9/8/2016 4 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.
I'm Lea, a freelance editor who specializes in academic and nonfiction materials. More info about my services is available throughout this site.