Essential Edits
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Theses and Dissertations

Guides for Graduate Students
Robert Runté, PhD
Free From

Before starting a thesis or dissertation, we highly recommend you read Writing Strategies for Thesis and Dissertations by's Senior Editor, Robert Runé, PhD. (Use the link above to download your free copy.) This 30 page how-to guide will help explain that writing a thesis or dissertation requires a slightly different approach to writing than for shorter forms(e.g., undergraduate term papers). These new skills are quite separate from the research techniques and specific format (APA, Chicago, MLA) you learned in your research methods course(s). Simply being aware that will you need to approach the writing process differently will give you an immense head-start in successfully undertaking and completely a thesis or dissertation.

We encourage everyone to at least consider seriously the option of taking the thesis route. Anyone accepted into a graduate program has the ability to undertake and complete a thesis or dissertation. The project, capstone, or other non-thesis routes provide an equivalent opportunity to master degree content, but only the thesis or dissertation provides the opportunity to master these new writing and task management process skills. These skills are then transferable to any sustained piece of writing such as a book or major report/project. Once having successfully completed a thesis, no writing or management task can ever intimidate you again.

Choosing to start a thesis or dissertation, on the other hand, is always a bit intimidating. In trying to anticipate some of the barriers one may encounter in any sustained writing task such as a thesis, the guide can come across as a bit negative. Just remember that everyone's thesis experience is different, and no one is likely to encounter all of the writing difficulties described. The guide has tried to be all-encompassing so that no matter which (if any) barrier turns up for you, it has been anticipated and a counter-strategy provided to help you overcome it.

And remember, too, you do not have to go it alone. Every thesis and dissertation writer is given a supervisor and a committee to help with the process, and has a circle of fellow graduate students for mutual support. The whole point of undertaking a Master or PhD program is to take advantage of supports not available to other beginning writers and researchers.

How an Editor Can Help

Editors Canada (formerly, Editors Association of Canada) has strict ethical guidelines about what the editor can and cannot do for the thesis or dissertation writer. It should be obvious that if one is getting a Masters or Doctorate, it cannot be for work someone else did for them. The institution granting the degree is not only certifying that student is now qualified to undertake and complete research at the Master or Doctoral level, but that the graduate is also competent in the language of instruction at that level. adheres to EC ethical guidelines.

Guidebooks and Workshops provides free guides (see above links) to help graduate students understand various aspects of the thesis process. Further, staff regularly run a variety of weekend workshops in Lethbridge and Calgary, and could travel to other campuses if appropriate arrangements can be made. Contact for current schedules or to set up a session.

Copy-editing is permitted and generally required before a thesis or dissertation is accepted by the degree granting institution. Somewhere on every campus is an Associate Dean (or an efficient administrative assistant) who checks to see the document meets APA/MLA/Chicago (whichever is applicable) standards and picks a couple of pages at random to check for typos and the like. Professional copy-editing not only saves one time and effort, it ensures a document of which one can be proud.

Generally speaking, it is most cost effective for editing to take place after the thesis or dissertation has been approved by the committee; either before being sent to the external reader, or after final approval. Editing prior to committee approval may be premature, as it is likely committee member feedback in the early stages may give rise to extensive revisions by the student, which will then require further editing. In some cases, however, the supervisor may feel copy editing chapter by chapter, or prior to the manuscript going to the committee members, may be necessary to achieve approval. In either event, clients are encouraged to make initial contact with a potential copyeditor well in advance of when they expect they will require editing, so that their project may be scheduled appropriately. Some Faculties maintain a list of recommended copyeditors; others do not for liability issues, but it never hurts to ask.

Note that does NOT normally offer copyediting services. Copyediting and proofreading are different specializations than the substantial/developmental/structural editing and sustained writing mentoring offered by staff.

Individual Tutoring
Where a supervisor identifies the need for improved written expression, they may recommend the graduate student seek additional tutoring on writing skills (particularly the skills required for sustained writing tasks). staff can identify strengths and weaknesses in the student's writing to help the student develop the metaskills necessary for rapid improvement. Such tutoring falls within ethical guidelines, provided it is addressed to general principles rather than a specific manuscript submitted for course/program credit.

Writing Coach
Essential Edits staff can also serve as writing coaches—that is, provide moral support to the graduate student struggling with the writing process—again, provided that the coach does not get directly involved with the specifics of the actual manuscript. As explained in the Writing Strategies pamphlet listed at the top of the page, there is more to thesis and dissertation writing than just writing&emdash;and a writing coach can help authors negotiate the tricky business of managing the writing process.

Additionally, because the Senior Academic editor, Dr. Runté, has over twenty-five years' experience as a researcher and thesis supervisor, he is able to provide ethical developmental feedback concerning written expression on the actual thesis or dissertation as if he were member of the thesis committee member. This can only occur, however, with the knowledge and written approval of the thesis supervisor.

Following the completion of a dissertation or thesis, you may wish to consider seeking publication of part or all of your research as one or more journal articles. Normally, one collaborates with one's thesis or dissertation supervisor on such publications, but in circumstances that make that impossible (the supervisor has died, retired, moved to another continent or etc.) could assist you with the process.

If you intend to publish your thesis as a book, first read The Thesis and the Book: A Guide for First Time Academic Authors, 2nd edition, by Eleanor Harman and Ian Montanges. Second, having understood that a thesis is not a book, but merely the possible basis for a book, you need to write the book. Having written a thesis or dissertation, the thought of undertaking and completing a sustained project like a book should no longer completely intimidating, and is here to help.

Journal Articles
More likely, you will want to get one to three articles out of your thesis. The tricky bits are teasing out the different threads of your argument to separate them into separate, standalone articles and/or getting all your ideas into article form within the strict word limits of academic journals. can help with that.



Editors Association of Canada staff adhere to
the ethical guidelines for editing thesis and dissertations
established by Editors Canada.

Last updated: May 28, 2022