When considering engaging a professional editor, first discuss the matter with your principal supervisor to obtain approval. It is recommended that you provide the editor with evidence of this approval before work begins. 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), will help you to understand what is involved in having your thesis professionally edited.
Engaging a professional editor
Each of the Australian societies of editors maintains a register of professional editors that can help you to identify a suitable editor. Alternatively, your educational institution may hold a list of approved professional editors from which you can make your selection. Ensure that the editor you choose has appropriate professional experience.
Reading a thesis takes time, and editing it takes even longer: there is no such thing as a ‘quick edit’. You should engage your editor well in advance of the deadline for submission of your thesis, perhaps even while you are writing it, so that the editor has sufficient time to complete the task to their satisfaction, within their normal working hours, and you get the best possible outcome.
Services a professional editor may offer
A professional editor may only provide you 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 full details 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 or make corrections to the substance or structure of your thesis (Standards Part C), though they may draw any such problems to your attention. It is expected that your supervisor will have covered matters of substance and structure with you.
It is not the responsibility of the editor to identify issues of content, such as checking facts and possible inappropriate use of others’ work or the acknowledgement of such work. However, if possible problems of this type are identified, the editor may advise you to check the university’s guidelines and to seek the advice of your supervisor.
Providing your thesis to the editor
An editor may accept work either in hard copy or as an electronic file, but your institution may stipulate that editing should be carried out in a specific format. You should discuss with the editor, at the outset, which format you will work in. The editor will advise you on the process to be followed for the editing to be completed responsibly and efficiently.
You are responsible for providing the editor with a clean copy of your thesis as well as a copy of any style guide, manual or guidelines to which your thesis is required to conform.
The editor will outline any other requirements of your role during the editing process.
What to do with your edited thesis
Bear in mind that this is your thesis, and that the final responsibility for its integrity is yours.
You are responsible for checking each change individually before accepting it, whether editing has been done in hard copy or as an onscreen mark-up. Automatically accepting changes may introduce errors into your thesis and may undermine your ownership of and authority over your work.
Your editor is advised to return electronically edited material to you as a PDF file, to ensure that you consider and make each suggested editorial change to your own working copy.
The use of a professional editor should ensure that your thesis is expertly and thoroughly copyedited and/or proofread. However, it is impossible to guarantee that all copyediting and proofreading errors are eliminated. The final responsibility for the integrity of the thesis remains yours. This includes ensuring that you have used and acknowledged all sources of your content appropriately and according to your university’s guidelines.
Acknowledging professional editorial services
Any contribution by a professional editor should be acknowledged in the prefatory matter to your thesis and 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’.