University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
DOCTORAL WRITING TIPS: PLEASE READ-IMPORTANT-HINT, HINT, HINT Please use the tips below and I am almost certain you will get a much better grade, create very polished, doctoral-level papers, and will have a MUCH easier time on your proposal/project/dissertation as these items are REQUIRED. 1. Do not use too many direct quotes — in academia there is an emphasis put on being able to read, assimilate, and paraphrase thus the use of direct quotes is really an academic no-no in most cases. Just to give you an example, in a paper of about 10 pages I would expect to see no more than one or two direct quotes–if at all. Use direct quotes only where you need to emphasize something that is unique and requires an exact replay of whatever it is that you are trying to say. This being said, keep yourself out of harm’s way and avoid the use of direct quotes as much as possible.
2. All ‘statements of fact’ MUST be cited in your paper. All citations noted within the body of your paper, slides, tables, charts or graphs, should also have corresponding full references in the back of your paper in the References section. Only items that are cited in your paper should appear in the reference section. No other items should ever be in the reference section unless they were already cited in your paper.
3. Read all assignments VERY carefully. Too many times I see students lose valuable points as they read their assignment one time and start writing. Most of the time when this is done, critical requirements are missed, resulting in many lost points and a greatly reduced grade.
4. If you must use direct quotes (which again, should be infrequently at best), you absolutely positively MUST have a page number or paragraph number (if it is a non-paginated website). This is not only an APA regulation but one that will also help you avoid a charge of plagiarism. This is VERY serious so please take note.
5. Do not use sources that are ancient unless it is truly a section using historical background. Recently I saw a student paper where they were citing current sources and then jumped in and cited a source from 1948 . . . and it was not a historical section!! This was merely an irrelevant and ancient reference that should not have been included in that paper.
6. If a central point was noted in your requirements for the assignment, make sure that you cover that exact point, making direct reference to it, citing it, and of course including a corresponding reference in the reference section. Example if you were to compare and contrast a noted author, be sure in your paper that you specifically mention that author, their works, the date of their work, and also make reference to that citation in the Reference section of your paper.
7. If you are making a general statement with a citation, then you would not use a page number or a paragraph number. Only direct quotes that should be used very sparingly would get page and paragraph numbers (Are you getting the idea you should avoid the use of direct quotes ???? ). Two citations per paragraph and one direct quote per page is a rule of thumb.
8. Be very mindful of the page count and word count that have been provided in the assignment’s details. There is a reason for page and word count — it is a direct clue as to the scope of the paper. Additionally if you are ever planning to publish in a journal, you will be given a very stringent page and/or word count. If the publishers tell you the article is to be 1000 words and instead you write 1001 words, your article will be rejected . . . I am not kidding this is true. In terms of scope, if the paper is to be 750 words clearly your coverage of that topic will be much different than if the paper required 7500 words… page count and word count can be your friend so pay very close attention. Please do not ask the instructor if they are serious about the page and word count . . . needless to say they will say ‘yes’ so do not even ask. Additionally please do not ask for exceptions to the page/word count as there was an intent for this assignment and page and work out was part of that. These assignments are attempting to train you to be a precise and disciplined professional writer.
9. Be sure all papers include an introduction that gives a brief background about your topic but also includes specifically what will be covered in the paper. The word ‘introduction’ should be omitted as a section header. 10. Be sure your paper has a substantive conclusion that summarizes what was included in the paper. Please do not use the conclusion to introduce new information… this is not the place for new information as the conclusion is merely a summary section of what was ALREADY covered in your paper. Ideally, your conclusion should key off the introduction.
11. Do not use contractions. Example: ‘don’t’, ‘I’m’, he’ll’–Additionally, use a scholarly, formal tone in all your papers. Your paper is not to sound like a personal story, journal, magazine article, letter to a friend, personal diary, or stream of mind writing effort..be Clear, Concise, and Precise in all doctoral writings.
12. Be sure to not use first and second person in all writings. It is entirely possible to write about a personal topic yet not use first person..example (use this style, it works well): This author believes; Research indicates, this researcher posits, experience has shown, etc.
13. Be sure to use APA 6th edition paper formatting, and spacing throughout the entire paper. This means that your paper should be double spaced line-wise throughout. From section to section, do not use extra line spacing in your paper–this includes from your cover to your reference section.
14. Watch your tenses. If you are writing in the current tense, be consistent and stay with the current tense throughout your paper. If you are writing in the future tense be consistent and stick with future tense throughout your paper. If you are writing in the past tense, be consistent and use past tense throughout your entire paper.
15. Be sure all your sentences are complete -no one-word sentences such as ‘Yes’!. Also, be sure each sentence has a subject. Example: He said the dog should go for a walk (WHO SAID?); That research showed interesting results (WHAT RESEARCH)? 16. All paragraphs should have a MINIMUM of 3 sentences.
17. Your doctoral writing should be clear, concise and precise. Avoid wordiness and flowery language. Wordiness and flowery writing is usually a sign that you are lacking substantive content, or are using ‘fillers’ to meet a word requirement, or are lacking knowledge of writing in a scientific/scholarly manner. Do not use fluff/fillers such as ‘the fact of the matter is . . .’ ‘nevertheless’, ‘also . . .’, ‘this being said’ . . . etc.
18. Be sure to carefully proofread your papers. I see many students post papers that literally have errors in their cover page and their introduction… and it usually gets worse from there. Use Microsoft’s built in spell checker-all spelling errors will be underlined in red. Correct all errors. Many times students ask ‘how many times should I proofread a paper’? I tell them, ‘until you no longer find errors, then reread your paper another couple of times’. Do not steal points from yourself — if you took the time to write the paper then take the extra time to proofread it so you do not harm your grade.
19. This class does NOT permit ‘redo’s’, extra
credit, incompletes, etc. –so be sure to plan accordingly and do your best work first.
20. Please be sure to make all statements in the affirmative (do not use questions as part of your paper). There is nothing worse than a student that uses a question in the paper, than answers that question. If a paper is well thought out, is well written in a cogent manner, this interrogative approach should never take place..it rather underscores a writing weakness so avoid at all costs. ~~ Remember, the doctoral degree is the highest degree in the land. Have respect for this degree, yourself as an academic scholar and what that means. When you have earned your degree you will be expected to be an authority your area of study so take your work seriously so as not to devalue yourself, your degree and your university.
Do your very best work as you will likely run across your faculty members again and again and will also perhaps have them on your doctoral committees, as a chair, member, reader, University reviewer, etc. — set a good impression and do a good job on each and every paper–your classes will bring you topic knowledge, but will almost more importantly provide you the larger research and writing skills you will need to be successful. Be sure to also use the wonderful Writing Center facilities your university has provided as you will find tutorials, templates, tip sheets, links, general info, plagiarism scanners, computerized document proofreaders (in many cases), etc..if you are serious about succeeding in your program, you will definitely want and need to use these resources. Additionally, learn how to become a master at using your university’s online library, its search engines, available periodicals, etc….become familiar with the library staff and how they can be of assistance. You are undertaking a large, serious and fruitful task as a doctoral learner so give yourself every advantage possible. I wish you well in your doctoral journey..it will be the most worthwhile endeavor you have ever undertaken! ~ Dr. Judy