8/9/2016 1 Comment
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 3 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.
I'm Lea, a freelance editor who specializes in academic and nonfiction materials. More info about my services is available throughout this site.