Style Tips for Writing Your Ph.D. Thesis

We have been looking at the way that your thesis needs to be structured and how quotation and analysis can help you to develop your originality. What we need to think about, too, is the way in which you use language as a whole throughout your thesis to showcase your ideas to the best effect.

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  • The first thing to remember is that with a thesis you are able to use the first person when writing; indeed, you are expected to do so.
  • This in many ways contradicts all the years of academic styling that you have undergone, where the emphasis on being objective was reflected in the style in which you wrote – writing ‘it might be suggested’ rather than stating an opinion outright.
  • When you style your Ph.D., your independence is restored and you are able to write in the first person again: this is a double edged sword in many ways because you need to write with control over your evidence, methodology and technique whilst at the same time expressing your opinion via the strength of your argument.
  • The language that you use must be of the highest quality, so it might be a good idea for you to go back and take another look at how you write – or rather ‘construct’ – your sentences and paragraphs, especially if your subject area does not require you to write a great deal.
  • Look carefully at how you express ideas and ask yourself the following questions:
    • Am I expressing this idea both clearly and coherently?
    • Is the language appropriate to this particular section and or idea?
    • Could I sharpen the argument by changing my language?
    • Am I being as direct as I can be or is my language obscuring my point?
    • Are my sentences completely in control?
    • Am I using punctuation effectively?
    • Are my paragraphs becoming too long
  • Language should never be thought to be better for being obscure. It is a common misconception that ‘long words’ are better that ‘short’! in fact the essence of good English is clarity of expression so that should be your motivating factor in the structuring of the language in your thesis.

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