When you begin the process of writing your thesis or dissertation, you may feel overwhelmed at first and then relieved to be able to put something in writing without an error. However, it is worth keeping in mind some common mistakes, as not doing so can seriously affect the final product.

The statement is unclear

The reader has to immediately understand your purpose. If it’s vague or unclear, you’ll have lost your audience from the start. This is a common error. Limit your approach and use direct language to lay out your main idea.

Example thesis statement: Food in America is disgusting, unhealthy, and expensive, so we probably shouldn’t eat any of it.

Improved wording: Because of the obesity crisis in the United States, lawmakers should consider creating a plan to lower the prices of healthier foods so that everyone can afford to eat high-quality food.

The statement is too complicated

A statement that is too long often confuses the reader. In addition, it weakens the argument that is being tried to be presented. This is an error.

Example thesis statement: Many athletes, such as those who play in colleges or for organizations like the NCAA, don’t make any money which is devastating because they deserve to make a substantial amount of money because of their efforts on the court and on the field and due to the fact that colleges make a profit from the sports these athletes play.

Improved statement: NCAA athletes should receive compensation for their sports in college because they are generating income for colleges and risking injuries for themselves.

Statements that are too basic or obvious

As you progress through your education, your writing should also mature. A successful thesis statement in high school is not necessarily a strong thesis statement in college. While being very basic and obvious in your writing while in high school may be fine, writing as a college student needs to be more accurate and refined.

Example of thesis statement: In this paper I will talk about the importance of having a healthy breakfast every day.

Improved statement: Eating a healthy breakfast is important to help your body function at its optimal level during the day.

The statement has no real purpose

Readers need to be interested in your topic in some way Is this information useful? Beneficial? Is it worth investigating? If not, choose a more interesting topic worth discussing.

Example of thesis statement: Blue socks look very nice in students.

Improved statement: Students should be able to express themselves as people by choosing the type of socks and shoes they want to bring to school.

The statement uses poor language options

Jargon, abbreviations, and misspelling have no place in a clear thesis statement. This is an error we have seen many times. Use professional language to present your point of view.

Thesis example: The best comedians should make you laugh 24 hours a day.

Enhanced statement: To be a quality comedian, you must develop your craft in a way that inspires laughter and joy in each performance.

The statement has no connection with the rest of the thesis

Even if you have a decent thesis statement, it won’t mean anything if the rest of the essay deviates from your main idea. Always connect your thoughts with the thesis statement. The essay has to be coherent and stay on target from your original argument.

Preparing an exhaustive thesis may seem like a difficult task, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re aware of the most common mistakes students make, you can avoid them and create a thesis statement that is clear, engaging, and purposeful.

Not investigating enough

The amount of research you’ll do for a thesis at the university will be substantially greater than anything else you’ve done before, even more if you’re doing your doctoral thesis. When you’ve done enough research, you’ll have a wealth of ideas that will get your creativity flowing. Only then can you generate original ideas that form the core of your work. When your arguments aren’t backed up by the right references, it shows a lot. In fact, it can undermine all the work you’ve done. This is an error you have to avoid.

It is also an error to do a lot of research, but in a very limited way. Read a lot in your field. A variety of resources lend credibility to your work and diminish any semblance of bias.

Leave things for the last moment

The average dissertation is between 100 and 200 pages long (although, depending on the topic, a dissertation can be even longer). In any case, it’s a lot of work to leave it for the last moment.

You’ll need to submit several drafts and give your supervisors and other readers enough time to digest it. You’ll also need time to act on their feedback. And this will have to happen in addition to the classes and other responsibilities that you and they already have. If you rush to write, you may make an error by carelessness, but more importantly you won’t have enough time to convey a truly unique insight into your work.

Plan well and then add more leeway to that plan than you think you’ll need.

Choosing the wrong topic

If you choose a topic that doesn’t interest anyone but yourself or that doesn’t particularly interest you, you may have trouble keeping others’ attention or your own after working on it for several months or even years. That’s a bad position you find yourself in when you’re trying to finish and an error you have to avoid.

There are other ways to choose badly. Don’t choose a stereotypically “academic” topic to impress others. You’ll bore yourself and you may also not be up to the task. Also, keep in mind if your specific angle is outdated or if it has been written about hundreds of times before.

Unnecessary background

If you expose facts or describe mechanisms, do so to make a point or to help interpret the results, and reference the study. Stick to what corresponds and include a reference to your source of reference information if you consider it important.

