6 Common Dissertation Mistakes to Avoid
Whether you’re earning your PhD, DBA, or other doctorate, your dissertation is the pinnacle of your doctoral degree program. That’s why being aware of common—yet avoidable—issues beforehand will make the process smoother.
We've summarized six issues commonly experienced when preparing a dissertation for review, and what you can do to easily avoid them.
- Your dissertation’s preliminary pages are missing, incomplete, or out of order.
Preliminary pages include all pages before your dissertation’s main text begins. While it’s tempting to overlook the importance of these pages, they’ll set the tone for your entire dissertation—and they’re the first pages your reviewers will see. As such, it’s essential that the preliminary pages are not only correctly formatted, but in the correct order. Be sure to refer to your doctoral degree program’s dissertation template rather than guessing how these pages should appear.
- Your dissertation’s abstract is longer than one page.
You've done lots of exciting research for your dissertation and reached unique conclusions you're ready to share with the world. This excitement, not to mention all the knowledge you’ve gleaned, can often make it difficult to summarize your research into a single-page abstract. However, regardless of whether you’re attending a traditional or online university, it’s essential for your abstract to conform to your school’s particular doctoral dissertation guidelines. Typically, this dictates that the abstract be no more than one page.
- Your dissertation contains multiple formatting problems.
Your dissertation’s formatting is just as important as its content. By the time you write your dissertation, you should be familiar with your PhD program’s formatting guidelines. But even at the culmination of your doctoral degree, mistakes can still be made—especially in a lengthy document. Refer to your program’s dissertation template to ensure all formatting is correct, including the preferred citation style, page numbering, margins, and indents.
- Your dissertation contains words from the proposal stage.
Because you’ve spent months, even years, looking at the same document, it can be surprisingly easy to overlook the changes in tense required as your dissertation progresses. Thankfully, this is an easy issue to fix. Using your word processing program’s “find” feature, search for words such as “proposal” or “proposed,” then change them to words that reflect completed study versus proposed study.
- Your dissertation contains academic integrity violations.
This may seem like an obvious one, especially for those at the doctoral level, but academic oversights can happen, even if you didn’t plan them. This holds especially true for plagiarism, which is more than just word-for-word replication of someone else’s prose. Ideas themselves can be plagiarized if they’re not properly cited. Carefully review your on-campus or online university’s doctoral program’s guidelines on academic integrity, then make certain to stick to them…with no exception. Failure to do so could not only have serious ramifications for your dissertation, it could put your entire doctoral degree in jeopardy.
- Your dissertation contains grammatical errors, jargon, unclear paragraph organization, and other common writing blunders.
We’re not all professional writers. That’s why most universities provides students with writing guidance, often in the form of on-campus or online writing centers. These centers are staffed with writing experts who are happy to review your writing. They’ll not only point out and help fix mistakes, they’ll work with you to prevent you from repeating them—a service that will help you with your dissertation and throughout your career.
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