How To Use Quotations In Dissertations

Using quotations in a Dissertation

Dissertations serve a two-fold purpose.  They are the final projects for doctoral candidates, the last step before degree conferral, in which these individuals may show their knowledge of their specific areas of interest and of their ability to identify and propose solutions to problems within their fields.  Dissertations are simultaneously the transition from students to contributors within their fields by engaging in original research and adding to the body of knowledge.

In writing dissertations, authors must demonstrate their thorough understanding of their particular areas of study.  One way to show that understanding is through the use of quotations garnered from previously written works in their field or in related areas.  However, overuse or inappropriate use of quotations may have the opposite effect, suggesting a lack of understanding.  Therefore, authors must use quotations judiciously.

The number and length of quotations may vary from one academic field to another.  For example, students examining Shakespeare’s use of figurative language in his various plays will need to include specific quotations from the plays for each type of figurative language discussed.  Such quotations may range from one word to several lines.  Students conducting qualitative studies based on extensive interviews of research participants will also need to use numerous quotations from those interviews to support whatever themes they discover through their analysis of those data.  However, inclusion of quotations from other experts in the field of study should be handled differently.

In the proposal, concept paper, and the final dissertation, candidates must demonstrate their familiarity with the research in their field.  This is the primary purpose of chapter 2 in most dissertations.  Some of that background material is also revealed in the first chapter to set up the problem and to show the significance of the study.  Additional background material is revealed in chapter 3 to show an understanding of the chosen research methodology and its appropriateness for the study in question.

In these chapters, authors are not only giving information pertinent to their studies but also showing their ability to grasp ideas, analyze material for its strengths and weaknesses, and synthesize material from various sources to create the foundation for their particular study.  Therefore, quotations should be used only when that is the best and clearest way to provide information to the reader.

Consider the following two examples:

Example 1:  According to John Smith, “The best thing about this concept is that it is easy to understand compared with other concepts in this field.”  He went on to say that “scientists will be able to use this new knowledge to create new technology for this field” and that “people will embrace this technology very quickly.”  Therefore, “companies that wish to increase their profitability” should begin investing in “this new scientific venture” so that they “will not lose out” on this “golden opportunity.”

Example 2:  According to John Smith, this new concept is easier to understand compared to others in the same field.  Because of this, new technology will be forthcoming, which people will be eager to purchase.  Therefore, he advises businesses to invest in this research as soon as possible.  Failure to do so may result in their decreased profitability.

Although not taken directly from actual dissertations, the formats of these two examples shows what edits often find in dissertations.  Both examples deal with the same topic and make the same essential points.  Yet the second one clearly shows the writer understands the material drawn from John Smith’s work; the first does not.  The first one is simply a copy of John Smith’s words interspersed with innocuous connecting phrases.  The writer in the first example has not attempted to analyze, synthesize, or summarize the meaning of Smith’s words.  Instead, the writer has found material that fits the topic being discussed and quotes from that material, expecting the reader to figure out what it all means.  Unfortunately, many candidates use this type of format.  Variations include inserting block quote after block quote, often from the same source, and quoting single words that, in and of themselves, hold no special significance.

Authors who use quotes judiciously reduce verbiage and redundancy, demonstrate their thorough grasp of the material, and often show the connection of their original research to the rest of the field more clearly.  If they include quotations at all, they do so to emphasis a particular point.  Using quotations in this way is ultimately more powerful.

After deciding to include quotations, authors must also handle them correctly.  The following points are not all inclusive but represent some of the more common problems editors find in dissertations.

1.     Introduce most quotations.  Seldom should a paragraph begin with a direct quotation.  Many university style guides require authors to introduce quotations, although there are exceptions.  However, when in doubt, error on the side of introducing the quotation to prevent any misinterpretation of the material.  Use one of the following constructions:

    1. a full sentence with the quotation placed after a colon;
    2. a short introductory phrase such as “according to” followed by the person’s name, a comma, and the quotation (e.g., According to Smith, “Businesses must take advantage of this golden opportunity”);
    3. the person’s name, an appropriate verb such as “stated,” and the quotation (e.g., David stated, “I am hungry”).


