• Guidelines for Students

    The University does not provide a proofreading service. These guidelines are to help you find a suitable professional proofreader outside the institution.

    Introduction

    These guidelines are to support students seeking help with proofreading. They describe acceptable practice and clarify boundaries for the proofreading of any assessed written assignment (up to and including PhD thesis). 

    There is no obligation for any student to engage the assistance of a paid proofreader at any stage of study or on any piece of coursework. However, it is acknowledged that certain types of student texts are quite often submitted for proofreading to a third party, and that such assistance is at times actively recommended by supervisors. This is particularly the case for doctoral dissertations, which typically aim for publication standard in their presentation.

    Students are reminded that at draft stages there are a range of options for writing support and skills development within the University. Details of development opportunities, and contact details of Learning Development staff, can be found on the Learning Development web pages.

    First steps

    Before engaging the services of a proofreader, students should consult with the relevant module leader, tutor or research supervisor to discuss whether proofreading is required or acceptable for any given item of coursework. Proofreading might be necessary for a longer piece of academic writing such as a dissertation or PhD thesis, but is less commonly used for shorter pieces of academic work. For obvious reasons, it is not permitted to use a proofreader to correct coursework which examines communication and language skills. If in doubt, always check with your tutor or supervisor.

    When to submit work to a proofreader

    To minimise the risk of proofreader interventions affecting the meaning or content of student work, you should normally submit your text for third-party proofreading at completion stage only. Your work should always be expressed and edited to the best of your ability at the point of submission for proofreading. On no account should proofreading be based on initial or fragmentary texts such as outlines or notes to essays, assignments or dissertation chapters.

    Using the proofreader list

    The University's Register of Approved Proofreaders (below) is set up to help students find a proofreader who is familiar with the university system and protocols, and who has the necessary skills to work on their particular text. Proofreaders have provided a range of background information, (e.g. skills areas, preferences and charges), to help students make informed choices in this respect. However, the University cannot guarantee the quality of work (see also 'disclaimer' at the end of this page). Please note, therefore, that it is important to have a preliminary discussion to check that a potential proofreader is competent to provide the help requested.

    Planning ahead

    It is very important to find a proofreader well in advance of deadlines, and to draw up a clear agreement with the proofreader covering expectations relating to time and cost (as far as these can be estimated).

    Proofreading can represent a significant cost. It typically takes much longer than student writers expect. This is because proofreaders must take great care not to alter meaning or add to content in any way. Proofreading can represent quite a lengthy stage in the process of text completion. Experienced proofreaders will be able to advise on a typical turn-around time, but it is wise to begin the process of consulting with your supervisor and contacting potential proofreaders well in advance of sending a text.

    Written agreements and good communication

    Discussions and agreement on terms and conditions of paid proofreading typically need to cover the following points:

    1. The type of corrections required, (e.g. language corrections or final editing). This may have a bearing on cost, although students should bear in mind that even final editing can be time-consuming.
    2. The format - the means by which the work will be delivered to the proofreader and the mode employed by the proofreader for corrections.
    3. Communications - the extent of anticipated contact between proofreader and student.
    4. Dates and deadlines - The date for delivery of scripts to the proofreader and return of completed corrections and comments to the student. This should allow good time in advance of a deadline for the students to make the suggested corrections and follow up on potential queries.
    5. Financial arrangements - fees for the work, arrangements for payment, the date payment is due, and any extra expenses to be borne by the student. Where the fee is agreed as an estimate, the proofreader must advise the student as soon as possible if any significant increase becomes likely once work is underway.

    Proofreaders and students have equal responsibility for effective communication. While a job is in progress, both parties should have easy means of getting in touch and should keep each other informed as necessary. This is especially important where any aspect of an original agreement changes.

    Students and proofreaders are advised to keep careful note of all arrangements and an original of all documents submitted for proofreading. In this way:

    • All parties have a clear understanding of the work to be undertaken and terms and conditions agreed upon.
    • The student writer will be able to demonstrate that no part of the text's academic content has been changed or added to in the proofreading process.

    Types of intervention

    Interventions typically include final editing and language corrections.

    Final editing

    Final editing entails checking for typing mistakes, occasional spelling or punctuation errors; word processing errors such as repeated phrases or omitted lines; inconsistency in layout, formatting, referencing, etc.

