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.

Incorrect Correct
acheive achieve
benifit benefit
concious conscious
definately definitely
dependant dependent
disatisfied dissatisfied
existance existence
focussed focused
heteroskedesticity heteroskedasticity
homogenus homogenous
imediate immediate
labratory laboratory
ocassionally occasionally
payed paid
posses possess
practicaly practically
precedure procedure
publically publicly
questionaire questionnaire
respondant respondent
seperate separate
skedesticity skedasticity
skewedness skewness
specificly, specifically
suceed succeed
therefor therefore
undoubtably undoubtedly
unforseen unforeseen
wether whether
wich which

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.

Incorrect Correct Why?
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 directive An MRI, an HR directive An abbreviation that starts with a vowel sound takes “an.”
The teenagers that The teenagers who Use who with people, that with things

Other common mistakes are presented by category below.

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Adjectives

Incorrect Correct Example
Are both similar Are similar Although the two cases are similar, they are not identical.
Politic Political Both economic and political factors were considered.
So called…, factor based… So-called…, factor-based… The so-called experts only conducted factor-based analyses.
Specially Especially The authors were especially interested in inflation pressures.

Capitalization

Incorrect Correct Example
Results Of The Interviews Results of the interviews or Results of the Interviews Additional information is presented in Table 9 (Results of the interviews).

Conjunctions and linking terms

Incorrect Correct Example
First of all, firstly First First, all participants were given a survey.
However … However, … However, most theorists disagree.
Like Such as Northern cities such as Oslo and Helsinki have long, dark winters.

Nouns/noun phrases

Incorrect Correct Example
Insights in Insights into The results offer valuable insights into the problem.
MNC’s, PC’s MNCs, PCs Most MNCs purchase thousands of PCs annually.
One criteria One criterion Although many criteria were considered, one criterion stood out
Research conclusion Research conclusions Chapter 6 contains the research conclusions.
Taxi’s, umbrella’s Taxis, umbrellas Taxis are often full of forgotten umbrellas.
The childs behavior, the parents attitude The child’s behavior, the parents’ attitude Although the child’s behavior was aggressive, her parents’ attitude was very relaxed.
Two analysis Two analyses Several analyses were conducted, but one analysis was most fruitful.
Two hypothesis Two hypotheses This dissertation proposes many hypotheses.

Prepositions/prepositional phrases

Incorrect Correct Example
Besides, Next to In addition to In addition to building dams, the government also invested in roads.
From…till… From…to… The ages ranged from 18 to 24.
In the light of In light of The test was cancelled in light of the wind.
Per By The participants were grouped by height.
To what extend To what extent It is not known to what extent the subjects were being truthful.

Pronouns

Incorrect Correct Example
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

Incorrect Correct Example
10.000,00 10,000.00 The price was exactly $10,000.00.
1960’s 1960s Many styles of music emerged in the 1960s.

Quantifiers

Incorrect Correct Example
A couple of A few, two/three, a handful of A few controversial questions were also included.
A lot of Many, much, several, a great deal of Much time was spent on the test.

Terms used in citations

Incorrect Correct Example
Et al, Et all. Et al. The mutation is thought to be widespread (Han et al., 1999)
Et al. has Et al. have Omar et al. have asserted that the effect is temporary.

Verbs/phrasal verbs

Incorrect Correct Example
Choose yesterday Chose yesterday The project manager chose her team before planning began.
Divide in Divide into This dissertation is divided into seven sections.
Lead yesterday Led yesterday Although the Liberals currently lead in the polls, the Conservatives led last week.
Make a photo Take a photo The time was set to take photos at 20-second intervals.
Send yesterday Sent yesterday The email was sent to all employees.

Words that are commonly confused

Which one to use? Correct What’s usually the difference?
Effect/affect The effect was strong; the drug affected all members of the experimental group. Effect = noun
Affect = verb
Personnel/personal The company’s personnel do not like to discuss their personal problems. Personnel = noun
Personal = adjective
Principal/principle The principal author outlined the theories and principles that arose from the study. Principal = adjective
Principle = noun
Were/where Where 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!

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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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