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I have been an editor for students for over 16 years. Along the way, I’ve noticed some mistakes that students from every level tend to make. One of the biggest—and easiest to correct—is not reading the directions for the assignment. So many students come to WordsRU for proofreading or editing of a paper, theses, or dissertation because they have received negative feedback from a professor, supervisor, or Chair that their paper has not met the requirements of the assignment. In almost every instance, the problem is that he or she has not followed the directions. Take the time to read—really read!—the assignment requirements or the theses/dissertation guide!
If you have a professor who has not provided guidelines for the assignment or if your school takes a more “free-form” approach to the thesis or dissertation, then follow the basic rules for writing that you learned in your early school years: (a) introduce the topic, (b) discuss the topic, (c) summarize what you discussed.
Having an editor is helpful because you have a second set of eyes reading your paper. Not only will an editor will find errors that make your paper hard to read (such as punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, etc.), but your editor will also point out when your discussion is straying off-point. When you provide the assignment requirements or thesis/dissertation guide, your editor can draw your attention to issues of organization and whether you have addressed the areas crucial to the assignment.
An important final thought on the topic of following directions: Your professors have worked hard to provide you with the components that they want to see. Having an editor to help you with making the paper more readable is beneficial to you because your professor or Chair can then read your paper for content, rather than get annoyed because he or she is getting hung up on ineffective writing and poor organization.
How do you prepare for and write a paper? Do you follow the guidelines like a recipe or are you more free-style, making up your own rules as you go? What works for you? What doesn’t work?