Nutshell: Thesis editing

emwords: In a nutshell …






Editing research theses 

This is what emma specialises in. We edit PhD, Masters and Honours theses and dissertatiions for students who are either native speakers of English or who have English as a second language. If necessary, we add help with some of the more problematic aspects of English grammar, such as verb tenses, correct usage of words, picking the right preposition for correct meaning, using the articles a, an and the correctly, and many more. We can help set a PhD candidate up for writing articles in good, readable English later. If a thesis is for a PhD in Australia, together we need to follow the guidelines set out in the IPEd (Institute of Professional Editors) website at  > About editing > Editing theses.

All emma editors are experienced in both Australian thesis editing conventions and those of the United States and other English-speaking countries. Universities following the Australian convention have an agreement with IPEd that editors will copyedit or proofread (as necessary) but not do substantive editing. We will discuss this with the student when contact has been made.

Please allow plenty of time for us to assess a sample of your thesis to see what level of edit is going to be required. A PhD thesis is usually between 80,000 and 100,000 words long. This takes some time to read carefully and edit so that the student understands how to finalise their draft for submission. It is a good idea for a student to start thinking about editing at least a month before finishing writing. That’s the ideal time to contact us to make sure we have the time to meet the submission deadline. Student and supervisor will need a few days after the editing is done to check everything and decide which edits to accept and which to reject – it’s the student’s thesis, after all, so the student has the final say about what gets submitted. For very short theses, we can sometimes manage in a shorter timeframe.

For the student: How to get in touch with an experienced academic editor

If you are writing a thesis, and think you might need editorial assistance, write to us following the instructions in our message form in Enquiries. We look forward to hearing from you.


Other academic editing

Not covered by the IPEd guidelines (above) is editing of articles written by graduates for scholarly journals. The restrictions above do not apply. The editor is free to edit at any level of edit, but should edit in accordance with the guidelines of the journal for which the article has been written. The client should supply any necessary guidelines, unless they indicate: ‘APA style’ or something similar. Editors’ libraries contain copies of other style guides besides the Australian Style manual.

Training for academic editing

Until recently, there was no training available at all for editors. Now there are university courses in writing, publishing and editing, and other guidance for academic editing. The IPEd Accreditation Exam provides a general editing qualification but is not designed to provide a qualification in any specialist editing. Contact us to ask for more information about the exam, pre-exam mentoring and workshops for academic editors, and read about it on the IPEd website at and select ‘Accreditation’.

Help with English grammar

Some international students need extensive help to understand some aspects of English grammar. If you are able to teach English grammar as well as to edit, you may be able to help a student by providing some tuition alongside the editing, if the student really wants to learn to write more effectively in future. This is not for everyone, but if you can teach, you may be interested in my method: contact me here to ask for details.

There’s a lot more, but that’s the ‘nutshell’ version.

© Elizabeth Manning Murphy DE, 2020

Contact the author, Elizabeth Manning Murphy, (click here) for more about this Nutshell article.