How to avoid common errors when writing your PhD paper

Students make many common mistakes when writing their PhD papers which can be avoided. These mistakes can make the whole process much more of a headache because committees and mentors are very unforgiving of these common mistakes and will require that students reevaluate and revise each one. An enormous amount of time can be saved if students don’t make these mistakes to start with. Here are some pointers to avoid these time-wasting mishaps:

Choose a unique thesis statement.

One problem students run into is in choosing a thesis statement. They may not thoroughly review the available literature to see if something like their thesis statement has already been done in the past. This is a big problem, because whether or not the student reviews the available literature, their committee or mentor most certainly will, and will turn their thesis down flat. Don’t waste a lot of time developing a thesis which has already been done. If there’s a topic that interests you ensure that you can find a unique perspective on it in order to have your thesis be accepted.

Make sure your thesis is defensible.

This is another problem, but a very different one, also related to thesis topic choice. A thesis topic that has never been done before may present quite a different problem altogether—there may not be a way to adequately defend it in a PhD dissertation. Once you’ve chosen a topic and verified the fact that it is unique, make sure you do some preliminary research to determine whether or not the thesis can be defended. If the thesis involves secondary research, find a compelling list of sources you can use in its defense to present along with the thesis when you meet with your mentor or committee. If it involves original research, come up with a preliminary experimental design to show that your idea is at least feasible. It may also help to find some examples of similarly designed experiments to support your ideas.

Communicate with your mentor

Your mentor and the committee are not your enemy! Many students put themselves in an antagonistic position, but these are actually their best resources. Ask for pointers, and listen to their opinions and suggests objectively. After all, these are people who have completed their own PhDs and understand the process and what is required much better than you.