9/8/2016 0 Comments
Another popular request from dissertation clients tends to be if they can send their work chapter-by-chapter instead of in one complete draft. The dissertation writing process is very compartmentalized, so it’s normal for you to be thinking of it within that structure, but the editing process is often different, and there are some advantages to shifting to a full-draft perspective when the time comes. Some editors will be perfectly fine with separate chapters, while others will prefer to receive the document in one piece.
Style editing. When copyeditors edit, they’re often making a list (called a style sheet) of universal changes they’re making in order to make sure they’re making the consistent choice throughout the document. It’s not unusual for a style choice made at the beginning of a lengthy document to prove problematic by the end. If they have the whole document in front of them, they can make the late change relatively easily to the earlier chapters. If they’ve already returned those chapters, then they’re forced to stick with the less-than-ideal style option.
Say, for instance, there is a term you use both hyphenated and unhyphenated in the first chapter. The editor will pick one of those variants (for example, the hyphenated one) and make all instances consistent. Then she might receive your later chapters and discover that by the time you wrote those, you became more consistent with your own usage and used the unhyphenated version of the same term. If the editor had the entire draft from the beginning, she would have had a broader perspective on your use and chosen the unhyphenated variant.
Formatting. In addition to APA formatting, which some departments require, graduate schools have very specific requirements for dissertations that include pagination, margins, organization of front matter and back matter, placement of tables and figures, and sometimes headings, fonts, and other details. Much of it can be accomplished more easily with a complete draft at hand.
Citations. One of the things an editor can do is cross-check your references with their inclusion in your reference list and vice-versa. This task requires both the reference list and the chapters be present. Although this can be done chapter-by-chapter, as well, it will be a speedier and easier process (and thus cheaper for you) if the editor has everything in one place.
All of the above are aspects of the editing process that can be done more easily and more speedily with a full draft than individual chapters. It’s not always a huge difference, but across 200 or 300 pages, it can add up. While many editors may be open to working chapter-by-chapter, the difference in the process is likely to affect you at the pocketbook end.
Is Chapter-by-Chapter Ever Better?
If you don’t expect to be finished writing the entire dissertation until a week or two before it’s due, then your editor would probably rather work on the chapters you’ve completed than wait until the last minute to have the full draft. But again, this is a matter of preference, and it’s best to confer with them early on this. Some might want the entire draft early and fully.
8/9/2016 0 Comments
The biggest mistake dissertation writers make — and they make it a lot — is expecting editing to be performed too early in the process.
Incidentally, the biggest mistake I have made — and I have made it a lot myself — is accepting chapters for editing too early in the process.
In any type of publishing, the sequence of editing is supposed to go from in-depth editing to surface editing. Deep to shallow. That is, substantive or developmental editing (the kind that involves changes to ideas and their organization, research and its presentation, and so on) is performed on the rough draft. After that rough draft is revised, copyediting can take place, and then finally proofreading. In a dissertation scheme, the people who perform the substantive editing are you and your advisor. The person who performs the copyediting and proofreading is your editor (and perhaps a separate proofreader).
This means that ideally, your editor should not be receiving your draft until you are done with any and all research, writing, and revising you are planning to do.
Where the mistake comes in is that dissertation writers often — very often — want the editor to go over their draft before their supervisor or advisor has seen and commented on it. I can understand wanting to put your best foot forward immediately and not wanting your advisor to have to work with something rough and unfinished.
However, there will nearly always be revisions to make after your advisor has read this draft, and those revisions are often substantial. If you ask your editor to then edit the material again after you’ve made those revisions, she may be performing an entirely new job. This isn’t the way editing normally works, and it will be within her right and prerogative to charge you twice for a timeline like this — once for the prerevision draft and once for the postrevision draft. If the editor is working at an hourly rate, then you can imagine how fees will mount with each draft.
To keep costs for yourself to a minimum, plan your dissertation timeline far enough in advance so that it looks something like this:
(1) Write your chapters and submit each one in rough form to your advisor/supervisor.
