Fragment: A story with deep thoughts and emotions.
Possible Revisions:
Direct object: She told a story with deep thoughts and
Appositive: Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," a story with
deep thoughts and emotions, has impressed critics for
Fragment: Toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
Possible Revisions:
Complete verb: Toys of all kinds were thrown
Direct object: They found toys of all kinds thrown
Fragment: A record of accomplishment beginning when
you were first hired.
Possible Revisions:
Direct object: I've noticed a record of accomplishment
beginning when you were first hired
Main verb: A record of accomplishment began when you
were first hired.
No Subject
Fragment: With the ultimate effect of all advertising is to
sell the product.
Possible Revisions:
Remove preposition: The ultimate effect of all advertising
is to sell the product.
Fragment: By paying too much attention to polls can
make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative
Possible Revisions:
Remove preposition: Paying too much attention to polls
can make a political leader unwilling to propose
innovative policies.
Fragment: For doing freelance work for a competitor got
Phil fired.
Possible Revisions:
Remove preposition: Doing freelance work for a
competitor got Phil fired.
Rearrange: Phil got fired for doing freelance work for a
These last three examples of fragments with no subjects
are also known as mixed constructions, that is, sentences
constructed out of mixed parts. They start one way (often
with a long prepositional phrase) but end with a regular
predicate. Usually the object of the preposition (often a
gerund, as in the last two examples) is intended as the
subject of the sentence, so removing the preposition at the
beginning is usually the easiest way to edit such errors.
Copyright ©1995-2011 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses
When you want to use commas and semicolons in
sentences and when you are concerned about whether a
sentence is or is not a fragment, a good way to start is to be
able to recognize dependent and independent clauses. The
definitions offered here will help you with this.
An independent clause is a group of words that contains a
subject and verb and expresses a complete thought. An
independent clause is a sentence.
Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry quiz.
A dependent clause is a group of words that contains a
subject and verb but does not express a complete thought.
A dependent clause cannot be a sentence. Often a
dependent clause is marked by a dependent marker word.
When Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry
quiz . . . (What happened when he studied? The thought
is incomplete.)
A dependent marker word is a word added to the beginning
of an independent clause that makes it into a dependent
When Jim studied in the Sweet Shop for his chemistry
quiz, it was very noisy.
Some common dependent markers are: after, although, as,
as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order to,
since, though, unless, until, whatever, when, whenever,
whether, and while.
Some Common Errors to Avoid
Comma Splices
A comma splice is the use of a comma between two
independent clauses. You can usually fix the error by
changing the comma to a period and therefore making the
two clauses into two separate sentences, by changing the
comma to a semicolon, or by making one clause dependent
by inserting a dependent marker word in front of it.
Incorrect: I like this class, it is very interesting.
Correct: I like this class. It is very interesting.
(or) I like this class; it is very interesting.
(or) I like this class, and it is very interesting.
(or) I like this class because it is very interesting.
(or) Because it is very interesting, I like this class.
Fused Sentences
Fused sentences happen when there are two independent
clauses not separated by any form of punctuation. This error
is also known as a run-on sentence. The error can
sometimes be corrected by adding a period, semicolon, or
colon to separate the two sentences.
Incorrect: My professor is intelligent I've learned a lot
from her.
Correct: My professor is intelligent. I've learned a lot
from her.
(or) My professor is intelligent; I've learned a lot from her.
(or) My professor is intelligent, and I've learned a lot from
(or) My professor is intelligent; moreover, I've learned a
lot from her.
Sentence Fragments
Sentence fragments happen by treating a dependent clause
or other incomplete thought as a complete sentence. You
can usually fix this error by combining it with another
sentence to make a complete thought or by removing the
dependent marker.
Incorrect: Because I forgot the exam was today.
Correct: Because I forgot the exam was today, I didn't
(or) I forgot the exam was today.
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rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Dangling Modifiers and How to Correct Them
A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word
not clearly stated in the sentence. A modifier describes,
clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept.
Having finished the assignment, Jill turned on the TV.
"Having finished" states an action but does not name the
doer of that action. In English sentences, the doer must be
the subject of the main clause that follows. In this sentence,
it is Jill. She seems logically to be the one doing the action
("having finished"), and this sentence therefore does not
have a dangling modifier.
