First the problem of no verb.

First of all, the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources.

Me: Obviously this is no good because there’s no verb.
You: What about ‘using’? Isn’t that a verb?
Me: Sometimes yes, but here it functions as a noun modifier, not as a verb. It’s telling you something about the noun ‘humans’. It’s part of one long noun phrase: ‘the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources. If you want to you can use this long noun phrase as a subject:

  • First of all, the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources is a difficult problem to solve.

..or as an object:

  • The government is striving to solve the problem of humans using too many of the world’s resources.

In future make sure your sentence has at least a subject and a verb.

Using ‘that’ to acknowledge sources

A study conducted in 1965 identified that argument mapping leads to clearer writing.

Some reporting verbs require a ‘that’ clause, others do not:

  • A study conducted in 1965 showed that argument mapping leads to clearer writing.
  • A study conducted in 1965 identified improvements to writing following argument mapping.

Reporting verbs not followed by that are usually followed by a noun phrase. Unfortunately there is no strategy to determine which verbs require that and which do not. You just have to memorise them. The best way to acquire useful reporting verbs is by reading journal articles and academic text books. To get you started, here is a list of common reporting verbs followed by that:

admit agree argue assume
believe claim conclude consider
decide deny determine discover
doubt explain hypothesize imply
indicate infer maintain prove
presume reveal show state

It’s difficult to adjust my schedule, sorry.

Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I will meet my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

These days this kind of meeting is difficult to re-schedule. Academic staff are increasingly busy and the time allowed for consultation increasingly short. If you try to change the time you may lose the opportunity altogether. This plan is fixed. You may have written it down in a diary. if you only made a mental note then that note is burned into your subconscious. It’s an important meeting. In this case you need:

  • Sorry, I can’t join you for lunch. I’m meeting my writing supervisor to discuss my dissertation.

I know, the meeting is due to take place in the future, but when a plan is difficult to change use present continuous tense, especially when you’re excusing yourself from some other offer.

Sorry but I have to go now. I’m teaching a class in 10 minutes!

Stress caused by the word ‘stress’

The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to get stress.

Collocation! For a stress-free life (and for a higher IELTS score for vocabulary), use one of the following instead:

  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to experience stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to suffer stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to suffer from stress.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is what causes most people to feel stressed.
  • The rapid pace of modern life is stressful.

Take a look at some sentences using ‘stress’ and try to identify common collocations. Remember that stress can be a noun as well as a verb, and it also has different forms: stressful, stressed.

Advanced students can consult this comprehensive collocation table for stress.

Above all, try not to become too stressed out by ‘stress’.

The same blah

Research has shown that men have the same kind of emotional problems with women.

A collocation issue: same…as (not same…with):

  • Research has shown that men have the same kind of emotional problems as women.

(Notice the uncountable use of research). 

Occasionally you will see same and with used together, for example “Women’s emotional problems are to some extent influenced by hormones, and it’s the same with men.” But this is a more sophisticated form of comparison requiring a particular structure for it to work properly:

  • A is like this, and it is the same with B.

Indonesian flag For Indonesians translating sama dengan, start thinking same…as!

Fighting crime(s)

The government need to make more of an effort to fight crimes.

Crime can be countable or uncountable, and as with other nouns that behave like this, the uncountable form has a more general meaning and the countable more specific.

Another way to look at this is to notice that fight and crime (without ‘s’) collocate strongly: Continue reading

It will likely blah!

Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it will likely to decline slightly.

Another collocation problem. Use one of the following instead and never mind why. Just do it.

  • Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it is likely to decline slightly.
  • Population is indeed growing, but after 2050 it will most likely decline slightly.

And make sure you complete the structure with a verb:

  • s.th. / s.o. + is likely to + V1
  • s.th. / s.o. will most likely + V1

Research and Researches

Several researches have proven that nuclear energy is not as dangerous as people think.

Actually there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with this. I just looks odd to a native speaker because research is nearly always uncountable:

  • Much research has proven that nuclear energy is not as dangerous as people think.

Investigate the differences between research and researches. Then try googling to see which form of the word is more common.

Chomsky (2014) argued (or argues?)

Chomsky (2014) argued that grammar monopoly is an effective way to highlight first language interference.

I know, I know. 2014 is past and finished, so you want to use past simple tense. However, in this case the currency of the idea – is it recent and/or valid? – is more important than when it was written.

The currency of an idea can occasionally be difficult to determine, but in most cases it is obvious. If we assume that Chomsky is still alive (as he is at the time of this writing) and that his idea is still current then we use present simple tense, even if the idea was written in the finished past:

  • Chomsky (2014) argues that Grammar Monopoly is an effective way to highlight first language interference.

In most postgraduate writing we are dealing with current ideas, from recent sources, and so most of the time you will need present tense for your reporting verbs.