As educators, we often find ourselves being students as well, working on graduate work that may require theses or dissertations. I would like to share some tips from my perspective as an editor on how to edit a thesis or dissertation quickly and effectively:
- Always reread and edit your paper before submitting it to your committee members and editor. After polishing the content of your paper, polish the English and the format. Content is most important, but if you don’t express yourself clearly, the readers may not understand your content. Format is also important because it creates the first impression when readers look at your paper. Some committee members will not even start reading your paper if they see you did not take the time to format it correctly.
- Keep your institutional writing guide and style (APA, SBL, MLA, etc.) guide close by. Follow these writing principles, standards, and rules. The editor will use these guides to check your paper, so don’t wait for the editor to tell you information that is already accessible to you.
- Use several types of writing software. Use a plagiarism-checking software to identify unintentional plagiarism in your paper and fix it. Use a reference management software to format your references and in-text citations or footnotes. Other free software programs can also help speed up your editing process. Even if you need to use some paid software programs, the price may be cheaper than the tuition you have to pay if you need to keep reenrolling because the editor won’t approve you for defense.
- Be thorough in implementing the editor’s corrections and follow their instructions religiously. This prevents you from frustrating your editor and from needing to fix your paper repeatedly.
- Take a break when you need it. Sometimes rereading and editing your work can feel energy draining and like a waste of precious writing time. However, editing is an essential part of your writing time. When you get overwhelmed, go do something else and come back when you are more relaxed. Read your paper with a new set of eyes, pretending it is your first time to read the paper. This will help you see mistakes that you may not see otherwise.
- Keep yourself posted for announcements on the editorial process, submission deadlines, and the like so that you do not miss important information.
- Hire your own editor if needed or ask for help from friends who have a knack for editing. You know your capacity. If you think editing is just beyond you, seek help, and seek help early.
Institutional editors can tell whether you have tried to polish your language and format and may be more likely to give you extra help if they see that you have put in that effort. These tips may feel costly in terms of time and finances. In my experience, though, more often than not, these steps are worth the effort because they can help you get through the editing phase more quickly and end up with a well-edited paper.