(2) Your advisor/supervisor comments on these drafts and requests revisions.
(3a) Repeat 1 and 2 until your advisor has no more suggestions that will involve reorganizing material, rewriting material, or adding new paragraphs.
(3b) While you’re in the process of writing and revising, search for and contact an editor, confirm their availability, and find out how much time they will need for editing a full dissertation.
(4) After your substantive revisions are complete, send the entire dissertation to your editor with a sufficient amount of time to work before you need to submit the work for defense.
Editors vary widely in how much time they need, but expect as a minimum one week per chapter or one full month for a completed dissertation draft. This is the minimum I work with. Some editors work much faster than I do, but expect to pay more for fast turnarounds. Editors might also have many projects on their plates and need a longer turnaround. Be in communication before you need them.
8/3/2016 0 Comments
If you are a doctoral candidate who has been asked, encouraged, or maybe even required to hire an editor to help with your dissertation—whether for text editing, citation styling, or document formatting—you might feel a bit at sea. The purpose of this series of posts is to help you find an editor and to know what to expect throughout the process of working with one.
Finding an Editor
Word of mouth. If your advisor or your department has editors’ names on hand, that can be the best way to go. They will most likely be recommending editors who are somewhat familiar with your field of research or with the norms of your department or university. You can also ask if any prior PhD candidates in your department or program have hired an editor and see if you can get their name(s).
Directories. If you have no word-of-mouth channels for an editor, however, you can still find many if you know which directories to look in and if you have a bit of time to put toward inquiring into their availability.
The Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) has a directory you can search by location, skills, or specialties. Under Skills, you’re most likely looking for a proofreader or “editor, copy,” unless your advisor has told you otherwise. Under Specialities, make sure to select “scholarly.” Some academic fields are specified in the list, as well, but when it comes to editing, you may not need to limit yourself too narrowly in that respect.
There is also a directory of copyediting freelancers maintained by CE-L, a mailing list for editing professionals. When you visit this one, make sure to click the Freelancers heading—there is no separate link to that tab—and you’ll find a long alphabetical list of freelance editors. This directory doesn’t have a search function, but you can use your web browser’s Find ability to locate terms that might be used in the freelancers’ listings.
Contacting an Editor
You might obtain an email address, a website, or both from your word-of-mouth or directory search. Or you might get a phone number or social media account such as LinkedIn or Facebook. Freelancers’ websites will often have submission or contact forms, or they might provide any of the other above means of communication. I’ll focus on email because it is, in my experience, the most common mode of communication in this business, but the guidelines will apply to first contact through any of these other methods as well.
The two most important pieces of info. When you initiate contact with a freelancer, there is some info they’ll need from you as well as info you’ll want to obtain from them. The main concern to address before anything else is availability. If the freelancer isn’t available at the time you need them for the amount of work you need them to do, then it’s good to know that first thing. And so whatever else your initial email says or asks, it will be most helpful to mention:
Other questions the editor might have for you include what type of material it is, what type of editing you’re looking for (e.g., text editing, dissertation formatting, citation styling), or whether you want editing of early chapters, a pre-defense draft, or the post-defense revision.
Questions you might have for the editor, meanwhile, include how they price (e.g., flat rate or hourly); their editing process, such as number of editing rounds their fee covers; their experience in your citation style; or their background in editing dissertations in general or in your field in particular (here I mean “field” in the broad sense; see my previous post In Praise of Inexpertise for a discussion of whether experience in your subject matter is likely to be important or not).
Further posts on this topic will cover setting a timeline, understanding what to expect of a dissertation editor, and how to keep excess costs down by planning ahead and communicating early and often.
* You may be tempted to provide a page count, and some editors might ask for that, but bear in mind that in the editing world, a “page” is defined as a segment of 250 words, so an accurate page count is one that is based on word count anyway. If you provide a page count, do so by dividing your word count by 250, rather than by giving how many 8.5x11-inch “pages” in your Word document contain material.