Being disorganized

This applies not only to the methodology of research, especially in the field of science, but also to the writing process itself. You must have a system to keep track of your appointments and sources. And each part of your thesis should show a clear structure and a progression of ideas. Your work may be brilliant and groundbreaking, but the lack of organization will make it completely inaccessible.

Providing too much information

Yes, there is such a thing when it comes to staying focused on the core ideas of your work. Offering enough background and context is essential to writing a credible paper and doing great research will give you a solid foundation. However, tangential and irrelevant ideas are distracting. They also give the appearance of being “filler”.

Committing plagiarism

We have already talked about plagiarism, but it is worth mentioning again. Avoiding it is tied to having an organized writing process, but even the most well-meaning writer can make a slip if you’re not careful. You will put your reputation and your work at serious risk if you plagiarize, even if accidentally. When in doubt, use a plagiarism check service to make sure your work is correct.

Choosing uncritical readers and editors

The success of the thesis or dissertation is not only up to you. You’ll need advisors, readers, and committees to assess your progress, challenge you, help you, and ultimately rate your work.

Verb tense

Using an incorrect verb tense, at best, is irritating to reading and reflects the student’s writing skills poorly. In the worst case, the reader may confuse what facts are already known and what has recently been discovered in the actual study that is the subject of the work. As a rule, use the past tense to describe events that have happened. These facts include the procedures you have carried out and the results you have observed. Use the present tense to describe generally accepted facts.

Mixing up the times is even worse. Unfortunately, people who read the news on TV and radio programs are often completely unaware of verb tense.

Anecdotal information

Sometimes you may feel the need to justify a claim or procedure by stating “‘the instructor told us to do this instead of that.'” You may find it appropriate to type “we use Microsoft Excel to create a chart of x vs. y”. That information is anecdotal and considered superfluous. In some cases, the omission of anecdotal information is unfortunate. This is an error you have to avoid.

Articles in older literature are usually much more exciting and often more informative for those who are not “aware”, because the researcher could report on how a conclusion had been reached, including the reasoning and the various deviations that led him to the conclusions. The writer could tell the story of the research process. Modern articles omit that information because the volume of literature is so large that most of us who do a search don’t have time to wade through more material than we need. Publication costs are too high to allow the printing of superfluous information.

A research article summarizes a study. It doesn’t identify who did what. References to instructors, peers, teams, partners, etc. are not appropriate, nor is referring to the “laboratory”. This is an error.

Include redundant material for readers

Needless to tell scientists, their study is relevant to the field of biochemistry. Your readers can find out which field(s) your work applies to. It is not necessary to define terms that are well known to the target audience. For example, do you really think it is necessary to define systolic blood pressure if your readers are doctors or cardiovascular physiologists?

Subjectivity and use of superlatives

Technical writing differs from fiction writing, opinion pieces, and academic papers in many ways. One of them is the use of superlatives and subjective statements to emphasize a point. These writing styles are not used in science. Objectivity is absolutely essential.

Subjectivity refers to feelings, opinions, etc. For example, in your discussion you might write, “We thought the fixator was bad, because we had difficulty finding scourges in our Chlamydomonas.” Another researcher is unlikely to risk time and resources based on your “feeling.” On the other hand, you could write, “The percentage of cells with flagella was inversely proportional to the time they spent in the fixator, suggesting that the fixator was causing the cells to detach from the flagella.” This is information that another scientist can use.

Superlatives include adjectives like “huge,” “incredible,” “wonderful,” “exciting,” etc. For example, “mitochondria showed an incredibly large increase in oxygen consumption when we added the decoupling agent.” Your definition of “amazing” may be different than someone else’s: maybe a five-fold increase is amazing for you, but not for someone else. It is much better to use an objective expression such as “Oxygen consumption was five times higher in the presence of decoupling, which is a greater change than we saw with the addition of any other reagent.”

Similarly, we don’t write that we believe something. We present the evidence, and perhaps suggest strong support for a position, but beliefs do not come into play. Specifically, we do not expect a series of concrete results, nor do we “wire” a hypothesis to make it appear that we have correctly predicted the results. That kind of practice is another example of a lack of objectivity.

Grammar and spelling

Avoid obvious grammatical errors. Clear written communication requires a sentence structure and the use of appropriate words. Make sure your sentences are complete, that they make sense when you review them, and that there is agreement between the verb and the subject.


If you base a conclusion on the data, then your conclusion is a deduction, not an assumption. This is a common error. In fact, in experimental science, assumptions are often avoided. One of the purposes of controls is to eliminate the need to assume anything.


