Frequently, the use of basic punctuation marks in your PhD thesis is neglected or grossly under-utilized. As most PhD students lack the basic knowledge of proper punctuations, readers of their submitted thesis find it difficult to understand the essence of the written content, or may even find it humorous in some instances.
Listed below are some basic punctuation marks and how you can use them in your thesis:
- The full stop (.)
The most common punctuation mark used to end a sentence. You can also use it to indicate abbreviations (example, i.e.) or in names (example, J.R. Smith).
- The comma (,)
The comma is used to create a pause in a sentence (example, “Hence, the need for a clean, environment-friendly means of energy for automobiles…”). Serial commas are also used to separate items on the list (example, “… natural-occurring crystals like cane sugar, quartz, Rochelle salt, and topaz”).
- Question mark (?)
This can replace the full stop for ending a sentence in question form. Example of its use is, “What are the alternate forms of energy sources?”
- Semi-colon (;) and colon (:)
The colon is typically used to precede a list of items or equation (example, “The P.E. coefficient is calculated as follows:”). The semi-colon can be used to join 2 connected sentences (example, “Increase in the global demand for automobiles has resulted in more fuel consumption; particularly, fossil fuels”). Alternatively, semi-colons can be avoided by writing separate sentences.
- Apostrophe (‘)
The apostrophe is also referred to as an inverted comma. It can be used to indicate possession (example, “Phil’s dissertation is of the good quality.”), or to write contracted words (two words put together, for example, “it’s” or “I’ll).
- Quotation marks (“)
Quotation marks are used to include the spoken or written words of any other person in your thesis or dissertation. Example, “Evan argues that “the industrial revolution was a protracted process, not a single event.”
- Hyphen (-)
Another commonly-used quotation mark. It is used in a variety of instances, such as a range of numbers (example, “years 1940-1990”), or to combine two words as an adjective (example, “field-induced orientation” or “eighteenth-century barbers”).
- Brackets ()
Used as a pair, brackets can be used to insert a point into a main sentence, without altering the sentence flow. Example, “The first-generation scientists (from 1900 to 1915) implemented …” Common use of brackets in thesis writing is for inserting citations (example, “… generation of piezoelectric ceramics (Haertling, G., 1999).”