2.     Reproduce the quotation accurately.  The quotation should be written the same way it is written in the source from which it is being taken.  However, there are exceptions to this rule, depending on the style guide candidates are required to follow.  For example, writers may correct minor grammatical problems within a quotation as long as those corrections do not change the meaning or are not needed to demonstrate a particular point.  This avoids overuse of [sic] to show that the author knows the errors are there and makes it easier for the reader to follow.  It also acknowledges that the errors may or may not have been in the original quotation but are the result of transcription by a third party.


3.     Alter the capitalization of the first word of the quotation to fit the syntax of the sentence in which it is placed.  Generally, if the quotation follows direct attribution, the first word is capitalized (e.g., David said, “He goes to my school”).  However, if the word that is included, the first word is not capitalized unless it is a proper noun (e.g., David said that he goes to my school).  If the quotation is a block quotation and comes after a colon, capitalize the first word (see Example 1).  If it is a block quotation used as a continuation of the sentence, do not capitalize the first word unless it is a proper noun (see Example 2).

Example 1.

He recited the Gettysburg Address:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.


Example 2. 

The new law states that

any person entering another individual’s domicile without the express permission of that individual is trespassing and is subject to the fines and levies as defined in Section 3 subsection 1 paragraph 1.


4.     Use appropriate punctuation.  Be sure to punctuation the quotation correctly as it is used within the dissertation.

  1. All run-in quotations must begin and end with quotation marks.  Block quotations are not placed within quotation marks.
  2. Periods and commas always go inside the closing quotation marks (e.g., Patty bought “The Isle of Man,” the bestselling mystery novel).
  3. Other forms of punctuation go outside the closing quotation marks unless they are part of the actual quotation (e.g., Did he just say, “I’m going home”?  I asked, “What do you have for lunch?”)
  4. If a quotation contains a quotation, be sure to enclose the secondary quotation in single quotation marks (e.g., He stated, “I have just read the story, ‘The Scarlet Ibis,’ for the tenth time”).  Note that in block quotations, secondary quotations are punctuated with double quotation marks, not single, because the doubles are not used to define the beginning and ending of the major quotation.


5.     Use ellipses correctly.  Ellipses (. . .) are used to show the omission of wording from a quotation.  However, ellipses are not needed if an author chooses to delete the first portion of a sentence being quoted or the last part of a sentence being quoted.  Only material deleted from the middle of a quotation is noted by an ellipsis.

  1. Correct: He began reciting the Gettysburg address:  “Four score and seven years ago . . . perish from the earth.”
  2. Incorrect: He began reciting: “. . . and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal . . . .”


6.     Use attributions correctly. Here, attributions refer to the verbs used to indicate how the speaker is speaking (e.g., said, stated, noted, etc.).  Be sure the verb used is possible.  For example, a person can shout words but cannot grimace words.  In dissertations, stick with simple verbs that allow the reader to move into the quotation as quickly as possible without having to consider if the verb makes sense.


7.     Cite, cite, cite. Citations are attributions of a different kind.  Be sure that each quotation is cited accurately.  Citations should include the author of the source, the year of publication, and the page number in the source on which the wording may be found.  Although it is possible that a quotation may split between two contiguous pages (e.g., pp. 9–10), seldom will a quotation span more than two pages unless it is an extremely long block quotation.  (If it is, see the previous discussion about appropriate use of quotations.)


8.     Avoid single word quotations.  Generally, these are terms and should be italicized in their first use in text and not punctuated at all in subsequent use in the paper.  If a word was coined by the author of the source being quoted, incorporate a phrase or a sentence in which the word appears as a quote rather than using the single word.  This assists in eliminating the tendency to place the term in quotation marks every time it is used in the paper.


