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DISCUSSION ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONSThe student will complete 4 discussions in this course. These discussion will vary in point value based on the time, work, and reading related required of the student. The student will post one thread of at least 300 words by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Thursday of the assigned Module: Week. The student must then post 2 replies of at least 150 words by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday of the assigned Module: Week, except in Module 8: Week 8, the replies are due by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Friday. For each thread and reply, students must support their assertions with at appropriate citations in APA format. Acceptable sources include the textbook, the Bible, scholarly words and popular writings.

Discussion Thread: The Dissertation – The Big Picture

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One of the best ways to learn to write a dissertation is to read dissertations. Dissertations typically follow common designs and are almost template-like in their structure. This helps when you develop your own dissertation. In this module, we are going to discuss how dissertations are constructed by deconstructing a few. Take a look at these four dissertations by skimming them. Look at their table of contents, purpose statements, research questions, and overall design.

The following dissertations are located in the Learn section:

1. Dunlow, J. (2014). The relationship between mentoring and spiritual formation among nontraditional theological seminary students. (Publication #3581136 ) [Doctoral Dissertation, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary], ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

2. Erdvig, R. (2016). A model for biblical worldview development in Evangelical Christian emerging adultsDoctoral Dissertations and Projects. (Publication #10243195) [Doctoral Dissertation, Liberty University], ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

3. Kiedis, T. L. (2009). A comparative analysis of leadership development models in post -baccalaureate theological education. (Publication #3401812) [Doctoral Dissertation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary], ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

4. Grusendorf, S. A. (2016). A correlational study of the communication styles and use of power among lead pastors. (Publication #10786916 ) [Lancaster Bible College/Capital Seminary and Graduate School],  ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Global.

Now consider and briefly respond to the following discussion questions.

· What do these dissertations have in common?

· How are their content outlines similar and how are they different?

· What do you see that is different between quantitative dissertations and qualitative dissertations with regard to their purpose statements? Research questions?

· What have you learned about the dissertation structure and research design from looking at these four dissertations?

Now, take a moment to look at pages 24–27 of the Doctor of Education in Christian Leadership Program Handbook located in the Learn section.

· How are they similar and dissimilar to the dissertations you viewed for this module? These are the outlines you will follow as you create your own dissertation.

CLED 730

Dissertation Review Assignment Instructions


Quality is an elusive characteristic that often is derived as much from the “eye of the beholder” as it does from an objective application of a measurement standard. But, standards do exist when reviewing research. Here are some of the characteristics of a quality research effort.

Quality research is:

· driven by significant research questions;

· empirical in nature;

· theory-based;

· designed around a sound linkage between the research questions and the research method;

· based on clear inferential reasoning;

· capable of being replicated producing similar results;

· generalizable to significant audiences; and

· available for professional scrutiny.

Your task for this assignment is to do a review, as objectively as possible, of an EdD or PhD dissertation created by an LU faculty member or student. Your task is to discern the “quality” of the research in the form of a “research review.” Reviewing a dissertation does not mean that you are seeking to find editorial flaws in the dissertation document. Instead, you are seeking to compare the dissertation to a standard of research quality. You will be looking at both strengths and weaknesses of the research. That is also called “peer review.” Dissertations, including your dissertation, are public documents that are open to review. This makes for better quality and will improve your research work. For this assignment, you will be conducting a review of a dissertation to learn about research by carefully reading research.


Carefully read and review one EdD or PhD dissertation (not a DMIN project). You must meet the following standards for this assignment.

· You must select your dissertation from the LU Digital Commons or from another Christian institution using the dissertation links at the LU Library.

· The dissertation must be for a doctoral research program and deal with a topic in the fields of leadership or education.

· The dissertation must be empirical in nature and be social science-based in its methodological design. You may not select a humanities style dissertation.

· After the dissertation is read, you are to write a review of the dissertation by responding to the review questions below. Your responses should reveal both strengths and weaknesses of the dissertation since no dissertation is perfect.

· You will have two major sections of your paper. The dissertation review and a final section identify the research principles you learned in the review process.

· The paper is to follow APA style requirements.

· The paper will be 8-10 pages in length.

· The paper must include the content areas below and must use APA style headings.


Citation Information

Provide the citation information in APA format under this heading. Be sure to follow APA style guidelines. You may single-space the citation. Note that a hanging indent is used for the citations in APA style.

Chapter-by-Chapter Dissertation Review

The questions below will serve as a guide to writing your review. Do not simply answer them “yes” or “no.” You should think critically and write professionally about what you read using the questions as guides. You may use subheadings in each chapter section as you deem appropriate.

Chapter One Review

Here are questions to consider as you review chapter one of the dissertation. Do the title and the research purpose agree? Is the research problem clearly stated? Is the purpose statement clearly and succinctly stated? Is the research-driven by a significant problem? Does the introduction and statement of the problem, and overview of research set the background for the reader and is the material consistent with the research questions? Is it obvious to the reader how the study significantly and appropriately contributes to the existing literature? Given the research problem, are the research questions clearly stated? Are the questions logically and systematically related to the problem? Has the author convinced you that this study needed to be conducted?

Chapter Two Review

Here are questions to consider as you review chapter two of the dissertation. If there is a theological section, has the author addressed the most pertinent issue(s)? Did the author, in your opinion, relied upon the strongest biblical and theological writers for the topic? Has the author logically addressed the major variables in the study in the literature review? Can the reader understand the necessity of the study after reading the literature review? Has the author demonstrated existing connections between the variables in the study and the literature? Has the author demonstrated the “gap in the literature” and how their research contributes to the existing literature by filling that gap? Is it clear to you as a reader how the literature shaped this study? Is there a clearly identified theory-base that is behind the study?

Chapter Three Review

Here are questions to consider as you review chapter three of the dissertation. Was the research design clearly identified? What design was used? Is the design appropriate for the research questions? Was the population clearly defined? Was the sampling procedure discussed in detail? Were intentional sample limitations clearly stated with a rationale for doing so? Was the sample size calculated and substantiated? Was the return rate reported? If the work was qualitative in nature, was the setting described, and were participants and their selection criteria discussed? If an instrument was used, was its reliability and validity discussed? Was there a connection established between the instrument and the literature review? Did the author adequately described their research procedures? In other words, could someone replicate this study based on this section? If interviews were conducted, was an interview protocol created and followed?

