English mistakes commonly made in a dissertation

Students tend to make the same language mistakes over and over again when writing a dissertation. Taking a careful look at these lists of mistakes that we often encounter may help you to break these habits.

Spelling mistakes

Although spellcheck features catch many spelling mistakes, they cannot be relied on entirely. These words are still frequently misspelled in many theses.

IncorrectCorrect
acheiveachieve
benifitbenefit
conciousconscious
definatelydefinitely
dependantdependent
disatisfieddissatisfied
existanceexistence
focussedfocused
heteroskedesticityheteroskedasticity
homogenushomogenous
imediateimmediate
labratorylaboratory
ocassionallyoccasionally
payedpaid
possespossess
practicalypractically
precedureprocedure
publicallypublicly
questionairequestionnaire
respondantrespondent
seperateseparate
skedesticityskedasticity
skewednessskewness
specificly,specifically
suceedsucceed
therefortherefore
undoubtablyundoubtedly
unforseenunforeseen
wetherwhether
wichwhich

Frequently occurring language mistakes

It is rare that the theses we edit do not contain any of the below mistakes. Not using them will set your writing apart and give it a more polished feel.

IncorrectCorrectWhy?
Researches were conducted.Research was conducted.Research is a non-count noun.
Further, the chance of bias is high.Furthermore, the chance of bias is high.Further does not mean “in addition”; furthermore does
The amount of variables may change.The number of variables may change.Use number with countable nouns (e.g., changes), amount with non-count nouns (e.g., air).
A MRI, a HR directiveAn MRI, an HR directiveAn abbreviation that starts with a vowel sound takes “an.”
The teenagers thatThe teenagers whoUse who with people, that with things

Other common mistakes are presented by category below.

Adjectives

IncorrectCorrectExample
Are both similarAre similarAlthough the two cases are similar, they are not identical.
PoliticPoliticalBoth economic and political factors were considered.
So called…, factor based…So-called…, factor-based…The so-called experts only conducted factor-based analyses.
SpeciallyEspeciallyThe authors were especially interested in inflation pressures.

Capitalization

IncorrectCorrectExample
Results Of The InterviewsResults of the interviews or Results of the InterviewsAdditional information is presented in Table 9 (Results of the interviews).

Conjunctions and linking terms

IncorrectCorrectExample
First of all, firstlyFirstFirst, all participants were given a survey.
However …However, …However, most theorists disagree.
LikeSuch asNorthern cities such as Oslo and Helsinki have long, dark winters.

Nouns/noun phrases

IncorrectCorrectExample
Insights inInsights intoThe results offer valuable insights into the problem.
MNC’s, PC’sMNCs, PCsMost MNCs purchase thousands of PCs annually.
One criteriaOne criterionAlthough many criteria were considered, one criterion stood out
Research conclusionResearch conclusionsChapter 6 contains the research conclusions.
Taxi’s, umbrella’sTaxis, umbrellasTaxis are often full of forgotten umbrellas.
The childs behavior, the parents attitudeThe child’s behavior, the parents’ attitudeAlthough the child’s behavior was aggressive, her parents’ attitude was very relaxed.
Two analysisTwo analysesSeveral analyses were conducted, but one analysis was most fruitful.
Two hypothesisTwo hypothesesThis dissertation proposes many hypotheses.

Prepositions/prepositional phrases

IncorrectCorrectExample
Besides, Next toIn addition toIn addition to building dams, the government also invested in roads.
From…till…From…to…The ages ranged from 18 to 24.
In the light ofIn light ofThe test was cancelled in light of the wind.
PerByThe participants were grouped by height.
To what extendTo what extentIt is not known to what extent the subjects were being truthful.

Pronouns

IncorrectCorrectExample
A person…their…A person…his or her (or his/her)A researcher should cite his or her sources.
You…One…If one reads the study, one may indeed be convinced

Punctuating numbers

IncorrectCorrectExample
10.000,0010,000.00The price was exactly $10,000.00.
1960’s1960sMany styles of music emerged in the 1960s.

Quantifiers

IncorrectCorrectExample
A couple ofA few, two/three, a handful ofA few controversial questions were also included.
A lot ofMany, much, several, a great deal ofMuch time was spent on the test.

Terms used in citations

IncorrectCorrectExample
Et al, Et all.Et al.The mutation is thought to be widespread (Han et al., 1999)
Et al. hasEt al. haveOmar et al. have asserted that the effect is temporary.

Verbs/phrasal verbs

IncorrectCorrectExample
Choose yesterdayChose yesterdayThe project manager chose her team before planning began.
Divide inDivide intoThis dissertation is divided into seven sections.
Lead yesterdayLed yesterdayAlthough the Liberals currently lead in the polls, the Conservatives led last week.
Make a photoTake a photoThe time was set to take photos at 20-second intervals.
Send yesterdaySent yesterdayThe email was sent to all employees.

Words that are commonly confused

Which one to use?CorrectWhat’s usually the difference?
Effect/affectThe effect was strong; the drug affected all members of the experimental group.Effect = noun
Affect = verb
Personnel/personalThe company’s personnel do not like to discuss their personal problems.Personnel = noun
Personal = adjective
Principal/principleThe principal author outlined the theories and principles that arose from the study.Principal = adjective
Principle = noun
Were/whereWhere were you?Were = verb
Where = adjective

Following these tips will help you to improve your written academic English in general. The next step is to fine-tune your writing depending on whether you are using American, British, or Australian English!

Is this article helpful?
Sarah Vinz

Sarah's academic background includes a Master of Arts in English, a Master of International Affairs degree, and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. She loves the challenge of finding the perfect formulation or wording and derives much satisfaction from helping students take their academic writing up a notch.

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