Finally, remember that overuse of almost anything minimizes its effectiveness.  This is as true with quotations as with any other writing technique.  Use quotations sparingly.  Be sure that the information cannot be conveyed as effectively or as accurately through paraphrasing, summarizing, or synthesizing it with other material.  Be accurate, use appropriate punctuation, and cite the source properly. If you’re in need of assistance, consider hiring an excellent dissertation editing service, such as Edit911, to check everything for you.


Featured Clients: Erich K. Ritter, PhD

Shark-Human Interaction by Erich K. Ritter, PhD

Erich K. Ritter, PhD, is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on shark behavior.  His comprehensive study Shark-Human Interaction includes a thorough discussion of his ADORE-SANE concept that details how divers, swimmers, and snorkelers can greatly enhance their ability to safely interact with any shark species under a wide-variety of conditions.

When Dr. Ritter approached Edit911 for our book editing services several years ago, we were honored and excited to accept him as a client. We had already edited some parts of his book in chapter form and as articles he later published in scholarly journals. Our task was to help him assemble his ideas into an organized structure and to assure that the transitions from paragraph to paragraph and chapter to chapter were smooth and effective. Working closely with Dr. Ritter, several of our science editors performed very close manuscript editing to help him realize his vision of a definitive, highly authoritative, eminently readable, and practical guide to the subject.

Dr. Ritter explains why he feels he needed editing and how Edit911 has assisted him: “I learned long time ago that no matter how the good scientific results are, they mean nothing during a reviewing process should the language not be satisfactory. Every non-native English speaker knows what kind of frustration comes along with it. Some of the remarks I have received on my papers in the past were often quite personal and once or twice even nasty. Often, I felt that the reviewer did not even try to see what the meaning of the paper was but concentrated solely on how the paper was written. In two cases, the reviewers knew me (since I was the only one working in this field), yet they still rejected my papers based on their style. One reviewer even added, “…since it is known that he is not a native English speaker….”

Dr. Ritter continues: “Not having grown up in an English speaking world is a constant handicap for most of us who must publish in peer-reviewed journals, and we often dread the beginning of another paper, knowing that no matter how long we sit in front of a paper and try our best to make it readable, someone else has to take over and correct it. Of course, there are often colleagues who are willing to help but even for native English speakers it can be a challenge, and although everything might stylistically be correct when done editing, the wording might still not feel right.”

“So I started to shop around for professional, scientific editing, and figured if they charge money for it I will get the results needed. But after testing a few, they were not worth the money. Then I found Edit911, and my papers finally made it through the reviewing process. What keeps impressing me the most with Edit911 is how they cut my writing down to fewer sentences, enhance the flow of the wording, and do so with impeccable scientific precision. I have since recommended Edit911’s editing services to others who face the same problem as I do.”

Dr. Ritter’s book is fascinating to read and extremely valuable for anyone who enters the oceans of the world—the sharks’ domain. We are proud of how his book turned out and extremely gratified that he entrusted his groundbreaking study to our book editing service.

Shark-Human Interaction, published by SharkSchool, is available from Amazon:


Dr. Ritter’s Bio:

Dr. Ritter earned his Ph.D. from Zurich University in “Behavioral Ecology” as its only professional shark-human interaction specialist. He did his post-doc at the University of Miami’s Rosenschiel School. He has taught field courses for students, naturalists and divers in the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Maldives, Egypt, Mexico, Costa Rica, South Africa and Hawaii. He conducts his field research primarily in the Northern Abacos, Bahamas at the “Shark Education & Research Center” (SERC).

Dr. Ritter is also the head of the SharkSchool™, an organization that teaches divers, snorkelers, rescue swimmers and others how to interact with sharks, what to look for when entering the water, and most importantly how to feel safe among sharks. He functions as a case investigator of the Shark Research Institute’s GSAF (Global Shark Attack File). He is also the chairman of SAVN™, the Shark Accident Victim Network, and non-for-profit organization to help shark victims. He has given lectures worldwide and was guest on many different TV shows, including a quick appearance in the movie SharkWater.


