Writing Problems

Writing Tools

Here you will find some typical problems and errors in student writing. Can you spot the problem? Can you suggest ways to fix the problem?

Try the following exercises

  1. Read each extract from a student thesis and decide what the problems are. What suggestions would you make to improve the writing?
  2. When you have done that, click on problem and answer to see if your suggestions match ours.

 

1) What is wrong with this sentence? There may be more than one problem.

"To reduce the cost, one of current problems in biodiesel synthesis, saponified esters from transesterification, due to existence of fatty acid and water in vegetable oil has to be solved".

See the problems:

The sentence is long and hard to understand. The subject of the sentence is a long way from the verb. There is also a missing article (the).

How to fix:

  1. Perhaps break the sentence into two sentences.
  2. Reorganise the sentence so that the verb is closer to the subject.
  3. Check for appropriate use of articles.

See suggestions:

“To reduce the cost, one of the current problems in biodiesel synthesis has to be solved. This problem is the existence of saponified esters from transesterification caused by fatty acid and water in vegetable oil and animal fat.”

2) What is wrong with this paragraph?

"Nucleosides are the basic constituents of nucleic acids, and this study is aimed at first functionalising a nucleoside with a suitable vinyl group then carrying out a polymerisation reaction".

See the problems:

This is a one-sentence paragraph. A paragraph should consist of a topic sentence followed by other sentences that all relate to the topic.

See suggestions:

“The writer needs to build on this sentence: the next two sentences should give more information about functionalising a nucleoside with a suitable vinyl group. The following paragraph could then provide information about carrying out a polymerisation reaction.”

3) What is wrong with this paragraph? 

"The duplicate record detection problem has been recognised as important for the last 50 years.  Almost all published previous work on duplicate record detection is based on specific application domains and hence gives domain specific algorithms.  For example some algorithms are specifically used for record matching for customer addresses, census records, or variant entries in a lexicon.  Other work on duplicate record depiction is not domain specific, but assumes that domain-specific knowledge will be supplied by a human for each application domain".

See the problems:

There are NO references in this paragraph, although it is obvious that the student is basing their comments on readings that they have done.

See suggestions

“The duplicate record detection problem has been recognised as important for the last 50 years (reference). Almost all published previous work on duplicate record detection is based on specific application domains and hence gives domain specific algorithms (reference). For example some algorithms are specifically used for record matching for customer addresses, census records, or variant entries in a lexicon (reference). Other work on duplicate record depiction is not domain specific, but assumes that domain-specific knowledge will be supplied by a human for each application domain (reference).”

4) What is wrong with these sentences?

"None of the work we have encountered so far has proposed doing what we are proposing. While some studies come close, most fall into other areas of research".

See the problems:

These sentences tell the reader nothing much. They are very general and very vague. The writer needs to include much more specific information.

See suggestions:

“None of the available research addresses our research proposal, which is the implementation of simplified models for concept proofs, CPU verification and proof-carrying code. Some studies consider the issues from a theoretical standpoint, but none of them devises a practical application.”

5) What is the problem with these sentences?

"[3] proposed to compute a set of biased PageRank vectors based on a set of representative topics … The concept of 'partial vector' is used in [5]".

See the problems:

Although this is an acceptable referencing style, it sounds a little clumsy. It would be better to use the authorss name as well as the numerical reference to integrate the reference more smoothly into the text.

See suggestions

“Haveliwala [3] proposed to compute a set of biased PageRank vectors based on a set of representative topics … The concept of spartial vectors is used in Jeh and Widom [5].”

6) What is the problem with this sentence?

"Due to the limited understanding of dispersion and interfacial heat and mass transfer fluxes which limit overall chemical rates, problems are caused in scale-up and design of bubble column reactors such as formulation of proper boundary conditions, closure laws determining turbulent effects and the process of bubble coalescence and breakage".

See the problems:

This sentence is far too long. If you need to check the length of your sentences, read them aloud. If you run out of oxygen before the end of the sentence, it is too long. This sentence can be made into two sentences.

See suggestions

“Due to the limited understanding of dispersion and interfacial heat and mass transfer fluxes which limit overall chemical rates, problems are caused in scale-up and design of bubble column reactors. These include formulation of proper boundary conditions, closure laws determining turbulent effects and the process of bubble coalescence and breakage.”

7) What is wrong with these sentences?

  1. "The research is focus on the membrane development for carbon dioxide removal from the natural gas".
  2. "The cell of some serotypes from capsules and may join to form short filaments".
  3. "Currently, several research work have been carried out to improve this situation".
  4. "Most of the time finding the Lyapunov function of a system that satisfy Theorem (2.1) may proved to be difficult".

See the problems:

  1. verb form
  2. typographical errors
  3. “work” is uncountable and cannot be used in this context
  4. subject/verb agreement and verb form

See suggestions

  1. is focus focuses
  2. cell, from cells; form capsules
  3. research work research studies; research projects; projects; studies
  4. satisfy satisfies; may proved may prove


Remember

Check your writing carefully. Read it aloud to yourself so that you can hear if there are any errors, or if your sentences are too long.


  See next: Links to other online writing help sites