Chapter Four Review

Here are questions to consider as you review chapter four of the dissertation. Has the author thoroughly described how data was gathered and compiled for analysis? If the dissertation was quantitative in nature, has the author thoroughly explained the statistical measures which were applied to the data? Has the author adequately described how the statistical measures function and why they were chosen to analyze data? If the dissertation was qualitative in nature, has the author described the nature of the data, how data was collected, and how the data was analyzed? Were the findings organized clearly and logically, answering research questions systematically? Were tables and figures appropriately utilized? Did the author evaluate their research design?

Chapter Five Review

Here are questions to consider as you review chapter five of the dissertation. Did the author thoroughly discussed the research conclusions and implications of their findings? Did the author connect the research conclusions and implications to the existing

literature? Did the author thoroughly discuss the research applications related to their findings? Did the author properly discuss the limitations of how their findings should be applied/interpreted? Has the author provided thoughtful insight into potential future research? Has the author suggested potential modifications to the study’s design, which could enhance its replication in the future?

Research Principles Learned

In this section, you are to describe what you learned about research by reading this dissertation. The focus is on the research and dissertation process and design, not on the content of the dissertation itself. This is a major section of the paper. Please review the rubric for this assignment to be certain you include all content required.

Page 2 of 4

The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing,

and Defending your Dissertation

What are the Ethical Considerations in Research?

Contributors: By: Carol M. Roberts

Book Title: The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and

Defending your Dissertation

Chapter Title: “What are the Ethical Considerations in Research?”

Pub. Date: 2010

Access Date: April 1, 2021

Publishing Company: Corwin Press

City: Thousand Oaks

Print ISBN: 9781412977982

Online ISBN: 9781452219219

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452219219.n3

Print pages: 31-44

© 2010 Corwin Press All Rights Reserved.

This PDF has been generated from SAGE Knowledge. Please note that the pagination of the online

version will vary from the pagination of the print book.javascript:void(0);http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452219219.n3

What are the Ethical Considerations in Research?

What are the ethical considerations in research?

Research ethics is a very challenging subject which the research candidate has to face, and which if not addressed correctly may cause the result of the research work to be considered tainted or even invalid.

—Remenyi et al., 1998, p. 115

Ethical issues arise in all aspects of conducting research. Such areas include attention to human rights, data collection, data analysis and interpretation, respect for the research site, writing, and disseminating the research. This section will describe some of these central issues that you should anticipate in designing your dissertation study.

What is considered ethical varies from person to person and from institution to institution. However, most professional organizations and the various disciplines within the social sciences have established their own standards or codes of ethics to guide their research activities. These guidelines, according to Rossman and Rallis (1998), “serve as standards for the ethical practice of research and are based on moral principles such as utilitarianism (the greatest good for the greatest number), theories of individual rights (the rights of the individual may supersede the interests of the greatest number), and theories of justice (fairness and equity)” (pp. 48–49). Following are some examples of professional ethical guidelines and the websites where they can be found:

• The American Psychological Association’s Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct,http://www.apa.org/ethics/code.html

• The American Educational Research Association Ethical Standards, http://www.aera.net/ AboutAERA/Default.aspx?menu_id=90&id=717

• The American Sociological Association Code of Ethics, http://www2.asanet.org/members/ ecoderev.html

• The American Anthropological Association’s Code of Ethics, http://www.aaanet.org/committees/ ethics/ethcode.htm

The following website offers a full listing of guidelines and codes of ethics for those in the social sciences: http://www.bc.edu/research/meta-elements/htm/social_sciences.htm.

Institutional Review Boards

Colleges, universities, and other research institutions have institutional review boards (IRBs) whose members review proposals and approve all research conducted at their institutions. Their main purpose is the protection of those participating in a research study, particularly around ethical issues such as informed consent, protection from harm, and confidentiality. Specifically, the IRB committee’s role is to protect participants from “stress, discomfort, embarrassment, invasion of privacy or potential threat to reputation” (Madsen, 1992, p. 80).

If you decide to use questionnaires or conduct interviews, experiments, or observations, you need to submit a proposal to use human subjects to the IRB before actually conducting your study. Each institution has its own procedures as to when and how proposals should be submitted to the committee. Because your dissertation committee members may request changes in your original proposal, it would behoove you to wait until after your proposal has been formally approved by your committee to approach the IRB committee. The IRB committee’s signed permission is necessary before you can collect data. When submitting your proposal to the IRB, be sure to provide detailed and comprehensive information about your study, the consent process, how participants will be recruited, and how confidential information will be protected.

There are two basic types of requests made to the IRB committee: expedited review and full review. When

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there is minimal risk to the participants, psychologically, physically, or socially, then an expedited review is appropriate. According to Rudestam and Newton (2007), there is no clear standard to judge “minimal risk.” They state the following:

The criterion of minimal risk could pertain to research involving brief questionnaires that do not address questions likely to be disturbing to the participants. Questions regarding favored sports or preferred television programs are probably not disturbing; questions regarding childhood victimization, current mental status, and alcohol or drug abuse probably are. (p. 277)

Clear ethical standards and principles exist regarding the rights of human subjects. They deal primarily with impact on the subjects, confidentiality, coercion, and consent. It is critical that you carefully think through these issues when planning your research procedures and that you become familiar with your institution’s policies and procedures in these matters. The ethical issues involved in using human subjects in research are described in the section that follows.

Rights of Human Subjects

The following rights must be granted to all participants in a research study.