The following sentence has an incorrect usage:
Having finished the assignment, the TV was turned on.
"Having finished" is a participle expressing action, but the
doer is not the TV set (the subject of the main clause): TV
sets don't finish assignments. Since the doer of the action
expressed in the participle has not been clearly stated, the
participial phrase is said to be a dangling modifier.
Strategies for revising dangling modifiers:
Name the appropriate or logical doer of the action as the
subject of the main clause:
Having arrived late for practice, a written excuse was
Who arrived late? This sentence says that the written
excuse arrived late. To revise, decide who actually arrived
late. The possible revision might look like this:
Having arrived late for practice, the team captain
needed a written excuse.
The main clause now names the person (the captain) who
did the action in the modifying phrase (arrived late).
Change the phrase that dangles into a complete
introductory clause by naming the doer of the action in that
Without knowing his name, it was difficult to introduce
Who didn't know his name? This sentence says that "it"
didn't know his name. To revise, decide who was trying to
introduce him. The revision might look something like this:
Because Maria did not know his name, it was difficult to
introduce him.
The phrase is now a complete introductory clause; it does
not modify any other part of the sentence, so is not
considered "dangling."
Combine the phrase and main clause into one:
To improve his results, the experiment was done again.
Who wanted to improve results? This sentence says that
the experiment was trying to improve its own results. To
revise, combine the phrase and the main clause into one
sentence. The revision might look something like this:
He improved his results by doing the experiment again.
More examples of dangling modifiers and their revisions:
Incorrect: After reading the original study, the article
remains unconvincing.
Revised: After reading the original study, I find the article
Incorrect: Relieved of your responsibilities at your job,
your home should be a place to relax.
Revised: Relieved of your responsibilities at your job, you
should be able to relax at home.
Incorrect: The experiment was a failure, not having
studied the lab manual carefully.
Revised: They failed the experiment, not having studied
the lab manual carefully.
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rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Parallel Structure
Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words
to show that two or more ideas have the same level of
importance. This can happen at the word, phrase, or clause
level. The usual way to join parallel structures is with the use
of coordinating conjunctions such as "and" or "or."
Words and Phrases
With the -ing form (gerund) of words:
Parallel: Mary likes hiking, swimming, and bicycling.
With infinitive phrases:
Parallel: Mary likes to hike, to swim, and to ride a bicycle.
Mary likes to hike, swim, and ride a bicycle.
(Note: You can use "to" before all the verbs in a sentence or
only before the first one.)
Do not mix forms.
Not Parallel: Mary likes hiking, swimming, and to ride a
Parallel: Mary likes hiking, swimming, and riding a bicycle.
Not Parallel: The production manager was asked to write
his report quickly, accurately, and in a detailed manner.
Parallel: The production manager was asked to write his
report quickly, accurately, and thoroughly.
Not Parallel: The teacher said that he was a poor
student because he waited until the last minute to study
for the exam, completed his lab problems in a careless
manner, and his motivation was low.
Parallel: The teacher said that he was a poor student
because he waited until the last minute to study for the
exam, completed his lab problems in a careless manner,
and lacked motivation.
A parallel structure that begins with clauses must keep on
with clauses. Changing to another pattern or changing the
voice of the verb (from active to passive or vice versa) will
break the parallelism.
Not Parallel: The coach told the players that they should
get a lot of sleep, that they should not eat too much, and
to do some warm-up exercises before the game.
Parallel: The coach told the players that they should get
a lot of sleep, that they should not eat too much, and that
they should do some warm-up exercises before the
— or —
Parallel: The coach told the players that they should get
a lot of sleep, not eat too much, and do some warm-up
exercises before the game.
Not Parallel: The salesman expected that he would
present his product at the meeting, that there would be
time for him to show his slide presentation, and that
questions would be asked by prospective buyers.
Parallel: The salesman expected that he would present
his product at the meeting, that there would be time for
him to show his slide presentation, and that prospective
buyers would ask him questions.
Lists after a Colon
Be sure to keep all the elements in a list in the same form.
