Should you use a proofreader for your dissertation or thesis?

Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

You have worked hard and written thousands of words! These words may determine your final classification of if you get your PhD and you want to make sure they are just right! So, should you hire a proofreader to give your work the final once over before submission?

Whilst the answer may seem simple – yes, of course getting somebody to check your work is a good idea – there are a few things to consider before putting your hand in your pocket and hiring that proofreader!

First and foremost, you should find out if your university allows the use of third-party proofreading services and, if so, to what extent. In the UK, rules regarding the use of third-party proofreading services vary from university to university. Rules may also vary within a university – for example, rules may differ between departments or may be different for undergraduate and postgraduate students. You want to be certain that hiring a proofreader is permitted and you should be able to tell a prospective proofreader what your university’s rules are so that none get broken! Some proofreaders may even ask for a copy of your university’s policy or confirmation from your supervisor that proofreading is allowed.

Once you know if you are allowed to hire a proofreader, it is worth finding out a bit more about what proofreading is and what a proofreader does. Proofreading can be considered as the final check for errors before a piece of writing is submitted (for marking or publication). But what errors will a proofreader check for?

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading ( identify the following as errors that a proofreader should identify:

  • spelling errors (where different spellings are acceptable, the word should be spelt consistently within a document)
  • serious, unarguable errors of punctuation, especially where they allow ambiguity or obscure the meaning
  • inconsistently spelt or hyphenated names
  • bad word breaks that make reading the text difficult
  • incorrect text headings and page headers/footers (checked against the contents list if there is one)
  • incorrect page numbers and cross-references
  • missing text
  • repeated text
  • wrongly placed or incorrect captions and annotations.

Whether the proofreader is permitted to identify all of the errors identified above will depend on your university’s rules, as will whether the proofreader can identify and correct errors or identify errors only.  

The final thing to remember when thinking about using a proofreader is that they may help you improve aspects of your work and find some errors you have missed but they will not make it perfect and you will remain responsible for the work that you submit.

So, whilst hiring a proofreader to check your dissertation or thesis is a good idea, you should check your university’s rules and make sure you understand the service that they provide. If you would like to speak to a proofreader about how they can help with your dissertation or thesis click below.


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