Informed Consent

All prospective participants must be fully informed about the procedures and risks involved in the research project before they agree to take part. In addition, the principles of freedom and autonomy allow individuals to refuse to participate in the study or to withdraw at any time with no recriminations. In other words, their participation must be voluntary. Following are the basic elements of informed consent that must be provided to each participant:

Basic Elements of Informed Consent

In seeking informed consent, the following information shall be provided to each subject:

• 1. A statement that the study involves research, an explanation of the purposes of the research and the expected duration of the subject’s participation, a description of the procedures to be followed, and identification of any procedures which are experimental;

• 2. A description of any reasonably foreseeable risks or discomforts to the subject;

• 3. A description of any benefits to the subject or to others which may reasonably be expected from the research;

• 4. A disclosure of appropriate alternative procedures or courses of treatment, if any, that might be advantageous to the subject;

• 5. A statement describing the extent, if any, to which confidentiality of records identifying the subject will be maintained;

• 6. For research involving more than minimal risk, an explanation as to whether any compensation and an explanation as to whether any medical treatments are available if injury occurs and, if so, what they consist of, or where further information may be obtained;

• 7. An explanation of whom to contact for answers to pertinent questions about the research and research subjects’ rights, and whom to contact in the event of a research-related injury to the subject; and

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• 8. A statement that participation is voluntary, refusal to participate will involve no penalty or loss of benefits to which the subject is otherwise entitled, and the subject may discontinue participation at any time without penalty of loss of benefits to which the subject is otherwise entitled.

SOURCE: United States Department of Health and Human Services, Code of Federal Regulations (45 CFR 46.116 (a), pages 14–15.

It is important to note that not all studies require informed consent. Rudestam and Newton (2007) pointed out that methodologies such as “secondary analysis of data, archival research, and the systematic observation of publicly observable data, such as shoppers in a suburban mall” may require only “expedited review” due to their classification of “minimal risk” (p. 276).


Assuring confidentiality is a primary responsibility of all researchers. The term confidentiality, according to Sieber (1992), “refers to agreements with persons about what may be done with their data” (p. 52). It refers to the identity of individual participants and to the information from participants. All participants in a research study must be informed about what happens to the data collected from them or about them and be assured that all data will be held in confidence. Individual names should not be used in any publication about the research study. Once a study’s data have been collected, no one other than the researcher should have access to it. Some statistical tests require pairing up participants’ pretest with posttest scores, which presents a potential problem for confidentiality. In this case, it is appropriate to assign each participant a number or code that enables you to link the pretest and posttest scores. In addition, electronic and paper files that contain the participants’ confidential data should be locked and stored in a place away from public access.

Oftentimes anonymity is requested, which means there are no identifiers that indicate which individuals or organizations supplied the data. One technique used by researchers, when questionnaires are used to gather data, is to combine the data so that individual responses are subsumed under the total aggregated data. Another technique is to use fictional names to ensure anonymity.

Specific strategies researchers can use to ensure anonymity in a consent letter to participants were offered by Joan Sieber (1992) in her book, Planning Ethically Responsible Research:

To protect your privacy, the following measures will ensure that others do not learn your identity or what you tell me.

• 1. No names will be used in transcribing from the audio tape or in writing up the case study. Each person will be assigned a letter name as follows: M for mother, F for father, MSI for male first sibling, and so on.

• 2. All identifying characteristics, such as occupation, city, and ethnic background will be changed.

• 3. The audio tapes will be reviewed only in my home (and in the office of my thesis adviser).

• 4. The tapes and notes will be destroyed after my report of this research has been accepted for publication (or in the case of an unpublished thesis—after my thesis has been accepted by the university) …

(Sieber, 1992, p. 52)

In addition to issues relating to informed consent and confidentiality, ethical considerations must also be taken into account around the methodological principles and procedures undergirding a research design. Ethical issues arise around all decision points in the research process—from the initial design planning, to collecting data, accessing a research site, writing it up, and to disseminating the results. Sensitivity to these issues and

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how you respond to them determines whether or not others question or trust the results from your study.

Ethical Issues in Data Collection

It is important to exercise responsibility in the processes you use to gather data for your study. In the social sciences, data are collected primarily through questionnaires, interviews, participant observations, or through an action research approach. Use of the Internet and other communication technologies to gather data also requires permission from participants. Following is a notice of implied consent used by a doctoral student to collect data using a web survey. When participants clicked on the link to his web survey, they were presented with the consent information and were advised that by continuing further, they were voluntarily agreeing to participate.

Welcome! Thank you for participating in this important research project.

All students adjust to college life in different ways. With this research, I hope to describe common thoughts, feelings, and experiences of UA students. This study involves completing a questionnaire that typically takes 10 minutes.

Completing the questionnaire automatically enters you into a random drawing to win one of ten iPods (valued between $80 and $150). Your participation is voluntary and your decision to complete or not complete the questionnaire will in no way affect your status or treatment at the University of Alaska. By clicking on the “next” button below, you consent to voluntarily participate in this study.

Thank you!

Student name




E-mail address

SOURCE: Schultz, B. (2008). Freshmen Adjustment to College at the University of Alaska: A Descriptive, Ex Post Facto Study. Doctoral Dissertation, University of La Verne.

Access to Research Sites

It is important that you respect the research site at all times. As Stake (1994) remarked, “Qualitative researchers are guests in the private spaces of the world. Their manners should be good and their code of ethics strict” (p. 244). The main ethical concern is the degree of sensitivity you display with the site and the interaction with the people in it. Most research sites have gatekeepers—people in authority who control access to the site. Examples might be a school principal, college president, a company’s manager, or the IRB. From them, you must ask for and obtain permission to conduct your study at their site.

Gatekeepers have concerns about the impact of your study on their organization as well as the possible disclosure of confidential information outside the organization. It is, therefore, your ethical responsibility to fully inform them about ways your study may affect the work of the organization and its members. You should also disclose ways the results of your study would benefit the organization. Through collaboration with these gatekeepers, you select those from whom you will collect data and under what circumstances.

Respecting research sites involves disturbing the everyday life and flow of activities as little as possible. Creswell (2005) suggested that participants be reminded “a day or two before data collection of the exact time

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and day when you will observe or interview them. Stage the data collection so that they will feel comfortable responding, and schedule it at a time that is most convenient for their schedules” (p. 225).