Not Parallel: The dictionary can be used for these
purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations,
correct spellings, and looking up irregular verbs.
Parallel: The dictionary can be used for these purposes:
to find word meanings, pronunciations, correct spellings,
and irregular verbs.
Proofreading Strategies to Try
Skim your paper, pausing at the words "and" and "or." Check
on each side of these words to see whether the items joined
are parallel. If not, make them parallel.
If you have several items in a list, put them in a column to
see if they are parallel. Listen to the sound of the items in a
list or the items being compared. Do you hear the same
kinds of sounds? For example, is there a series of "-ing"
words beginning each item? Or do your hear a rhythm being
repeated? If something is breaking that rhythm or repetition
of sound, check to see if it needs to be made parallel.
Copyright ©1995-2011 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All
rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or
redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and
conditions of fair use.
Appendix IV
How to format your thesis in Microsoft Word
The purpose of this document is to give you some pointers
on how to use Microsoft Word for your thesis.
A. Create an automatic backup file of your thesis.
Click on the Office button.
Select Word Options and then Advanced
Scroll down to the Save section and check Always
Create Backup Copy
B. Autorecovery Files.
Word automatically creates autorecovery files but it is
necessary to change where they are saved.
Click on the Office button and select Word Options
Select Save
Next to AutoRecover file location click on Browse.
The default file is saved under your profile, but once
you log out you will lose the autorecover file. It is
better to save it to another drive such as your H:
C. Turn off the automatic bullets, numbering, etc.
Do the steps in A.1 and A.2
Select Proofing and click on AutoCorrect Options
Under the Autoformat tab and remove the check
boxes under Apply for Built-in Headings styles,
Automatic bulleted lists, List styles, and other
paragraph styles.
Under Autoformat As You Type tab, remove the
check mark under Apply as you type for: Automatic
bulleted list, Border lines, Built-in Heading Styles,
Automatic numbered lists, Tables. Also remove the
check boxes for Format beginning of list item like the
one before it and Define styles based on your
D. Spelling
Click on the Office button and select Word Options
Select Proofing
• Deselect Ignore words in UPPERCASE
• Deselect Ignore words with numbers
• Deselect Ignore Internet and file addresses
E. Grammar
Click on the Office button and select Word Options
Select Proofing
• Select Mark grammar errors as you type
• Select Check grammar with spelling
• Select Writing Style: Grammar & Style
There are also three Settings that must be set to
Require to check for correct formatting:
• Comma required before last list item
• Punctuation required with quotes
• Spaces required between sentences: one space.
F. Modifying a Style
Word comes with many styles that have already been
created and formatted. To properly format your thesis, it is
necessary to format some of the styles that already exist or
to create new ones.
Make sure the Home tab is selected and the styles
section is displayed.
Click in the lower right hand corner to see the style
You will see the following screen with a list of styles
that already exist. Click on the drop down arrow and
click Modify. After selecting Modify, you will see a
screen that describes the style, such as the name,
style that it is based on, and the style that follows it
once you hit the enter key. You will also see a
preview of the style and a description of the existing
formatting of the style.
Click on Format to modify the style.
G. Creating a New Style
You will also be able to create a new style by clicking on the
following button: You will be prompted for a name for the
style. You are able to base it on any style that is already
created. Click on format to format the style however you
A word of caution: be careful about selecting automatically
update. Any changes that you make in the text to the style
at any time will automatically be made to that style
throughout your thesis. This is dangerous because you
might not want to change the style everywhere but only in
one place. I would recommend not selecting it.
H. Creating Section Breaks for Page Numbering
The thesis will have to be in one file when converted
to PDF format for printing. It is necessary to have
section breaks between the cover page and all the
other personal information and then the body of the
thesis. The page numbering is different for these
• There is no page number on the cover page.
• The page numbers for other information is in Roman
numerals and the body of the thesis is in Arabic
• The first section break needs to occur after the
cover page and the second section break after the
Acknowledgements, or if you do not want
Acknowledgements, it is after the last page before
the body of the thesis begins.
• Keep in mind that all text begins on an odd
numbered page
Go to the Page Layout tab and select Break
Under Section Break Types select Next Page for the
first section break and Continuous for the second
section break.
