Commenting on Your Thesis

My Reviews on Your Thesis

Your are most probably writing your thesis in LaTeX, on overleaf. I comment your thesis in three different ways:

Specific Comments

I use Overleaf’s review feature to add comments about a specific instance when there is something at the spot that is not clear to me. You need to either answer the comment, or modify the text to reflect the comment in a way that resolves the matter I have pointed out in the comment. You can reply the comment if it is not clear to you. If you are sure about your change and think that it is resolved, then you can choose “Resolve” option under the comment to close it.

General Comments and Suggestions

There might be systematic suggestions that would have several instances in your writing. For example specific grammatical mistake that you have repeated. Or a comment about your referencing style. For such matters, I comment on the first few instances that I see and after that I will use the todonotes package of LaTeX to add a comment in the margin or inline. I probably also create a list of todos somewhere at the beginning of the document. When you are done resolving them, you can put a comment on it using overleaf’s commenting system, or if you have questions about it, you can ask.

You do not need to delete these \todo commands from your document. If they are resolved simply use \usepackage[disable]{todonotes} at the preamble of your LaTeX document to disable them in your final version.

Useful LaTeX Package: Check out todonotes package. I find it very useful in many cases.


Sometimes I might find a mistake in your thesis that needs to be corrected and it does not require your attention. I will correct it directly in the document. For such matters I use “track changes” option of Overleaf. You can see the changes I have made and accept or reject them. If you have questions about the change, you can ask me.

Common Mistakes

There are a few common mistakes that I have encountered master students make. I think it is a good idea to list them here so that you can avoid them before starting to write your thesis.

Use of Informal Language

Your thesis is a formal academic document. You should avoid using informal or casual language in your thesis. This includes contractions, slang, and colloquial expressions. A common informal structure is the use of short forms like “don’t”, “can’t”, “won’t”, etc. You should use the full form of these words in your thesis. Examples:

don’tdo not
won’twill not
I’mI am
you’reyou are

Use Acurate, Precise, and Unambiguous Language

Be careful with the use of adjectives and adverbs when writing an academic piece. Lots of adjectives and adverbs imply subjective interpretation and their measure differ from person to person. They are incalculable, unquantifiable, and immeasurable. Therefore, they can distort the actual message you want to convey. For example:

The results show a significantly better learning outcome of the participants in group A compared to group B (what is significantly better? How much better?).

The results show a $10\%$ increase in the word retention of the participants in group A compared to group B (this is a quantifiable measure).

A more conceptual example of how adjectives can differ in meaning is:

  • I am “very happy” to announce that we have a new colleague in our team.
  • I am “very happy” that I won the lottery of $5 million.

In the two sentences above, both are very happy, but one is much happier than the other. Also, in the second one, me thinking about it might imagine a person crying from happiness for winning the money, while you might imagine a person jumping around. Now can you say whether the happiness I am imagining that person has is the same amount of happiness you are imagining for her? Maybe my very happy is happier than your very happy. That is why, using such terms in scientific writing is dangerous:

The fail-safe system of the seat eject mechanism is “extremely reliable”. For this aircraft it “almost never” fails.

Now I am sitting at the corner thinking ok, I guess “extremely reliable” means like 99.9999% reliable which makes me happy to use their system. Also, I would say “almost never” when it is a one in a million chance. Now imagine the author of this sentence is a person who is very optimistic and always sees the glass half full. He might say “extremely reliable” when it is 95% reliable and “almost never” when it is 1 in 100. Now I am not happy to use their system. I hope you get the gist of it.