Sometimes we get guidelines of writing stuck so firmly in our heads that we become convinced they’re rules of grammar that “everyone” knows are entirely factual. Often, they are guidelines we learned at a young age, leading us to pronounce, “This is 8th-grade grammar!” if someone questions us about it.
The difficulty with 8th-grade grammar is that middle school teachers may be teaching not only widely accepted rules but also guidelines for subjectively understood “good” writing. And whether it’s because the students are thirteen years old, because we don’t remember every piece of our lessons years later, or because not all teachers make it fully clear, the distinction doesn’t always stick.
The topics I covered in my “seldoms” series (paragraph-ending quotations, sentence-opening conjunctions, and passive voice) have an element of that in them, but they pop up all the time, so that one person’s malleable style preference is another person’s hard-and-fast rule.
Another example is introducing quotations with the word “that.” This is a convention that comes up more often in scholarly nonfiction than it does in other writing genres, and it’s fairly rare in fiction. Since I’m so accustomed to it, I didn’t realize until it came up in a social media discussion recently that some people think it’s wrong. Here’s what I’m referring to:
With another aphorism he reminded his readers that “experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other”—an observation as true today as then.
Both of these examples come from the Chicago Manual of Style, in a section (13.14) that is not on the topical word, “that,” but on capitalization. It’s a way of presenting a quotation while suiting the syntax of the sentence around it to its use, and it’s so standard in this style of writing that it doesn’t even merit mention. Yet when this construction was raised (also in a discussion on capitalization, interestingly), three separate people insisted that what follows the word “that” is implied to be paraphrase and can’t (they actually said can’t, not shouldn’t) be a direct quote.
It wasn’t until I provided the above examples from Chicago that the arguments ebbed.
Since I hadn’t heard this “rule” about not introducing a quote with the word “that” before this conversation, I can’t be certain where it comes from, but my best guess is that it’s an example of mistaking style for grammar. I can in fact see arguments for avoiding it for style reasons, not grammatical ones. Going with the comma instead of that is arguably more concise, for instance, and it’s a construction with few uses in a fiction context.
However, these points don’t make the that construction grammatically wrong, and there are times when it works very well. As I noted, it’s very common in scholarly writing, so I would assume (or hope) that the naysayers focus on other genres in their editing and were for that reason unfamiliar with its acceptability.
This particular topic is merely an example of a general tendency most of us (“us” being word lovers) have at some point to confuse style choices with rules of grammar or mechanics. This one was only notable to me because I had never heard the argument made before three individuals made it, despite the appearance of counter-examples in a reference that one of them claimed to adhere to. We come across them all the time, with some “rules” (e.g., splitting infinitives, ending sentences with prepositions) evoking far more discussion about how they’re no longer rules than discussion of toeing the line on them.
As editors, we regularly mix enforcement of widely accepted rules with application of style choices so fluidly that we don’t always think about which is which, and with some clients in some types of editing, it doesn’t matter. It’s good to be aware where on the style–rule spectrum all our changes fall, though, and how that place on the spectrum might even vary with different genres, media, or audiences. It serves us and our clients well both in our work and in our debates among ourselves.
Let’s say you’re always good about citing your sources, checking that you didn’t introduce typos into your quoted material, and marking any changes to the original with clear indicators like ellipsis points and brackets, with an appropriately placed “[sic]” where you made a point not to change it. These are all good things to be aware of. But there are a handful of changes you can make to quotations that actually shouldn’t be bracketed if you’re using APA or Chicago style.*
If you have either manual in front of you, we’ll be working with APA section 6.07 and Chicago section 13.7. There are three types of changes that both manuals allow you to change without indication.
