Punctuation and Dissertations

September 24th is National Punctuation Day. Doctoral students often complain that their writing is thwarting their dissertation. The real problem is something else…

Your dissertation will require you to develop many skills that you may not currently possess. One of the most important of these is perspective.

Dissertation students (and some dissertation chairs) often find it comfortable to focus on small problems to the exclusion of the big picture. Enter: grammar and punctuation!

Now, don’t get me wrong; punctuation is very important. The Great Zombie Apocalypse of 1087 originated for want of a comma in King Vlad’s royal decree:

“Let’s eat everyone!”

One does have to wonder about the moral fiber of a society that goes full-on cannibal-zombie because of a misprint in the flyers announcing the annual fall feast… But, it does underscore the power of proper punctuation!

That being said, it’s far more important that you focus on the content of your writing than the structure and mechanics. Excellent tools abound to assist the grammatically challenged. There are spell checkers, grammar checkers, style checkers. MS Word includes an excellent suite of utilities right inside the word processor. External services, like Grammarly, provide additional flexibility and control.

But none of these tools will yet help you divine a dissertation topic. Software still can’t design a research protocol to address your questions. Apps don’t vet you work for feasibility, relevance, pertinence.

These are the important issues that make your work a dissertation. Grammar and style are the paint and trim. Feasibility, design, and topic are the foundation, the floors, the walls.

Make sure that you spend your efforts on important matters, particularly at the start. Don’t let the minutia bog down your progress.

If you need extra support and guidance to make it to graduation, I may be able to help. If you'd like to find out whether you qualify for the support we offer throughout the dissertation process, then...

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Dr. Russell W. Strickland

RUSSELL STRICKLAND, Ph.D., has been referred to as a “rocket scientist turned management consultant.” In truth, he applies an eclectic body of work from astronomy and nuclear physics to dynamic inventory management to market research to each of his student engagements.

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