Thesis Writing Tip: Confidence is Key!

Confidence is extremely important in the thesis writing process. Indeed, if you plan on finishing your thesis on time (or at all), it is very important to learn to trust your own judgment…

Thesis writing.

There are times when mentors (e.g. PhD supervisors, your thesis chair, members of your thesis committee) may make suggestions that don’t make sense to you. For example, a mentor might suggest that you collect additional data — which you know is not necessary — and furthermore, will put you considerably behind schedule in your thesis writing. Another example… you strongly believe that your research calls for a qualitative approach, however, one of your mentors is suggesting that you use quantitative methods. Moreover, there may be occasions when one member of your thesis committee is advising you to do something that contradicts the recommendations of another member of your thesis committee. In this situation, whatever you do, you are not going to be able to please everyone!

If you give careful consideration to your mentor’s suggestions and they simply are not helpful, then have the confidence to defend your position. Whether the issue relates to your methodology, your conceptual framework, or something else, have the courage of your convictions, and clearly explain your position (in writing if necessary). If you allow yourself to be easily swayed in a direction that is not in keeping with your vision of the project, the danger is that you will get confused and disillusioned — and you literally could end up… not finishing your thesis. :( As such, you absolutely must have the confidence to show your committee members that you know what you are doing.

Ultimately, remember that this is your project; you are the expert in this area. Unless your mentors did the same thesis as you — which obviously won’t be the case — you should know more than your supervisors about the topic. Therefore, it absolutely makes sense to politely defend your decision.

Final thought: you’ll need to be able to defend your thesis at your PhD defense, so it’s not a bad idea to get in some practice early on in your thesis writing journey!

Academic Copyediting: How long does it take?


academic copyediting.

Many people have unrealistic expectations regarding the length of time taken to thoroughly edit an academic manuscript. The following is an anonymized extract from a recent academic copyediting inquiry:

The manuscript needs copy editing but it might also need some additional language editing. Amount of words: approx. 160,000… we would need to have the job done as fast (though thorough) as possible in order to still be able to have the book published within the year. Would you happen to have the time to copy edit this manuscript within two weeks’ time?

In the above example, the time estimated by the potential client is not viable. If you keep in mind that each page is 250 words, and you assume that the editor works about seven hours per day, here are some points to consider regarding turnaround time:

Academic copyediting (light)

For light editing (e.g. spelling, grammar, word choice, sentence construction) it is reasonable to expect the editor to work at a speed of around 28 pages per day.

Academic copyediting (heavy)

In the case of heavy editing, the editor attends to spelling, grammar, word choice, and sentence construction as outlined above, however, a heavy editing project has a lot more errors than a light editing project. In addition, heavy editing typically involves moving phrases, sentences, and paragraphs to improve the flow of the text. The editor may also provide a series of comments, suggestions, and recommendations for the author’s attention. Since heavy editing involves significantly more work, clients should allow for a rate of 14 pages per day.

With reference to the above example, consider that a 160,000 word document is 640 pages — equivalent in length to two PhD theses! If we apply the above turnaround times to this example, light editing of the 160,000 word manuscript would take 23 working days (i.e. four and a half weeks) and heavy editing would take 46 working days (i.e. nine weeks). The bottom line is, a long manuscript such as this cannot be thoroughly edited in just two weeks. Indeed, in this case, the job would take at least twice as long as the client had estimated.

I have no doubt that there are editors out there who do take on these kinds of “rush jobs,” however, the quality of the work is unlikely to meet the publisher’s requirements. Think about it another way… if you are looking for a house builder and the builder guarantees project completion within two weeks, do you think the house would meet your quality requirements? Would you trust a builder who claimed to build a house so quickly?

