You and Your Doctoral or Thesis Writing Team: Part 18

Almost time to wrap up this series. I’ve spoken much about who is involved in the doctoral process and that the academic editor is one of possibly 8 people. I think a brief recap of what an academic editor can and can’t do is in order.

What is a copy edit and what is a content edit? Lack of clarity can also cause an unsatisfactory experience.

Copy edits

Copy edits mean checking all language and punctuation, making sure the work has an academic tone, that house a style is applied (if provided),  and that the formatting is correct and consistent. While doing all that, an editor will work to keep your writing voice. Not an easy task. The degree of sophistication of the final document depends on three aspects:

  1. your level of writing
  2. how well and how often you self-edit
  3. the number of times you have an academic editor edit your work.


My favorite images when trying to describe how editing works is the onion or the ladder. As you keep peeling the onion layers or climbing the rungs of the ladder, so a piece of writing improves. Someone who writes well to start with and does good self-editing could manage with one edit at the end. They next layer or rung is immediately achievable. Someone who writes poorly, be it poor English or poor academic English, would need at least two edits or more. A first edit would get it reading reasonably. A second edit would ensure that the next layer or rung is possible. And sometimes more is needed.

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