You say potato I say potahto

Myriad and comprise

I remember a professor in graduate school saying he would take our grade down an entire letter if we ever used “a myriad of” or “comprised of” in a paper. This was graduate school in journalism so we believed him. Now, when I begin editing a dissertation for a proposal one of the first things I do is a search for these two phrases.

It turns out that using these two phrases incorrectly is also something that readers, chairs, and committees notice.  Along with the incorrect use of affect/effect, except/accept, utilize/use, site/cite…the list goes on. and Grammar girl also weigh in on these and other typical but incorrect word usage.

In 20 word mistakes even smart people make, a article, writer Alvin Ward starts by noting the difference between comprise and compose.

A whole comprises its parts. The alphabet comprises 26 letters. The U.S. comprises 50 states. But people tend to say is comprised of when they mean comprise. If your instinct is to use the is … of version, then substitute composed. The whole is composed of its parts. weighs in by saying: Comprise means to consist of or to be composed of. Compose means to make up the constituent parts of. Parts compose the whole, and the whole comprises the parts. For example, we could say that the United States comprises 50 states and that the 50 states compose the United States.

I like these quotes from She said what? Quotable women talk leadership.

Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together.
Anais Nin (1902-1977)
French author, diarist

Forever is composed of nows.
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
American poet

But what I can’t believe is that a google search for comprises vs “is comprised of” yields 1,980,000 results in .56 seconds. It’s nuts that almost two million people care about this enough to google it. (And don’t get me started about using “google” as a verb.)

EFFECT/AFFECT and a lot of others use the RAVEN image to show affect vs effect.

Choosing between affect and effect can be scary. Think of Edgar Allen Poe and his RAVEN: Remember Affect Verb Effect Noun. You can’t affect the creepy poem by reading it, but you can enjoy the effect of a talking bird.

EXCEPT/ACCEPT has a perfect mnemonic for except/accept.


Discreet means private. Discrete means separate. This vocabwords1 blog shows both discreet and discretion.


I was always told the mnemonic e.g. = egg zample. And usually if it’s in parentheses in a sentence it’s e.g. I like this cartoon from By the way, their site has one of the best disclaimer’s I’ve seen.

Disclaimer: The facts on are not thoroughly researched, and the author of this site offers no guarantee of factual validity. If you take action based on the what you read on this website, and bad things happen, the author is in no way responsible for any harm or losses. If, however, you become wealthy due to reading this website, the author is 20% responsible.

Cite vs site vs sight uses this blackboard graphic to tell the difference between cite, site, and sight.


 Dr. Kat (aka Dr. Kathleen Cannon)
Fun, fast, reasonably priced dissertation editing, coaching, and therapy. Contact

©2017 Dr. Kathleen Cannon


How to save money working with a dissertation editor

Yes, you can try this at home

Since one of the previous tips went on and on about why it’s not a good idea to negotiate pricing with an editor, it seemed only right to offer some tips on how to save money working with a dissertation editor. First, some background. Most editors use the same method to estimate the cost of editing your dissertation or proposal. We edit a few sample pages and estimate the cost per page. I always ask to see the entire file (title page, TOC, references, and appendices) because those add-ons can be the real time-suckers. Here are some money/time saving tips:

Use spellcheck

You’d be amazed how many people don’t spell check their dissertation before sending it to an editor, or worse, to their chair/advisor or committee. I know it’s a pain because every proper name comes up even though you’ve said not to flag capitalized words but it’s worth it. Even then it’s worth it to really read it carefully. And you might do a special check for words that may be spelled correctly but aren’t what you want to say.

But don’t use “autocorrect.”  Sorta funny story. I was editing a research paper that included the word “biodata” and somehow every instance was changed to “bidet.” Okay, at least I thought it was funny. There may be other words in your field that could be a problem.

I recently edited a dissertation on education in public schools and did a search for “pubic.” I got three hits. Oops.

One client spelled phenomenological wrong in the title. That’s just wrong.

Turn on grammar editing

APA requires use of active versus passive voice. Here’s what Purdue Owl says:

Active voice is used for most non-scientific writing. Using active voice for the majority of your sentences makes your meaning clear for readers, and keeps the sentences from becoming too complicated or wordy. Even in scientific writing, too much use of passive voice can cloud the meaning of your sentences.

I love Grammar Girl. Here’s what she says about active vs. passive voice.

In an active sentence, the subject is doing the action. In the Marvin Gaye song “I Heard It through the Grapevine,” “I” is the subject, the one who is doing the action. “I” is hearing “it,” the object of the sentence.

In passive voice, the target of the action gets promoted to the subject position. If you wanted to make the title of the Marvin Gaye song passive, you would say “It was heard by me through the grapevine,” not such a catchy title anymore.

To turn on grammar editing: File/options/proofing/writing style/settings – then click everything. I don’t click “complex words” because who’s kidding who – it’s a dissertation.

