Your dissertation is the outcome of prolonged research and analysis, reading, writing and revising. It's that ultimate piece of work which determines your road ahead in your academic career, whether you're pursuing an undergraduate degree, master's or PhD. So naturally, you should make sure that your dissertation turns out as flawless as it can be which should also involve its presentation.
Now let’s assume that your content is absolutely on point, you've performed precise and thorough research, and also indulged in relevant and extensive reading; you've compiled all the details in a concise and rational way, and you've placed a compelling and valid argument depending on your research. Having all the elements properly in place, you wouldn’t want for your examiner to be confused or distracted by the over-abundance of grammatical and spelling errors, incongruousness of formatting and layout and improper referencing.
That’s why it’s wise to review your dissertation after you’re done writing the paper, and there are many ways to revising your academic dissertation. If academic writing isn’t one of your strong suits, ask for help from your friends, seniors or even university professors. The following is a lowdown on 14 things you should watch out for, while proofreading and editing your dissertation to ensure you bring out the best in your paper.
- Spare ample amount of time
So, you’ve finished writing your dissertation. Now shut down your computer, well temporarily. No, contrary to what you believe you aren’t done with preparing your dissertation, but you certainly deserve a break. Take some time out from constantly putting your grey cells to test for a couple of days before revising your paper. This allows your brain to 'forget' how you’ve structured your dissertation and decreases the risk of your assuming what's in the content of your paper, rather than what's written. Also, don't forget to spare enough time for binding and printing, if needed.
- Review the guidelines
Before you proceed with preparing your dissertation, the university has laid out some specific guidelines. Review the particular style followed by your academic institution. Depending on the preferences of your department, your academic paper may follow Modern Language Association (MLA), American Psychological Association (APA), or Chicago style. Understand the demands of the style specified by your respective universities and carefully read the guidelines. See to it that you don’t skip any essential aspect that should be in your academic dissertation writing. After you re-acclimatise yourself with the guidelines, go through your write-up again to look whether anything seems contradictory. After that, read your paper again and even more carefully than before.
- Select your method
Rome wasn’t built overnight and neither is your dissertation, nor is it possible for you to review the entire document at one goes. Try reading the piece of work by dividing the whole document into small parts and focusing on one part at a time. This way you gradually come to the last page. Some students feel it’s convenient to sit in front of a laptop and edit, while others get a hard copy to flip through the pages and point out mistakes. You can choose to review your paper by adopting any of the two processes as per your convenience. Every time you’re done revising the small chunks of content in your paper, you must remember where you stopped previously by marking the pages on your computer or using a bookmark in case of a hard copy.
You must have prepared an index page for your text anyway so reap the benefits of all that effort and edit your paper appropriately. Begin with the first page of your dissertation and proceed to the first five pages or whatever little portion works best for you. The next thing to do is to look for mistakes in your content and the structure of your paper.
- Overall outline
Carefully notice the whole structure of the paper. Does it contain an introductory part which offers a summary of all your major arguments? Does each of the sections in your paper follow a seamless transition from one to another? Have you kept track of all the cutting and pasting you carried out when you wanted to shuffle things up a bit because you wished to present the paper differently? Make sure that it hasn't ruined the logical flow of your arguments. Ensure that you haven't copied and pasted by mistake, instead of cutting and pasting, and inadvertently left behind a copy of a specific paragraph where it doesn’t belong or makes sense.
See to it that your headlines and subheads are all written in the same style- are you using sentence case or title case? If you have no clue about these styles, you can refer to the American Psychological Association (APA) guideline available online. APA is an author-date citation system widely acknowledged in academic fields.
Check whether the section numbering is appropriate. Even though this may sound obvious, but more often students go wrong with determining these tiny details when they’re dealing with chunks of relevant information. Don't miss out on writing proper captions for the tables and figures, Is the numbering methodical and coherent? Are they in the appropriate order? Are these sections referred to by the specific number in the main text of your dissertation? Do the captions properly represent the content?
Do you consistently follow the same pattern while using hyphenation and capitals? Do you apply numbers similarly throughout your piece of writing? Have you followed American English or British English? Have you applied italics appropriately? (This is extremely significant in Technical, Scientific, Medical and Engineering fields, where there are rigid concepts about the application of italics.)
One way of maintaining consistency throughout your dissertation paper is to create a style sheet for your paper as you proceed with the writing. This is an uncomplicated yet efficient way of keeping track of your decisions about all these aspects which you can refer to as and when required. You can search for the efficient ways to develop a proper stylesheet for your dissertation.
There are also systems that contain the helpful Find and Replace threads and wildcards to assist you to simply organise things like eliminating unnecessary spaces before punctuation, double spaces, and looking for paragraphs without proper punctuation. This is a brilliant technique which will make your work easier by reducing the scope for errors in your dissertation.
- Spelling, grammar and punctuation
By all means, refer to those grammar and spelling checker online, but don’t make the mistake of solely depending on it. It will point out some glaring mistakes but will overlook many others as well. And let’s face it, you wouldn't want to take that chance with your paper.
Spell check won't detect homophones, which are similar sounding words but are spelt differently, for instance, site/sight, bear/bare or stationery/stationary. It will also fail to notice the words that are incorrect if you write 'from' instead of 'form', or 'specific' instead of 'pacific', such website won't identify that as an error.
There are effective ways that help you to present your text differently and find errors you'd miss on simply reading the text, like, getting the document printed out, or Making changes to the font size and reading aloud etc.
