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How to Edit a Dissertation and Other Papers

You have finally finished your dissertation! All the hard work involved in researching the topic and writing about it is done and it is time to start editing. Transforming a rough or first draft into a polished end product is where your focus should be. The second or subsequent draft cannot be written without a first draft, but a first version really is not as important as a lot of students seem to think. The best writing often results from rewriting, perhaps even a few times.   

What is highly recommended is that you have a break from your paper, as much time as you can manage to take, even one or two weeks. During this time, do not look at your text or attempt to edit it. When you finally start editing, you will be able to look at it in almost the same objective way a third party would i.e. when you are a bit distanced from every work. 

  1. Read from the Back

Having let your work rest for a week or two your first task is to read your entire paper again, one sentence at a time, from the end back to the beginning. This is an effective technique because your eye or brain will not easily skip over errors. If or when you read a paper in the normal way, you are so accustomed to the flow that everything can seem alright when, in reality, something may be wrong. Consider each sentence on its own merit and in an individual sense.

  1. Check Every Element Step-by-Step

It is recommended you read back through your paper several times, focusing on one element during each reading. During the first reading, for instance, look for spelling mistakes only, the next time for grammar errors, next for people’s names and capitalization, then for flow, and so on. This will enable you to be thorough in all aspects.

  1. Get One or Two Test Readers to Help

The best method, of course, is to ask a fellow-student or friend to read your dissertation and give feedback. Choose someone who will be honest with you, even it means them criticizing some of your work.

  1. Every Source Should be Double-Checked

Go back through your research materials and notes to ensure all examples, records of interviews, quotes, and so on are in their correct place. Double-check the names of people, cities and/or buildings, and make sure the wording in quotes is an exact replica of the original.

  1. Beware – Spell Checking Software is Not Perfect!

Last but not least, if your word processor has a spell checker, do not trust it implicitly. Even technology is not always without fault!

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