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How to Proofread

Completing an undergraduate essay, let alone a dissertation, takes time and effort, and proofreading is a massive part of the process. So what happens when you have to proofread your final PhD thesis? The PhD thesis is generally 80,000 words, which is the equivalent to 350 pages. So what is the best way to proofread this massive document that has taken you years to research, write and finalise?

This is probably the most important piece of advice we can give you for this particular topic. Give yourself plenty of time to read, re-read and then read again. The last thing you want to do is frantically edit your manuscript at the 11th hour. Once you have written a paragraph spend some time going over it, and continually do this throughout the writing phase! Once you have written a chapter or a significant part of a chapter, take some time off and come back to it later. By giving yourself time, you can make sure that you question yourself a little bit for every paragraph or chapter. Always think “What am I trying to say?” and “Is that actually clear?”.. “Do I convey the right message?”

Keep your proofreading simple. If the sentence already makes sense, you don’t need to reword it. This macroscopic proofread is used to iron out any possible mistakes, not to make your current text overly and unnecessarily complex. It is also a good idea to have some of the fundamentals in your mind when you start the proofreading phase. Is my argument present throughout? Is there an introduction, body and conclusion? Are my chapters laid out correctly? These are the core principles of an essay and they should already be present in your manuscript, but they are points worth remembering when proofreading.

Much like the above point, the microscopic look into your essay takes the same principles as above, but looks at the minute details that you may have missed. The best way to do this is to have one clear objective in your mind before reading the entire piece. The first time you look over your work, you could look for spelling mistakes. The second time, you could look for grammatical mistakes. Then for tenses and so on and so forth. This way, you will be sure to eliminate mistakes with each read. Also, you may pick up on wider mistakes subconsciously- so it’s a win-win.

Footnotes are supplementary pieces of information that support your writing — we’ve written a whole blog on citing, which you can read here. So we know just how important references, footnotes and the bibliography are to your work. So make sure that all your references and footnotes are not only correct, but consistent too. Make sure that the font, size and styles are consistent throughout. Also, make sure that you are following the correct referencing style. This may be an extremely tedious and time-consuming task, but it is essential that this important section of your essay or research is completed to the highest standards.

Consistency, much like in your footnotes and references, has to be apparent throughout the entirety of your work. Consistency may include tenses, contractions, abbreviations and multiple other language topics and stylistic choices. Whilst your academic content and argument may excel, your presentation and writing style matters. So make sure that you remain as consistent as possible.

We can keep this as simple as possible — check and double check that your spelling, punctuation and grammar are correct. Have someone else read it at some point as well. The reason for this is that you can read a sentence over and over again, but after reading it a couple of times, you are not actually reading every word anymore, because you know what’s in there. At this moment, we could literally turn 2 words around and you even notice anymore. So, check yourself, use a friend or collegue, use a spell check and use Grammarly too.

Isn’t it great when paragraphs link together? Well, after telling you to use spell check and Grammarly to double check your spelling, punctuation and grammar, here we are telling you the exact opposite. These programmes are great, but do not rely on them entirely. Are they able to catch certain nuances or stylistic language in your work? No. We recommend that you do use these programmes to check, but always be careful when you use them.

Proofreading is tedious. You will have to look over the thousands of words that you have written and read over multiple times. But you’ve completed the hard work now, and whilst the hard work is done, there is still work to do. By proofreading your essay, you’ll make sure that your submission is as good as it can be.

Trust us, proofreading is essential, but, before we go, here is one last piece of advice. When you hand in your thesis and you open the final printed version, and BAM, there is a spelling mistake in the first paragraph you look at. What do you do? We’d tell you to not worry about it. You can proofread a million times and there will always be little silly mistakes.

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