Academic copyediting tip

When you are contacting academic editors, really think about your expectations and how these expectations are to be realistically met. Allow enough time for a quality job to be done; if this means extending your deadline, be flexible enough to do this. This approach will save you time and money in the long run. :)

Additional Resources





Check my paper… suggestions for finalizing your work

Check my paper.Perhaps you’re juggling a lot of projects and need some advice on finalizing your work. Maybe English is your second language. You might find it difficult to make sentences and paragraphs flow naturally. Or perhaps you simply lack confidence – you may feel that you are not a good writer. For those of you who need guidance, here are five quick tips:

Don’t over-rely on the Microsoft spell and grammar check

This checker is great for spotting obvious errors, however, in my experience, it has suggested “corrections” that are not correct (particularly the insertion of semicolons). In addition, when it is correcting spelling errors, it may suggest the wrong word. For example, if you spell “principle” wrong, it may suggest a similar word, “principal,” which has a very different meaning.

Check my paper… by reading aloud

Reading aloud is a technique that you can use to help you proofread your paper; it is particularly useful when you are giving the document a final read. By actually reading the words out loud, it draws your attention to any small errors (e.g. missing words, awkward sentences) and gives you confidence that you didn’t miss anything. (This video from the UNC Writing Center goes into more detail…

Check my paper… by getting feedback from others

Getting feedback on your paper from others (e.g. faculty, fellow students) is a great way of identifying problems (e.g. sentences that don’t make sense, missing information). When you have addressed any problems, this can give you the confidence to submit your work.

Check my paper… by hiring an academic editor

An academic editor should be able to help you with the following:

  • Correcting spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors.
  • Checking papers for typographical errors and formatting issues.
  • Revising the text for improved clarity and readability.
  • Correcting poor word choice and phrasing.
  • Providing recommendations on further improving the document (e.g. highlighting gaps in information and inconsistencies).

Take a break from the paper

If you are tired of re-reading and re-reading your paper, take a break and return to it when you are feeling refreshed. If you have the time, I suggest giving yourself a break of at least two days (a week is preferable). Hopefully, you will find that the document will be easier to edit/proofread when you return to it with fresh eyes.

Additional Resources


Academic copy editing: tips on hiring the right editor

Academic copy editing is a highly specialized job; it is important not to rush into hiring someone without considering some key factors, which I have set out below.

academic copy editing.

Hire an academic. Choose an editor who has an employment background in academia and/or a PhD in a relevant area. Hiring a generalist editor is fine for fiction books or websites, but when you’re dealing with scholarly writing, your best bet is to hire someone who specializes in academic copy editing. For example, you wouldn’t hire a family lawyer to deal with a medical negligence case, would you?

Hire someone who offers a free trial edit. It is not fair to expect clients to pay for editing services if they haven’t had the chance to assess the editor’s work first.

Hire an individual editor rather than a company with employees. If you hire a large company, you don’t necessarily know who will be editing your manuscript. The company may claim that all their editors have PhDs, but how do you know this is actually the case? Even with freelance editors, if in doubt, double-check that they are not contracting out the work to someone else.

Do your research. Check that the editor actually provides a name and Google him/her. Believe it or not, there are some companies out there with no named person as owner! It is preferable to choose an editor who has a strong online presence, with a location and a regular phone number displayed on the website; your best bet is to deal with a real person, who is contactable (not a faceless company).

Consider whether prices are realistic. If something is suspiciously low-priced, look elsewhere. For example, if someone is offering to edit your 160 page thesis for $200, you might as well throw your money down the drain; a thesis of that length may take 10 days to edit… no self-respecting scholar can afford to spend 10 days working on a manuscript for $200.

I hope these academic copy editing hiring tips are useful. Good luck in your search! :)

Additional Resources





APA Editor or Formatter?

APA Editor.

Many clients state that they are looking for an APA Editor…

It is worth noting that applying the APA style to your manuscript is not editing per se; rather, it involves formatting the document in line with APA requirements. In this short blog post, I will look at some key aspects of APA formatting.