It is important to remember that gatekeepers have a vested interest in protecting their sites. For example, findings could have political consequences; thus, Sieber (1992) advised us to be aware that

gatekeepers and those they serve are not always interested in objectivity. They would not want the researcher to discover something that would be damaging to them or to their organization. They may even pressure the researcher to produce results that make them look good; hence, the researcher must be careful not to enter into unethical agreements with gatekeepers. (p. 85)

Your awareness and sensitivity to gatekeepers concerns before conducting research on their sites will help you appropriately address them.

Recording Data

Audio and video recording raise significant ethical issues during data collection. To obtain greater accuracy, today’s researchers almost always record unstructured or semistructured interviews. First and foremost, obtain permission from the participants and explain why you wish to audio or video record the interview or observation. In addition, explain how the recordings will be used and how they will be stored and ultimately destroyed following data transcription. Also, assure confidentiality by using fictitious names or codes.

Paul Oliver (2008), in his book The Student’s Guide to Research Ethics, offered a strategy for relaxing participants during audio recording. He recommended that the researcher “place the tape or disc recorder within easy reach of the interviewee, and explain to them before the interview starts that they may use the pause button at any time …to consider their response to a particular question …or to reflect” (p. 46). He further stated that participants could stop the recording if they wished. Oliver (2008) also suggested that interviewees be given the opportunity to listen to the tape at the end of the session and alter their words to more accurately express their views.

Ethical Issues in Data Analysis and Interpretation

Data analysis is making sense of the data and interpreting them appropriately so as to not mislead readers. The ethical issue is not about a researcher’s honest error or honest differences of data interpretation; rather, it is in regard to the intent to deceive others or misrepresent one’s work. Examples of such misconduct include using inappropriate statistical techniques or other methods of measurement to enhance the significance of your research or interpreting your results in a way that supports your opinions and biases. These are ethical issues of fabrication and falsification of data.

Fabrication is making up data or results, and falsification is changing data or results to deliberately distort them and then including them in your research report. According to Remenyi et al. (1998), “Any attempt to window dress or manipulate and thus distort the evidence is of course unethical, as is any attempt to omit inconvenient evidence” (p. 111). Remenyi et al. (1998) also pointed out that such strategies are not useful or rational because “even when hypotheses or theoretical conjectures are rejected, the research is perfectly valid” (p. 111). It is unethical to fudge results to make your study seem more acceptable and useful; negative results still add to the body of knowledge.

In research, the accuracy of the data is paramount. Therefore, you are obliged to employ validation strategies such as triangulation, member checking, audit trail, peer debriefing, and external auditing to check the accuracy of data. For a detailed discussion of ethics and their implications for data analysis, see Chapter 11 of Miles and Huberman’s (1988) book Qualitative Data Analysis. As an ethical researcher, it is your responsibility to be nonbiased, accurate, and honest throughout all phases of your dissertation.

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Ethical Issues in Reporting Research Findings

Ethical researchers report results honestly and objectively. They don’t hide negative results, engage in selective reporting, or omit conflicting data for deceptive purposes. For example, it is considered unethical to trim outliers from a data set without discussing your reasons. Roig (2006) addressed this issue by stating that

researchers have an ethical responsibility to report the results of their studies according to their a priori plans. Any post hoc manipulations that may alter the results initially obtained, such as the elimination of outliers or the use of alternative statistical techniques, must be clearly described along with an acceptable rationale for using such techniques.” (p. 35)

Another example concerns the ethics of generalizability. It is imperative that you not try to generalize the findings from your population to other populations or settings. Instead, make reference to this situation in the limitations section of your dissertation, usually found in the methodology. As an ethical researcher, it is your responsibility to accurately and honestly record and report your data using verifiable methods.


Warning! Writing a dissertation that includes plagiarism can be hazardous to your career, your degree, and your reputation. Severe penalties can be levied against those who ignore the copyright law or take it lightly. Plagiarism and copyright infringement are serious matters, one of the worst academic sins.

What is plagiarism?

Plagiarism is the theft of ideas. The definition of plagiarism stated by Booth, Colomb, and Williams (1995) is the most comprehensive and helpful one that I found in the literature:

You plagiarize when, intentionally or not, you use someone else’s words or ideas but fail to credit that person. You plagiarize even when you do credit the author but use his [or her] exact words without so indicating with quotation marks or block indentation. You also plagiarize when you use words so close to those in your source, that if you placed your work next to the source, you would see that you could not have written what you did without the source at your elbow. (p. 167)

So basically, there are three ways in which you can be guilty of plagiarizing:

• 1. Using others’ words or ideas without giving them proper credit

• 2. Using others’ exact words without quotation marks or indentation

• 3. Closely paraphrasing others’ words (even if citing the source)

The third way is the most challenging for doctoral students writing their dissertations. The line between paraphrasing and plagiarizing is not always clear or straightforward, and it can cause inadvertent plagiarizing of another’s work.

As a researcher, you must relate findings from the literature and from other researchers, requiring that you paraphrase or quote your sources. Paraphrasing is simply restating in your own words what others reported and then citing the source. How closely you parallel their words, even when correctly citing the source, determines the degree to which you may be plagiarizing.

Paraphrasing does not mean changing a word or two in another’s sentence, changing the sentence structure, or changing some words to synonyms. If you rearrange sentences in these ways, you are writing too closely to the original—which is plagiarism, not paraphrasing. Booth et al. (1995) offered a simple test to ascertain whether or not you are inadvertently plagiarizing.

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Whenever you use a source extensively, compare your page with the original. If you think someone could run her [or his] finger along your sentences and find synonyms or synonymous phrases for words in the original in roughly the same order, try again. (p. 170)

It is important to realize that words as well as ideas can be plagiarized, so be very careful when paraphrasing the work of others. If you are ever suspected of plagiarizing, it’s extremely difficult to regain the trust and respect of your advisor or others who read your dissertation.

