Any student working toward an undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate degree will have to write a dissertation, which is the culmination of years of research and hard work. Whether you are currently writing or planning to a write a dissertation, whichever method you choose to complete it should be complimented by thorough assessment of the content. In this article, we will highlight a few techniques you can use when you need to proofread your dissertation.
First of all, once a draft copy is complete, proofreading is arguably the most effective way to ensure accuracy. When proofreading a draft manuscript, the researcher should primarily seek to correct any errors pertaining to grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Since an academic/scholarly voice is preferred, authors should be familiar with common academic phrases and grammar structures, as well as the various levels of formality present in written English. Further, authors should identify and attempt to reduce any instances of wordiness in their writing to ensure clarity and reduce the word count.
Common techniques employed to reduce wordiness include removing unnecessary prepositions (where possible), favoring active over passive tenses, and using simple yet effective grammatical structures and lexis. Reducing wordiness is rather like getting a haircut; when done professionally, the outcome improves overall character and presentation and professionalism through sharp lines, fluid transitions, and an overall boost in presentation.
Of course, writing a dissertation in one go will always leave a trail of mistakes; hence, it is always worth making two or three passes of a document to ensure accuracy. At this stage, a professional editor can really make a difference through their careful eye and experience working in a range of academic disciplines with many authors.
What else you can do to polish up your dissertation
Check your formatting
There are many criteria to assess when formatting a dissertation or thesis. Among them, citations/references, line and paragraph indents, heading levels, running heads, title page information, footnotes/endnotes, table of contents, etc. Most universities provide detailed submission guidelines to follow, and authors should be familiar with the most common style guides, such as Chicago/MLA, APA, and Turabian. Hiring a professional editor specialized in academic writing can save you a lot of time and energy at this stage of the writing process. Having a second pair of eyes is also helpful because the reviewer may spot errors that authors may have previously overlooked.
Check for consistency
While correct formatting is essential to the acceptance of a dissertation, consistency is equally important. For example, when assessing in-text citations, make sure they adhere to the preferred style by ensuring the author-date or author-page number styles. Be aware of commas and use of et al. for multiple authors since style guides vary. In addition, ensure chronological and appropriate numeration of figures/tables, correct use of abbreviations/acronyms, and a well-organized manuscript structure/progression of sections.
Check for plagiarism
When authors mention other authors’ research, statements, and findings in their work without including a citation, this amounts to plagiarism. Universities and research bodies consider plagiarism a serious offence, so thorough citation and references are essential to avoid penalization. Even if another author’s work is unpublished or a quote is lifted from personal correspondence, an interview, or from a web article, a reference is still required. Note that plagiarism is not exclusively limited to quotations but also applies to images, tables, graphs and charts. Since most institutions use software such as Turnitin to check for plagiarism, make sure your references are in order!
Advances in technology, many of them web-based, have provided authors with a wealth of editing tools. To conduct a comprehensive scan to identify and eliminate language errors, ProWritingAid and Grammarly are invaluable. To ensure correct citations, Google Scholar provides citations in the most common academic styles. The Purdue OWL is another great resource to clarify any style issues pertaining to APA, MLA, and Chicago style.
The importance of proofreading
Given the relative complexity of a full-length dissertation, careful organization and complete accuracy are crucial to a paper’s success or failure. Hence, authors and editors must scrutinize every element concerning language, organization, and style.
To obtain detailed feedback on the content, authors must proofread their work before submission to a reviewer or mentor; otherwise, minor issues such a grammar and spelling will affect comprehension. Rather than conducting the proofreading process in one go, it is advisable to make several passes of the document with a specific focus each time (i.e., spelling and grammar > checking line spacing, indentation, and whether headings and sub-headings align with Table of Contents > detailed citation/reference check).
Send it to an experienced editor
As multiple passes are required to assess a range of stylistic elements, an author may overlook minor spelling mistakes, extra spaces, and other style issues. In addition, since the author may not be skilled in identifying such minor errors and oversights, hiring a specialist such as an experienced editor can work wonders and take some of the pressure off the submission process. Some factors to consider when hiring a professional editor include:
- Knowledge and experience about the research field and required writing style.
- Turnaround time (i.e. how long it will take the editor to return the edited copy).
- The total cost (determined by word count and level of editing).
There are several benefits to proofreading a dissertation before submission. Chief among these is how professional editing and proofreading can significantly improve the writing quality. Remember that you are not alone at any stage of the writing process because most universities have a writing lab, where former students and tutors familiar with the process can review your work and provide tips as you go. Further, hiring a professional editor with experience in your research field will not only save you time and energy, but also provide you with useful guidance you can use in future research projects. Also, since tools such as MS Word’s Track Changes allow editors to record every change made, authors can learn how to use appropriate academic phrases and grammar structures, while editors will also use margin comments to point out strengths/weaknesses, recommendations, and suggestions regarding content and organization.