Student proofreading

I have proofread lots of doctoral (PhD) theses and master’s dissertations for students over the years. A large proportion of my student clients speak English as a second or third language, so I am familiar with the types of issues that crop up. I also do student proofreading work for people whose first language is English.

Most of my work has been in humanities subjects (e.g. English literature, history, philosophy, public health, public health ethics) and social science subjects (e.g. ethnology, gender studies, social anthropology, social geography, migration studies, political science, sociology, sociology of education, sociology of health and illness, international relations). I have also proofread theses in other areas, though. Some examples are theses in, for example, business, cancer treatment, creative writing, design history and theory, disaster risk management, film, human resource management, linguistics, logistics management, management and further education, music technology, nursing, physiotherapy, psychology, social work, sustainable tourism, theology, and war studies. I have a legal background, so I am comfortable with much law-related content. You can find some of the publications I’ve worked on here: Portfolio.

I am especially interested in English Literature and History (both of these were my degree subjects).

In addition to doing student proofreading, I have worked on a wide range of subjects for individual lecturers and professors. They have included abortion law, ADHD, AI and healthcare, architecture, artificial intelligence, business and marketing, caste in India, climate change, cyber bullying, disinformation and fake news, environmental anthropology, gender and work, digital media, digital news, digital support for excluded citizens, ecommerce, disaster risk management, education, health promotion, health and rehabilitation, higher education, information communication, information systems, intermedial studies, media transformation, medical software, migration, misinformation, museum studies, music composition, music technology, nursing and physiotherapy, palliative care nursing, psychotherapy, public policy, representations of Muslims in the media, responsible innovation, self-harm, traditional religions in Kenya, typography, violence and the production of space, and virtual real estate and the metaverse, so I would probably be able to help you even if your subject area isn’t listed in this paragraph. If you get in touch I can let you know.


Some universities have rules about employing a professional proofreader or copy-editor to do student proofreading for PhD theses and master’s dissertations. They confirm whether or not student proofreading is permitted. If it is, the rules should confirm what level of correction a proofreader or copy-editor is allowed to carry out during that student proofreading. Many universities do not have such rules, but I will always ask you to clarify the position. This means we can both be sure that you are not breaking any rules by asking me to work on a text for you. You will also be clear about what I am allowed to do (e.g. amend spelling) and what I’m not allowed to do (e.g. rewrite a paragraph to improve an argument).

What is included in the proofreading service for students?

Subject to any university guidelines, proofreading includes the following:

  • checking and correcting misspelling and incorrect grammar and punctuation
  • ensuring that the text follows the conventions of grammar and syntax used in written English (including in any footnotes, endnotes or appendices). This can include rewording parts of a sentence or a whole sentence using tracked changes in order to clarify your English
  • making notes for you where the meaning of the text is very unclear and confusing. The notes will say things like ‘Do you mean “xyz”?’
  • identifying the incorrect use of a word, i.e. it is not the right word, and suggesting alternatives
  • checking consistency in terms of spelling (e.g. hyphenation), punctuation, capitalisation and other aspects of style, for example using either double or single quote marks and using e.g., etc. and i.e. consistently. Corrections will be made to the text where only minor changes are needed or notes will be made about how consistency can be achieved if the changes required are more than minor. If you’re not sure about how to achieve consistency of style, take a look at my blog post about this, and it should help you
  • suggesting ways of shortening very long sentences that are difficult to read
  • improving the clarity and correcting the grammar, spelling and punctuation of any text in or under tables or figures or making notes about this
  • noting errors in the punctuation and/or format of in-text citations and correcting them where these are very minor (if there are a lot of errors or if there has been no or very little formatting of the citations to comply with the required style, I will simply explain what the issues are so that you can then amend the errors yourself)
  • noting any errors in punctuation or grammar in quotations in case these have been made by you; any errors in the original quotation ought to remain, with or without an indication by you explaining that the error is not yours
  • checking translations/transcriptions of any interviewees’ words for any obvious typing errors or punctuation that is wrong. Usually, authors want these words left alone to reflect exactly what was said and how it was said. This is a sensitive area and it would be up to you to check whether or not the suggestions reflect what was said, how it was said and any nuances you feel need showing/emphasising. Grammatical mistakes, for example, that have been made by the interviewee should be left untouched as long as the text is understandable
  • checking headings in terms of whether the numbering is sequential and/or that the hierarchy seems to be logical and whether each level of heading is consistent in terms of font type, size and treatment (e.g. bold, italic, etc.) and making notes regarding any inconsistencies
  • proofreading tables and figures; checking whether numbering is sequential and whether there is consistency in terms of font type and capitalisation and making notes regarding any inconsistency
  • [please note that any work on a bibliography/reference list will be quote for separately] carrying out a basic check of a bibliography/reference list that has already been formatted by you to ensure that it complies with the required style (e.g. Harvard) and correcting spelling and punctuation errors. If the bibliography/reference list requires more than minor correction, I will make notes for you so that you can correct the list yourself, because if I make more than minor changes this will probably contravene rules relating to students compiling their own bibliography

It is expected that you will check each insertion and deletion made by me before rejecting or accepting the change and that each note written by me will be read and any necessary action taken in relation to it.

In addition, please note that that if, after I have completed the work, you ask me to proofread parts of the text that you have rewritten, I will make an additional charge for this. I will ask you to send the entire text back with the relevant parts amended by you using Track Changes and highlighted.

The following are excluded:

  • any changes to content, including clarifying arguments, changing how the development of ideas is organised, restructuring or removing content
  • copy-editing
  • changing passive terms into active ones
  • making changes to tense where it is used inconsistently very frequently; I will, however, make notes about what the problem is and will highlight several instances of inconsistent use to illustrate my point. If you’re unsure about which tense to use for what, take a look at my blog post about this – it might help you to get the tense consistent
  • reducing the length of the thesis
  • checking or correcting any factual information within the thesis
  • checking layout and formatting or carrying out any work relating to layout and formatting
  • compiling or formatting a bibliography/reference list from scratch
  • checking that all items in the bibliography are referred to in the text and vice versa
  • cross-checking, e.g. references to pages or sections
  • indexing
  • identifying legal issues such as plagiarism or breach of copyright, libel, obscenity, incitement to racial hatred

Your responsibilities

You will need to check whether your academic institution allows you to employ a professional proofreader and whether your supervisors support you if you choose to do so. If it is permitted, there may be rules that you need to comply with in relation to this, e.g. advising your university, filling out a form or acknowledging the help you’ve received in your PhD thesis or master’s dissertation. It is essential that you abide by any relevant rules because there might be very serious consequences for you if you don’t, e.g. failing a course. I will also need to see any rules or guidelines before we come to an agreement so that I can comply with them, and will also need to see any declaration that I would need to sign. Proofreading for students whose work is going to be assessed doesn’t include any copy-editing work unless explicit permission is obtained from your supervisor and/or university and confirmed to me in writing.

If this is a service that you would like to use or you’d like some guidance and advice, then please get in touch here