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Some proof reading tips

  Proof reading your own writing is a pain – even though it is something people like me have to do on a daily basis.

So what are my tips. My first tip would be to pay a professional if you can, but even that does not eliminate the need for you to do some proofing yourself. A nice article from AICPA gives some good tips, and it is worth a read. One tip given is to read out loud. This would actually be my second tip and something I practice a lot. If you read out loud and the sentence sounds wrong, then it probably is wrong. Also, if you run out of breath, the sentence is too long. 

A third tip, is an obvious one, run a spell check. It’s amazing how many people do not.

And finally, try to put yourself in the mind of the reader. Would your writing make sense to them? I often ask students to consider would their grandparents understand what they write. This helps to keep it simple and to the point.

Now, here is hoping there are no typos in this 🙂

Storytelling in business and research

Part of my job as a lecturer is to teach and research. Both of these tasks involve communication skills at various levels. To teach I need to get a point across and encourage students to think. To write up research, I need to communicate (in writing) complex things like theoretical constructs. Now, maybe it’s something to do with the fact that I am Irish (gift of the ‘gab’ ), but I love to use stories to get my point across.  Why? Read on.

First, this quote says it much better that I ever could:

Storytelling (film)

Storytelling (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The universe is made of stories, not of atoms.” ― Muriel Rukeyser

In other words, no matter where we look, who we look at, or what we look at there is a story behind it. So no matter how complex the subject matter we are trying to explain, we can can a story about it.

Second, stories are known to all cultures.

No matter where you come from, what your cultural specifics are, or even what religion your are I can guarantee that there are stories in your culture.

Third, which bring together the previous points, stories can be utilised to deliver effective messages.

For example, some leaders are good story tellers (see here ), or some really complex matters can be explained using stories (see here for how a story is used to explain the ongoing euro crisis). Or to give another example that may surprise you. The story of the Princess and the Frog is actually originally a way to explain sexuality to young ladies. They may conceive it as an ugly thing (the Frog), which pesters them regularly (for a kiss) but once they confront it head on (kiss the Frog, or throw it a wall as in the original German version) it is quite beautiful (becomes a Prince).

So what’s my point. Well, simply put tell the story. If it is a presentation, a dissertation, thesis or whatever, remember there is a story in there to be told. Trust me, if you tell the story, you’re on the way to getting your argument/point across.

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Due Diligence? A play with words..

A somewhat amusing post I found on a blog on the words ‘due diligence’ -words accountants use a lot. Enjoy

Due Diligence? « Can You Spare a Word or 5?.

Verbs used on exam papers, what do they mean?

It’s exam time for many accounting students, be it college or professional exams. People often ask me for exam tips, and I usually focus on what not to do. There’s no point in mentioning things like the need to read and revise – if you haven’t figured that out, you’re in a lot of bother.

So what should you not do.Probably the worst thing you can do in any exam is to answer something other than what the examiner has in mind.  While numerate questions may be relatively easy to understand, narrative questions can be much more troublesome.

Of course, the best advice is always to read questions in full before attempting any answer. It’s also quite useful if you understand the language used by the examiner.  Many examiners reports frequently cite things like “the question was not answered”, or “the question was misinterpreted”.  To avoid misinterpretation, the Chartered Institute of Management Accounting (CIMA) in London have written a very useful article which explains the verbs used by their examiners. Here’s a link; scroll down to page 4 and you’ll see the list of verbs and their meaning.

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How to critique qualitative academic research

This  post will be more of interest to those of you doing some research for a dissertation or thesis.  Whether you are reading an article in an academic journal for use in a literature review chapter of your thesis or you have been asked to critique an academic article, there are some key questions you need to ask.  I summarise these questions below, with focus on qualitative research.  The questions are presented in a way which mimics headings you might find in a typical article.


Is the purpose of the study set out clearly?

Will a theoretical or practical contribution be made?

Literature reviewed

Is the literature reviewed up-to-date and comprehensive?

Are some pieces of literature emphasised more than others?

Are the findings evaluated critically?

Is the literature related to the current study?

Does the review help establish the relevance of the current study?

Research problem/question

Is the problem stately clearly?

What type of research is being carried out?


How was the research subject(s) selected?

Could the selection method effect the results?

Are biased responses possible?

Is data validated?

Are the methods adopted described in detail?

Are there any weaknesses in the methods used?

Is the researcher biased?


Are findings presented clearly?

Are findings supported by adequate narrative and argument?

Are findings supported by quotes/examples from data?


Are conclusions clearly related to the research problem?

Are findings interpreted?

Are findings related to previous studies/literature?

Are limitations of findings mentioned?

Are conclusions clearly related to findings and discussion?

Are the findings generalisable?

This is by no means an exhaustive list of questions to ask yourself, but it’ll help you on your way. Good luck with your research.

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Some tips on writing your dissertation

Writing a dissertation or thesis is no mean feat. Come to think of, writing a decent business report is no easy task either. We all have different writing styles, so no matter what we write it will to an extent be reflective of our own style of writing. Your style may have influences from what you’ve read in the past, so be sure to read some good stuff.

No matter the style, there a few key things any dissertation or thesis must have. The most obvious is some clear structure. Next is clear language. Both quite obvious you might say, but sometime we get carried away and forget about the simple stuff. Now, to some tips and guidelines for writing a goods thesis/dissertation. We’ll I’m not going to note them all here – you do the work – remember a thesis/dissertation is about doing research after all.

Here are some useful links:

Newcastle University tips and guide

A guide by Levine, Michigan State University

Writing an abstract – a guide from Leeds University

A nice dissertation guide from Purdue University

Happy writing (and reading!)

Tips for writing – some guidance from Tim Harford

Just a quick post for anyone in the throes of writing a dissertation or thesis for college- although some of you writing a large business report may also find this useful.

The biggest problem a writer often faces is to actually write. There are so many other things you can do during your day – your (real) job, family, socialising etc.  Of course, there are a few things you can do. My biggest tip is to follow some advice given to me 20 years ago now while in secondary school ” a little and often”.  Have a look at what Tim Harford – author of the Undercover Economist – says on a recent blog post. It’s pretty sound guidance.

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