How to write a thesis or disseration – Some writing rules

This part of the guide outlines some simple rules to follow that will make your writing so much easier to read.

Some writing rules

Describe the structure of each section

Explain what is in the section, and how the contents relate to each other. Likewise, at the end of the section, write a transition into what will follow. Remind your reader of the big ideas, what they have learned, and describe the link with the following section. This recursive idea applies equally to sub-sections.

Make your titles work

Rather than Review of the Question or Literature Review use a descriptive title such as Risk Perception Paradigms. Sub-titles follow the same rule. Although sections such as Results and Discussion are more difficult to rename!

Use short sentences

Twenty words maximum. It is easier to read and will help you to decompose your ideas.

Use paragraphs

Each paragraph contains an idea, an argument. A three-line paragraph is a little short. Could it be merged into the following paragraph? On the other hand, a twenty-line paragraph is too long. Is it really only one idea? Or can the content be divided up?

Avoid personal pronouns

Avoid using I and we when you write. Rather than say “In this dissertation, I will show…” use an impersonal style such as “This dissertation will show…”. This is the style your readers are used to.

Use simple vocabulary and syntax

Your ideas will be just as persuasive if you explain them simply. An argument is won by the rigour of the reasoning, not by style.

Be consistent in your terminology

If you use the term fatigue factors to collectively describe ideas such as time pressure, effort and the burden of work, do not change it. These fatigue factors cannot become dimensions of fatigue in the next chapter.

Check your spelling

Spelling mistakes don’t make you look good. Use your word-processor to check your spelling.

Avoid using brackets

If the idea is important, write a new sentence. Example. It is annoying (even irritating) to read something, sometimes (but not always) interrupted by useless brackets (often, you can do without).

Avoid footnotes

With the exception of an explanation of acronyms, a date, or a point of detail, put your notes into the body of the document. Most important: do not put your bibliographical references into footnotes. They belong in the body of the text.

Read part one: Just common sense

Read part three: Structure

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