Ethics of Writing up Research

In addition to planning and conducting ethical research, you must consider the ethics involved in writing it up. It is vital that you refrain from using biased or discriminatory language that infers inferior status to those with particular sexual orientations and lifestyles or who belong to a particular racial or ethnic group. The APA Manual, 6th Edition (2010) states, “Scientific writing must be free of implied or irrelevant evaluation of the group or groups being studied” (p. 70) and offers guidelines and in-depth discussion about these issues. Rudestam and Newton (2007) also refer to the issue of bias-free writing. They advise writers to “stay current with language that is sensitive to diverse groups because what was acceptable terminology yesterday may not be acceptable today” (p. 282). To help eliminate biased language in scholarly writing, Rudestam and Newton (2007) offered the following helpful guidelines.

Guidelines to Help Eliminate Bias in Scholarly Writing

• 1. Substitute gender-neutral words and phrases for gender-biased words. A common mistake is the inadvertent use of sexist terms that are deeply entrenched in our culture, such as chairman instead of chairperson, mothering instead of parenting, and mankind instead of humankind.

• 2. Use designations in parallel fashion to refer to men and women equally: “5 men and 14 women,” not “5 men and 14 females.”

• 3. Do not assume that certain professions are gender related (e.g. “the scientist … he”) and avoid sexual stereotyping (e.g., “a bright and beautiful female professor”).

• 4. Avoid gender-biased pronouns (e.g., “A consultant may not always be able to see his clients”). A few nonsexist alternatives to this pervasive problem are to:

◦ a. Add the other gender: “his or her clients.” This alternative should be used only occasionally because it can become very cumbersome. It is, however, preferable to awkward constructions such as s/he, him/her, or he(she).

◦ b. Use the plural form: “Consultants … their clients.”

◦ c. Delete the adjective: “to see clients.”

◦ d. Rephrase the sentence to eliminate the pronoun: “Clients may not always be seen by their consultants.”

◦ e. Replace the masculine or feminine pronouns with one or you.

• 5. Do not identify people by race or ethnic group unless it is relevant. If it is relevant, try to ascertain the currently most acceptable terms and use them.

• 6. Avoid language that suggests evaluation or reinforces stereotypes. For example, referring to a group as “culturally deprived” is evaluative, and remarking that the “Afro-American students, not surprisingly, won the athletic events” reinforces a stereotype.

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• 7. Don’t make unsupported assumptions about various age groups (e.g., that the elderly are less intellectually able or are remarkable for continuing to work energetically). (pp. 284, 288)

Other Ethical Considerations

Copyright Law

Copyright protects original works of authorship, including both published and unpublished works. It gives the copyright owner the exclusive right to reproduce his or her work from the moment of creation up to 70 years after the author’s death.

Copyright law is an extensive, complex body of law. This section is intended to provide initial information only. It is intended to help protect your dissertation from unauthorized use and to protect others’ works that may be used in your dissertation. More comprehensive information is provided at the following website: http://www.copyright.gov.

Protection of Your Dissertation

Copyright is secured automatically when your work is created. However, to offset unauthorized use of your original work, I strongly advise that you place the copyright notice on your dissertation. Placing the copyright notice on your dissertation notifies others of your intent to protect your rights. You do not have to register your dissertation with the Library of Congress unless you wish to do so. It is not a condition of copyright protection. However, there are advantages you should be aware of, which are addressed on page 11 of the copyright website.

The form of the copyright notice consists of three elements: (1) the symbol ©, which is the letter C in a circle, the word Copyright, or the abbreviation Copr.; (2) the year of first publication of the work; and (3) the name of the copyright’s owner (U.S. Copyright Office, http://www.copyright.gov, retrieved 2009). The elements need not appear in any particular order; however, usually they are in this order, for example:

© 2010 Carol M. Roberts

Your dissertation can be considered published as soon as it appears on the library shelf or online or is otherwise made available to the public. If you think you may want to profit from your dissertation by writing articles or a book based on your dissertation, it is important to obtain formal registration of your work. To do this, submit to the Copyright Office a fee, a form, and required copies of your dissertation. The application form can be downloaded from the following website of the U.S. Copyright Office: http://www.copyright.gov. This site also provides additional information about copyright basics, current fees, how to register a work, and so on.

Protection of Others’ Work Used in Your Dissertation

You need not obtain permission for those works in the public domain, that is, works with no copyright protection or those with expired copyrights. Academic honesty, however, mandates that you acknowledge all sources used in your dissertation, even those in the public domain. If you use copyrighted material in your dissertation, you must secure permission from the owner to include it unless it falls under the doctrine of fair use, which allows limited reproduction of copyrighted works for educational and research purposes. This doctrine is rather complex and can have many interpretations. Miller and Taylor (1987) reported that most university style manuals permit “excerpts of up to 150 words, provided they do not constitute a major portion of the original work” (p. 46).

If you believe that what you are using falls under fair use, you need not obtain permission, but you must cite the source in footnotes or end-notes and in the references. Using copyrighted material in your dissertation

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without obtaining permission can be copyright infringement and is called piracy if you profit from it in any way. Both are serious infractions. Be sure to always obtain written permission from the author or publisher if you plan to use copyrighted material in your dissertation, such as tests, questionnaires, poems, figures or other artwork, or large excerpts of books. Madsen (1992) explained the process for obtaining permission:

Send the holder of the copyright—usually the publisher of the book or article—a simple form listing the work, the pages and lines you wish to copy or quote, and the title and publisher of the work in which the material will be published. The form also should include a place for the copyright holder’s signature. (p. 89)

This procedure probably will be necessary if you later decide to publish an article or write a book based on your dissertation. Should you wish to pursue more in-depth information about copyright law, refer to William S. Strong’s (1998) The Copyright Book: A Practical Guide.

Recommended Websites

• Office of Research Integrity


• “Avoiding Plagiarism, Self-Plagiarism, and Other Questionable Writing Practices: A Guide to Ethical Writing” by Miguel Roig.


Recommended Books

• Israel, M., & Hay, I. (2006). Research ethics for social scientists.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

• Kimmel, A. (1988). Ethics and values in applied social research.

Newbury Park, NJ: Sage.


