‘Guidelines for editing research theses’, developed by the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) and the Australian Council of Graduate Research Inc (ACGR) provides information on the scope and limit of editing services you can legitimately provide. Services you may provide in editing research theses are limited to copyediting and proofreading: refer to Australian standards for editing practice for clarification on these (Introduction, ‘The fundamentals of editing’, and Parts D and E).
You should also check with students whether their institution requires editing in hard copy or will allow theses to be edited onscreen.
Students should obtain permission from their principal supervisor before engaging an editor. It is recommended that students provide you with evidence of that permission.
Editing the thesis
Students should provide you with a clean copy of their thesis. They should also provide you with any style guide, manual or other guidelines to which the thesis is required to conform.
You should outline your specific requirements of students’ role during the editing process. Most importantly, you should remind students that they are responsible for the final product: your editorial suggestions are just that.
This is particularly important when working onscreen (when it is very easy for students simply to accept all suggested changes without checking them individually). You should remind students that they are responsible for reviewing each change or correction suggested before accepting it. Ideally, text marked up onscreen should be returned to the student as a PDF file so that students are required to consider each suggested editorial change.
If you identify any problems in matters of substance or structure, you should not correct these, but alert students to them. You may wish to provide students with examples to guide them in resolving errors of substance or structure, but must not provide solutions.
If you identify issues of content, such as possible inappropriate use of others’ work or problems with the acknowledgement of such work, check the relevant university’s guidelines, as these vary between institutions. Avoiding the word ‘plagiarism’, ask the student to check the university’s guidelines on using the work of others and also to seek the advice of the student’s supervisor.
Retaining copies of your work
You should keep a copy of all versions of the marked-up thesis, whether hard copy or electronic.
If you have identified issues of content in the thesis, also keep copies of all your communications with the student about these issues, and a copy of the original texts (student’s writing and sources in question) that you believe may be involved.
Acknowledging professional editorial services
Any contribution by a professional editor should be acknowledged in the prefatory matter to the thesis. The acknowledgement could take the following form: ‘Professional editor, [editor’s name], provided copyediting and proofreading services, according to the guidelines laid out in the university-endorsed national ‘Guidelines for editing research theses’.