Better Dissertation Writing in English

Thesis Structure

Grammar

    1. Articles (the, a, an) are not used properly.
    2. Subjects and verbs do not agree.
    3. “To” can be a preposition as in “a key to solving the problem,” “Buttonwood admits to never having heard of this company before” (The Economist, October 24, 2003) or “most people in Taiwan are opposed to reunifying with the mainland” (New York Times, January 26, 2003). But this usage is often confused with its being an infinitive (as in “a key to solve the problem”). Of course, sometimes both make sense. Here is another example: “[This] can take a claim to having been the most important work of the twentieth century in the philosophy of science” (Wittgenstein’s Poker, 2001).

Style (See Also The Economist’s Style Guide)

For example, do not write

Financial options took Taiwan’s capital market by storm in mid-1997. Investors were so wild about them that sacred finance theories taught by professors were trashed.

Instead, write

When financial options appeared on Taiwan’s exchange in mid-1997, their prices initially ran counter to what orthodox finance theories would predict perhaps because of temporary market overreactions.

Need I mention that you should never poke fun at professors? If you have time, try to rewrite the following paragraph from the New York Times (January 12, 2003) to suit a thesis.

“I’ve spent all my life around chickens, and I’ve seen no instance of anything I’d call intelligence,” said Edwin Jemison, who sells chemicals for the Jones-Hamilton Company to chicken producers. “All a chicken wants is to be the same every day, to eat his fill and be comfortable. I think that’s a sign of low intelligence.” Mr. Jemison did admit that the domestic turkey is probably the gold standard for stupidity. While chickens can survive a rainstorm outside, turkeys will look skyward and drown as their throats fill with water.

Take the following sentence as an example:

A barrier option is known to have the property of being less expensive than a plain vanilla option with the same parameters.

Isn’t it much cleaner to write simply

A barrier option is less expensive than an otherwise identical plain vanilla option.

Punctuation

For example, do not write

It has been amply documented that improper diet can cause heart disease[1].

Instead, write

It has been amply documented that improper diet can cause heart disease [1].

For example, do not write

There are three kinds of lies :lies ,damn lies ,and statistics .

Instead, write

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.

For example, do not write

Adam Smith's immortal words for the price mechanism are “invisible hand”.

Instead, write

Adam Smith's immortal words for the price mechanism are “invisible hand.”

For example, do not write

This result is due to Erdos, et al..

Instead, write

This result is due to Erdos, et al.

For example, do not write

Mahler composed Das Lied as his swan song3.

Instead, write

Mahler composed Das Lied as his swan song.3

Bibliography

Example:

Heath, David, Robert Jarrow, and Andrew Morton. “Contingent Claim Valuation with a Random Evolution of Interest Rates.” The Review of Financial Studies, 9, No. 1 (1990), 54--78.

Useful Links


Updated Copyright 2004 by Yuh-Dauh Lyuu