I. Inserting Page Numbers
To insert the page numbers in any section you must
be in the correct section. You will need to add the
section information at the bottom of the screen. It is
no longer the default.
Right click on the page number at the bottom of the
screen.You will see the following screen. Select
Section to turn it on as well as page number to see
how many pages there are. It will appear at the
bottom of the screen.
Go to the Insert menu, and click on Page Numbers.
The position will be Bottom of page. Select Plain
Number 2.
To format the numbers correctly, you will need to
select Insert, then Page Number then Format Page
Next to Number Format, Click on the down arrow to
select the type of number. Under Page numbering,
Select Start At and type in the following:
For Arabic numerals: type in 1
For Roman numerals: type in i
J. Footnotes
Many times, there are problems inserting footnotes and
then getting the entire footnote to show on the same page..
Go to References and select Insert Footnote. Click in
the lower right hand corner to see the footnote
formatting list.
Make sure Continuous is selected under Format,
Numbering. This way you will be able to insert a
footnote at a later time and it will renumber all the
following footnotes. Number format is 1, 2, 3, etc.
Make sure Start at is 1.
K. Getting the Entire Footnote on One Page
A combination of settings will fix this problem. Set
the Line Spacing of the Footnote Text Style to Exactly
Click in the lower right hand corner to see the styles
list. In the Styles list, select Footnote Text and then
In the Modify Style dialog box, click on Format and
then click on Paragraph.
In the Line Spacing list, click Exactly In the At box,
type a point size slightly larger than the font size of
the footnote text, then click OK. For example, if the
font size of the footnote text is 10 points, set the line
space to exactly 10.5 points. If you set the line
spacing to a size smaller than the point size of the
type, the top or bottom of the text may not be visible.
L. Importing Figures/Tables/Images
There are many ways to import figures, table, images, etc.
Some take up a lot of space on your hard disk, can be
megabytes in size and will slow down your thesis, if not crash
your computer. Once your computer can no longer load the
objects, they will disappear and a small square box will
appear in place of the object. This is especially true of Excel
spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides. The following way is
the most expedient and takes up the least amount of room.
Copy the material
In Word, go to Home, Paste Special. Select from the
following formats listed below (each picture/object
is different and might look different depending on
how it is imported. It is best to try all three to see
which one has the best resolution):
• Picture (Windows Metafile)
• Picture (Enhanced Metafile)
• Picture (PNG)
You will see a description for each selection when
you click on a selection. Once you have imported the
material, follow the instructions in 23 below.
One of the problems with Word is that the
figures/tables/images that are imported are, as a
default, set to float over text which means that the
picture will NOT be locked into place once imported.
Any text that is added will cause the
figures/tables/images to be moved and float over
the text, to show up on the next page or to
disappear partly if not completely. Here is how to fix
this problem and anchor them into place:
Insert the picture or object into the thesis document
Select the picture or object by left clicking on it once
Right click and select Text Wrapping and then In
Line With Text
It is also possible to resize the picture to make it fit
on a page. Follow the same procedures are above,
but select the size tab and change the scale height
percentage of the picture accordingly.
M. Automatic Numbering of Figure and Table Captions
and Updating them
To set up the automatic numbering of figure and/or
table captions do the following:
• Click the home tab, and then click in the lower right
hand corner to see Styles list.
• Select Figure Caption or Table Caption from the list
of Styles
• Click the Modify button.
• In the Modify Style window click on the Format
button and select Numbering.
• In the Numbering window, if a style with Figure or
Table caption is not defined, select Define New
Number Format. The style will then be created. If it
is already there, click on the style, either Figure or
Table and select Define New Number Format.
• Look at the Number Format box, and type 'Figure' or
‘Table’ before the number and a '._'after the number.
The _ signifies a space. Click OK.
• In the Modify Style window, check the box for
Automatically Update. Click OK.
To automatically update the cross references to the
figure and table captions, do the following:
• Go to References, Cross Reference
Under Reference Type: Select Numbered Item
Under Insert Reference to: Select Paragraph
Select the figure or table to cross-reference and
click on Insert.
