Your student should seek your permission, as principal supervisor, to engage a professional editor. It is recommended that the student provides evidence of this permission to the editor before work begins.
Each of the Australian societies of editors maintains a register of professional editors your student can use to identify a suitable editor. Alternatively, your educational institution may hold a list of approved professional editors from which students can make their selection. You may wish to guide the student in the selection of the editor, ensuring that the one recruited has appropriate professional experience.
If your student decides to engage a professional editor, you should encourage them to do so as early as possible during the preparation of their thesis, so that the editor has sufficient time to complete their task to their own satisfaction, within their normal working hours, and the student gets the best possible outcome.
The ‘Guidelines for editing research theses’, developed by the Institute of Professional Editors (IPEd) in consultation with the Australian Council of Graduate Research Inc (ACGR) offers guidance on what you and your student can expect when having the thesis professionally edited.
Services provided by a professional editor
A professional editor may only provide the student with copyediting and/or proofreading services.
Copyediting services include editing to achieve the following
- clarity of expression
- accuracy of grammar, spelling and punctuation
- appropriate use of style and tone
- appropriate use of technical, specialised or foreign material
- appropriate, accurate and consistent use of illustrations, diagrams and the like.
Proofreading services include checking the document to ensure that all document elements are complete and consistent. This includes verifying and correcting, as necessary, the following:
- the integrity of all parts of the publication
- consistency in use of style, terminology, etc.
- grammar, punctuation and spelling
- illustrations and tables
- format and layout.
Australian standards for editing practice provides information about the range of services that professional editors provide, as well as detailed definitions of what is involved in copyediting and proofreading (Introduction, ‘The fundamentals of editing’, and Parts D and E).
Services that a professional editor will not provide
A professional editor should not advise on or make corrections to the substance or structure of the thesis (Standards Part C), though they may draw any such problems to the student’s attention. It is assumed that, as supervisor, you will have covered matters of substance and structure with the student.
It is not the responsibility of the editor to identify issues of content, such as checking facts and inappropriate use of others’ work or the acknowledgement of such work. However, if the editor identifies possible problems in this area, the student may be advised to check the university’s guidelines and to seek your advice as supervisor.
Your responsibilities as a supervisor of a student who is working with a professional editor
Check with the student that a suitable and satisfactory arrangement has been established with the editor to ensure that the editing process proceeds responsibly and efficiently. Check that the student has provided the editor with any style guide, manual or other guidelines to which the thesis is required to conform.
Whether the student’s thesis is being edited in hard copy or as an onscreen mark-up (check whether your institution stipulates the format in which editing should be done), you should remind students that they are responsible for reviewing each change or correction suggested by the editor before accepting it. The editor cannot take final responsibility for the integrity of the thesis. Editors are advised to return onscreen edited material to students as a PDF file, so that the author is required to consider and make each suggested change to their own working copy.
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’.