My prestigious university allowed me to be a spectator during the external viva of their graduating students. As per tradition, this is conducted by a guest professor from some an other University. Professor was asking questions about their work and giving remarks and recommendations about the thesis.
There were few mistakes in the thesis which being repeated by almost every student. Mistakes were so common that can be neglected by any student or supervisor and influence the overall influence more than we think.
Most Common Mistakes in Thesis
Grammatical mistakes, at this level, are somehow avoidable only if the sentence is making sense but not the spelling mistakes. Poorly spelled words have very bad impression on the document. Suppose, you are writing about the “3D conformation” of proteins and you write it “3D confirmation”. Sometimes a single mistake of spelling makes a completely different sense of the sentence.
There was a student while writing about the brain. He wrote ‘hippopotamus’ because he only remembered that the part of the brain that controlled the Pituitary Gland went something like that, and ‘hippopotamus’ was the closest word he could think of.
This is one of the most basic norms of scientific norms. While talking to the Professor, he told me, “Scientific names always need to be written in italic, students don’t pay attention to it.” He added, “while writing any name of microbe or virus, don’t forget to mention the variant or strain especially if it is commercial.”
Have you seen Harry Potter? Great! Wrong format of scientific names can backfire on the impression of your whole text. Just like the wrong Spell on the person holding the magical wand.
Certain parts of the thesis like ‘Discussion’ requires intuition. You don’t know when the idea will come into your mind. You always keep their laptop at hand’s distance even during sleep. Most of the people don’t check the font they are writing with at a certain paragraph. Either it’s the recommended one or not. Be careful to use the only single font in your whole document recommended by the Institution or the supervisor. Be careful about the following things as well,
- Font size
- Font color
- Letter Spacing
- Page Spacing
- Page Numbers
- Heading numbers and bullet style
University mostly provides the citation style for the thesis. Students mostly avoid harmonizing the citation style and just copy paste it from the source website. This is not a good practice. Any experienced researcher can always tell you if you have used the same citation style in the thesis or not.
It’s better to read the complete guide to any specific citation style you are going to use instead of relying on the citation software only. Basics of APA Style.
Device and Software names
If you used any device such PCR Thermocycler, you should not only mention the name of the company but also the model number of the device. Such as Biosystems Thermocycler D348. Same rule goes for the software as well. You must mention the release version number in your thesis.
Later on, if someone reports any bug in the software or machine of that specific version/model, the reader can understand your reading better. This will also help if someone, at the junior level, replicating your experiment.
Chemicals and Other Solutions
While mentioning some chemical used in any experimentation, don’t forget to mention the concentration and volume used. Not only this, also adds the manufacturer or supplier of the chemical used. If you are using any kit, such as PCR, also mention the component you used in your experiment along with the kit.
“Student mention the name of the kit used, but not they used from the kit, usually it’s not the everything that comes with the kit.” said the professor. Don’t forget to mention the rpm/voltages etc. of any device used.
Use of Images
Graphic content is always more attractive than the textual. But while writing scientific content, you need to be very careful about the images you use. Don’t use stock images, experts don’t endorse it.
“I like to see the result of your gel electrophoresis, not the device of gel electrophoresis. I have seen it already” said the professor to a student. So be careful, only adds the photos that are needed. Don’t try to increase the pile of sheets in your thesis by adding more photos.
If it’s some diagram, flowchart and schematic representation of any process. Try to make it on your own instead of downloading from Google Images. Read, Draw Plasmids in PowerPoint
Explain Images and Diagrams
Writing two lines of the caption under the image is not enough. Make sure you discuss the image in the paragraph as well. This approach will also help you to use the necessary images only.
Be careful to add the image after discussing it in the earlier paragraph. It’s not a good approach that your image is on page two and you are discussing it on somewhere page 3-4.
Use of Abbreviations
Restrict the use of abbreviations to frequently used words in your text. Too many abbreviations in your text will make it a bit difficult to understand. Don’t forget to add an extra page of abbreviations in thesis file.
Abbreviating scientific names is a very annoying approach. Write M. charantia instead of MC while shortening Momordica charantia.
Don’t split tables and flowcharts
Tables and flowcharts are a nice way to present your data. Try to have them on a separate page. Do not split the tables and flowcharts into multiple pages.
If there is too much data which needs to be added to the table, be creative and categorize. Make sure that it must be on a single page separate page.
Similarly in case of Flowcharts, simply it. Don’t add the general things in the flowchart. generally, you can add more data in the circular flowchart.
Full Page Paragraphs
This is the among the poorest format errors any person can commit. Paragraphs must not be more than 4-5 lines.
If you want the readers to read the content, then make the short paragraphs and short sentences as well. It’s a number one rule for good readability of content.
Thesis Review Checklist
This is a quick checklist to review your thesis for mistakes before submitting it.
- Read the guidelines provided by the Institution, again.
- Check Font Size/Color/Style
- Page margins and letter spacing
- Image captions
- Volumes/Concentration etc.
- Front page: Your registration Number, Name of Department/Institution, Name of Supervisor and Title of your thesis.
- Data of the tables and Flowchart
- Either the Document is print-friendly or not
- Scientific names
What embarrassing mistake you commit in your thesis? Share with us anonymously in comment section and others.
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