The purpose of a discussion is to interpret the results, not simply to present them in a different way. In most cases, a superficial discussion ignores the mechanisms or does not fully explain them. It should be clear to the reader why a particular result has occurred. The statement “The result coincides with the known theoretical value” tells us nothing about the mechanism or mechanisms behind the result. Explanations may not be easy and your explanation may not be correct, but you will get most or all of the credit available for putting forward a reasonable explanation, even if it is not entirely correct. Superficial affirmations, on the contrary, will cost you.

Common errors in reporting results

The converted data are data that have been analyzed, usually summarized and presented in such a way that only the information pertinent to the objectives of the study is presented. Raw data refers to the results of individual replica tests, individual observations, graphic records, and other information that comes directly from the laboratory.

Once you have presented the converted data, do not present the same data differently. For example, if the data is plotted, do not also include a data table. Present a figure (such as a chart) if appropriate. If the data is best represented by a table, then use a table. The legend of any figure or table should include all relevant information. You do not have to go into the body of the article to know the results of the statistical tests of the data, or the justification for the adjustment of a curve. We have seen this error in numerous thesis.

Raw data is not usually included in the results. The raw data includes lists of observations, measurements made to obtain a final result (e.g., absorbance, relative mobility, graduation marks on a microscope’s reticle).

Use an appropriate number of decimal places (if you need decimals at all) to report averages and other measured or calculated values. The number of decimal places and/or significant figures must reflect the degree of accuracy of the original measurement. Since the number of significant figures used reflects the level of accuracy of the measurement or calculation, it is never necessary to qualify a measurement or calculation as “over” or “approximate”.

Don’t draw conclusions in the results section. Reserve the interpretation of the data for discussion.

The lack of a significant difference

We have a statistically significant difference when the analysis yields a very low probability that the difference is due solely to sampling error (random error). If sufficient data are collected and statistical significance is not reached, the researcher can conclude that the null hypothesis is supported, that is, that there is no significant difference.

The lack of a significant difference does not mean that the result itself is insignificant. A finding, for example, that there are no intrinsic differences in fundamental mathematical ability between racial groups would be a very significant finding. Significance in this study refers to the importance of the outcome. “It is significant that we have not found significant differences between the groups studied” is a valid, though perhaps confusing, statement.

There is a tendency among students to reject a study as inconclusive just because no statistically significant differences were found. This rejection suggests a misunderstanding of the scientific method itself. Some can be concluded even from the worst-designed experiments. In fact, most well-designed experiments result in support for the null hypothesis. Be prepared to interpret what you find, regardless of what you think you should find. The goal of experimental science is to discover the truth, not to make the data conform to one’s expectations.

Do not check the final product

Proofreading and editing your thesis is not limited to grammar, spelling, punctuation, and typos. Whether you do it yourself or outsource this task to a professional editor, it is essential that you check the fluidity and consistency of the writing as well as the consistency of your ideas. Your work should be well supported and structured, with correct syntax and academic language. And don’t forget about the format and citations, which vary from field to field.

Incomplete sentences, redundant phrases, obvious misspellings, and other symptoms of a hasty written job can cost you dearly and it’s a common error. Start your work early enough to correct it. Check the spelling of scientific names, names of people, names of compounds, etc. Spelling and grammatical errors can be embarrassing. Since many very different terms have similar names, a misspelling can result in a completely incorrect statement.

When you print your work, make sure that the tables are not divided into more than one page, that the pages are presented out of sequence, etc. Remember that someone has to read it. If the reader is an editor or reviewer, you may receive a rejection notification for being too careless.

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Sources Consulted

Purnawan, A. (n/a). Common flaws in students’ research proposals. In: http://staff.uny.ac.id/sites/default/files/penelitian/Ari%20Purnawan,S.Pd.,M.Pd.,M.A./common%20flaws%20in%20students%27%20research%20proposal.pdf

Kikula, I.S. & Qorro, M. A. (2007). Common mistakes and problems in research proposal
writing. Special Paper 07.24 Dar Es Salaam, REPOA. In: http://www.repoa.or.tz/documents/Special_Paper_07.24_.pdf

Ulla, M.B. (2014). Analysis of the language errors in writing among BSEE and AB Spanish students. European Journal of Academic Essays, 1(3), 39–47

You might also be interested in: What to expect from a thesis tutoring


Errors in the realization of a thesis

Errors in the realization of a thesis. Photo: Unsplash. Credits: Magnet.me @magnetme

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