Finally, after all those hours spent writing your dissertation or thesis, it is almost finished. But now you need some help to finalize the finished project – to polish up the text, ensure that all tables and figures are inserted properly, and that it is correctly formatted to the intended style – that’s where a dissertation editor comes in. With a PhD and/or academic experience, we know exactly what’s required for that final copy, the one that your committee and examiners will see.

I’m here to give you thesis and dissertation proofreading tips so your work will be the best it can be. Always start with the basics – does your thesis conform to your school’s or university’s formatting policy. If you don’t know if it has one, then check! If it is a standard style, such as APA, MLA, Chicago, and so on, then numerous online sites (, mla, etc) can easily show you the correct style and format. I like the one from Purdue mentioned here as it gives clear and concise instructions on how to format to the latest editions of the style guides. If you have no guide, then just make sure that headings, references, page numbers, and so on are consistent.

The next tip is to spell check and grammar check – sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at what this can pick up. All the major dictionaries have free online access, so use them when necessary and when Word doesn’t know how to spell your word – this applies especially to medical terms.

If your paper or thesis contains figures or tables, make sure that these are referenced explicitly in the text. Do not write, the figure on the following page shows… Instead, write Figure 2 shows… The same applies to tables. Also ensure that they have captions (these are normally above the table and below the figure) that clearly and concisely describe what is in the figure, otherwise your reader will not appreciate the full significance of them.

Finally, run through the paper or dissertation using print preview. This will pick any formatting or page layout issues that you’ve missed. I use this all the time to ensure that page breaks, section breaks, page numbers, heading, and so on are in the correct place – it’s easy and effective.

You’ve proofread and edited undergraduate papers and even graduate-level papers, but now you’re getting ready to work on the biggie: your master’s thesis or your doctoral dissertation. Panic sets in as you realize that this is beyond the scope of your previous academic editing experience…and maybe even skills, you’re thinking now. “What was I thinking?” you groan, clutching your head.

So what can you do, besides panic? Hire a professional editor to ensure your degree-culminating work is as error-free as possible. The professional editors at FirstEditing ( are experienced at working with theses and dissertations to polish them and make them suitable for submission to even the nit-pickiest prof.

But how does one edit such lengthy works? They’re so long, after all, and every college, university, school and department has its own little quirks and “tweaks” to the supposedly standard style guide they recommend!

Well, let’s start with the basics: any paper must be grammatically correct and have correct punctuation and spelling. Your editor can correct any problems in these areas, as these are the first errors a grader is likely to notice.

Additionally, your material should flow smoothly and be logically organized and consistent. If you state in your opening that you intend to discuss points A, B and C in chapters 1, 2, and 3 and instead you somehow get off on a tangent and discuss points A, D and G, an editor can point out this inconsistency and suggest ways to correct it.

You see, in a work as long as a thesis or dissertation, the material will normally be divided into chapters. While the number of chapters may vary, there will nearly always be an introduction, perhaps a survey of existing literature on your topic, a chapter containing your hypotheses and methods, several chapters detailing your research, and a concluding chapter that sums up your work and offers suggestions for future research. A professional editor can ensure that these chapters stay on-topic and blend together to create a cohesive final product.

Similarly, if your thesis seems to change between your opening and closing chapter or you don’t quite seem to address your original hypotheses, an editor can catch this. If sentences or entire paragraphs need to be rearranged to make more sense, your editor can handle this, as well.

As an aside here, there is a “formula” for shorter essays that will help keep you on track even in longer works like theses and dissertations: in the opening chapter, usually the introduction, tell your reader the points you intend to discuss; over the next several chapters, discuss these points; conclude by telling the reader what you told him—again. It’s really that simple.

It’s also important to be familiar with the style guide your committee requires, be it APA, MLA, Turabian, or what-have-you. The editors at FirstEditing are familiar with all these style guides and many more, and can even adapt their skills to your institution’s “in-house” style guide, which may be a variation on one of the more standard style manuals.

Whatever your editing needs, when you place your thesis or dissertation in the capable hands of one of the editors at FirstEditing, you can rest assured that qualified professionals are giving your work the attention it deserves.

Not sure what YOU really need?

Get Professional Help

Get a free editing sample outlining areas you need to fix before publishing. Discover what works!

Enter your email to subscribe to our newsletter, get free advice and connect with other authors.
I am an author of:  
My email: