Proofreading your PhD before a VIVA submission

So, how to go about the proofreading for your mammoth thesis?- and is it necessary? Could you get away with not doing it? Or … NO! It’s pivotal! Use a proofreading service you say. There’s many different approaches to this and sometimes it’s hard to get to the real brunt of it, this post attempts to deal with some of the issues and also share my approach to the matter. So, let’s get to it!

Question 1 is usually, should I do it? – or is word spellcheck not enough? In my view, no. Spellcheck can often miss crucial errors and sometimes in haste, we too, can hastily go through all the recommendations with that dreaded ‘ignore all’ (coz you’re annoying me, I only wanted to know how that one word was spelt).

I suggest proofreading should be to a higher level for a PhD. Especially so to avoid a magnitude of amendments post VIVA (once you’ve made it to that stage AND passed 😉 yay!) . If you do take this advice, you will find that this gives rise to a series of another annoying questions, like:

  • Do I use a proofreading service?
  • Am I even allowed a proofreading service?
  • Where do I start? – How do I know if a service is any good?
  • Are they expensive?
  • What other options are there?

Now proofreading services are problematic for a number of reasons I will go in to shortly – but a good starting point would be to find out if you’re actually allowed to use one! Quite a few universities, such as UCL, don’t permit services that both check and make the amendments for you. Unfortunately, most places do …

There are a number of places out there if you search the big wide web, but unfortunately, apart from the rather biased testimonials featured on their websites, it is impossible to know how good they are. If you are going to go with a human proofreader, it is probably best to select one who has been used by someone you know, comes highly recommended, and won’t alter your work.

If after all this you find someone, there is the next issue of cost to deal with. Human proofreader’s are usually expensive, especially when proofreading large PhD thesis submissions. So if you have over a £700 going spare (depending on the length of your thesis) – I would advise against using one, when you can use …

GRAMMARLY! Yup! That sometimes free GINGER PROOFREADING rival that pops up in all your web ads and beyond. After careful consideration, I opted for the premium service with Grammarly, which works on an annual subscription and can cost as little as £70 for the year if you get in with one of those ad deals. The advantages to using this software have been:

  • I can use it for all my writing, not just the thesis.
  • It adapts to my style of writing and lexicon, and has nifty features that let you add research specific language.
  • You can select the style of writing that you aiming for, ranging from academic to creative – so you end up with something that resembles the tone you were aiming for.
  • It’s instantaneous! – you can check your writing as you go along and accept and reject its recommendations – but crucially, it does not ‘write it for you’ as universities fear some proofers might.
  • At the end of each week you receive a diagnostic report via email that tells you how you did with your writing – this can be a great motivator to continue writing.

Screenshot 2018-09-10 17.02.15

  • It has a WORD add-in now for PC users (sadly I’m a mac person, so I haven’t used that particular feature).

I have been using it these past weeks and found its taken some of the stress out of the editing. If you want to give it a go, you can download the software/choose a plan that works by clicking on the link below:

Whatever works for you, good luck with your writing!