You’ve heard this statement many times before: “the dissertation is the most important project you’ve ever worked on.” That may sound like a cliché, but it’s absolutely true. You managed to surpass many obstacles during the research and writing stage. You probably consulted at least one online guide that taught you how to write your dissertation project step by step. Now, you’re finally near the final point of the journey. Before you can present the dissertation project and earn the degree you deserve, you have to go through one last challenge: the editing and proofreading stage.
That may seem like an easy challenge. You already covered the hard part; now you only need to read the content and fix some minor flaws, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Many MA and PhD candidates are overwhelmed by the editing stage. They have spent months and years working on these projects, and now they have to be ruthless when editing their own work.
When you’re too attached to the content you wrote, it’s not easy to admit it’s deeply flawed. That’s why you need to approach it from a researcher’s point of view. The following tips and tricks will help you do that. Some of the editing and proofreading steps we suggest will sound obvious, but it’s surprising how many candidates neglect them. That’s why it’s important to approach the process as a true beginner.
The first step is to take a break
Your first instinct after finishing the PhD thesis might be: “I’m finally done! I should immediately proofread this and submit it as soon as possible.” Not so fast! Remember: you are too attached to this content to view it from an unbiased point of view.
You can allow yourself to take a break of at least few days (give yourself a week if that’s possible). Get occupied with your hobby, get some air, and try not to open the document, unless you get really good ideas for improvements throughout this period.
After that short time of inactivity, you can get back to the paper with a fresh set of eyes. You’ll be surprised to discover the new approach. Suddenly, you can read the content as if someone else wrote it. You’ll easily notice flaws that were not there before. Finally, you can start with the editing stage.
Edit first, proofread later
There is an important difference between editing and proofreading:
During the editing stage, you are making improvements in the logical flow, expression, language use, and overall quality of your writing. Before you can start the editing process, you need to read the document at least two times, and take notes of the improvements you can make. Then, you can start removing unnecessary sentences and paragraphs, adding more information where necessary, and enhancing the overall readability of the dissertation.
Proofreading is also a very important aspect of the dissertation completion process, but it’s simpler than editing. Once you’re done improving the meaning and style of the content through the editing stage, you can proceed with the correction of any grammatical, punctuation, spelling, and other language mistakes.
Why do you need to get through the editing stage before you can proceed with proofreading? It would be pointless to make improvements in grammar, spelling, and punctuation if you have to get rid of some parts of the content and add more information later on. That’s why you should first focus on the essence before proceeding with the form.
You can’t take the human element out of the editing process
Many PhD candidates make a serious mistake: they trust their word processor’s spelling and grammar feature too much. When they want to make sure their content is flawless, they use automated tools like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor to identify spelling and grammar errors. No one can deny that these tools are effective in recognizing basic flaws, but you cannot rely on them without any doubts. They can never replace an actual editor.
Format the references
If you were smart enough, you took care of the references during the writing stage. If you forgot to keep track of the information you used from different sources, you would have troubles remembering where you got the ideas. Let’s assume you were smart and you took notes of the references during the writing stage. If not, you’ll have to go through all resources all over again to figure out which of them you used in the dissertation.
Whatever the case is, don’t forget to format the references in accordance with the citation style you’re using. Every comma and capital letter makes a difference! Follow the guidelines of the specific citation standard if you want to end up with a clean, flawless dissertation project.
Get a second opinion
Do you have a friend or colleague you can trust? If you do; then ask them to read your work and share their opinion. You might get useful tips on how to improve its readability and quality. If you can’t rely on anyone, then you can hire a professional editing service to go through your work for final improvements. Some online services allow you to collaborate with the editors, so you’ll work together with the expert to achieve flawless results.
Finally, your mentor will also read your dissertation and share few remarks. Once you take care of those final steps, your dissertation project will be ready for submission.
As you can see, the editing and proofreading steps are pretty simple. Still, they require your full commitment! Don’t assume that you’ll briefly go through this stage. It will take a considerable period of time. The dissertation is a very complex project, so you’ll probably get new ideas and you’ll make serious improvements as you read and correct the content over and over again. Still, it’s important to recognize the limit.
Some PhD candidates get so overwhelmed by the editing process that they cannot stop making corrections. The trick is to view your dissertation as a project that leaves space for growth. You won’t stop researching the topic once you submit and present the dissertation. Set a deadline for the editing stage and make sure to respect it.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to stay objective while editing and proofreading your own work. When your mentor, friend, or editor has some criticism, you should seriously consider their advice.
Are you ready to face the challenge? Take a break after the writing stage, and start editing as diligently as possible!