The Case of the First Letter in a Quotation
That heading sounds like a very library-centric Nancy Drew mystery, but we’re just talking about lowercase and uppercase letters. Many conscientious scholars have noticed this treatment of a quotation in a book or article and thoughtfully applied it to their own work:
Original: He had little schooling, and he describes his early surroundings as poor and mean.†
In the original, the word “he” was capitalized, and the author quoting it is being careful enough to indicate their change. There are styles that require that the h be bracketed in this case, but neither Chicago nor APA is among them. In the APA’s words, “The first letter of the first word in a quotation may be changed to an uppercase or a lowercase letter.” So if you’re following either of these styles, you should really write:
Correct for APA/Chicago: Most modern readers might be surprised that “he had little schooling, and he describes his early surroundings as poor and mean.”
Quotation Marks within a Quotation
The quotation marks that appear in a text may be double (“/”) or single (‘/’) depending on the style the original author was following, on whether the quotation itself is within a quotation, and in some cases whether the text is quoted material or words being presented “as words.” When you quote material including quotation marks, you might need to switch from single to double or vice versa. Both APA and Chicago allow this change without any indication that you did it. Here’s an example:
Original: Lyra said, “Ah! Marchpane!” and settled back comfortably to hear what happened next.‡
The dialogue was enclosed within double quotation marks in the original, so they appear in single quotation marks in the quoted version, within double quotation marks that surround the entire quoted sentence. The bracketed s indicates a letter changed from the original. That is a type of quotation change you need to make clear.
The Punctuation Mark at the End of the Quotation
This punctuation mark should suit your text’s syntax, which may or may not be that used in the original.
Original: So we have to start small, by thinking through what is needed for a new gender ideology for everyone and for new types of relationships for African Amerian women and men based on these fresh ways of seeing others and ourselves. Forging our own original paths might enable us to develop a progressive Black sexual politics that one day will meet the challenge of HIV/AIDS.§
Note that Collins’s sentence ends after “HIV/AIDS,” but mine doesn’t. So while she follows the abbreviations with a period, I follow them with a comma to suit my context. That change doesn’t need to be given brackets or any other kind of identifying marks. Next, I made the opposite change: whereas “women and men” appears unpunctuated in the middle of a sentence for her, it’s at the end of the sentence in mine and thus gets a period, also unbracketed.
And yes, the comma and the period both go within the quotation marks, as they always do in APA and Chicago styles, regardless of what the text is. The rules are a little different for other punctuation marks (e.g., semicolons, question marks, parentheses), but those are beyond the scope of this post.
Additional Changes Specific to Chicago Style
The three above are the only changes APA allows to be implemented without indication, but Chicago has a few more.
So use your best judgment:
* Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed.) or American Psychological Association (6th ed.). These are the two books my particular work niche has me use most often, and if you’re in the humanities or social sciences, chances are good you need to use one or both of these too.
† Charles W. Eliot, introductory note to The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan, The Harvard Classics, Vol. 15 (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1909), 3.
‡ Philip Pullman, The Amber Spyglass (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 447.
§ Patricia Hill Collins, Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender, and the New Racism (New York: Routledge, 2004), 301.
You’re at the end of your dissertation project, and all you have left to write is that often-optional section that goes in the front matter, called Acknowledgments (or Acknowledgements in British and Australian English). This might be slightly intimidating because you’ve probably never written such a section before and you’re not really sure how it goes, but you can relax. Your degree doesn’t hang in the balance for this, and it doesn’t usually need to be OKed by anyone (though it should be proofread). It can be as short or as long as you want it to be, as terse or as flowery, and written in the first person.
Here’s a checklist of people you can, should, or in some cases must include in your Acknowledgments. Not all of these apply to everyone, and it’s nonexhaustive, intended only to get you started and to remind you of a few key folks you might otherwise have forgotten. Use your best judgment and consider who you couldn’t have completed this process without, whose help made it what it is, and who eased the way for you.
People who gave you hands-on or participatory assistance:
Your advisor and other committee members. It would be a real faux-pas to forget anyone in this group. Your advisor probably has almost as much emotional investment in your work as you have by the time it’s complete, and your committee on the whole is the reason you’re getting this degree.