    Prior to submitting work for proofreading, students must consult and follow the relevant departmental style guidance on matters such as formatting for headings, paragraphing and quotations, etc., and the conventions to be followed for references, bibliographies and footnotes. It is the student's responsibility to pass on the departmental guidelines to the proofreader. If a student is unaware of such guidance, the proofreader should ask them to find it.

    Accurate referencing is an important skills requirement. Where an entire bibliography is set out inaccurately or inconsistently, proofreaders should amend a section of it only, as an example for students to follow. Students must then make the necessary remaining changes themselves.

    Language correction

    Language correction involves addressing errors in grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure and expression. When making corrections of this type, the proofreader will only suggest corrections where the intended meaning is clear to them. Where meaning cannot be understood, or where there is there is ambiguity, a note to this effect will be made by the proofreader for the attention of the student.

    Note: Proofreading should not entail any intervention that would substantially change the content of a piece of work. Therefore, proofreaders will avoid:

    • Rewriting sections where argumentation or logic is faulty.
    • Significantly rearranging paragraphs with the intention of improving structure.
    • Correcting data calculations or factual errors, etc.
    • Note, though, a proofreader may advise the student writer to check possible problems of this type with a relevant supervisor or tutor.

    Agreeing the scope of work to be undertaken

    Students should note that the type of proofreading work required will impact on the length of time the work takes and the resulting cost. Note also that students may not always be the best judge of what level of correction is needed to their work. It is therefore a matter that should always be discussed in advance. The decision may therefore depend partly on student preferences and partly on supervisor and/or proofreader advice, although it is important to remember that the final decision rests with the student, as the one responsible for payment and ultimately for the content of the work. The proofreader may reserve the right to withdraw an offer of work after completing or seeing a sample of the students’ text. This situation may arise if the students’ writing is so difficult to understand that proofreading would be impossible without substantially changing the content of the work.

    Setting fees based on a sample of work

    Proofreaders typically charge by the hour (the amount of time taken) or by the word count (the length of text to be proofread). The method of calculating fees should be agreed in advance and at least a parameter of costs agreed upon (e.g. upper and lower limits).

    It is good practice - for the purpose of clarifying the work required and the likely fee - for the prospective proofreader to mark up a sample of the student work (two or three pages is recommended). It is up to the proofreader whether to require payment for this sample, but either way this should also be agreed in advance. The student writer should take care to offer a representative sample of work (i.e. typical of the whole text, in terms of number of words per page, and the level of editing already undertaken by the student and, possibly, his or her supervisor). The proofreader reserves the right to reject work if it is incomprehensible or if the boundaries between content and proofreading are not clear.

    Formats for comments and corrections

    There are two main ways of ways of working on a text when proofreading: by hand (i.e. in hard copy) and electronically (using 'Track Changes' and 'Comments')

    • By hand - working from corrections to paper copy represents the more secure way to ensure that the student writer takes control of reviewing and writing up final changes. The proofreader working by hand must ensure that their corrections are legible, and that they employ a consistent system for suggesting changes.
    • Electronically - if the proofreader makes suggested changes electronically, they must use Track Changes rather than direct (i.e. 'invisible') edits to a text. Students for their part must know how to use Track Changes and again be responsible for considering each suggested correction (rather than simply 'accepting all').

    'Ownership' of corrections

    Proofreaders and students are urged to note that proofreaders must not take on responsibility for making the final decision on any changes to a student's text. The student is always ultimately responsible for the work submitted. On receiving work back from a proofreader, students must therefore allow themselves good time to consider each suggested correction very carefully in order to make the final decision themselves on if and how to change the original text. It is very important that the student maintain ownership of corrections, however minor they may be.

    Keeping work safe

    Original documents are frequently supplied in electronic form, whether by email, disc or memory stick. It is recommended that:

    • Files supplied by a student should be virus-checked upon receipt.
    • A copy of the student's original files should be kept by the proofreader and student writer. A protocol should be agreed for the renaming of electronic files.
    • It is the responsibility of both proofreader and student writer to keep copies of software files, queries and correspondence relating to work undertaken.
    • Students should ensure against loss of original material by keeping copies themselves. Likewise, proofreaders should regard student work as confidential and should take precautions to ensure that documents held on behalf of students are kept secure.
    • If a student text includes information of a confidential nature relating to a third party, this information must be anonymised before sharing with a proof reader.

