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Tips on writing your Literature Review

The Literature Review

The Literature Review is the next important step in your thesis introduction. Different from an annotated bibliography, the review of the literature you have used (books, journal articles, periodicals, etc.), should:

  1. Review your discipline style: APA, Chicago, Harvard, and so on.
  2. Show that you are familiar with the essential background information on your topic.
  3. Help your reader understand your thesis.
  4. Tell your reader what has already been written about your topic.
  5. Show that your thesis is original and has not already been covered by someone else.
  6. Show where your study will fit in with the current body of literature on the topic and within your field. Think in terms of “what gap will my project fill?”

Remember: the literature review is not a list. It should be a comprehensive analysis and review of all of the relevant literature you have chosen to study.

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Writing a Thesis Introduction: Part 2

In this series, we will attempt to provide general information that should apply to most graduate students, particularly in the United States and Canada. While there are some differences in terminology between the UK and the US, most everything else applies on both sides of the Atlantic.

Our last post dealt with the first sections of the Introduction, from the introductory sentence to the Purpose of the Study. We continue this week with the final components of the introduction: the Research Questions, Significance of the Study, Definitions of Terms, and Assumptions, Limitations, and Delimitations

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Writing your Thesis Introduction: Part I

Your entire college writing career should have prepared you to write a top-notch introduction. After all, you have written countless research papers since your freshman year, and yet the Introduction seems to be the biggest hurdle for many writers.


Perhaps this is because it’s tedious; you are merely skimming the surface and providing talking points rather than getting into the deeper study that you have so passionately undertaken during your post-grad years.

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Writing your Thesis/Dissertation Proposal

Writing the Dissertation Proposal

Mise en place. It is a French phrase that is used in the professional cooking world and it means “(putting) everything in place.” The mise en place of a professional kitchen is its philosophy and system. It is used interchangeably as both a noun (setting up the ingredients) and a verb (the process of preparing to act). It is also a good way to think about starting to write the thesis or dissertation.

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Our Short Guide to Sentences and Clauses

In previous posts, I referred to some of the mechanics of sentence construction, noting that many students are surprisingly unfamiliar with even the most basic elements. Of course, one can get through life without knowing how sentences should be structured, but knowing them makes writing easier, and – I would go so far as to argue – can make your thinking more precise and well-organized.

This post will discuss the nuts and bolts of sentences construction, identifying four different types based on combinations of independent and dependent clauses. 

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Avoiding “Hit and Run” Quotations Part 2: A Practical Demonstration

In the previous entry, I went over some tips and guidelines for avoiding “hit and run” quotations. As promised, in this second part I will demonstrate how you can put these tips into practice.

Let us first imagine a scenario in which we are writing an essay arguing that Charles Darwin’s theories of evolution are not threatening to Christian beliefs.

We come across an essay, “Was Charles Darwin and Atheist?” by John van Wyhe, which argues that Darwin may not have been as much an atheist as people sometimes think, and we want to use it to support our argument.

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Avoiding “Hit and Run” Quotations, Part 1: General Tips and Guidelines

One of the biggest problems I encounter in student papers is the “hit and run” quotation, in which the words of another author suddenly appear without warning and then just as suddenly disappear. Plunking a random quotation into your essay might satisfy assignment requirements, but the end result is both confusing and boring to read. I plan to address this problem in two parts: Part 1 will provide some tips on avoiding “hit and run” quotations; Part 2 will demonstrate these tips through examples.

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Tips on planning your Thesis/Dissertation

In this series, we will attempt to provide general information that should apply to most graduate students, particularly in the United States and Canada. While there are some differences in terminology between the UK and the US, most everything else applies on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Thesis or Dissertation: which one are you writing?

In this series, we will attempt to provide general information that should apply to most graduate students, particularly in the United States. While there are some differences in terminology between the UK and the US, most everything else applies on both sides of the Atlantic.


The Thesis vs the Dissertation

In the United States, a thesis is the final research paper for the master’s degree. It showcases research the scholar has undertaken and demonstrates their knowledge of their chosen major. A dissertation, on the other hand, must contribute something original, or something previously undiscovered, to the field of study.

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Grammar & Writing: Active vs. Passive Voice


Perhaps you received a graded paper with instructions not to use the passive voice, and are not entirely sure what that means. Oftentimes, professors – especially those in the humanities – prefer that students use active voice almost exclusively to passive. In short, active and passive voice have to do with the relationship between subject, action, and object in a sentence.

Both ways, the meaning of the sentence remains essentially the same, but the difference in emphasis can lead to slightly different interpretations. 

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Writing Tips: Comma Splices

One of the most common errors that I mark on student papers is the comma splice, which happens when the writer joins two independent clauses – i.e., complete sentences – with only a comma. Like many writing errors, the comma splice was not a term I recognized before I started teaching English, and I often encounter limited recognition of the term outside of teaching circles. Not even my parents, who have worked as teachers, librarians, and editors, recognized the term when I mentioned it to them.

I suspect, though, that – much like pornography – they would recognize the offense when they saw it, as will many other educated readers. 

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Why hire a professional editor for your dissertation?

It’s thesis or dissertation time. You’ve been a diligent graduate student, working tirelessly into the night or during the wee hours of the morning, watching the sun rise through the library windows. We can sympathize. We’ve been there. We remember furiously typing up pages and pages of notes, filling the white void on the screen before us with black characters that bear out the One Universal Truth that we must defend: the thesis statement. We know you have read, revised, submitted, revised with your director and committee’s suggestions and corrections, and resubmitted yet again. 

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Two Spaces after a Period (aka the full stop)?

This one is actually simple: do not put two spaces after a period. In fact, I did not realize until recently that it was even a point of contention; but boy is it! So much so, that Berkeley Breathed used it in a series of Bloom County comics spoofing the 2016 election, in which Opus the Penguin tossed his hat into a ring notoriously overloaded with questionable candidates. 

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Writing your Rhetorical Analysis Paper: some Tips to Guide you

Rhetorical analysis papers are a common type of assignment for college writing classes, although many new students find they have not encountered anything like it before.

I always tell students that the main thing to remember for a rhetorical analysis paper is not so much what the author is saying, but why and how the author is saying it.

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