Kateproof offers an affordable and efficient proofreading service

Q&A on what to expect from a thesis proofreading service

Posted on 10th January 2018

I regularly get emails from postgraduate students wanting more details about my proofreading service and I often get asked the same or similar questions. I thought it would therefore be useful to cover those questions and provide answers here so that hopefully if you are looking to get your thesis, articles or dissertation proofread, you can feel confident you know what the service will include and what to expect.

Am I allowed to get my thesis or dissertation proofread?

This is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive and unfortunately there's no single or simple answer. I have written a few posts about the ethics of proofreading for students so there is more detail in those but the simplest answer to the above question is for you to check with your university or education institution. Even then, some departments or schools within a university might have different rules so it might be best to check with your supervisor. In my experience, most universities are happy for students to get their work proofread but not all are, and some also have specific guidelines for the proofreader to consider.

Am I allowed to get my thesis or dissertation copy-edited?

As might be expected, the answer to this is largely the same as to the question above, but I personally need written confirmation from your supervisor to confirm you are allowed to use my copy-editing service before I will quote and commit to the project. This is because for many UK higher education institutions, copy-editing might be seen as too much input from a professional and this might be considered collusion. This isn't always the case though, and is often viewed quite differently at universities outside the UK; for example, I work directly for a university in Finland that explicitly permits copy-editing for postgraduates because they are no longer assessed on their language, just the actual content. Under no circumstances will I edit the content of a thesis or dissertation to be submitted for assessment but I can offer language editing services, with permission.

How long will the proofreading service take?

Before I can determine how long I will need to proofread (or copy-edit) a thesis, dissertation or article, I will need to see a sample of the file and know the full word count. Many of the theses I work on are around 80,000 to 100,000 words and assuming I have no other work booked in, I would estimate needing two to three weeks for the work. A short article of say 5,000 words might only require a day, but obviously I might have other work on so I can't always commit to one-day turnaround times. I can give estimates for time required if you get in touch with a general query, but I need to know your exact dates for sending work to me and needing it back before I can give a precise schedule.

Does the proofreading service include checking the references?

This is where many universities are strict and so the service I offer might be restricted by what your institution permits. If there are no set guidelines, my proofreading service includes checking consistency of formatting and spelling but I do not externally verify the content – if something appears awry, I will flag this for you to check but won't personally research this as that would be considered a content change and beyond my remit. My copy-editing service can include more help with the references, but this still depends on your institution's guidelines if the work is to be assessed. More details are given in this post I wrote about the differences between my proofreading, proof-editing and copy-editing services for academics and students.

Can you make my thesis sound more academic?

In short, no. Many students worry about their work not being 'academic' enough but I am a believer in plain English and think that verbose language is often used to mask weak content. If you always use the same connecting words or appear to have a preference for certain phrases, I might make suggestions of synonyms or other ways of putting things, but I won't edit the language if what you have is clear and correct.

Does the service include formatting my thesis or dissertation?

My standard proofreading service does not include implementing formatting from scratch, though I will pick up on inconsistencies, for example in use of capitals or italics, and I will check that numbering of headings and sections is correct.

Formatting from scratch can be included in the copy-editing service but as many universities have set guidelines on this, plus it adds to the time it will take for me to do the work and therefore increases the cost, I tend to recommend that you do this yourself and let me focus on the language.

Is it better to get my thesis proofread chapter by chapter or all in one go?

I prefer to work on a thesis in one go as this helps ensure consistency throughout the file. However, I know that sometimes that isn't possible due to time constraints or the submission process. In these cases, I can work on separate chapters and will do my best to ensure they are all consistent but I then recommend you do your own final checks on the collated file (or in an ideal world, where money does grow on trees, get the final, collated manuscript proofread again).

At what stage of my thesis should I get it proofread?

This will depend a lot on your supervisor, submission process and how confident you feel in your language skills. I often work on the collated thesis prior to submission to the supervisor, who will have reviewed chapters over the course of your studies but this will be the first time they will see the overall work. The issue with proofreading the work at this stage is that the supervisor might make suggestions for changes to the content and then you might need to get the work proofread again, or at least have the new text checked.

Another option is to get the thesis proofread after your supervisor has done their final checks and you are getting ready for the final submission to the examiners.

I also often get asked to proofread a thesis after the submission and viva, when students have passed their PhD or postgraduate course but are advised to get the thesis proofread prior to printing and submitting to the library.

It really depends on you and your preference and if in doubt, it is often worth asking your supervisor about what they suggest. If funds are not too tight, I also sometimes work on the chapters as and when they are written and then on the final collated file after the supervisor has reviewed it but before the submission to examiners.

If you have any other questions or want more details about my copy-editing and proofreading services, please do not hesitate to get in touch by email: kate@kateproof.co.uk.

Written by Kate Haigh.