Dissertation Writing: The Importance of Hiring a Proof Reading Editor

By: Dr. Cheryl Lentz

Many students discover quickly that learning to write as a doctoral scholar is no easy task.  Embracing third person and avoiding passive voice is not as easy as anticipated. So what are the editing options for a doctoral student when writing the dissertation?

First, be sure to integrate and exhaust all FREE services through the university where you attend school.  Most universities have some type of writing center with a myriad of resources.  These resources include much more than simply a Plagiarism Checker such as Safe Assign or Turnitin.  In addition, Writing Centers often offer an computer based editing software such as Write Point or Grammarly where a computer based algorithm reviews one’s writing.  Keep in mind that we are not yet in the age of artificial intelligence (AI) quite yet.  These programs are much better than they were years ago, however, they are after all a computer, not a substitute for human eyes.

Next, be sure to review the writing resources–particularly writing workshops and APA workshops–as well as live tutor reviews. The goal is to exhaust all of the free services available before one has to hire an editor.

There is a mixed feeling about hiring a proof reader as an editor by some faculty.  Why the hesitation? One cannot teach what one does not know.  Writing the dissertation is not meant to be a one time event. The goal is to learn how to write in this style as a career within academia in particular, writing in the language of the doctoral scholar will be needed well beyond writing the dissertation.  Students often forget this part, thinking more in Machiavellian terms where the ends justifies the means.  As a member of the doctoral community, one needs to learn how to write in this style; therefore hiring an editor beyond that of a proof reading editor may not be in the long-term best interest of the student.

As a professional editor, I am amazed at the lack of skills and the lack of the desire to learn that many of my clients/students demonstrate.  They simply want a ‘what will it take to finish writing this dissertation’ attitude vs. a ‘how can I learn how to write like this’ attitude. If one plans to teach at the master’s or doctoral level, one needs to learn how to write in APA format.  Period.  Most universities require faculty to publish and most academic journals require a specific format such as MLA, Chicago, Turabian, or APA format for submissions. What one is supposed to learn during the doctoral journey is intended to provide a foundation for the life of a doctoral scholar.

My advice is to find an editor that will do more than simply proof read your dissertation. Find an editor who will coach and teach you to master the writing skills that you lack.  The goal is to “teach a man to fish” instead of “give a man a fish”.  Hiring an editor is intended to simply dot the i’s and cross the t’s–not to substitute for the lack of skills one has.