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A low-density parity-check (LDPC) code can be described by a Tanner graph composed of symbol nodes and check nodes. Short cycles in the Tanner graph should be avoided because such cycles will degrade the performance of the decoder and hence increase the error rate. In most of the circumstances, cycles of length 4 can be totally eliminated in the Tanner graph when the LDPC code has been designed properly. Locally, for each variable node in the Tanner graph, the girth may take the value of 6 or 8, or even higher. In this study, the authors attempt to increase the local girths of a Tanner graph with an aim to improving the error performance of the code. The authors propose and analyse the `degree spectrum` of the symbol nodes connecting to each of the check nodes. Based on the analysis, the authors can determine if the local girths can be further increased. The authors also propose simple ways to construct codes with higher local girths. Finally, the authors show the characteristics and the error performance of the codes constructed with the proposed methods.