Ethical issues arise in all aspects of conducting research. This chapter focused on enhancing your understanding about ethical issues such as the rights of human subjects, data collection, data analysis and interpretation, reporting research findings, plagiarism, writing up research, and other ethical considerations such as copyright law, protection of your dissertation, and protection of others’ work used in your dissertation. Now it is time to prepare for the climb. The first step is to select an interesting, researchable topic to investigate. The next chapter provides some approaches to choosing your topic, where to look for potential topics, and criteria for topic selection.

• copyright • dissertation • plagiarism • writing up • confidentiality • consent • gatekeepers


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  • The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and Defending your Dissertation
    • What are the Ethical Considerations in Research?
      • What are the Ethical Considerations in Research?
      • Institutional Review Boards
      • Rights of Human Subjects
      • Informed Consent
      • Basic Elements of Informed Consent
      • Confidentiality
      • Ethical Issues in Data Collection
      • Access to Research Sites
      • Recording Data
      • Ethical Issues in Data Analysis and Interpretation
      • Ethical Issues in Reporting Research Findings
      • Plagiarism
      • Ethics of Writing up Research
      • Guidelines to Help Eliminate Bias in Scholarly Writing
      • Other Ethical Considerations
      • Copyright Law
      • Protection of Your Dissertation
      • Protection of Others’ Work Used in Your Dissertation
      • Recommended Websites
      • Recommended Books
      • Summary

The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing,

and Defending your Dissertation

Mastering the Academic Style

Contributors: By: Carol M. Roberts

Book Title: The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and

Defending your Dissertation

Chapter Title: “Mastering the Academic Style”

Pub. Date: 2010

Access Date: April 1, 2021

Publishing Company: Corwin Press

City: Thousand Oaks

Print ISBN: 9781412977982

Online ISBN: 9781452219219

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452219219.n10

Print pages: 111-121

© 2010 Corwin Press All Rights Reserved.

This PDF has been generated from SAGE Knowledge. Please note that the pagination of the online

version will vary from the pagination of the print book.javascript:void(0);http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452219219.n10

Mastering the Academic Style

Mastering the academic style

Anyone who wishes to become a good writer should endeavor, before he allows himself to be tempted by the more showy qualities, to be direct, simple, brief, vigorous, and lucid.

—Fowler and Fowler, The King’s English

Qualities of Scholarly Writing

The qualities espoused by Fowler and Fowler in the opening quote represent the heart and soul of good expository writing. However, two additional qualities define the scholarly, academic writing required for dissertation writing: precision and logic. Knowing how to express your ideas in logical sequence and in a clear and concise manner is critical to your success as a scholarly practitioner. The qualities of logic, precision, clarity, directness, and brevity are also qualities of effective thinking. Zinsser (1994) stated, “Writing is thinking on paper. … If you can think clearly about the things you know and care about, you can write—with confidence and enjoyment” (p. vii).

Every dissertation advisor I know would affirm that scholarly writing is impossible without clear, logical, and precise thinking. There is a close and reciprocal relationship between good writing and clear thinking. Since writing is a reflection of thinking, the quality of your writing depends on how well you think. Clear, logical thinking usually precedes writing; however, the act of writing clarifies your thinking and develops logical thought. This is why many dissertation advisors, rather than endlessly discussing your dissertation, say, “Put it in writing and then we can discuss it.”

To be able to express yourself clearly, logically, and with precision, you must be in command of basic writing skills such as constructing grammatical sentences, using appropriate transitions, and remaining focused and concise. If you have difficulty expressing yourself clearly, I strongly suggest that you hire an editor early on to assist you with the writing process. Your committee should not have to spend its time editing or teaching you basic composition skills.

Even if you write reasonably well, you may, like most students, initially experience difficulty writing in the scholarly, academic style required for dissertations. This can be verified by many dissertation advisors who received drafts of dissertation chapters that could be classified as clumsy, muddled, and verbose. Reading such writing is tortuous and dulls the senses. The better you write, the fewer revisions you will make and the sooner you will obtain those three signatures required for graduation.

The good news is that this kind of writing can be learned. You don’t need inspiration, just a good dose of determination, perseverance, and patience. These three characteristics usually can overcome any lack of innate talent. There are many excellent books with good advice on improving your writing. However, the best way to learn to write more effectively is to write a lot, obtain feedback on your writing, and rewrite.

For most people, writing is a difficult, complex, and laborious task requiring self-discipline and mental concentration to stay the course for any length of time. As a doctoral student, you have the extra burden of knowing that your document will be open to public scrutiny and judgment, first to your committee and then to the academic community at large. Your reputation as a scholar and that of your committee are at stake when your dissertation is signed and printed.

This section presents guidelines and tips to help you understand some of the critical elements that contribute to scholarly writing. It incorporates key thoughts on writing from a variety of sources plus my own experience in guiding students in writing academic papers and dissertations.

This book cannot begin to cover the myriad topics devoted to improving the writing process. Instead, I focus

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on my observations and those of my colleagues as to the major errors made by doctoral students in writing their papers and dissertations. I also include information about effective writing from noted authorities in the field. The following section identifies some common writing problems, followed by eight tips for good writing.

What is written without effort is, in general, read without pleasure.


Common Writing Problems

I asked a group of dissertation advisors to respond to the question, “What are the most common writing problems you see while guiding dissertation students?” Their responses revolved around four major areas: organization, paragraphs, sentence construction, and direct quotations. Following summarizes their responses:


• Rambling in literature review • Failure to develop ideas in a logical sequence • Problem statements that are “all over the wall” • Lack of organization • Lack of consistency • Failure to use headings • Inappropriate use of the required style manual • Little evidence of proofreading


• One-sentence paragraphs • Unclear antecedent for this • Paragraphs not developed as a clear center of thought • Lack of transitions • Weak transitions • Failure to indicate where the paragraph is going—“bones without a skeleton” • Introducing a topic and then failing to discuss the topic • Lack of details that are explicit and related to the main idea • Paragraphs that lack focus

Sentence Construction

• Overlong sentences • Subject-verb agreement (e.g., data were is correct, not data was)

Direct Quotations

• Inappropriate use of direct quotations • Excessive quoting

The following section offers some tips to help overcome these writing problems and others encountered in the writing process.