To update all cross references if you decide to add a
figure or table later, select the entire document,
right-click, and then click Update Field.
N. Automatically create a Table of Contents
In your document, click within the first major heading
that you want to appear in the Table of Contents.
Apply the Heading 1 style to that paragraph. In the
same way, apply the Heading 2 style to subheadings, Heading 3 style to sub-sub-headings etc. If
you don't like the way the heading styles look (eg, you
want a different font or font size or colour), don't
format the text directly. Instead, modify the heading
Choose References > Table of Contents. There are
two built-in 'automatic' tables of contents: Automatic
Table 1 and Automatic Table 2. If you click the
thumbnail for either of these, your table of contents
will be inserted into a content control, and Word will
add a heading.
At the bottom of the menu, you can choose Insert
table of contents. To modify the Table of Contents
itself, you need to display the Table of Contents
To display the dialog for an existing table of contents
in Word 2007 and Word 2010: click within the ToC
and then click References > Table of Contents >
Insert Table of Contents. By default, Word shows
three levels in your Table of Contents. That is, it puts
the text from Heading 1, Heading 2 and Heading 3
in the Table of Contents. If you want to show more or
fewer or different levels, in the Table of Contents
dialog, change the number in the Show levels box. If
you need to use other styles, you can put them in
your Table of Contents. In the Table of Contents
dialog, click Options, and allocate your style(s) to the
appropriate level(s).
Tables of Contents don't update automatically when
you add a new heading to your document. This is
because a ToC is a field. To update a Table of
Contents, put your cursor in the Table of Contents
and press F9 to update it. When you update your
Table of Contents, always choose to update the
Entire Table.
O. Formatting your Bibliography
To obtain the hanging indent required for the
Bibliography. First, type in your citations without
worrying about indents. Then, highlight what you
want indented.
Select Format and then Paragraph. In the dialog box,
go to the selection box marked "Special" underneath
the label "Indentation" and click on the arrow.
Choose "hanging" as your option, and click OK
To sort your list alphabetically, select the entire
bibliography text. On the Home tab, in the Paragraph
group, click Sort.
In the Sort Text dialog box, under Sort by, click
Paragraphs and Text, and then click Ascending.
A Final Checklist
Use this checklist when you submit any written
work to your supervisor and for copy-editing and
proofing your dissertation
! Have you run two sentences together
incorrectly without a period, conjunction, or
semicolon separating them?
! Have you ended every sentence with a period,
question mark, or exclamation point?
! Are your thoughts within sentences broken up
correctly by commas for easier understanding?
! Have you broken up series with commas?
! Have you used a period after abbreviations?
! If you are in doubt about the proper punctuation
of a sentence, have you asked or looked at our
handouts on punctuation at
! Did you remember to place exact quotes within
quotation marks?
! Did you place all periods and commas inside the
quotation marks while placing semicolons and
colons outside them?
! Have you used them correctly to indicate
possession? If you are unsure, check a
grammar book.
! Have you capitalised names of persons, cities,
countries, streets, and titles?
! Have you capitalised a quotation according to
the original and according to the needs of your
! If you are unsure of the spelling of a certain
word, look it up.
! Be especially careful of the words listed as
spelling nightmares: "ei" and "ie" words, words
which add "-ing" and "ed," and words with one or
more sets of double letters.
! Check each sentence to make sure it has a
subject, a verb, and a complete thought.
! Check every subject and verb to make sure that
if you have used a singular subject, you have
also used a singular verb. Similarly, a plural
subject needs a plural verb.
! Have you varied the length of sentences in each
paragraph? If your sentences are too long,
break them into shorter units, but remember
that very short sentences tend to produce a
jerky style of writing.
! Does each sentence follow clearly and logically
from the one before it? Have you used some
type of transitional device between each
! Have you incorrectly jumped about in different
! Have you used the correct form of the verb to
express the tense you want?
! Does each paragraph have a topic sentence
that states the main idea?
! Are transitions used between sentences and
! Is there a concluding sentence for each
! Have you used examples and vivid specific
details to describe your topic?
! Have you used explanatory sentences to give
your opinion or judgment on the topic?
! Have you included sentences that pertain only to
that idea?
! Have you left out any words?

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