  • Origin of APA: “APA” relates to the official style guide of the American Psychological Association (APA).
  • APA Subjects: The APA style is generally used in social and behavioral sciences manuscripts (e.g. sociology, social work, education, economics, psychology).
  • Font, Spacing and Indentation. The recommended typeface for APA is 12 pt. Times New Roman font; the manuscript should be in double line spacing; and the first line of each paragraph should be indented by half an inch.
  • Running Head: A page header, called a running head is included at the top of every page on the same line as the page number.
  • In-text Citation (1). APA requires in-text citation, that is, citations are included within the actual text. While the word and should be used in the text, the symbol & needs to be used inside parentheses.
  • In-text Citation (2). The first time a citation is used, the year of publication is included after the name of the author(s); it is not necessary to include the publication year again in the same paragraph. However, in new paragraphs, the publication year is required again.
  • Headings: APA uses five levels of headings within an academic manuscript which are illustrated below. (To view the headings properly, please be sure to click the actual link for this post.)

1. Centered, Bold, Uppercase and Lowercase

2. Left Justified, Bold, Uppercase and Lowercase

3. Indented bold lowercase heading, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period.

4. Indented bold lowercase heading, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period (italics). 

5. Indented lowercase heading, beginning with a capital letter and ending with a period (italics/no bold). 

Additional Resources


This list includes a few of the key elements of APA and is far from exhaustive. For example, I have not included information regarding the reference list. Also, aside from the levels of headings, I have not formatted this blog post in APA style. :)

Dissertation Proofreading: Is it Really Proofreading?

When I first started editing for clients, I offered three types of editing on my website: heavy editing, light editing and proofreading. Interestingly, “dissertation proofreading” inquiries have often turned out to be “dissertation editing” projects. In other words, the client either underestimated the work that was needed on the manuscript, or did not understand the difference between proofreading and copyediting. 

You may be wondering why this is important. Well, it is vital to understand the difference between these two tasks so that the client has realistic expectations about the final product and the work involved. If the client and the editor are on the same page from the outset, there are less likely to be any misunderstandings and the project tends to run smoothly.

Because this seems to be a common source of confusion, I am going to use the rest of this post to describe the different levels of editing. 

dissertation proofreading.

Dissertation proofreading 

Proofreading literally involves reading a manuscript (that is assumed to be already in good shape) and, as necessary, correcting a few small errors per page (e.g. typographical errors, punctuation errors). As a rule of thumb, there should be no more than five small errors per page in a true “proofreading” project (some pages will have no errors). The bottom line is that the manuscript which needs proofreading is “almost ready” – it simply needs a final check.

Dissertation copyediting (light) 

Light copyediting requires significantly more work than proofreading… it usually consists of corrections to spelling, grammar, punctuation, word choice, and sentence construction. Thus, light editing goes beyond proofreading to include improvements to sentence construction and word choice. Light editing also allows for a lot more errors (e.g. 5-15 errors per page). 

Dissertation copyediting (heavy) 

Heavy editing obviously involves more work than light editing. In addition to spelling, grammar, punctuation, word choice, and sentence construction, heavy editing involves moving sentences, attention to paragraph flow, and moving paragraphs. I also provide suggestions for further improving the document (e.g. information may be missing). Finally, there tend to be a lot more errors (over 15 errors per page) in a heavy editing project.

Think about it… the word “edit” implies that significant changes are needed; with the word “proofreading,” the focus is on reading and checking rather than changes. Of course, proofreading involves some amendments, but it is important to understand that these amendments are very minor.

Tendency to underestimate the work involved. Whether your manuscript needs heavy editing, light editing or proofreading, as mentioned above, there is a tendency to underestimate the amount of work that is required. Another example… clients often describe a project as “light editing” when the work actually involves “heavy editing.” At first glance, sometimes, even I think that a project involves less work than is actually the case. This is why the free trial edit (250-300 words) that I provide is useful to both clients and myself in confirming the level of editing that is needed.

Hopefully, this post helps you to understand the key differences between dissertation proofreading and editing!

Additional Resources





Dos and Don’ts for the Dissertation Editor

dissertation editor - dos and don'ts.

