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Editing and proofreading

When do you edit?

Editing may seem like something you don't need to do until just before you hand your thesis in, but it should be part of your writing cycle. You can think of the preparation of any piece of writing as taking place in stages, like this:

Editing and proofreading flow chart

It's always best to put your writing aside for a day or so before editing. Printing out a hard copy also makes it much easier to see your work as another reader would.

What do you look for?

You need to check three aspects of your work:

  1. How this piece fits into the larger unit it belongs to:
    • What is its function of this section in the overall thesis/chapter/research paper? (Are you introducing a topic, giving background, arguing a particular position...?)
    • Have you made clear how this section relates to the big picture?
    • Does it actually do what it says it is going to do?
  2. How well it works internally:
    • Are there logical connections between the points of the argument?
    • evidence -does it support what it is supposed to support?
    • relevance -does every point contribute to the argument?
    • language -are the right words/expressions used to make the points you want to make? (clarity, conventions and terms of your discipline, consistency of register)
    • More about editing.

  3. Presentation:
    Checking at this level, usually referred to as proofreading, is done after the other two.
    These are some examples of the kinds of detail you should check at this stage:
    • spelling
    • punctuation
    • grammatical accuracy
    • formatting


  • Try to automate for consistency (use styles, templates, reference-managing software)
  • Build up a writing guide for abbreviations, capitalisation, spelling (-ise/-ize)
  • Do small chunks at a time
  • Proofread for one specific thing
  • Create a checklist of your common errors. Update it each time you edit.
  • Find ways of looking at the text differently (to focus on form), e.g:
    • Print out a proofreading copy in large font
    • Put in a page return at the end of each sentence
    • Read aloud, word by word—using your mouth and ears as well may help you to notice things your eyes would miss.

    More about proofreading.

Using a professional editor

As well as the editorial advice that academic supervisors provide, students are permitted to use a professional editor in preparing their thesis for submission. A policy for the ethical editing of theses has been developed by the Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies collaboratively with the Council of Australian Societies of Editors. Professional editorial intervention should only be in terms of language and illustrations, completeness and consistency. It is not permitted to include substance and structure. At Monash, students must obtain written permission from their supervisor before using a professional editor. Where a thesis has been professionally edited, the name of the editor and a description of the service should be presented in the acknowledgements.

See section 7.3.4 of the Doctoral and MPhil handbookOpens in new window.

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