    Acknowledging help

    For dissertation work, it is common practice for students to provide a foreword to their text, acknowledging and thanking all those who have provided support of whatever nature in the process of research and writing. Students are advised to include the proofreader in this acknowledgement.

    For shorter assignments, ask your tutor if you need to acknowledge the proofreader on your paper or in some other way.

    University disclaimer

    The guidance set out on this page aims to provide students with an understanding of good, ethical practice in relation to the third-party proofreading of work going on to be assessed.

    The University does not recommend one proofreader over another, and cannot guarantee the skills of individual proofreaders or the quality of their work. The University only ensures that any proofreader advertising via its Register of Approved Proofreaders has confirmed their familiarity with this guidance and agreed to abide by it.

    Both proofreader and student have responsibilities in the proofreading process as set out in this document. However, it is imperative that both also bear in mind that the final responsibility for any adjustment to a text is borne by the student writer, and that the document will be assessed on this basis - as the work of the student.

    Acknowledgement

    We are very grateful to Dilly Meyer for her advice and permission to base these guidelines on those created at Essex University.

  • Information for Staff

    Introduction

    This information is for academic tutors and supervisors who wish to advise students to seek support with their written work from a proofreader, or who may have been approached by students for advice on finding a proofreader.

    Register of approved proofreaders

    Lancaster University Register of Approved Proofreaders has been set up and is monitored by the Learning Development Manager, Helen Boswood. The aim of the register is to help students find a proofreader who is familiar with the university system and protocols, and who has the necessary skills to work on academic writing. Proofreaders are selected for this list by members of the Learning Development team and are all local. They have been interviewed and have provided a range of background information (e.g. skills areas, process and charges), to help students make informed choices about their services. They have also signed an agreement to abide by the University Guidelines for Proofreaders.

    University regulations

    University regulations forbid the use of proofreaders for coursework which specifically and explicitly assesses communication and language skills. For other academic work, students are advised that before engaging the services of a proofreader, they must consult with the relevant module leader, tutor or research supervisor to discuss whether proofreading is required or acceptable for any given item of coursework. For more detailed guidance, see Lancaster University Proofreading Policy (below).

    Typical interventions

    Interventions by a proofreader typically include final editing and language corrections.

    Final editing: This entails checking for typing mistakes, occasional spelling or punctuation errors; word-processing errors such as repeated phrases or omitted lines; inconsistency in layout, formatting, referencing, etc.

    Language correction: This includes checking for errors in grammar, vocabulary, sentence structure and expression. When making corrections of this type, the proofreader will only suggest corrections where the intended meaning is clear to them. Where meaning cannot be understood, or where there is there is ambiguity, a note to this effect will be made by the proofreader for the attention of the student.

    Summary of advice for students

    There is no obligation for any student to engage the assistance of a paid proofreader at any stage of study or on any piece of coursework. However, it is acknowledged that certain types of student texts are quite often submitted for proofreading to a third party, and that such assistance is at times recommended by supervisors. This is particularly the case for doctoral dissertations which typically aim for publication standard in their presentation.

    Students are advised that their work should only be submitted to a proofreader at completion stage. At draft stages there are a range of options for writing support and skills development through the Faculty Learning Developers. However, it is very important that students seeking proofreading begin consultations well in advance of deadlines, and that a clear agreement be drawn up between student and proofreader covering expectations relating to time and cost, as far as these can be estimated.

    Students and proofreaders are advised to keep careful note of all arrangements and an original of all documents submitted for proofreading. It is important for the student to be able to demonstrate that no part of the text's academic content has been changed or added to in the proofreading process.

    Proofreaders and students are urged to note that proofreaders must not take on responsibility for making the final decision on any changes to a student's text. The student is always ultimately responsible for the work submitted. For dissertation or PhD work, it is common practice for students to provide a foreword to their text, acknowledging and thanking all those who have provided support of whatever nature in the process of research and writing. Students are advised to include the proofreader in this acknowledgement.

    University disclaimer

    The guidance set out on this page aims to provide tutors and supervisors with an understanding of accepted practice in relation to the third-party proofreading of academic work going on to be assessed.

