Exploring the World of Academic Editing: Here Are 7 Tips to Succeed


In 2015, an acquaintance of Natalie Schriefer asked for some last-minute proofreading. This acquaintance, an adjunct professor, was nervous about his grammar and needed revisions for a short article due the next day.

He knew someone with an English degree and asked if he could hire her for the task. What started as a one-off job turned into six years of collaboration and the start of her freelance editing career. Here's how her journey unfolded and some tips for those navigating the editing world.

Exploring the World of Academic Editing: Here Are 7 Tips to Succeed

(Photo : PEXELS / Andrea Piacquadio)

1. Embrace Unexpected Opportunities

When Schriefer agreed to help her acquaintance, she had no idea it would lead to a career in academic editing. Over the years, she worked with scholars across various disciplines, from computer science to nursing and social work. With experience in English, administration, and magazine writing, she became a generalist, adept at handling diverse tasks and subjects. This ability has been her greatest asset in editing.

Tip: Say Yes to New Opportunities

Embrace challenges that lie beyond your usual expertise. You never know where they might lead. Remaining receptive to novel opportunities can unveil unexpected pathways for growth and advancement.

READ MORE: Ultimate Toolkit For Confident Communication: A Graduate Student's 10-Step Guide 

2. The Value of Being a Generalist

As a generalist editor, Schriefer wasn't familiar with the content she edited, which allowed her to see what was missing. Whether it was a vague abstract, missing context in a literature review, or a methodology that needed further explanation, she could spot these issues and help authors improve their work. This ability stemmed from the "curse of knowledge"-the cognitive bias where experts forget to account for their wide knowledge base and assume everyone has the same level of understanding.

Tip: Leverage Your Generalist Skills

Being a generalist means you can approach a wide range of topics with fresh eyes. Use this to your advantage by identifying gaps and providing clear, concise feedback.

3. Editing Resources You Already Have

Faculty members often feel pressured to find and hire an editor, but they can always edit their own work or swap research with someone they trust. They should check with mentors, former classmates, and colleagues who specialize in different areas than they do. This method of working together can offer valuable perspectives and understanding.

Tip: Utilize Your Network

Reach out to your academic network for feedback on your work. This can be a cost-effective and efficient way to improve your writing.

4. Institutional Support

Numerous higher education institutions hire academic editors or offer writing center services to aid in the editing process. If an institution offers these services, faculty should take advantage of them. For example, she was contracted to edit for a college, providing faculty with much-needed support.

Tip: Explore Institutional Resources

Investigate what editorial support an institution provides. These services are often underutilized and can be a great resource.

5. Finding an Independent Editor

If faculty need to hire an independent editor, they should start with word-of-mouth recommendations. They should ask colleagues, department chairs, or research partners for suggestions. They should also consider factors such as cost, turnaround time, and deadlines.

Tip: Use Trusted Referrals

Rely on recommendations from trusted sources to find a qualified editor. This can help avoid scams and find someone who meets the needed requirements.

6. Hiring an Editor Online

When hiring an editor online, it's important to differentiate between qualified editors and those who may not meet the standards. Look for editors with relevant degrees, certifications, peer-reviewing experience, and a portfolio of edited articles. Groups such as the Editorial Freelancers Association can serve as a solid initial resource.

Tip: Vet Your Editor

Carefully review the credentials and experience of any editor considered for hire. A professional website and positive client feedback are good indicators of a reliable editor.

7. Specialized Editing Needs

For specific needs like ESL proofreading or citation help, it's crucial to find an editor with the right expertise. Ensure they are familiar with the required style, whether it's APA, AMA, or another format.

Tip: Seek Specialists When Necessary

If specialized editing requirements are needed, don't hesitate to find an expert in that field. Their specialized knowledge can significantly enhance the quality of the work.

Schriefer's journey into academic editing was unexpected, but it has been incredibly rewarding. Whether editing one's own work, collaborating with colleagues, or hiring a professional editor, the key is to remain open to new opportunities and utilize the resources available. With the right approach, researchers can enhance the quality of their work and successfully navigate the world of academic publishing.

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