Study participants. You don’t have to thank amoebas, but if you performed research with living human participants—in interviews, surveys, participant observation, or any other method—it’s courteous to acknowledge them. You’re not thanking them by name unless their names were used in the dissertation (e.g., experts who were interviewed for their expertise), but a blanket thank-you to the group of them will be a nice professional touch. You couldn’t have done this research without them.
Coresearchers. Although you’re writing your dissertation on your own, you might have had coresearchers who worked with you on data collection and the like. Don’t forget to thank them!
Your editor and/or proofreader(s), whether paid or unpaid. Although I admit I love seeing my name in an Acknowledgments section, that’s not the main reason I include the category I belong to in this discussion. At best, it comes a distant third to etiquette and ethics.
With respect to professional etiquette, it’s possible that your editor will have spent more time interacting with your dissertation than anyone but you, and depending on how heavy the edit was, that includes your advisor too. You don’t want to slight someone who spent 60 hours or more on this document. Take a look at any published book on your shelves and see how many published authors do and don’t thank their editors.
The primary reason editors and proofreaders are included, though, is ethics. It is critical to be transparent about how much outside assistance you received on the content of a document you’re submitting for academic credit. Editors Canada recommends that editors include a requirement in their contracts or agreement forms that the thesis/dissertation author acknowledge the editor, and these days I do. Some graduate schools require the dissertation author to do so as well. The last thing you want is for committee members or outside readers to suspect you of hiding assistance of this kind.
People who contributed content-related assistance:
Funders. If you received grants of any kind for completing your research, even if it was not for travel or equipment but merely to allow you to work less or not at all during the process, your funding sources deserve an acknowledgment here.
Permission holders. If you reproduced previously copyrighted materials, you’d have had to request permission from the copyright holders to do so. Even if you included them in your (properly formatted APA-style) figure captions, it’s nice — and at some universities required — to thank them here as well.
Transcriptionists and typists. People who performed professional services for you deserve a place in your acknowledgments. Think about how much time they saved you when they did this work and you didn’t have to.
People who provided other kinds of direct assistance:
Librarians. University librarians can be invaluable resources for helping you find exactly the kind of research material you need. Although a large chunk of research can be done online with electronic journals, and your library might even deliver the books you check out to your department office, it can still be worthwhile to visit the actual library in actual person and get help from an actual librarian. And if you do, it costs you nothing and will be deeply appreciated if you include a line acknowledging those who helped you.
Office staff. If they helped you make sense of the dates you had to turn things in or fulfill requirements, found you the forms you needed, scheduled your defense, helped you replace the toner, sent you reminders, or anything else that made it just that little bit easier to get things done, they may deserve a call-out.
Student assistants. Most doctoral candidates aren’t lucky enough to have work-study assistants of their own, but it’s not completely unknown. If you were one of the fortunate few, these little sprouts might just pee their pants to see their names on your Acknowledgments page — if their assistance helped you get your dissertation finished, of course.
People who provided emotional support:
Family and partners. If you live with them, then they have suffered along with you and probably in their own independent ways as well. If you don’t live with them, parents in particular likely contributed something emotional, financial, or hands-on to the fact that you’ve reached this point in your work.
Friends. It’s nice to include any who have offered the types of support listed above for you. This isn’t the time to go all Golden Girls (“Thank you for being a friend . . .”) but to acknowledge those who had a direct and positive impact on the writing of the dissertation.
Spiritual personae. It’s very common for people of faith to include anyone, heavenly or earthbound, who provided spiritual strength and guidance to them throughout the dissertation process. This doesn’t mean you must thank a pastor, rabbi, priest, imam, and so on just because you have one, but if they made the work easier in some way, they might be candidates for acknowledgment.
If you've made it this far in your dissertation to need this post, congratulations! You're almost there! Have I left any out? Underemphasized anyone's importance? What's your experience with remembering everyone you meant to acknowledge?
When should you use tables to supplement your writing and when is it unnecessary? Creation of tables in Word or Excel has a learning curve, so if you struggle with it at first as a writer or editor, you’re not alone.
