Dissertation Editing Services
April 21, 2016 9:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious about using an editing service for the final edits on my dissertation. Any suggestions for services/ethical complications?

I'm working on a full draft of my dissertation. Yay! I'm incorporating notes on content and feel pretty okay about that. I get bogged down in questions of style, clarity and coherence and feel those things are keeping me from focusing on the content and research. I can spend hours on a couple sentences, just writing and rewriting for clarity (and yes, I understand the larger issues at play with that, which I hope to address in the future). I'm at about two months out from my defense and I'd rather spend my time with ideas rather than sentence-level issues. To that end, my advisor and my spouse (himself a writer) have both pointed out complications on a sentence level.

I'm curious about using an editor to help clean up the draft so I can add the content without feeling overly stressed about the prose. Two questions:

1. Any suggestions for services that do this? Or individuals? I obviously don't want to spend time and money on someone who just corrects grammar (which is not a big problem).
2. Is this an ethical issue? Do I have to disclose to my committee? My degree will be in English and I teach writing, so it's not that I can't write or don't know the problems -- it's really just a time issue because my draft is pretty unwieldy and is due soon. If I had more time, I could polish it up, but I don't, so I want someone else to do it.
posted by anonymous to Education (12 answers total)
 
For (2) I am also hurrying to finish up my dissertation, also about 2 months out. My advisor suggested to me that having somebody copy edit mine wouldn't be a bad idea.

For me, somebody doing anything beyond what my advisor (who has copy-editing experience) would do on a draft (i.e., flag a sentence every now and then as not clear/badly worded, and suggest a fix) would be ethically dicey, but I think this is a "talk to your advisor" situation.
posted by damayanti at 9:44 AM on April 21, 2016


2. Is this an ethical issue? Do I have to disclose to my committee? My degree will be in English and I teach writing, so it's not that I can't write or don't know the problems -- it's really just a time issue because my draft is pretty unwieldy and is due soon. If I had more time, I could polish it up, but I don't, so I want someone else to do it.
If you have an editor mark up your manuscript, make comments, and offer suggestions that will improve the clarity/coherence of your diss, and then you go back in and make the suggested changes yourself, then there is no ethical issue.

But if you're looking for someone to do the actual rewrites for you yourself, then the diss is no longer your work, and you're definitely breaking the rules.
posted by dis_integration at 9:45 AM on April 21, 2016


There are editors who work on dissertations. There are limits to what they do, although each typically has their own standards as to how much they will "help." It sound like you might need something a bit deeper than a copy edit--maybe something along the lines development editing--but that's tough to judge without looking at the copy.

There are lots of freelancers on the CEL directory who could help (look under the freelancers tab and search for dissertation). Feel free to MeMail me if you'd like a bit more information.
posted by sardonyx at 9:45 AM on April 21, 2016


You absolutely need to ask your adviser about this.
posted by grouse at 9:47 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


In my department, hiring an editor to mark unclear and ungrammatical sentences would have been 100% fine, but hiding it from your advisor would have been really weird and probably gotten you in trouble. But your department may be different. Ask first.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:52 AM on April 21, 2016 [5 favorites]


Is this an ethical issue?

Yes, this could be an ethical issue.

As others said, do talk to your supervisor about it. How much of an issue this is obviously depends on the subject, the country you're in and the personalities that weigh heaviest in your department. I can only say that in my field (humanities; musicology), and at the institutions that I have been involved with, external editing was ok as long as it was discussed with and approved by the institution. I was actually once asked to be the editor of a doctoral dissertation; it was the supervisor who involved me, not the student.

While you're working, it may help to embrace the concept "writing is research." Questions of style, clarity and coherence are inseparable from content and research. There is no hierarchy between these things, they all need to be taken into account.
posted by Namlit at 11:05 AM on April 21, 2016


I've occasionally been hired for this kind of work (which I'm not currently doing right now, so this isn't a grab at the job, I promise!), and I've always strongly suggested that the client speak with their advisor and/or review their university policies. Many universities or departments have specific policies about how much editorial assistance is allowed. You need to do the legwork there, and asking your advisor is probably the place to start.

Assuming you come down on the side of "this is okay", then option one may be to talk with your department's administrator or business manager type person - they may have a list of people who contract with the university. Even if you're planning on working with them as an individual, this gets you at least some assurance that they're reliable. Otherwise, you might poke around at the listings of the Editorial Freelancers' Association. (You might also try posting to MeFi jobs. I know for a fact that I'm not the only one around these parts who has done this kind of work, although I don't know if the other MeFi editors are currently taking on new clients.)
posted by Stacey at 11:06 AM on April 21, 2016


I used to edit dissertations way back when. I wouldn't rewrite, but I'd correct spelling mistakes and fix punctuation. I only worked on dissertations where this sort of work was already cleared by the faculty and the supervisors. Mostly I was hired to fix up dissertations by students whose first language wasn't English and whose work was highly technical or scientific - i.e. not related to language usage as such. I worked for a quite few Chinese students who were excellent at maths but had very little experience writing grammatically correct English.

So, check your specific faculty and talk to your supervisor.

That said, without knowing anything about your chosen subject, "I get bogged down in questions of style, clarity and coherence and feel those things are keeping me from focusing on the content and research." does worry me. You presenting your content clearly, effectively and in the expected style is a major part of your job.
posted by kariebookish at 11:34 AM on April 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


The Editors' Association of Canada has a nifty ethical guideline document about this right here. Basically, a structural edit that is ethical would point out to you where the problems are, but you would have to find the solutions. In English this might particularly apply. But have a look!
posted by warriorqueen at 12:48 PM on April 21, 2016


I know a fantastic freelance editor who does dissertation editing for hire. MeMail me for her contact information; I don't want to just throw it out on the open web.
posted by sockermom at 2:47 PM on April 21, 2016


Can you check with your campus writing center about dissertation support?
posted by bluedaisy at 7:30 PM on April 21, 2016


You absolutely must check this with your university's rules about dissertations. If you are in the UK, I can tell you that what you're proposing would break the rules for most of our unis; your PhD must be your work - and that's all of it, including the prose, style and grammar. Being able to write the PhD is part of the requirements of doing the PhD, it's not an 'add on' triviality to the 'real work'.
posted by AFII at 12:24 AM on April 22, 2016 [2 favorites]


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