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Editing Your Thesis. INTRODUCTION Standards for editing Who does what? Editing your thesis What examiners look for. OR&GS WORKSHOP, 2014 Presented by Rachel Robertson Thanks to Ian Chalmers for some of the slides. INTRODUCTION.

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editing your thesis
Editing Your Thesis


Standards for editing

Who does what?

Editing your thesis

What examiners look for.


Presented by Rachel Robertson

Thanks to Ian Chalmers for some of the slides

  • The final editing process is a very important part of your thesis, and you should allow yourself at least three months for this stage.
  • Some students may seek assistance from professional editors for this part of writing the thesis.
  • Curtin has guidelines to inform staff and students about the appropriate extent and nature of professional editorial assistance.
breaking it down
Breaking it down
  • Global revision or substantive or structural editing ie big picture; clarify your purpose; make sure your work is cohesive and unified; make sure your ideas are fully developed etc. ALLOW FOR MULTIPLE DRAFTS.
  • Editing (copy-editing) or local revision ie word choices; varied sentences; concise prose; accurate tables and graphs; correct grammar etc.
  • Proofreadingie check spelling; consistencies; correct formatting of numbers; missing words etc.
  • Formattingie indents; line spacing; margin size; contents page; referencing etc.

The Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies collaborated with the Council of Australian Societies of Editors (now called IPEd) to develop an agreed set of guidelines based on the ‘Australian Standards for Editing Practice’:

Standard A The publishing process, conventions and industry practice

Standard B Management and liaison

(Standards A and B are not relevant to writing a thesis).

Standard C Substance and structure

Standard D Language and illustrations

Standard E Completeness and consistency


Standard C relates to all substantive and conceptual guidance given by the supervisory team.

The supervisory team is also expected to provide tuition with regard to matters pertaining to Standards D and E, that is, matters pertaining to the presentation:

overall structure







illustrations and tables

citation and bibliographic formats


Assistance with matters pertaining to Standards D and E may also be provided by professional editors in the final stages of preparing the thesis for submission.

Since the editorial process is an important part of the learning experience for the student and should be regarded as part of their research training, editorial assistance should be rendered on a hard copy of the thesis.


Professional editors need to be clear about the extent and nature of help they offer in the editing of research students’ theses and dissertations.

Academic supervisors of research students are expected to provide editorial advice to their students and also need to be clear about the role of the professional editor as well as their own editorial role.

Students may use a professional editor in preparing their thesis for submission, but they should discuss this with their supervisor and provide the editor with a copy of the policy before they commence work.

Professional editorial intervention should be restricted to Standard D and Standard E.

Where a professional editor provides advice on matters of structure (Standard C), exemplars only should be given.


Material for editing or proof-reading should be submitted in hard copy. In electronic copy it is too easy for the student to accept editorial suggestions without thinking about their implications.

When a thesis has had the benefit of professional editorial assistance, of any form, the name of the editor and a brief description of the service rendered, in terms of Australian Standards for Editing Practice, should be printed as part of the list of acknowledgements or other prefatory matter.

If the professional editor’s current or former area of academic specialisation is similar to that of the candidate, this too should be stated in the prefatory matter of the thesis.

creating a whole document
Creating a whole document
  • Break it down
  • Thesis: a collection of chapters (essays)
  • Chapter: a collection of sections
  • Argument: stitching, gluing, making it ‘flow’
the argument
The Argument
  • Thesis: central argument/proposition
  • Narrative: demonstration of argument
  • Chapters’ specific argument
  • How does each chapter contribute to demonstrate the thesis argument
  • Difference between summarising and analysing
different modes of composing
Different modes of composing
  • Option 1

Draft the thesis from the first to the last chapter and then do multiple rewrites

  • Option 2

Move to a new chapter only when the current one is polished

Which option best works for you?

