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Top Tips for Stress-Free PhD Proofreading

Writing a PhD thesis involves several stages, from a blank page to the finished product. As with any piece of written work, the first draft is just one of those stages. You will need to  revise and rewrite that draft and, when you are happy with the structure, argument and conclusions, then it is time to begin the editing and proofreading process. In this article I will make some suggestions as to how you can make this part of the process as straightforward as possible.


  1. Be aware from the start that your PhD will need proofreading and editing. This is trite, but paying attention to the detail when writing you drafts will leave you less to do when it comes to proofreading. Make sure, for example, that you references are complete and accurate. It can be time consuming to find missing page numbers long after you last looked at the reference.
  2. It is tempting to abbreviate footnotes using, e.g., Op cit. This should wait until all of the rewriting and any significant editing has been completed, since major changes can destroy the synchronisation of footnotes with each other and the text.
  3. Keep a copy of your draft before you abbreviate the footnotes, or make any other significant editorial change. A master copy is useful for reference if things go awry.
  4. Time permitting, take a week’s break from your PhD before you start proofreading. This will make it easier to avoid skim reading and missing the errors.
  5. Proofreading will take you longer than you expect – you should allow double the length of time that you anticipate will be required.
  6. Take plenty of breaks, which will reduce the risk of losing concentration.
  7. Ask someone else to proofread your thesis. A second pair of eyes will pick up things you missed.
  8. You will (almost) always miss things when you are proof reading. Don’t worry, as minor changes can still be made after you have passed your viva.


If you need help with proofreading, the PhD Consultancy offers a full range of proofreading and editing services.

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