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Top Ten Tips to Fail at Your PhD Thesis

how not to Fail at Your PhD Thesis

July 3, 2018

How Not to Write Your Dissertation or Thesis?

There exist presumably at least ten factors that make evaluators and examiners suggest that a student goes for re-examination or revise a dissertation. According to these very factors, professors may put an F for a PhD thesis. For postgraduates to avoid such failures, it is recommended to read the guidelines presented in this article. With the help of this information, students will be able to realize the consequences for their certain activity and inactivity.
Below are ten major tips for failing your PhD dissertation. If this is what you want, this is your guideline to getting there.

  • Provide a poorly formatted and incomplete reference list

PhD students should be aware of the fact that most examiners start examination of the dissertation from formatting part. Particularly, they pay attention to the way of organization and formatting of the bibliography page. As soon as your professor notices that the bibliography page is incomplete or that the key works pertaining to the topic were not used – forget about an A, or even about a B. Besides, this concern will intensify if your professor sees that there are no matches of the sources mentioned in the reference page to the in-text citations.

In case your dissertation examiner finds at least ten mistakes with referencing and formatting, you will be told to fix them by providing required minor corrections. In case your examiners spot 20 mistakes, you will be required to provide major corrections. In case your paper contains even more than 20 errors, your academic supervisor and examiners will question your ability to provide a well-structured PhD thesis.  Cram your paper with such general phrases as “some scholars/ researchers/ academics” or “all literature/ sources” without specifying who/ what/ which exactly.

When writing a doctoral dissertation or a PhD thesis, you should keep in mind that generalizations are inappropriate. If you want to provide a point of view, example or an illustration to support your argument, make sure to have clear references to the scholar, researcher, academic or a specific source where you have taken that information from.

  • Write an abstract without mentioning your personal contribution to the sphere of research or to the topic

If you want your examiner not to doubt your skills and efforts in writing the dissertation, make sure to indicate in the abstract your own contribution to the research area. You have to be able to concisely formulate the central statement of your paper, where you provide the core argument and succinctly mention the major research findings. If you fail to pinpoint to the paper significance and your personal contribution to the theory, your professor might undermine the practical role of your paper. To relax the examiner and demonstrate to him/ her that you are knowledgeable in your area, try to mention the originality of research and its role for the research field already in the second sentence of the abstract. Highlight the originality of your paper and make it clear that the topic was worth researching.

  • Include in the reference page references to textbooks, online periodicals, and blogs

If you are writing a doctoral thesis, make sure that only scholarly and peer-reviewed sources are provided. Make sure you differentiate between them. Besides, you should pay close attention to the number of primary and secondary sources (usually, dissertations have specific requirements regarding their number). If you use non-scholarly sources, it diminishes all your chances of getting an excellent grade.

  • Methodology writing

Appeal to ideas of postmodernism, ideology, deconstruction, structuralism, post-structuralism, discourse, signifier, and signified without providing specific details from works of Derrida, Foucault, Saussure, Althusser or Baudrillard.

How to make your professor upset or even furious during some few minutes of reading the text of your PhD thesis? Provide some core semiotic facts as if transitions in a sentence. Frequently, this problem comes along when “semiotics” is cited as a methodology or when a student uses such words as “ideology,” “structuralism,” “postmodernism,” etc. without knowing for sure what they mean and where they should be used.

  • Choosing the topic

Presume that some research you are conducting is new and original simply because you were too lazy to cover all literature on the topic that was published more than 10 or 20 years ago.

This is not a new problem actually. Such situation frequently occurs if a student has been too lazy to get acquainted with the central ideas on the dissertation topic and claimed in their paper that they have invented a wheel. This occurrence pinpoints to a student’s lack of experience in proper and adequate researching. When putting forward a specific claim or an argument, a student needs to check whether it is original or whether it has already been introduced before by some researcher. Therefore, it is important to read a lot on your topic in the process of preparation and data collection. Those students who have not read all necessary sources and findings that were proposed before risk of putting forward unoriginal claims. Many of such students do not even realize that their brilliant and original ideas were already suggested, researched in detail, and explored in the past. Ironically, such students never doubt about their originality of research. They are confident and brim with pride that they have come up with such brilliant ideas.

  • Overlook to correct spelling mistakes throughout the text

Spelling mistakes is what makes examiners and professors furious. Having spelling mistakes in the PhD thesis does not mean that you would fail but this fact definitely means that misspelled words and other errors will have a negative impact on the overall dissertation impression. Besides, your professor will think of you as of an inattentive and irresponsible student.

  • Provide a wordy dissertation

The best written dissertations are small (that cover the required minimum paper length). Try to focus only on the major aspect outlined in the topic without covering all the other adjacent areas. The biggest nightmare for examiners is to read a thesis that lacks the central focus as it combines many details on the general topic. So, do not try to provide a life’s work if you have a certain topic and a specific word limit to cover.
It is natural not to address completely everything in your paper. The best dissertation does not only state what it addresses but also what it does not discuss.

  • Write a hasty and short exegesis

The most widespread mistake is that the whole script of the dissertation is written in some three or four years but the exegesis to the paper is written in some two or three weeks. Sounds a bit unfair in regards to the paper synopsis, doesn’t it? Many PhD students find the exegesis as the least important part of the paper, overlooking the fact that professors tend to read the paper synopsis first. The exegesis helps the examiner come to a conclusion whether the student has carried out an adequate amount of work on the topic.

  • Submit a dissertation with a brief intro and conclusion

What makes a doctoral thesis a total fail is a short introductory and conclusive paragraphs. When writing an introduction, make sure to provide sufficient background information on the topic and pinpoint to its significance. The same is about the importance of a conclusive paragraph: you need to succinctly sum up the information and highlight the major findings.