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Doc Project Resources

These are resources for students completing doctoral projects.

Dr. Fass's Writing Tips

Dr. Fass’ Writing Tips

  1. When you have a sentence that starts with a conditional clause followed by a comma, if the part of the sentence before the comma is more than five words, make it its own sentence.
    1. These sentences often start with words like while or although.
    2. Example
      1. Wrong: Although children in other parts of the world score higher on X than Y, children in the United States score higher on Y than X.
      2. Corrected: Children in other parts of the world score higher on X than Y.  In contrast, children in the United States score higher on Y than X.
  2. If you have to read a sentence more than one time to understand it, then rewrite it.
  3. If a sentence is longer than 2-3 lines, then break it into at least two sentences.
  4. Each paragraph should be no more than ½ page double spaced.
  5. For every sentence, identify the actor and the verb.  If the actor is missing, add the actor.  If the actor is there, make sure the actor comes before the verb.
    1. Actor before verb = active voice
      1. Ex. Smith (2018) conducted a study.
      2. Ex. Mary had a little lamb.
      3. Ex. Jack and Jill climbed up the hill.
    2. Actor after verb = passive voice
      1. Ex.  The study was conducted by Smith (2018).  OR  The study was conducted.
      2. Ex.  The little lamb was had by Mary.
      3. Ex.  The hill was climbed by Jack and Jill.
    3. AVOID PASSIVE VOICE!!!
  6. The actor in your sentence should never be the collective we, us, our, or you.
    1. If you need to replace these words, try words like people, the public, society, or mental health professionals.
    2. Wrong: We often accurately diagnose clients.
    3. Corrected: Mental health professionals often accurately diagnose clients.
  7. Avoid using the word it.
    1. Wrong: It will benefit mental health clinicians to know how to distinguish between two diagnoses.
    2. Corrected: Mental health clinicians will benefit from knowing how to distinguish between two diagnoses.
  8. Make sure your nouns and pronouns match in number.  Check your use of the words they and their.   If you use these, then the noun they describe should be plural.
    1. Ex. Participants answered the questions and submitted their materials.
    2. Ex. Each participant answered the questions and submitted his or her materials.
  9. Paragraphs should have three sentences minimum.  Each paragraph should address one idea/concept/thought.
  10. The word since suggests the passage of time.  If you can substitute the word because for the word since and the sentence still makes sense, then use the word because instead of since. (All examples are correct)
    1. Ex. Since leaving the house, Joe got three phone calls.
    2. Ex. Joe got three phone calls since leaving the house.
    3. Ex. Because he didn’t follow the rules, Joe was terminated from the group.
    4. Ex.  Joe was terminated from the group because he didn’t follow the rules.
  11. The word while suggests the passage of time (that two things are happening at the same time).  The word although suggests a contrast between two things.  If you can replace the word while with the words although, and, or but, then use although, and, or but.
  12. Use the word who when referring to humans and the word that when referring to non-humans.
    1. Ex. The participants who were in the experimental group.
    2. Ex. The dogs that were in the experimental group.
  13. Use apostrophes appropriately
    1. Singular: Participant (there was one participant)
    2. Plural: Participants (there were two participants)
    3. Singular possessive: Participant’s (the participant’s response)
    4. Plural possessive: Participants’ (the participants’ responses)
  14. ALWAYS USE HEADINGS!!!  Align your headings with the rubric.
  15. Only put information relevant to the heading under each heading.
  16. Never write “in my opinion,” “I believe,” “I think,” or “it is important to note.”  If you are writing something, the reader can assume it is what you think/believe, and if you are including information in your paper, your reader can assume it is important (if it’s not important, leave it out).
  17. Only use the word and if you are referring to two things.  Don’t use and to break up one thing.
    1. Wrong: This study will investigate cognitive behavioral therapy and its effect on depression.
    2. Corrected: This study will investigate the effect of cognitive behavioral therapy on depression.
  18. The word between should be followed by two things that you are comparing.
    1. Wrong: Smith (2018) evaluated the difference between offenders and whether they reoffended.
    2. Corrected: Smith (2018) evaluated the difference between sex offenders and other types of offenders on whether they reoffended.
  19. Insert a page break instead of pressing enter/return multiple times to get to a new page.
    1. Also, use the “center” function instead of pressing tab or space bar many times to get to the center.