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The hard part is over. All of the background research, your own research project, the statistical analysis, the discussion – it’s finished. Hopefully, you have taken a week off, maybe on a beach somewhere, gotten a lot of sleep, and engaged in some great celebration. You have accomplished a huge task, and you owe yourself.
Now that your celebratory week is over, however, it is time to get down to the one final task – that last review and edit, before the final perfect copy is typed and presented to your advisor and/or committee. As hard as you have worked on this, and as many times as you have reviewed each section and chapter, it is almost a guarantee that there are still some issues and errors. You are just too “close” and emotionally invested to see them. So, here are seven tips for that editing that should help you get through this process with as little pain as possible.
1. You Need an Objective “Eye” but Your Own “Eye” Too
You probably sought out some help with your dissertation writing. Most students do. It’s such a big project that getting another opinion and perhaps some writing help is just the smart thing to do.
As you go through the review and editing process, you need to find some expert help too. But you also need to perform the initial review yourself. After all, this is your work and you want it be a reflection of your style and tone.
2. Setting Up an Editing Schedule
You remember how you had to set up a schedule for managing your time for dissertation writing. Well, the same thing applies to editing. You do not want to do this in a single session – you will overlook mistakes and issues if you do.
Set up a calendar that divides your dissertation by sections or chapters, just as you did when you wrote it. Give yourself at least one day in between those sections/chapters, so that you can approach each one mentally fresh.
Once you have finished your review, then send it over to your “third eye” person, whether that is a trusted individual in your field or a professional review and editing service.
3. Use a Reliable Software Tool/App
One of the great advantages for students today is that technology has provided great software and apps for editing. Hopefully, you have invested in one. If not, do so now. There are lots of great editing tools at reasonable prices. Many of them will not only find your structural and grammatical errors – they will provide suggestions for making your writing better. You will be able to copy and paste your sections/chapters into the tool and then review all of the corrections/suggestions being made.
4. Read Aloud
Most students do not do this, but it is really an effective way to decide whether you have stated things in the way you want them to be stated. When you read aloud, you are using two senses – eyes and ears – and two is always better than one. As you read aloud, think about this: Is the sequencing of your content correct? Are there sentences that sound awkward to you? You will catch a lot of these types of problems when you hear what you have written, as opposed to just reading it.
5. Use Citation Software That is Right for You
You are no doubt familiar with and have actually used the tools that will generate both in-text and end-of-text citations automatically. This is a huge time saver. But not all citation software will give all dissertation students what they need. You need to be certain that the software you choose to use to create or check your citations is the best there is for your needs. Especially for law students, this is a critical piece of editing. Citing case law is a wholly different “ball game,” and there is specialized software just for this task. Do not “cheap charley” this – you want a tool that is updated with the latest requirements – they do change. Having a dissertation returned for revision just because citations are incorrectly formatted should not happen today.
6. Choose a Trusted Source for Your Outside Review
You may have a friend in your content field who has already had a dissertation approved who may be willing to help you out with your editing. If so, as you finish your own review of each section or chapter, shoot it on over to that person for his/her review and comments. If not, then find a professional service that has Ph.D.’s in your field who provide this service. You need a content-field expert, not just an English expert. A content-field pro will be able to make suggestions for cleaning up things related to content, not just to your grammar and composition.
7. Remember – Approval and Your Reputation is On the Line Here
No dissertation will be approved unless it is perfectly written. And you want to avoid it being sent back for revision, because an advisor or committee member doesn’t like the way something was expressed or written. Even more embarrassing would be typos, mistakes in punctuation, etc. – those little things that fastidious reviewers can sometimes cause rejection. You really want the final product that you submit to be flawless. Getting to that flawlessness really does mean that you will spend the time and use the tools that will make it so.