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Tips for Good Writing

Tip 1: Write in a Conversational Tone

Do your best to write naturally, as if you were conversing with an intelligent person unfamiliar with your topic. When you do this, your writing takes on the energy and liveliness of good conversation. So often students believe they must write in a formal, stilted, grandiose manner quite different from the way they talk. There is artificiality about this kind of writing that makes it boring and tedious for readers. People prefer reading simple, understandable writing.

Tip 2: Trim Excess Words

Say what you need to say in as few words as possible, using the simplest language. Strunk and White (1979) stated this idea clearly:

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell. (p. 23)

Strunk and White (1979, p. 24) provided some commonly used phrases that violate conciseness, along with some briefer options:

he is a man who he this is a subject that this subject the reason why that is because owing to the fact that since

Preposition Alert!

Another example of verbosity includes the overuse of prepositions (e.g., by, under, because, of, for, with). Good writing is clear, concise, and interesting. Overusing prepositions creates the opposite of that; it causes wordy writing—boring and hard to understand. It’s so much easier to drop in preposition after preposition than to find active verbs that keep your writing powerful and interesting. Preposition overuse is a common writing fault that can be easily corrected. Munter (1997) offered a technique to overcome this habit. She suggested “circling, or having a computer program highlight, all the prepositions in a sample page of your writing. If you consistently find more than four in a sentence, you need to revise and shorten. ‘Of’ is usually the worst offender” (p. 70). So help trim excess words in your writing by eliminating overuse of prepositions and their wordy baggage.

Additional culprits to avoid are the compound prepositional phrase and verbs with prepositions. Following is a list of common compound prepositional phrases and verbs with prepositions and their more concise counterparts:

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It is also important to trim little qualifiers from your writing. Words that say how you feel and think dilute the forcefulness and persuasiveness of your writing. Examples of such qualifiers are sort of, kind of, quite, very, too, and a little.

Tip 3: Use Short Sentences Rather than Long

Long, complex sentences filled with convoluted phrases and multiple clauses are obstacles to easy reading. Trying to decipher such writing drains your readers’ energy and interest. Don’t be afraid to break long sentences into two or more shorter sentences. Munter (1997) offered three options for breaking up long sentences:

• 1. Break into three sentences using transitions: first, second …

• 2. Break up long sentences with internal enumeration: (1), (2) …

• 3. Break up long sentences with bullet points

Remember, each sentence should contain one thought and one thought only.

Tip 4: Write Clear, Well-Constructed Paragraphs

A well-constructed paragraph organizes your thoughts coherently. Create paragraphs that contain only one main idea. Usually, the main idea is expressed as a topic sentence at the beginning of the paragraph. It is helpful to begin each paragraph with a topic sentence followed by supporting sentences that illustrate, explain, or clarify your main point. Supporting information might include a specific fact, statistic, direct quotation, anecdote, and so on. Be sure not to write extra-long paragraphs because they are overwhelming to readers. Also, don’t write single sentences as paragraphs. Murray (1995) reminded us to use the old- fashioned “CUE” method to develop paragraphs:

Coherence. One thing should logically lead to the next

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Unity. Everything in the paragraph should be about one thing

Emphasis. The main point of the paragraph should be clear (p. 205)

Remember to pay particular attention to the last sentence of each paragraph, for it’s the critical springboard to the following paragraph.

Tip 5: Use the Active Voice

Whenever possible, use the active voice in your writing. Active verbs give vitality to your writing. “The active voice is usually more direct and vigorous than the passive … and makes for forcible writing” (Strunk & White, 1979, p. 18). The following examples contrast the passive and active voices:

Passive: This paper was written by me. Active: I wrote the paper. Passive: The nurse is supervisor of the health program. Active: The nurse supervises the health program. Passive: The advisor was hesitant to approve the research design. Active: The advisor hesitated to approve the design. Passive: The dissertation will be edited by members of the committee. Active: The committee will edit the dissertation.

One sign of the passive voice is the use of linking verbs such as was, will be, have been, and is. Sentences containing any form of the verb to be are eligible for rewriting in active voice. Circle all the linking verbs in your own writing or have a computer highlight them. You will find that “75 percent of them can be eliminated” (Munter, 1997, p. 69). Write as straightforwardly as you can, using strong verbs—not ones that lack action (is, was, etc.).

The choice between using the active or passive voice in writing is a matter of style, not correctness. There is nothing inherently wrong with the passive voice, but if you can say the same thing in the active mode, do so.

Passive Voice Usage

The passive voice can be used by you. Both active voice and passive voice have advantages. The active voice reduces wordiness and makes your writing strong and interesting. The passive voice is more formal and more readily accepted in scientific writing because you can write without using personal pronouns or names of specific researchers. It represents the conventional means of impersonal reporting and gives the article an air of objectivity (Example: “Experiments have been conducted to test the hypothesis.”). The passive voice also can be used to good effect in these ways:

• 1.

To de-emphasize responsibility

Example: Rather than “You made an error,” write “An error was made.”

• 2.

To de-emphasize the writer

Example: Instead of “I recommend,” write “It is recommended that.”

• 3.

When the performer of the action is unknown or irrelevant

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Example: “A house was broken into on Main Street.”

Example: “Office mail is delivered twice a day.”

Situations requiring use of passive voice occur infrequently. If your writing does not require these special situations, then reduce the unnecessary passive voice sentences that usually make your writing tedious and hard to understand. Remember, a sequence of passive verbs can have the air of authority, but what it often has is air!

How do you know if you’ve used too many passive constructions? On your document, circle (or make note of) every form of the verb be (am, is, are, had, has, was, were, been, etc.). Passivevoice constructions always include some form of “to be.” If your page is covered with circles, rewrite the page using active verbs.

Pick up any Scientific American magazine and read the feature articles. You will notice very little passive voice writing in them because the magazine editors and the writers want the readers to read the articles. Therefore, they communicate with their readers in a concise and direct way without sacrificing objectivity. You should do the same when you are writing a scientific paper. Do not confuse objective with detached and wordy.