Use styles

I should make this tips number 1-10. That’s how much time it can save you. The number 1 tip is that there shouldn’t be a single word that’s “normal” in your dissertation.

I’ve included an example of how you might want to set up styles. The ones I use most are Heading 1, Heading 2, body text, list paragraph, and references. I also set up styles for three levels of Tables of Contents.

Pay attention to references

My Dad used to start a lot of sentences with “If I had a nickel for every time…” Now it would probably be “If I had a dollar…” Readers often go to references first. If you don’t follow APA in your references they could wonder about your entire document.

Back to “If I had a dollar…” …for every time I saw an entire reference list with hard paragraph returns for each line and the space bar used to indent five spaces for the next line. It takes forever to correct this but it has to be done. Follow APA religiously for references. That’s all I’m sayin’.

Ask your chair what is his/her pet peeve in mistakes in references. One editing client told me her chair went nuts because she had a space after the colon in doi:xxx. I now do a search for doi with “show invisibles” on to catch any extra spaces. Another client said her chair knew she wasn’t up on APA because she kept putting in a “Retrieved on date.” That was soooo APA 5th!

Literature Review – go with the flow

There are a billion things to say about the literature review but three you should watch out for. Use the same approximate number of references for each major heading. Watch transitions between paragraphs. Work on flow. The thing that’ll save your editor time is if you put citations in past tense. Jones and Smith (2005) found, etc.

Check your school’s guidelines

Provide a copy of your school’s guidelines to your editor and tell him or her what to watch out for if something is really different from standard APA 6th. Several schools want references single spaced with a double space between references. And don’t get me started on running heads.

Give your editor a heads up

Tell your editor the kinds of things your advisor or committee might be looking for – some care about APA, some about references, some about tables. Ask your chair/advisor what he/she could see that would be the kiss of death.

What’s left for the editor to do if you’re doing all the heavy lifting? Well this is where a good editor can really add value. A good editor will spot inconsistencies between chapters (You said there were four stakeholder groups and you only talk about three in your literature review.) And a good editor will point out if you come up with a conclusion with no foundation. And a good editor will suggest another way of phrasing a sentence to add clarity.

It all kind of depends on the number of revisions. Here’s an example where there were 1471 revisions in 65 pages. That means a lot of nit picky things. But it’s hard to add real value when there are 24 edits per page.

Dr. Kat (aka Dr. Kathleen Cannon)

Fun, fast, reasonably priced dissertation editing, coaching, and therapy. Contact

©2017 Dr. Kathleen Cannon

It’s just APA tables — not rocket science


Tips to Better Tables

I googled tables, APA, word and got 2,710,000 results. Come on, people. It’s just tables. Not rocket science. This checklist from Purdue Owl is all you need to know. Well, almost all.

Table Checklist

This checklist from Purdue Owl is a good starting point. I’ll add my own comments, of course.

  • Is the table necessary?

Dr. Kat says: One editing client said that she was told “tables are like prunes, are six enough, are 12 too many?” It’s probably not that simple. I think “a table, like a picture, can be worth a thousand words.” Adding a table also might depend on your methodology – I see a lot more tables in quantitative than qualitative studies. One question to ask yourself is, when you’re trying to explain your research to someone, do you find yourself drawing a table? Sometimes I create tables to organize my thoughts. It doesn’t mean I’ll keep the table but it’s a great reference when I’m doing a research content outline.

  • Is the entire table single- or double-spaced (including the title, headings, and notes)?

Dr. Kat says: This can be a trick question. You’ll want to be consistent but you’ll also want to be concise. If you have a lot of tables or a lot of content in each table, I’d go with single space. But create a separate style for tables so you don’t use normal or body, which likely have a .5 indent. Go to Styles/Apply Styles/Create a style/Call it Table/Modify (so it’s not based on normal)/then modify and, under paragraph, add 6 points after type. Another thing to check is if your school dissertation guidelines require one or the other. Some schools are funny about that and require double or single space.

  • Are all comparable tables presented consistently?

Dr. Kat says: See the previous explanation. Use styles. Use the same font size, margins, line leading.

  • Is the title brief but explanatory?

Dr. Kat says: You wouldn’t believe how many tables don’t have any title.

  • Does every column have a column heading?

Dr. Kat says: You wouldn’t believe how many columns don’t have a heading.

  • Are all abbreviations; special use of italics, parentheses, and dashes; and special symbols explained?

Dr. Kat says: I hate acronyms. And not too fond of abbreviations, either. Lots of people don’t read your dissertation cover to cover. And many are not familiar with your topic. Use a legend in every table that needs one.

  • Are all vertical rules eliminated?

Dr. Kat says: This is the most typical error and the one reviewers glom onto. I had one committee member tell me he looks at the table first and if there are vertical and horizontal lines he sends it back and tells the writer to check out APA thoroughly and fix what’s wrong and get it back to him.