While I’m an experienced academic writer and editor, I’m fairly new to managing my own business. That said, I’ve had enough experience to come up with my first dos and don’ts list for the dissertation editor, which I’m sharing below:

  • DO complete an initial review of the prospective client’s manuscript before taking on a job. You want to be sure to recommend the right kind of editing (e.g. proofreading vs. copyediting vs. substantive editing). Believe me, it’s very easy to underestimate the amount of work involved in various projects!
  •  DO send the client a pdf letter of agreement to be signed, dated, and returned to you prior to starting any work. Aside from serving as a contract, it sets the parameters of what the client can expect of you with regard to issues such as deliverables, timeframe, and cost.
  • DO value your work enough to charge fees that are consistent with the quality that you provide. Too many people in the writing/editing business chronically undervalue their work and accept ridiculously low pay.
  • DON’T take on work unless you are confident that you can do a quality job. While I edit a fairly broad range of academic manuscripts, I’m not a scientist, and therefore would draw the line at basic science manuscripts (e.g. physics, chemistry, biology).
  • DON’T take on work at academic editing companies that pay rates that are significantly lower than your rates. You don’t want to waste time working for peanuts for someone else, when you could be building up your own business.
  • DON’T be desperate or feel that you are obligated to work with clients who make you uncomfortable. Trust your intuition; if red flags crop up (e.g. awful communication) you may want to say no to a project. It could save you a considerable amount of time and money (if there are issues with payment) in the long run.

No doubt, as I become a more seasoned business woman, I’ll have more to add to this list at a future date. In the meantime, I hope newbie dissertation editors find this helpful!


Academic manuscript editing costs

academic-manuscript-editingWhen communicating with potential clients, a few have made remarks to the effect of, “I can’t afford too much,” or “I am on a strict budget.” Here are a few points to consider with regard to the cost of academic manuscript editing: 

1. Is it worth skimping on costs at the final stage of your project?

For longer manuscripts (e.g. a thesis), you will have already invested time and often considerable funds (e.g. course fees) on a project. It doesn’t really make much sense to “go cheap” at this point; it’s a bit like buying an expensive car, and then skimping on the tires!

2. Are you being realistic about the scope of the editing project?

Ultimately, the cost of editing your work is determined by a) the length of your manuscript (e.g. number of words) and b) the level of editing required (e.g. heavy editing vs. light editing). Consider that a quality editing job requires time, effort, attention to detail, and ideally, academic expertise. As such, it’s a good idea to be open-minded about prices. 

3. Are you being realistic about the actual value of services?

There are dozens of editing companies out there who appear to be charging very low rates for editing. However, I would tread carefully before paying for such services. For example, many companies are able to offer cheap services because they subcontract their academic manuscript editing projects to third parties, who are willing to work for low wages. In such a situation, you may have no idea who is editing your manuscript. Like most things in life, you do tend to get what you pay for; if something is suspiciously low-priced, the chances are that the quality may be poor.

Bottom line: In shopping for an academic editor, don’t just look for the cheapest quote; instead, view the process as an investment in your scholarly career.

Additional Resources

Hiring an academic manuscript editor

hiring an academic editorIt’s not easy sifting through hundreds of editors online to find someone you can trust with your precious manuscript. Here are three tips to help you in your search:

1. Choose a specialist academic manuscript editor rather than a generalist editor. 

2. Know exactly who you are hiring. It is important to know exactly who is going to be working on your project, and to be aware of his/her qualifications/experience. I recommend that you hire a freelance editor (not a large editing company) and ask him/her to confirm that he/she does not subcontract projects to third parties.

3. Choose an editor from an established listing of editors. There are plenty of listings online; here is one example: The Editorial Freelancers Association. Of course, there are never any guarantees, however, I believe that it is safer to choose an academic manuscript editor from a bona fide directory, as opposed to a business that is not listed in any official register. 


 Stay tuned! I will be doing more posts on this topic in the future.

Two Dissertation Tips

dissertation tips.

I have talked previously about being perfectionist, and thinking you need to do more than is necessary.  Like many things in life, some people go the other way, and underestimate what needs to be done; here are two quick dissertation tips which address this issue:

1. Be realistic about the quality of work that is required.

If you’re working on a doctoral or master’s thesis, be sure to look at the dissertations of recent graduates in your field of study/related areas.  If you’re not in the mood to look at a thesis, and prefer to read something shorter (or you’re a professor working on an academic paper), peer-reviewed articles relating to your research topic are another great resource for getting a feel for the quality of work that is required.  Pay particular attention to the kind of language used, and the layout of articles.

