Top 5 Dissertation Editing Tips

So your dissertation is finished; you’ve done all the work of researching and writing it, and you’re now ready to start your editing stage. Turning your rough draft into a finished dissertation is really where most of your attention should be. Of course, you can’t write a second draft without a first draft first, but the first draft isn’t as important as most students think; good writing is really in the rewriting.

It’s recommended that you take some time away from your dissertation, as much as you can afford to, at least a week or two, to not look at it or edit or anything to do with it. Then, when you enter the editing stage, you can look at it almost as objectively as a third party, and you aren’t so close to every single word anymore.

1. Read Backwards

The first thing you should do (after letting it sit for a few weeks) is reread your entire dissertation sentence by sentence, from the bottom up. This technique works so well because your brain won’t slip over an error as easily. When you read it normally, you’re so used to how the flow of the writing is that it seems okay, when really it might not be. Take each sentence into consideration by itself.

2. Check for One Thing at a Time

Go through your dissertation multiple times, only focusing on one part each time. For example, the first time through, look at only spelling errors, the second for grammar, the third time for pacing or narrative flow, and the fourth for proper capitalization and checking names of people referenced. This way, you’ll be more thorough with each part.

3. Find a Beta Reader or Two

Of course, the best way is to get a friend or peer to read through your dissertation and tell you what they think. Pick someone who knows you well enough that they’ll be honest no matter what, even if they have to criticize a part of your writing.

4. Double Check All Sources

Go through all your research notes again and make sure that your quotes and examples and interviews, etc. are in the right places. Check people’s names, building’s or city’s names, as well as exactly copying the wording of every quote.

5. Spell Check Isn’t Perfect

Lastly, if you have a document program with spell check, don’t trust it completely; even computers have faults sometimes.

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