nuts and bolts
Nuts and bolts
  • Grammar
  • Clarity/ambiguity
  • Repetition or duplication
  • Consistency
  • Word choice
  • Quotation, paraphrase and summary
  • Transitions between paragraphs
  • Presentation of data
  • Sentences – fragments, comma splices, subject-verb agreement
  • Punctuation
  • Apostrophes
  • Quotation

This collection of strange and spooky stories was perfect reading for that lazy week between Christmas and New Year, providing a dark antidote to the forced cheeriness of the season. The book was inspired partly by The Twilight Zone and similar television shows., andcontributors Contributorsto the anthology were invited to write about the fantastical, uncanny, absurd, or, as editor Angela Meyer notes, ‘even just the slightly off’. Meyer’s Herintroduction suggests that speculative and fantastical fiction may appeal, not just for entertainment, but also because it reflects an aspect of reality that may be harder to capture in realist fiction. She argues that our sense that ‘something is just not quite right’ in Australia today is mirrored in these stories.

While the nineteen stories are diverse – in bothinstyle and content, – this shared focus on the strange gives the anthology a pleasing coherence that many collections of short fiction lack. There are Somethemes that are explored by several writers, most notably those relating to technology and reality television, just as evocations of the eeriness of the Australian bush recur in several stories. As with all anthologies, some stories are stronger than others and lead the reader to ponder further on the ideas and images they contain. I found myself revisited by the figure of a giant hare in the bush from Carmel Bird’s ‘Hare’ and by the invisible hand over the protagonist’s face in Krissy Kneen’sspooky ‘Sleepwalk’.

Example of edited text for book review by Rachel for ABR.


Questions examiners ask themselves when examining a thesis:

  • How would they tackle the problem set out in the abstract and title?
  • What questions would they like answers to?
  • Do conclusions follow on from the introduction and discussion?
  • How well does the candidate explain what he/she is doing?
  • Is the bibliography up-to-date and substantial enough?
  • Are the results worthwhile?
  • How much work has actually been done?
  • What is the intellectual depth and rigour of the thesis?
  • Is this actually “research”—is there an argument?

What makes a good thesis? Scholarship!

  • Originality, coherence, and a sense of student independence.
  • Development of a well-structured argument in stylish prose.
  • Sufficient quantity as well as quality of work.
  • Reflection: students make a critical assessment of their own work; recognise and deal with problems.
  • Meticulousness— grammar, punctuation, and citation/bibliographic formatting free of errors.

What makes a poor thesis? Sloppiness!

  • Lack of a coherent argument across the thesis as a whole, and within sections of it.
  • Sloppy grammar, punctuation, citation format, bibliography, and labelling of tables!
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Researching the wrong problem.
  • Mixed or confused theoretical and methodological perspectives.
  • Work that is not original.

Positive indicators are:

  • “Sparkle, élan and sense of confidence with the material.”
  • Cohesiveness and clarity.
  • A student who makes the ideas his/her own, with some originality of presentation.
  • Professionalism - demonstrated by mature comments, accuracy of the logic, and careful proofreading.
  • Style (lucid sentencing) and sophistication (appropriate tone).
  • Professionalism with regard to spelling, grammar, punctuation and citation/ bibliographic formatting.

Negative indicators are:

  • Poor references: usually a sign of a poor thesis -“the two go hand in hand.”

  • “Irritating things in the thesis, such as typos and other careless textual mistakes that indicate a lack of attention to detail - sloppiness in the text indicates sloppy research.”

The final, substantive judgement is determined by:

  • The student’s confidence and independence.
  • A creative view of the topic.
  • The structure of the argument.
  • The coherence of theoretical and methodological perspectives.
  • Evidence of critical self-assessment by the student.

IPEd (2013) Australian Standards for Editing Practice, 2nd edition, 2013. Available from http://iped-editors.org/About_editing/Editing_standards.aspx

See also http://iped-editors.org/About_editing/Editing_theses.aspx

Humanities Office of R&GS (2014) FactPack 2014.

Rowena Murray (2006) How to Write a thesis, 2nd edition. Berkshire: OUP.