2. Try not to leave things until the last minute (easier said than done, I know ).

To give a quick example, potential clients have asked me to edit a whole dissertation in as little as two days; this is obviously not possible, so please avoid being in this situation!  

If you’re honest with yourself on how much time you actually need for a big writing project, and plan accordingly, you can avoid the stress of being forced to finish it in a ridiculously short period of time.  The bottom line is, be realistic about the quality of work that is required, so that you can have a sensible and workable time frame.  

Finishing That Dreaded Manuscript! (Part II)


As discussed in Part I of this series of academic writing tips, the writing-up process can be frustrating and monotonous.  Here are three more tips to help you finalize that manuscript that’s been on the back burner for too long!

1. Stop Collecting Data

To actually reach the writing-up stage, clearly there comes a time when data collection has to stop!  If you are looking to complete your thesis/paper in the near future, you may want to consider whether you already have an acceptable amount of data.  If you feel that your data collection plan might be over ambitious, and sabotaging your timetable, consider whether a reduced sample size is feasible.  Reviewing similar studies, with reference to sample size, and consulting your mentors will help in this process.  This brings us nicely to the next tip…

2. Use Your Mentors

Academics are busy people, and it’s prudent to have plenty of mentors at all stages of the writing process.  Mentors can be particularly useful in terms of giving you the confidence to finalize your manuscript.  In addition to your thesis committee (if you’re a student) and formal mentors (if you’re a professor), I suggest that you seek out mentoring from other relevant faculty members. Thus when “mentors A and B” are particularly busy, you may find that “mentors C and D” have time to review your work and answer questions.   Mentors don’t need to be senior faculty; if you’re a student, a recent PhD graduate could serve as a mentor.   Please also note that it’s not too late to seek out additional mentors at the writing-up stage!

3. Take Enough Time Off

It may sound counter-intuitive, however, in order to finish your manuscript more quickly, it actually helps if you take some time out to enjoy life/relax/rest.  Perhaps it makes more sense if you consider that a healthy balance of work and play enables your mind to be fresher/sharper when you are working, and therefore you actually get more done.  As such, I suggest that you schedule time for both work and recreation in your weekly timetable.

Academic Writing: Finishing That Dreaded Manuscript!

academic writing.

Whether you’re a student writing a thesis or a university professor completing a book/paper/grant proposal, the writing-up process can be overwhelming. Do you feel like you can’t make any more improvements, you’re sick of reading and re-reading, and wonder whether it will ever get done? Well, here are three tips to help you get that dreaded manuscript finished once and for all.

Academic Writing Tip 1. Set a date

Obviously, the time you take to complete a manuscript depends on your other commitments. For example, if you’re working on a part-time doctorate, it’s going to take longer than someone on a full-time program. If you’re a researcher working on one project, you’ll have more time for publications than a professor with a lot of teaching responsibilities. Be that as it may, there’s a point when you simply have to say, “enough is enough,” or you could end up working on your manuscript for, literally, years. :-( The bottom line here is that it’s essential to have a personal deadline if you are serious about completing your manuscript (e.g. I am going to finish the thesis/book/paper/proposal by x date). Moreover, you need to make a timetable to correspond with your deadline.

Academic Writing Tip 2. Stop being a perfectionist

Perfectionism in academic writing can be crippling. When I was doing my PhD, I always remember the words of a professor at a research methods workshop: “Aim for a pass, that’s all you need.” At the end of the day, your manuscript is never going to be perfect; there is always something you can do to improve it. You simply need to get to the point where you’re confident that it’s an acceptable academic publication, comparable to others in your field; that’s your key aim.

Academic Writing Tip 3. Get others to review it

Another pair of eyes (preferably several) can be invaluable in terms of spotting errors, identifying areas where clarification may be needed, or where there are gaps in pertinent information. Whether it’s a mentor, a colleague, a fellow student, or an academic editor, this additional feedback can really help in finalizing your document!

Additional Resources: