Just like the horse whisperer – but with more pages
Should I get an editor for my thesis?
I often get asked if students are allowed to use professional editors. In most universities you can and there are even funds provided for this purpose in some cases. Brendan Brown, Director of The Expert Editor, an Australian professional editing company that specialises in thesis editing, sent me this article recently. I thought the article was useful, so I’m publishing it even though I cannot personally vouch for this service. If you are interested, you can visit their website at www.experteditor.com.au or follow Brendan on Google+.
(editor’s note – I have not personally used this service. One student has reported an adverse experience with this editorial service following this post. Please ask for samples of their work before proceeding and make your own decision.)
The following guide will take you through some of the key issues when it comes to thesis editing for Masters and PhD students. Although it is Australian specific, the general principles apply everywhere.
Why thesis editing is important
Editing is beneficial to a native-speaking student and virtually mandatory if English is your second language. It can enhance the quality of language, remove errors and ensure academic conventions are met. In particular, editing allows ESL students to be marked on the substance of their ideas, not their innate ability to write fluent academic English. Every student should utilise an editor in the final stages of their thesis, either a friend, family member or a professional.
Thesis editing is ethical and permissible
There is a misconception about the efficacy of professional editing for Masters and PhD student theses. One school of thought is that editing is akin to cheating and is therefore not allowed. This view is incorrect. Thesis editing is permissible as long as your editor follows relevant guidelines. The Australian Standard of Editing Practice (ASEP) and the Australian guidelines for editing theses outline the appropriate level of intervention by an editor. In short, they limit editor intervention to language, expression and referencing style conformity and forbid changes to structure and content.
Your university may also regulate – but certainly does not ban – the use of professional editing. They may require you to get permission before engaging an editor or require you to acknowledge any assistance. It’s advisable you check with your university about their exact requirements.
Two avenues for professional editing
There are a number of professional editing companies in Australia, so as a consumer, it’s up to you to do your research and find the right one for you.
Editing companies are a popular option for two reasons. First, quality academic editors gravitate towards working for companies because they provide a regular flow of work, without editors having to market themselves. Secondly, companies may have multiple editors on their team, and therefore will usually be able to begin work immediately. If your deadline for submission is tight, this is advantageous.
Search Google for “thesis editing Australia” and the top 5-6 service providers will appear on the first page. It’s critical to do your research and examine each company’s website as no two companies are exactly alike in their affordability or level of service. Later in this article we outline the key questions to ask any editing company.
Tip: Just because you are going through a company does not mean your editor should be faceless. A company should always be able to identify which editor will be working with you, their skill-set and editing background. If a company does not provide this information, be wary about using their services.
There are three ways the find a freelance editor to edit your thesis. The first, of course, is to Google it as some freelance editors have their own website. If this fails another option is to approach national and state editing societies. Most have a list of editors that are accredited with them.
The third option to find a freelancer is to use an online workplace, such as Elance, Freelancer.com or oDesk. You write a small brief about the task and freelancers on the site bid for the job. The large number of freelancers, coupled with the competitive nature of the bidding, can result in low ball offers. However, be careful using these sites as the quality of freelancers is mixed. You must ensure that your editor is appropriately qualified and has a history of successful work.
Key issues in choosing a thesis editor
Efficacy of your editor
The most important consideration when choosing an editor is to ensure they provide an ethical service and don’t overstep their mandate. Most Australian editing companies and freelancers will comply with the various guidelines regulating academic editing for Masters and PhD students, but there will always be a few outliers. Some services may offer to re-write, or even write, your thesis. Avoid these services as if they have the bubonic plague. They’ll get you in serious trouble with your university if you are found out.
The affordability of editing options can vary quite substantially. The market sets the rate editors can charge, and as with the economy in general, the market price differs between each service provider. Editing is time-consuming and an academic editor should be highly educated, so as a general rule you won’t be able to pay them peanuts. However, some options are more affordable than others, so it’s up to you to do your research and find one that’s in your price range.
Capability of your editor
Editors are humans and edit subjectively. So it’s important that you do your research and learn about the editor you hire. The following are key questions that you need answered. Is your editor a specialist academic editor or are they merely a generalist with a rudimentary understanding of academic conventions? Does your editor have a strong understanding of your specific referencing style? What is the education background of your editor? Do they have a history of successful thesis editing?
Turn around time
This may be a crucial issue for those students who have left professional editing to the last minute. Thesis editing is a time consuming process, and it’s unrealistic for a 60,000 word thesis to be competently edited in a day. However, some editing companies and freelancers can accommodate a relatively short turn around, and won’t charge you extra for it. Other providers are more rigid in their approach and will charge extra for a tight return date.
A closing note
Australia isn’t short of academic editors, but it’s incumbent on you to do your research and find the right option. Hopefully this guide simplifies the search process for you and provides the necessary information to help find an editor that not only is ethical, but can genuinely improve the quality of your thesis.
Have you had any experience with an editor, or do you have one to recommend? Love to hear about it in the comments.