How to choose the right proofreader for your dissertation

The dissertation thesis represents the crowning glory of your doctoral studies. The high-quality research and thought you exerted demands similar meticulous proofreading before its final submission. 

The devil is in the detail…

Among academic friends, let’s admit that to be part of this family, we all have to be a little obsessive and perfectionistic. 

You may be the one person in the country who reports the spelling mistake in the Louis Vuitton advert to the agency responsible for the error. Or do you fume at the tenuous logic of the health claims made by a famous margarine brand?

Tell us you have not joined a heated social media discussion, hopeful of creating a sense of order amidst a string of thoughtless comments. Or given up when realising your meta-analysis full of complex sentences and scientific knowledge was approaching three times the length of an average Twitter post that nobody was going to read. 

Academia is one domain where the minutiae matter.

Your dissertation committee is cut from this same cloth. So, you need to make sure that when your final PhD thesis is presented, it has been polished to a bright shine. The fact is, even if you are a fantastic writer and editor yourself, you probably cannot gain enough distance from your work like a professional academic proofreader can. It needs this outside eye. 


Why do I need a proofreader for my dissertation editing?

Before you venture out searching for a dissertation proofreading service, you need to be quite clear on what the editing of a final draft will entail. 

The thesis editing service provider or freelance proofreader you approach may all have their respective strengths, whether copy editing, PhD dissertation proofreading, or another unique focus. It may also depend on your level of confidence in your academic writing and referencing and the amount of time you have spent checking grammatical errors and verifying data included in your doctoral dissertation. Do you trust that the designer who created those lovely infographics maintained graphical integrity

Let’s look at the areas where a professional academic proofreader will add value to your PhD dissertation: 

  • Internal Consistency

By the time you have completed your PhD thesis, you will have gone back and forth to the introduction and the conclusions drawn at the end of each chapter so many times that it all starts to blur. You may not even have the stomach to read some sections ever again. It is the rare skill of a professional copy editor to spot inconsistencies that may have crept in across specific chapters. 

  • Writing Style and Tone

A good editor will improve your grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. Our academic language may vary based on the latest journal articles we have read when working on specific sections of the dissertation. Occasional exhaustion may also reflect in the writing. It takes a fresh mind and approach to notice the narrative variance and help you weave a cohesive story.

  • Editing and Format

Next, a copy editor moves beyond checking your internal consistency and writing style to focus on each sentence, paragraph and section, with its associated headings, acronyms and abbreviations, referencing, voice and tense. This then sets the stage for the detailed proofread that will follow.

  • Proofreading

Proofreaders are a species of their own. They are like magicians who make things (your overlooked mistakes) appear out of nowhere. It will not be until you receive the mark-ups from an experienced proofreader that you will appreciate how essential they are to this process.

  • Reference Checking

By the time you have completed a 300-page dissertation (double-spaced, we hope), your list of academic references and footnotes/endnotes may stretch into several pages. In the body text and your list of references, each of the original citations contain fine details, both in style requirement and punctuation. You do not want to get caught out referencing a respected academic incorrectly. Even the most sophisticated citation generators can make egregious mistakes.

  • Infographics & Data Integrity Checks

As the technology to produce more detailed and visually appealing infographics improves daily, including infographics in an academic paper has become commonplace. This requires a transfer of data to a designer with a completely different skill set and focus. This is one area where errors often rear their ugly heads. It would be prudent to have a professional proofreader sit with the original data and compare each entry as it appears on the sassy infographics included in the final submission.

  • Cross-referencing

It is worth checking if your thesis proofreading service offers to compare references to Illustrations, Tables, Figures and other elements within the body text, as well as copy editing the writing. However, given how frequently creative elements move back and forth to designers and the growing trend towards visual interpretation, it will be a valuable exercise to have a professional editor/proofreader set this review up as a standalone process. 


Things to consider in choosing a thesis proofreader

For the best dissertation result, consider the following elements when selecting the academic proofreader who will help you finally put this project to bed: 

  • Experience as an editor and proofreader

As in all aspects of life, there is no substitute for experience. You want to be in the safe hands of someone with demonstrated success in producing quality and managing the process within budget and time constraints. Do they have project management tools and checklists that can match the demands of the challenge ahead?

  • Domain knowledge

As much as editing and proofreading may be seen as a generalisable skill, there is immense value in finding an editor schooled in your PhD dissertation’s topics and content. Especially when it comes to ensuring that an internally consistent narrative flows through the whole academic paper, each academic discipline has its own ‘language’ and heuristics. 

So, work with someone who understands the explicit and implicit codes of the field you are publishing.

  • Close but not too close

If a friend, family member, or, worst of all, a partner offers to proofread or edit your work, politely turn them down. They can help by bringing fresh coffee, sending you a gift voucher for a spa retreat, or taking the kids to the park so you can write. For this final stage in the preparation of your dissertation, now is the time to bring in a true outsider who can offer objective, unbiased, untethered feedback without fear or favour.

  • Stick to the original

When choosing a proofreader, make sure they are a native speaker in the language in which you intend to publish. This is especially important if you need help overcoming the barriers that not writing in your mother tongue presents.

  • Turnaround times and cost

Call it mere ‘hygiene factors,’ but the instrumentality of time and money in meeting deadlines and budgets cannot be ignored. Search for transparency, remain alert to hidden costs and seek evidence of timely delivery when choosing your dissertation proofreading service.


Key Takeaways

Finalising your PhD dissertation for submission is a significant hurdle and a massive commitment. The professional services of a proofreader can take the pain out of this last step and help you present your best possible manuscript.

If you’re looking for a publishing partner, please click 👉 here to get in touch we’d love to see how we can help you.


© Pexels 2021 / image: Dimitry Zub