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The language of a dissertation

We would encourage you to write simply and clearly. Signpost your chapters by outlining clearly what you are going to say and and to make sure that someone else proof reads your dissertation before you hand it in – proof reading is almost impossible to carry out yourself. Please don’t rely on spell checkers and grammar checkers. If English is an additional language you are strongly advised to take advantage of support sessions offered by CELTE. Meaning is often obscured by

  • long sentences in which two or more ideas are mixed
  • ‘redundancy’ or unnecessary repition of ideas or phrases
  • double negatives eg it is not that differentiation is not effective

Follow the guidelines in your course booklet for presentation of your text:

  • use 11 or 12 point text with larger text for titles.
  • double space lines. It is the space between lines not the size of the text which makes it easier to read.
  • ragged as opposed to justified text is easier to read. Ragged text has an uneven right hand margin
  • keep to one type face, it is easier for the reader
  • show new paragraphs by leaving a line rather than indentation
  • be consistent in the use of headers and sub headers for example use capitals for chapter heading, bold for sections and italics for sub sections – try to avoid sub sub sections
  • footnotes are optional but not popular as they can distract the reader. Try to avoid using them. If the point is important enough, make it in the main body of text, if not is it worth making at all?

There is no rule for referring to yourself. Some people prefer the first person eg I (or we) gave out a questionnaire, some the third person eg the author (or the researcher) interviewed 10 respondents or else get round the dilemma by using the passive ten respondents were asked. We would encourage you to adopt the style you feel most comfortable with.