    The University does not recommend one proofreader over another, and cannot guarantee the skills of individual proofreaders or the quality of their work. The University only ensures that any proofreader advertising via its Register of Approved Proofreaders has confirmed their familiarity with this guidance and agreed to abide by it.

    Both proofreader and student have responsibilities in the proofreading process as set out in the guidelines. However, it is imperative that both also bear in mind that the final responsibility for any adjustment to a text is borne by the student writer, and that the document will be assessed on this basis - as the work of the student.

  • Register of Approved Proofreaders

    The proofreaders listed below have agreed to comply by Lancaster University guidance for proofreaders. The University does not recommend one proofreader over another and cannot guarantee the skills of individual proofreaders or the quality of their work. All the proofreaders listed here are based in the Lancashire area unless otherwise stated.

    Please note: it is very important to contact a proofreader well in advance of deadlines. Make sure you read the Guidelines for Students before contacting a proofreader.

    Name WebsiteQualifications and expertise Rate

    Carol Bennett

    carolmarybennett@gmail.com

    Website

    MA Applied Linguistics for English Language Teaching

    Academic Support Tutor and EAP Tutor, Lancaster University. Particular expertise in Arts, Social Sciences and Management Studies.

    £8 - £10 per 1000 words, subject to preview.

    Sharon McCulloch

    samcculloch@mac.com

    Website

    PhD Linguistics

    Lecturer in ESOL, University of Central Lancashire. Particular expertise in Linguistics, Literacy Studies, Education, TESOL, Translation Studies, Sociology.

    For texts up to 30,000 words: £10 per 1000 words. For longer texts: fixed prices can be negotiated.

    Gerard Hearne

    gerardhearne@gmail.com

     

    Website

    MA TEFL

    Proofreader for any academic subject with particular expertise in Business, Critical Discourse Analysis, Law, Linguistics, Sociology, TEFL/TESOL

    £9 - £12 per 1000 words, depending on level of technicality.

    Munling Shields

    mlshields@hotmail.co.uk

     

    MA Linguistics for English Language Teaching and MSc Psychological Assessment in Organisations

    Proofreader for any academic subject.

    Author of Essay Writing: a student's guide, Sage 2010

    £9 - £10 per 1000 words, depending on length of text.

    Brian Shields 

    bgshields6@gmail.com

     

    MA Linguistics for English Language Teaching and MBA

    Proofreader for any academic subject, with particular expertise in management, business, languages, linguistics and education.

    £9 - £10 per 1000 words, depending on length of text.

    Charlotte Mason

    charlotte.mason@open.ac.uk

     

     

     

    MA TESOL, CELTA, AFHEA

    English Language Learning Developer and EAP Tutor, Lancaster University and Associate Lecturer, Open University (EAP, Business English). Proofreader with particular expertise in Business and Management, Social Sciences, Arts and Linguistics

    £9 - £12 per 1000 words, depending on complexity of text.

    Miranda Broadhead

    mtbroadhead@hotmail.co.uk

     

    MA Applied Linguistics for English Language Teaching 

    Proofreader with expertise in Arts, Social Sciences and Management, in particular: Linguistics, TEFL, ESOL and Politics.

    Approx. £10 per 1000 words, subject to preview of a sample.

    Dawn Leggott

    dawn@dawnleggott.co.uk 

    Website

    A qualified and experienced proofreader and member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, specialising in academic publications. Former UK university lecturer in Academic Skills and English as a Foreign Language/TESOL.

    Proofreader for most academic subjects apart from Maths and Science. Particular expertise in education, TESOL, business, management, languages, applied linguistics, social sciences, humanities and cultural studies.

    £15 - £18 per 1000 words, depending on the text. You will receive a sample proofread of one or two pages of your work free of charge, together with the fee. 

  • Proofreading Policy

    This policy is intended to clarify to students the scope of any proofreading support they may choose to engage. It is applicable to all undergraduate, postgraduate taught and postgraduate research students.

    Lancaster University does not require students to use any form of proofreading service. However, the University does understand that for theses and dissertations, students may wish to have their work proofread as these form substantive bodies of work. If students have any questions about proofreading, they should contact their academic tutor, module leader or supervisor in the first instance.

