English As a Second Language and Thesis Writing

Writing a thesis is never easy, as it requires a certain level of academic writing skill typically not encountered in other areas of life. The language must be highly professional, typically avoid use of first person and be devoid of emotion, personal opinions or any non-scientific matter. Moreover, as a thesis is typically a culmination of long research and study process, summarizing all the years of hard work into a concise informative volume is always a challenge. However, with the increasingly mobile global community and the advent of online courses, there is a large number of foreign students attending higher academic institutions and taking courses in English.
For those for whom English is not the first language, typically known as ESL students, writing at academic level can be problematic. Hopefully during the course of their study, there would be numerous opportunities to write shorter papers and essays, which would help with their thesis writing. The most common mistakes made by ESL students stem from literal translation from their native language, which may have completely different grammatical and sentence structure rules. Moreover, use of articles, I vs. me, gerund vs. infinitive and other frequently encountered issues may be confusing and counterintuitive when trying to understand them for the first time. Hence, below are some simple guidelines that can be followed when writing your thesis or any academic material.
Articles, determiners, and quantifiers are definitely the most confusing aspect of writing in English language, which is why they will be covered here in detail. They precede nouns to indicate if we are referring to a general or a specific item, specify quantity and can modify the meaning of the noun. Some examples are: the cat, a car, that hat, those apples, either way, my decision, a bit of trouble, a few peanuts
Determiners describe, or as some prefer to say, "mark" nouns in some way. Even though they serve a modifying function, just as adjectives do, they are separate language construct.
Determiners can be classified as follows:
1. the articles an, a, and the
2. numbers (one, two, three etc.)
3. possessive nouns, such as my mother's, my cat's
4. possessive pronouns (mine, his, yours, their, etc.)
5. indefinite pronouns (a few, some, many, several etc.)
6. demonstrative pronouns, e.g. that, these, those, such.
When choosing indefinite pronouns that act as quantifiers, it is important to understand that they provide indication of how much or how many of the nouns we are referring to. Thus, the first distinction must be made between countable and non-countable items. For example, balls, no matter their number, can be counted, but joy or dust cannot. One cannot determine the level of joy by counting some units of it, which is measured by some means of quantity. Thus, based on the countability or non-countability of a particular noun, certain quantifiers can be applied.
Countable nouns, e.g. balls, can be preceded by the following quantifiers:
a few, several, a couple of, none, many
In contrast, non-countable nouns, such as joy, can be preceded by the following quantifiers
no, a little, too much, a great deal of
Finally, some quantifiers can be used in both instances, irrespective of whether the item in question is countable or not. These are:
some, enough, plenty, most of, all of
Noting all the above, it is important to emphasize that in formal academic writing, many and much should always be used and more colloquial phrases, such as lots of and plenty of should be avoided.
It is always also worth mentioning that when confused with whether or not I or me should be used in a sentence, such as:
My father and me purchased a new car.
A new car was delivered for my father and I.
It is always the easiest to remove 'father' from the sentence and simply try it out with only me/I in it.
Then, it will be clear that it is correct to say
I purchased the new car.
A new car was delivered for me.
Thus the same will be correct in the original sentence.
Finally, for all your ESL writing troubles, you can always seek help of a reputable professional academic editor, who will address these and many more issues for you.
Ms. Todd is an award-winning, full-time professional editor, published writer and marketing consultant whose passion is to help others create a letter-perfect presentation in their writing. Her extensive experience in coaching and management has allowed her to independently consult for numerous international editing services and websites.
Ms. Todd is an independent contractor who provides advisory and consulting services worldwide to numerous corporations, a small sampling of such businesses include: www.firstediting.com


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