IPEd National Editors Conference

The 9th IPEd National Editors Conference will be held in Melbourne from Wednesday 8–Friday 10 May 2019.

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'Guidelines for editing research theses’ outlines the extent and nature of editorial services that professional editors can provide when editing research students’ theses and dissertations. Academic supervisors and research students also need to be clear about the editor’s role as well as their own roles and responsibilities.

These guidelines were revised by the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) and approved by the forerunner to the Australian Council of Graduate Research Inc (ACGR), the Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies (DDoGS) on 12 November 2010. They were originally developed by DDoGS collaboratively with IPEd’s forerunner, the Council of Australian Societies of Editors, in 2001.


Students may use a professional editor in preparing their thesis for submission, but they should obtain permission from their principal supervisor to do so and provide evidence of that permission to the editor. They should also provide the editor with a copy of these guidelines before commencing work.

Professional editors need to be clear about the extent and nature of services they offer when editing research students’ theses and dissertations. Academic supervisors of research students also need to be clear about the role of the professional editor as well as their own editorial role. Finally, students need to be clear about the scope and limits of services they might expect from a professional editor.

These guidelines have been developed primarily to give guidance to professional editors. They also provide a guide for academic supervisors and students. This document has been developed with close attention to Australian standards for editing practice. Academic supervisors and students are encouraged to become familiar with this publication, first published in 2001.

The second edition of the Standards was published in 2013. The structure of the revised edition remains unchanged, although content has been updated to reflect current practice and terminology. The second edition also includes a revised preface, a new introduction, which describes the fundamentals of editing and the role of editors, and a glossary.

Editing and proofreading research theses and dissertations

It is expected that the academic supervisors of higher degree research students will provide their students with editorial advice relating to matters of substance and structure; language (including matters of clarity, voice and tone, grammar, spelling and punctuation, specialised and foreign material); and use of illustrations and tables. They may also assist with copyediting and proofreading. This type of advice is covered in Parts C (‘Substance and structure’), D (‘Language and illustrations’) and E (‘Completeness and consistency’) of the Standards.

Professional editorial intervention should be restricted to copyediting and proofreading. This type of advice is covered in Parts D and E of the Standards.

In relation to matters of substance and structure (Part C), the professional editor may draw attention to problems, but should not provide solutions. Examples may be offered in order to guide the student in resolving problems.

Material for editing or proofreading should be submitted to the editor as electronic or hard copy (although, if an individual academic institution has a preference for editing format, this should be followed). If the thesis is to be edited onscreen, the editor and student need to agree on the process by which the student will check each suggested change before accepting it. For example, it is preferable that text marked up onscreen is returned to the student as a PDF file. The editor should keep on file all marked-up versions of the work.

Paying your editor

Some students may receive grants from their institutions to contribute to the cost of having a thesis edited. A student should not assume that this grant is intended to cover the full cost of editing. The cost of editing academic work will depend on a range of factors including the quality of the material submitted for editing, the level of referencing included and the experience of the editor.

Acknowledgement of editor’s contribution

When a thesis has had the benefit of professional editorial advice, in any form, the name of the editor and a brief description of the service rendered, in terms of the Standards, should be printed as part of the list of acknowledgements or other prefatory matter.

For further information see:

Find an editor

IPEd has established the Editors Directory. Clients can search the directory for freelance editors using specific criteria. These will identify editors that have specific interests, skills or experience in certain areas.