First Person Pronoun

In almost all the cases, the master thesis is done by a single person (you). You do the practical part and also the writing. You are the sole author and beneficiary of the thesis. Therefore, when you need to use a pronoun to refer to the author, you should use the first person singular pronoun “I”. It is true that I might help you with some stages in your thesis, but I am your supervisor and it is my job to do so. Therefore I should not be credited in your thesis as an author. :)

We have implemented the algorithmI have implemented the algorithm
We conducted an experimentI conducted an experiment

Balance Passive and Active Voice

Conventionally, there is a preference for the passive voice in academic writing. However, the passive voice can make your writing unclear and difficult to read. Therefore, my personal preference is to use the active voice whenever possible. The active voice is more direct and concise. It is also more engaging and easier to read. Examples:

Commonly Used PassiveMy Preference
An experiment was conductedI conducted an experiment
The algorithm was implementedI implemented the algorithm
The results were analyzedI analyzed the results

However, there are cases where the passive voice is more appropriate. For example, when the focus is on the action rather than the actor. Examples:

  • It is widely believed that…
  • The results show that…
  • It has been shown that…
  • The data suggest that…

Use of Abbreviations

When you introduce an abbreviation, you should first write the full form of the abbreviation followed by the abbreviation in parentheses. After that, you can use the abbreviation in the rest of the document. For example:

Useful LaTeX Packages: acronym and glossaries

Back up your claims! Either by reference or by proof (data)

When you make a claim in your thesis, you should back it up with evidence. This evidence can be a reference to a scientific paper, a book, or a reliable website. It can also be data that you have collected or analyzed. If you make a claim or a statement without evidence, it is considered an opinion. Opinions are not valid in academic writing. You should always back up your claims with evidence. Example:

Claim by Opinion
Electric cars are better for the environment than gasoline cars. (it sounds obvious, but without experimentation or data, it is just an opinion. Which means I can claim otherwise and you cannot do anything about it. :D)
Electric cars produce CO2 emissions only during their production phase. After that, they are emission-free. Gasoline cars produce CO2 emissions throughout their lifetime (Smith, 2020). (In order to oppose this statement, now I need to at least provide counter-evidence or find a problem in the analysis or the quality of Smith’s study.)

Consistent Referencing Style

You should use a consistent referencing style throughout your thesis. You can use any referencing style you like, or the one that the university is suggesting. However, you should use it consistently. If you are using a reference management software like Zotero (my prefered option), Mendeley, or EndNote you can easily change the style of your references.

You can also connect Zotero and Mendelely to your Overleaf account to use the references directly in your LaTeX document.

Placement of the References

People place the citations at different parts of the sentences and it is a bit of a personal writing style. I have two personal preferences depending on whether the citation is “numbered” or “named”.


In numbered citations I prefer to place the citation at the end of the sentence. For example:

  • Language is unique to humans [1].
  • Computers can understand human language [2].
  • The field of natural language processing is growing rapidly [3].

I prefer placing the citation where a statement is made. For example:

  • According to (Smith, 2020), language is unique to humans.
  • Computers can understand human language (Jones, 2019).
  • Doe (2018) showed that the field of natural language processing is growing rapidly.

These examples are not the only way to place the citations. You can choose your own style. However, you should be consistent in your choice.

Own your work

In my view, there is no problem in using assistive technologies (LLMs like ChatGPT and many others) for writing your thesis or analyzing your data, statistics, interpretations, or learning, and I even encourage you using them. However, after using such tools you should be able to judge the outcome. If the systems made outputs that included any sort of statement, you need to fact check them. Especially when it is used for content creation, you should have a complete understanding of the system’s output and it should not contain pieces that you do not understand or cannot explain. If you cannot explain a part of your thesis, it is a sign that you should not include it in your thesis.

Being my student, I ask you to include a comment in the LaTeX document of your thesis, where you use such tools, to indicate that you have used them. Examples:

% GPT-4o (grammar correction)
Today's Russian language has a limited number of accents due to the influence of the Soviet Union (Gorbachev, 1985). This has made the language easier to learn and understand for non-native speakers who wish to use within countries who use russian as one of their main languages.
I collected data from $60$ participants. 
% GPT-5 (Choice of statistical model)
I conducted a linear regression analysis to find the relationship between the age of the participants and their performance in learning verb forms in Amharic. The results for the regression analysis showed that the age of the participants is a significant predictor of their performance in learning verb forms in Amharic ($\beta = 0.45$, $p < 0.001$).
% Gemini Pro 1.5 (Interpretation of the results)
This result suggests that the older the participants are, the better they are in learning verb forms in Amharic. This is in line with the previous studies that showed that the age of the participants is a significant predictor of their performance in learning verb forms in Amharic.
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