8/3/2016 3 Comments
Hiring a Dissertation Editor: A Guide for Doctoral Candidates. Part 1, Finding and Contacting an Editor
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.
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I'm Lea, a freelance editor who specializes in academic and nonfiction materials. More info about my services is available throughout this site.