Sadly, the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) has come and gone without me darkening the doorstep of any of the venues showing the films. I did, however, get to see Snowden when it went into wider release a week or so after its festival screening. The movie is Oliver Stone’s dramatic interpretation of whistleblower Edward Snowden. In 2013, Snowden released to journalists at The Guardian documentation proving that the national Security Association in the US (and other security departments in other countries, including Great Britain and Canada) was illegally spying on regular citizens. Continue reading “4 Tips on Managing Your Online Reputation”
I’ve received a number of requests from clients asking me to edit a thesis. My first response is always to accept. I love reading theses. It takes me right back to my university days full of ideas and long theoretical discussions. The theories and solutions we devised over pints of beer or cups of coffee may not have stood up against a reality check, but they were fun nonetheless. Even writing my own thesis, though definitely arduous at times, was fun. Taking an idea and tracing its possible routes to a variety of logical conclusions is not something I get to do very often today.
When it comes to editing a thesis, however, a whole different set of skills is involved. The most important is communicating what role exactly the editor plays. More so than for any other type of writing, putting expectations down on paper, in a contract, is of supreme importance.
The Masters or PhD candidate is marked partially on his or her ability to write and explain ideas clearly. So, an editor can’t go in and change much. We, both editor and student, are bound by the university’s rules. Having said that, there are exceptions and differences to those rules from institution to institution.
Here’s an overview of what to expect as a student and as an editor:
- Stick to the basics. Look for spelling errors, incomplete sentences, punctuation issues. The editor will generally be confined to doing basic proofreading. Structural problems, plagiarism and other larger issues can’t be fixed – at least not by the editor. I’m more than willing, however, to flag the problems for the writer. In those cases, I’m acting more like another reader, or like another pair of eyes.
- University rules. Each department will typically have its own rules regarding what the thesis should look like. When I’m hired to edit a thesis, the first thing I ask for is a copy of those requirements. For instance, the department may want the student to use APA style. But, when it comes to the title page, it may require something totally different than a typical APA style title page. Ignoring those kinds of details can cause the student a load of problems and set-backs.
- Get a contract. The Editors’ Association of Canada has a great contract on its website available for download. In it, you’ll find specifics about what the student’s advisory committee might allow in terms of editing. Usually, we’re fairly limited in terms of what we can edit. There are cases, however, where the university will allow us to do more. For instance, I’ve edited papers written by students for whom english is a second language. The fact that their ideas might not be written out clearly has no bearing whatsoever on their research or thought processes. Rather the problem is simply a language issue. In those cases, I have more leeway as an editor to help the student express his or her ideas clearly and correctly. But, I can’t stress enough. Make sure all parties involved – editor, student, university – have signed off on exactly the kind of editing that’s allowed.
The only other important piece of advice I can give to both editor and student is this: keep a copy of the edited work. It’s important in case anyone on the student’s advisory committee questions whether the editor did more “correcting” than he or she was supposed to. The proof is in the saved and edited copy of the thesis. I tend to keep a copy until the student tells me (in writing) that the thesis has been officially accepted.
It sounds crazy, I know, but editing a thesis is really a lot of fun for me. I see it as a learning experience. I can’t be an expert in every field, so it’s a great way to explore a topic that I might not otherwise have a chance to read about.
Over to you: What kind of issues or questions have you run into with a thesis?
I guess the “I” in that question should really be “we” because everyone needs an editor, even editors!
The issue is that after a while, we become blind to our work. Our eyes skip over the words because our brains know it so well. Having someone else read your work, especially aloud, will bring problems to the forefront really quickly.
I know it’s really hard to let someone see your work before it’s done. So, you don’t have to if that’s a real problem. You can keep working on it till you reach a point of comfort. There are, however, some key times that I really do recommend you hand it over.
I actually encourage writers to run their outlines (even in the most basic form) by someone – editor or fellow writer. Right at the very beginning, when you’re in the idea development stage, is a great time to seek guidance. We both know that your ideas aren’t fully fleshed out yet. But a good editor should be able to ask you enough basic questions about your ideas that you’ll be able to plot them in a way that makes sense. Especially for beginning writers, it’s easy to get caught up in one way of thinking about your ideas that you miss out on other perspectives. Sometimes, those other perspectives wouldn’t add anything to your work anyway. Regardless, the act of thinking about them ends up enriching your existing ideas and solidifying the path you take to building them out into a finished work.
Whenever you’re stuck and not quite sure where to take your idea next, put your work on the back burner; let it percolate in your mind for a while. (But not too long, especially if you have a deadline looming!). Then, if nothing’s coming to you, pass it on to an editor or fellow writer. That person should be able to ask you questions that will set your ideas in motion again. Together, you should come to see any gaping holes in the logic of your argument and any style problems.
So, finally, you’re at the point where you’re staring at your finished work. Now what? This is really the time to send it off to an editor. If you’ve been working with one all along, this final stage should be fairly painless. If not, you may find yourself going back over your work to make substantial changes.
Either way, look at the editing process as another step in the journey. All you’re doing is working with a buddy to find ways of expressing your great ideas to their maximum potential. An editor doesn’t sit in judgement of you or your ideas (or, at least, shouldn’t!). Instead, think of your editor as your sounding board.
Have fun with the process and let your creativity flow!
What part of the writing process is the hardest?
Fleshing out the original idea with enough detail is no easy task. Then again, writing draft after draft until said idea is clear and concise can also send a writer scurrying to find that happy place. Putting your pride and joy into the hands of an editor who might change this or that for whatever reason is pretty nerve-racking, too. Make it through all that, though, and you’re ready for a cool drink and an afternoon in the hammock.
Wait. What? Left something out, didn’t I? Continue reading “This Might Be the Hardest Part of the Writing Process”