  • If the table or its data are from another source, is the source properly cited?

Dr. Kat says: I have to look up how to cite sources in tables every time. I can never remember. Not sure why I have a mental block on that.

  • Is the table referred to in the text?

Dr. Kat says: If you don’t refer to the table in the text my feeling is that you don’t need the table. And remember to put the table as close as possible to the citation.

My favorite tables

I know, even having a headline saying “my favorite tables” shows what I dissertation nerd I am. There are three tables my chair suggested and I’ve passed them along to clients. Everyone who has used these tables said their chair and committee loved them. One said she used the literature review table for herself to keep everything straight but didn’t include it in her written dissertation.

If you’re a frequent blog reader you know that I talk about my own dissertation – Why senior women leaders opt out. This literature review helped me organize my own literature review.


My second favorite table

I created this table to keep my units of analysis straight. It was really helpful when I was reporting my findings in chapter 4 and in the discussion in chapter 5. I’ve suggested similar tables for phenomenological studies where “units of analysis” is replaced by themes and “empirical indicators” is replace by an example quote. The “source of data” is replaced by the participant’s name/pseudonym.


Another helpful table

Still another helpful table is an overview of participants. I used it in my positivistic case study but I usually suggest clients include it in qualitative studies, too. I especially like to see a demographic overview so I can figure out who said what. Sometimes it’s hard to remember who’s who.

The last helpful table

Finally, I like to tie things together. I created a table that tied the units of analysis to the Likert questions. This was especially helpful in writing the discussion chapter.

Dr. Kat

Fun, fast, experienced, reasonably priced dissertation editing, coaching, and therapy.

©2017 KathleenJCannon


It’s legal to use a statistician


If you’re like me and a lot of other PhDs you don’t know your Spearman rank order correlation from your _____. Like everyone else I took the research classes, and the statistics classes, and mainlined red bull and fancy lattes until my eyes glazed over and still had a hard time “getting it.”

I was at my most smug when I could say “statistical significance” without spraying spit over everyone in a five-foot radius. I finally understood enough to write the methodology and findings sections of my dissertation. (And now, of course, after editing 85 dissertations and proposals I get it a little better.)

Imagine my surprise when I found out it was legal to work with a statistician on your dissertation. I heard about a statistician who helped one of my dissertation editing clients make sense of her research findings. Turns out Elaine Eisenbeisz (pronounced “I-SEN-BUYS) at Omega Statistics is the go-to person for statistics.

She’s smart and funny and a good teacher. Best of all she doesn’t patronize the non-statistics-understanding people among us. I asked Elaine to tell me in her own words why it’s legal to hire a statistician and how to sell your committee on the idea if they are on the fence.

“Many people wonder about that. I usually tell clients that other researchers hire a statistician to assist with their study design and analysis, so why shouldn’t they? It only makes sense to get expert help. No one wonders about hiring an editor as an expert. Same thing in my opinion. I wouldn’t do my own brain surgery if I needed it.

Also, most of my clients come to me because their committees told them to get a statistician. So my final thing to say to a potential client is, “Ask your committee if you can get help from a statistician.” And I tell you, it is much easier for everyone when there is transparency between the client and committee about using my services. How assuring for a client to be able to tell a committee member they would like to do a certain design or test, and to have me to back them up and support them through the process. They can say to their committee, “My statistician said….”

Here’s what Elaine says on her website about her statistics services:

Hitting the wall. Have you hit your wall on the statistical design for your dissertation Methods chapter? Or perhaps you’ve received approval on your proposal, collected your data, and now you’re struggling to navigate a course though analysis and reporting of your dissertation Results chapter. And of course you want your research to reflect the excellence you have worked so hard to achieve.

Statistical alphabet soup. I have extensive knowledge of most statistical software programs including SPSS, SAS, R, STATA, LISREL, HLM, M-PLUS, Minitab, and many more! We are skilled in APA, AMA, MLA, CBE, CGOS, and many other writing style formats (Even those without acronyms, such as Harvard and Chicago/Turabian), and I will work within the formatting guidelines set by you and your university.

It’s still your work. Your work remains yours. I set strict rules for confidentiality of my clients’ research, and will gladly provide or sign a non-disclosure agreement before review of your research if you so desire. Omega Statistics is NOT a dissertation mill and all design and analysis services are tailored to your individual project.

You may learn to love statistics. You will learn! I have a great passion for the discipline of statistics and love to share my knowledge. And I am able to explain the theory and application of statistics in a way that people understand. I will not just give you a report, we will collaborate. I provide unlimited consulting on most projects, as well as any needed edits to the statistical aspects of your project, so you will be able to present your dissertation proposal and/or dissertation Results chapter with confidence!

Say it with me five times: “Statistical significance.” “Statistical significance.” “Statistical significance.” “Statistical significance.” “Statistical significance.”