PhD thesis crafting: what common mistakes should be avoided

Nothing feels worse than making an unforced error. The impact it can have on a person or process isn’t always apparent until it’s too late. Admittedly, this is a tad dramatic, however, if you’re a PhD candidate who has spent years researching and developing a thesis, making a mistake is not going to sit well. Here are some tips for avoiding common mistakes.

Consider your sources

  • Make sure you have a bibliography that is complete. It provides the review committee with a roadmap detailing where your theory started and the conclusions it helped you form.
  • Your bibliography is a record of your ability to organize as well as manage information in a responsible manner. If you can’t keep a solid record of your sources, well, you may want to look into who else is hiring.

Don’t be vague

  • Specify! You have a theory, right? Don’t be hesitant, now is the time to assert yourself and your findings.
  • Allowing for generalizations can be interpreted by the committee as a sign of weakness or a lack of confidence in your thesis.

Be honest

  • Don’t provide information or quotations from books, journals, articles or studies  you have not actually read.
  • A mistake like this will not only question your integrity but also the integrity of your thesis, so don’t blow it.

Grammar/Punctuation errors

  • Simply put, errors such as these are unacceptable, no matter how tired or stressed you are.
  • If you are not satisfied with your own proofreading, reach out to others. Ask a colleague to check your work. Don’t let something as simple as a spelling error jeopardize something so important.

Don’t end on a bad note

  • The conclusion is arguably the most important piece of your dissertation. And there are plenty of reasons why.
  • It is the last thing the committee will read and the first thing they will discuss, so try not to review everything that brought you to your conclusion. That sort of redundancy is a waste of their time and yours.
  • It represents the culmination of your complete work. While you are the voice, the research must show what it can and cannot prove.
  • You are, in effect, validating yourself. Don’t surprise the committee with new information you thought would prove useful. This will only work against you, as you may be perceived as unwilling or unable to place that information appropriately in your thesis.