The first thing everyone should know is the terminology applying to this topic. If you get that down, you’ll be better able to look up help for problems if they occur, not to mention being able to communicate with your editor, advisor, and others in the process, as well as not signaling to the reader that you’re uninformed.
Table: A table is a grid-style presentation of alphanumeric data (that is, letters, words, and numbers) in rows and columns.* If you use APA style, be aware that it includes very specific formatting rules for tables and their captions.
Chart or graph: Both of these words refer to a data display that presents the relationships among pieces of information in a visually helpful way. Bar charts, pie charts, flow charts, and line graphs are common types.
Figure: The figure category can include charts or graphs (but not tables), as well as any other kind of visual material that enhances the text, such as illustrations or photographs. APA style, again, has particular rules for captioning figures.
Book Review of A Sequence for Academic Writing (5th ed.), by Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen
[Please note: I read the fifth edition, but there is a sixth edition available.]
I picked this book up while browsing in the language arts section of a local discount bookstore, hoping that it would give me some ideas for substantive feedback I could give on theses and other graduate student materials that come my way. It’s a text book meant to accompany a course on writing, probably targeting first- and second-year undergraduates, but students at any level who haven’t taken such a course can probably benefit from its instructional style.
Laurence Behrens and Leonard Rosen begin by sketching out different ways of understanding and interpreting text in a chapter on “Summarizing, Paraphrasing, and Quoting,” anchoring this sequence on writing firmly in the process of reading. Academic writing is a form of conversation one has with one’s predecessors in the field, and this book is designed to help the student learn to formulate his or her side of that conversation. The skills of summary, paraphrase, and quotation sound basic, but if a student doesn’t have a good grasp on them early on, there may be problems with how he or she engages with and synthesizes research materials later on. I’ve covered topics in this blog that rely directly on developing these approaches.
When you hire an editor to work on your material, they will usually expect you to be working in Microsoft Word, and they will usually plan to edit your material with track changes enabled.
The Microsoft Word near-monopoly in editing isn’t absolute, but it’s the industry standard, and if you need to work with a different word processor or platform, it’s best to mention it to your editor up front. For my part, I can work in LaTeX, Wordpress, and Google Docs, but I prefer to edit in Microsoft Word when it’s an option, for one particular tool: track changes.
Track changes sounds very much like what it is. Your editor uses it to track the changes they make in your document so that you can easily see where something was deleted, inserted, moved, or changed. If you’ve ever seen a Word doc plastered with colorful lines and bubbles and notes, that’s the work of track changes.
How to Read Changes in Track Changes
The following two images show a passage that hasn’t been edited yet (figure 1) and the same passage edited with track changes (figure 2). The red marks and the descriptions in the bubbles on the right in figure 2 indicate what kind of changes I made. There are types of edits not shown, but we can look at the four most common here: insertions, deletions, formatting, and (not really an edit but handled in the same place) comments. I also provide a short note on moves.
I know confusion exists about the topic of names in academic writing because I see that confusion in the dissertations I edit. All the errors I cover in this post are problems I have seen at least once (and sometimes much more often than that).
The three topics we’ll address here are appropriate use of individuals’ personal titles, appropriate use of full names versus surname-only, and correctly attributing coauthors when a source has exactly two authors.
Titles and Propriety
The first error I see crop up sometimes, which should be easy to avoid, is referring to cited authors by personal titles such as Mr., Ms., Prof., or Dr. Name. I think this mistake appears because academic writing is probably the only genre in which it is sometimes a mistake. It’s acceptable in journalism, and of course in less formal writing you have much more flexibility to do things the way you want.
You might occasionally see personal titles in the works of eminent scholars (especially those writing a century ago or more), but they might have particular reasons for doing this that don’t apply to your work or that you don’t want to accidentally appear to be using. For instance, because it is rare, the use of personal titles in an academic work might deliver a tone of intimate familiarity or, at the other extreme, sarcasatic condescension.
I'm Lea, a freelance editor who specializes in academic and nonfiction materials. More info about my services is available throughout this site.