Lessons learned from thesis editing

Posted on August 30, 2014


I have edited several theses for M.A. and Ph.D. students and it’s something I enjoy doing. I like being part of the research process in this way – helping shape research works to perfection…or near-perfection, as the case may be.

Here are some things I learned along the way:

1. Near-perfect command of the English language is not enough. You need to be a researcher yourself to be able to edit these things effectively.

On my first editing job, I didn’t know anything about M.A. research. I was just someone who remotely wanted a M.A. in the near future and someone who wanted cash to add to my monthly earnings pronto. So even if I knew the English language well, the research process was alien to me. I didn’t know how to assess the researcher’s goal. And neither did I know proper citation. The kind woman who recommended me for that job, knowing that I was just a kid on her first editing gig, ended up editing what I edited. And  still got paid. I was grateful for the kind treatment, and I promised myself that it won’t happen again. 

I got my succeeding editing jobs after I received my M.A. in Communication. Because I love research, the job became easier and more familiar.

2. Editing requires mindfulness. It takes a silent space, a well-rested mind, and utmost concentration to edit something well. You also have to be interested in the research. Knowing a little something about the topic is helpful, too. That’s why it’s also good to be well-read.  

3. Know what you’re worth and don’t be shy to say it. I have excellent command of the English language, I already have two master’s degrees under my belt, I love research, and I have enough writing and editing experience. Therefore, I have the qualifications for thesis editing.

But the problem I had to face was my reluctance to quote a price that works for me. It took me some time to muster the courage for this. And when I did, working happily became much easier, because I knew I was being paid how much I wanted to be paid. I’m not the best negotiator that I can be yet but I would like to believe that I am getting there. 

I do understand, however, that some friends in the academe may be working with a limited research budget. That’s why I’ve also learned not to be so greedy. I need good good recommendations and repeat customers, after all, so knowing how low I’m willing to go (or “presyong kaibigan” in my native Filipino language) is something I learned, too.




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