- Abbreviations and acronyms
If you utilise acronyms or abbreviations in your dissertation, the wise thing to do in this case is to write the full forms of those abbreviated terms when using them for the first time and include the acronyms in the subsequent parts of the text. For instance, you should first write the name United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) at the beginning of a section but then as you proceed further, you can apply the term UNESCO subsequently.
If you're preparing an elaborate dissertation, you will do well to specify an acronym in full the first time it's mentioned in every chapter, especially if the chapters are separated by a few others in between. Otherwise, your readers may forget what it means by the time they find the same term in one of the subsequent chapters! You may want to prepare a list of abbreviations or acronyms at the front of academic paper if there is a plenty of them. This must not be added to your word count.
If you utilise other people's work as a resource for your academic paper but don't give them their due credit, this counts as plagiarism. Plagiarism also involves lifting materials from the internet. Just because you come across a relevant material on a webpage doesn't mean you can use it without giving the necessary credit to the writer. This way you're passing the lifted material as your authentic piece of work.
The act of plagiarism isn’t just restricted to the wrongful application of sources in the texts; it is also applicable to tables, images, graphs, charts and websites. And the details don't always have to be published; if you have applied unpublished details - like from any unpublished research or thesis paper of a student or a lecture, it must be cited properly in the reference section of the paper.
These days, universities have adopted advanced software to detect if there’s any trace of plagiarism in your paper. The seasoned examiners are also adept at identifying signs that will prompt them to crosscheck the sources or the lack of thereof, for example where the style of write-up or language use suddenly changes. In short, plagiarism can take away the academic integrity of your dissertation and can be a serious offence. Make sure to stay away from it.
- Citation system
Always ensure that you understand which citation style you are required to adopt. This differs between various universities and institution so you need to know you're using the one style followed by your institution.
The author-date system (for example, the APA system) follows in-text references in combination with a full citation list, where titles are placed in alphabetical order. The short-title format includes a note marker within the text and mentions the references in the adjacent endnote or footnote. When the title is applied again, a new note number is added in the main text, but a much narrower version of the title is mentioned. This format is prevalent in the stream of humanities.
Numbering systems, for example, author-number referencing, are often adopted in Engineering, Technology, Science and Medicine. The above systems are explained thoroughly in the online portals, which will assist you to understand how to use reference systems properly, learn about other lesser-known formats and comprehend how to appropriately cite the less usual sources.
- Read several times for a focused revision
Be meticulous when you proceed with the revision of your paper. Instead of trying to look for every different kind of error in a single read, revise the document a few times and concentrate on one specific error each time. Listed below are some examples of how you could carry out this process,
- Make sure the tables and charts are in the proper order and appropriately numbered and correctly captioned
- Take a closer look at the headlines, sub-heads and page numbers mentioned in the table of contents
- Be careful about matching your reference list with the in-text citations
- Have you specified all your abbreviations and acronyms where they first feature?
- Are your citations styled as per your university's requirements?
- Lastly, read through to check grammar, spelling, and syntax.
- Get help from professionals
It is always beneficial to have somebody to review your academic assignment writing. They'll be quick to detect the mistakes in spelling and grammar and other errors which you tend to overlook because you've gone through it so many times that your brain sees what it anticipates to be there instead of what's originally on the written on the paper.
But what to do when your friends and seniors are also working on their assignments or they simply have a hectic life? Will they be able to spare the time to read out what you’ve written to determine whether it needs polishing or not? Are they adept at finding inconsistencies and errors? Not everybody is competent, and this isn't something that can be performed thoroughly only by skimming through the pages of the dissertation.
This is the time when you make a call whether you need professional help to guide you through your academic dissertation. This can prove to be a great choice, as it checks off all the criteria you require in a person who would review your academic paper like someone who is objective, meticulous and understands spelling, punctuation, grammar and language, in general. Also if the service provider turns out to be an expert in your area in your chosen area of study, then that's a bonus.
Your assigned dissertation editor will inform you how long it will take them to revise your paper, based on the length of your dissertation, and they will normally also offer you a sample of a similar kind of academic paper for you to determine the credibility of their services.
But deciding to opt for a professional dissertation service provider to work on your dissertation paper also highlights an extremely valid point which is just discussed in the next section.
- Know what to look for
When reviewing your dissertation, you are already aware that you have been careful about mistakes like weak grammar, misspelt words and misplaced punctuation. However, you must also evaluate the structure of your document. Read through each small section of your paper to determine if every detail is crucial to your specific topic. When you discover something that’s irrelevant, simply omit it. Also, include any previously removed details into your dissertation at the appropriate section.
Each paragraph should have a seamless flow, and each paragraph should contain a specific argument pertinent to your topic and a fitting conclusion before transitioning into the next section. Does each segment match the overall scope of your dissertation? Does every information support your key arguments? Revising your dissertation allows you to constrict your focus to ward off unnecessary information.
By the time you are done reviewing your dissertation, ensure that every paragraph fits perfectly with your chosen topic. Don't forget to apply the right techniques to help assess your document.
- University language centres
Your university language centre can help you with the process of revision, if:
- English isn't your native language
- You suffer from learning disabilities such as Dyslexia
- You are a native English speaker but have difficulty in presenting the paper in a more formal language.
These centres are known to offer several courses and conduct workshops on English for academic purposes or for brushing up your skills for academic writing, and they may also have a host of professionals who can review your dissertation.
So there you have it! These are some handy tips on revising your dissertation to present it in an organized manner. Make sure to follow these tricks so that you have a comprehensive idea about how to review your dissertation.
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