    1. Definition of Proofreading

    1.1 The University defines proofreading as reviewing student work prior to submission to help with structure, language fluency, presentation and to highlight errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. Helping with structure can include advising on paragraphing and sentence structure, but must not include advising on the coherence of a student’s argument.

    1.2 Proofreaders can be a friend or colleague, or someone paid by the student to provide a proofreading service. In some courses proofreading by peers is encouraged as part of the learning process.

    1.3 Proofreading must not include any assistance in relation to the content of the written assignment, nor should it involve any tutoring on the part of the proofreader. The proofreader should confine themselves to the structure, language fluency, presentation of the text and to highlighting errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. If a proofreading service is offering to check the academic content of a written assignment, then this is not a legitimate proofreading service. If a student persists in using such a service this will open the student to an allegation of academic misconduct. See the University’s Academic-Malpractice-Regs [PDF].

    1.4 Prior to engaging a proofreader, a student must ensure that their work conforms to discipline-specific guidance, in terms of style and presentation, by referring to the appropriate course, module or discipline handbook.

    1.5 This policy does not preclude members of academic staff from providing appropriate supervision, through the reading of drafts of material produced by students, as part of supervising a thesis or dissertation. 

    2. Checking whether proofreading is appropriate 

    2.1 Students should always check with either the module leader or their supervisor as to whether it is appropriate to have a piece of work professionally proofread. Certain professional, language and other programmes assess students on clarity of communication as a key competency, and in these circumstances, it would not be appropriate to have work professionally proofread.  

    3. Scope of Proofreading 

    3.1 A third party may be used to assist the student with the following:  

    • Use of appropriate English spelling and punctuation.
    • Consistency in formatting and use of footnotes and endnotes.
    • Adherence to the conventions of grammar and syntax of written English.
    • Shortening of long sentences to improve grammar.
    • Adherence to paragraphing conventions.
    • Consistency in page numbering, headers and footers.
    • Positioning of tables and illustrations and clarity of grammar, spelling and punctuation of any text in or under tables and illustrations.

    3.2 A third party cannot be used to assist the student with the following: 

    • Changing any part of the work with the intention of clarifying or developing the ideas and arguments.
    • Reducing the length of the work so that it falls within the stated word limit.
    • Making major corrections relating to referencing.
    • Correcting information within the work.
    • Translating the work into English.
    • Commenting on how well the work answers the question.

    4. Owning the Corrections 

    4.1 The proofreader should make all corrections either on a hard copy of the student’s work, or in track changes on an electronic document. The proofreader should make sure that all changes are visible to the student.

    4.2 The expectation is that the proofreader will highlight to the student where corrections are recommended and the student will then review the suggested changes and make changes to the master copy of their work, should they choose to. Students must take care to check all of the suggested corrections to ensure that they conform with the University’s guidance. In the case of electronic track changes, students must not just click ‘accept all’; they should check all of the suggested corrections. The student must retain the copy of the work they receive from the proofreader in case they are asked to supply this at a later date.  

    4.3 It is the student’s responsibility to choose whether or not to implement suggested changes, and it is the student who is held accountable for the standard of their work. 

    5. Drafts

    The expectation is that the proofreader will only assist with the final version of the student’s work, i.e. the work is in its final form ready for submission to the best of the student’s ability. Students must leave sufficient time before their deadline to consult the proofreader and make the advised changes to their work. The proofreader will see this final version and conduct their work only on this version. The student will then receive this version from the proofreader and review the suggested corrections as above in section 4.2. 

    6. Agreeing the Scope of Work 

    6.1 Students should agree the scope of the work with a proofreader well in advance of the submission deadline, as outlined in the Guidelines for Students page.

    7. Disclaimer 

    7.1 This document is intended to provide all students, members of staff and third party proofreaders with guidance for good ethical practice in relation to student work being proofread and then assessed. Both the proofreader and the student have a duty to ensure that the proofreading process follows the guidance within this document. However, it is imperative that students bear in mind that any adjustment to student work to be submitted for assessment is ultimately the responsibility of the student. 

    8. Acknowledgement

    We are very grateful to colleagues at Exeter University for their permission to base our policy on the one in their Teaching Quality Assurance Manual.