—Jeffrey Strausser, Painless Writing (2001, p. 77)

Tip 6: Use Transitional Words and Phrases

Transitions build bridges between your ideas and help you achieve a coherent document. They act as road signs that guide your readers from one idea to the next. Transitions help make your discussion easy to follow. Readers must understand how the topics relate to one another. Every sentence should be a logical sequel to the one that preceded it. You signal the relationships between sentences and paragraphs by the following sampling of transitional words and phrases:

Frequently Used Transitions

To Signal Examples

Contrast but, whereas, yet, still, however, nevertheless, despite, on the contrary, although, on the other hand, conversely

Addition furthermore, subsequently, besides, next, moreover, also, similarly, too, second Example for instance, an illustration, thus, such as, that is, specifically Time or place

afterwards, earlier, at the same time, subsequently, later, simultaneously, above, below, further on, so far, until now

Conclusion therefore, in short, thus, then, in other words, in conclusion, consequently, as a result, accordingly, finally

Sequence then, first, second, third, next

Tip 7: Simplify Your Vocabulary

Academic writers tend to use technical terms with abandon. They assume readers understand their specialized language. Resist jargon—it excludes and mystifies. If you must use a special term, explain it at the outset. Also remember to choose short words over long ones, especially if they have the same meaning. “Of the 701 words in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, a marvel of economy itself, 505 are words of one syllable and 122 are words of two syllables” (Zinsser, 1994, p. 112).

Beware, then, of the long word that’s no better than the short word: assistance (help), numerous (many), facilitate (ease), individual (man or woman), remainder (rest), initial (first), implement (do), sufficient (enough), attempt (try), referred to as (called), and hundreds more. (Zinsser, 1994, p. 16)

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Tip 8: Use Quotations Sparingly

A research paper involves assimilating the works of others and giving proper acknowledgment. Over-quoting is a common mistake. Students often string together a series of quotations connected by words such as similarly, likewise, and on the other hand. Don’t do this! Quotations should be used sparingly. Booth, Colomb, and Williams (1995) provided pertinent rules of thumb about when to use direct quotations and when to paraphrase your sources:

Use direct quotations:

• When you use the work of others as primary data • When you want to appeal to their authority • When the specific words of your source matter because

◦ Those words have been important to other researchers ◦ You want to focus on how your source says things ◦ The words of the source are especially vivid or significant ◦ You dispute your source and you want to state his or her case fairly

Paraphrase your sources:

• When you are more interested in content, findings, or claims than in how a source expresses himself or herself

• When you could have said the same thing yourself more clearly (p. 174)

It is important that you take control of interpreting the work of others. Excessive quoting is a form of laziness on your part. In doing so, you abdicate responsibility for being selective and doing your own interpretation for the reader.

The secret of good writing is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components. Every word that serves no function, every long word that could be a short word, every adverb that carries the same meaning that’s already in the verb, every passive construction that leaves the reader unsure of who is doing what—these are the thousand and one adulterants that weaken the strength of a sentence. And they usually occur in proportion to education and rank.

—William Zinsser, On Writing Well (1994, p. 7)

Don’t start your sentences with a quotation followed by your own words. Instead, start with your words and support them with quoted or paraphrased material.

Useful Verbs

A variety of useful words can introduce quotations and help avoid repetitive constructions such as “Smith said,” or “Smith stated.” More than just variety, these words also provide exactness.

acknowledged confirmed implied addressed contended maintained affirmed contradicted negated agreed declared noted argued discussed refuted asserted disputed reported believed emphasized thought commented endorsed wrote

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Further Reading

Bolker, J. (1998). Writing your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day. New York: Holt. Danziger, E. (2001). Get to the point. New York: Three Rivers. Hacker, D. (2007). A writer’s reference ( 6th ed. ). Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s. O’Conner, P. (2009). Woe is I: The grammarphobe’s guide to better English in plain English ( 3rd ed. ). New York: Riverhead. Shulman, M. (2005). In focus: Strategies for academic writers. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Venolia, J. (2001). Write right! A desktop digest of punctuation, grammar, and style. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press.

Helpful Websites

Purdue’s Online Writing Lab (OWL)

• http://owl.english.purdue.edu/index.htm

The Writing Center (University of North Carolina)

• http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb

Duke University Research Guide

• http://library.duke.edu/services/instruction/libraryguide

Fussy Professor Starbuck’s Cookbook of Handy-Dandy Prescriptions for Ambitious Academic Authors or Why I Hate Passive Verbs and Love My Word Processor

• http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~wstarbuc/Writing/Fussy.htm


Scholarly, academic writing requires the ability to express your ideas logically, clearly, concisely, and with precision. Such writing requires command of basic writing skills such as logical organization, good sentence and paragraph construction, and appropriate transitions. This chapter offered eight tips designed to overcome basic problems dissertation students face in scholarly writing. The next chapter explains the components of a dissertation’s introductory chapter and offers examples to clarify how to write each section.

• dissertation • sentencing • verbs • tipping • logical thinking • basic writing • precision


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Page 9 of 9 SAGE Books – Mastering the Academic Stylehttp://owl.english.purdue.edu/index.htmhttp://www.unc.edu/depts/wcwebhttp://library.duke.edu/services/instruction/libraryguidehttp://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~wstarbuc/Writing/Fussy.htmhttp://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452219219.n10

  • The Dissertation Journey: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide to Planning, Writing, and Defending your Dissertation
    • Mastering the Academic Style
      • Mastering the Academic Style
      • Qualities of Scholarly Writing
      • Common Writing Problems
      • Organization
      • Paragraphs
      • Sentence Construction
      • Direct Quotations
      • Tips for Good Writing
      • Tip 1: Write in a Conversational Tone
      • Tip 2: Trim Excess Words
      • Tip 3: Use Short Sentences Rather than Long
      • Tip 4: Write Clear, Well-Constructed Paragraphs
      • Tip 5: Use the Active Voice
      • Tip 6: Use Transitional Words and Phrases
      • Tip 7: Simplify Your Vocabulary
      • Tip 8: Use Quotations Sparingly
      • Useful Verbs
      • Further Reading
      • Helpful Websites
      • Summary

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