Dr. Ritter’s Writings (all edited by Edit911):

Scholarly Papers Published:

Ritter, E. K. (2012). A rare use of a shark’s pectoral fin? Scooping off a sharksucker from the flank. Open Fish Science Journal, 5: 57-59.

Ritter, E. K. & Amin, R. W. (2012). Effect of human body position on the swimming behavior of bull sharks, Carcharhinus leucas. Society and Animal, 20: 225-235.

Ritter, E. & L. V. C. Compagno (2012). Clasper flaring: maintenance behavior, or a normally hidden feature of male whitetip reef sharks, Triaenodon obesus? Open Fish Science Journal, in press.

Amin, R., Ritter, E. & P. Kennedy (2012). A geospatial analysis of shark attack rates for the east coast of Florida: 1994-2009. Fresh Behavioral Physiology, 45 (3): 185-198.

Amin, R., Ritter, E. & L. Cossette (2012). An investigation of shark density and attack rates in California. Journal of Environment and Ecology, in press.

Ritter, E. (2011). Use of sand ripples to enhance chafing in Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) and blacktip sharks (Carcharhinus limbatus). Bulletin of Marine Science, 87 (3): 413-419.

Scholarly Papers Submitted:

Ritter, E. (2013). Coasting of pelagic thresher sharks, Alopias pelagicus, in comparison to oceanic whitetip shark, Carcharhinus longimanus, and the blue shark, Prionace glauca, two other species of the same ecomorphotype. Journal of Fish Biology.

Ritter, E.K, Amin, R. W. & A. Zambesi (2013). Do lunar cycles influence shark attacks? Open Fish Science Journal.


Ritter, E. (2012). Shark-Human Interaction. Situations Findings Recommendations. SharkSchool Publishing.

Available at


You can read even more about Dr. Ritter and his work at these links:

Shark School:

Global Shark Attack File:

Shark Research Institute:

Shark Accident Victim (Dr. Ritter is the Chair):


You may contact Dr. Ritter directly:


The Art of Life: A Review of Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception

Seth Godin's new book The Icarus Deception

The Icarus Deception is yet another inspirational, informative, and dazzling Seth Godin manifesto and self-help book. As in many of his previous books, Godin delights with insights on how to succeed in business (“…our success turns not on being the low-price leader but on being the high-trust leader.”), while self-actualizing and maximizing your potential and happiness in all areas of life.

The essence of Godin’s multi-layered thesis is that life is an art form and everyone is an artist. “Art is not a gene or a specific talent,” says Godin. “Art is an attitude.” We’re not all painters or musicians or graphic designers, but we should all use our tools and skills to be artists. By that, Godin means we should strive to be the best we can be at what we do and who we are: “Your work is your art (and vice versa).”

Whether we tend bar, fix cars, build houses, or run a day care center—no matter what we do—we should do it better and care more about it, and others, than anyone else. When we do, we benefit both ourselves and those who experience our artistic work, because people crave connections with people who care. “We embrace the humanity in those around us, particularly as the rest of the world appears to become less human and more cold. Who will you miss? That is who you are listening to.”

These aren’t new ideas, necessarily. Godin’s influences and references run far and wide—from Zen, sociology, psychology, and philosophy; from Plato (the implied Platonic ideal) to Jobs (the meshing of art and technology), and Emerson (self-reliance and Transcendentalism) to Pirsig (the motorcycle we maintain is ourselves).

Yet, Godin’s metonymic intellect strides from one synthetic adage and observation to another with the grace and fluidity of a racehorse. His style is both muscular and light, alternating from an almost pugnacious tone that challenges and dares the reader to a sweet and encouraging grandfatherly voice that loves his family—his tribe—and wants only the best for them. I always feel like I’m on a rollercoaster reading his books: they’re a fun, crazy, fast, exhilarating, and not a little bit daunting ride.

As we know, Icarus flew too high and died, but what many don’t know about the story—because of the deception forwarded and publicized by the industrial, corporate, conformity machine that repressed the rest of the story—is that if he had flown too low, he’d have crashed into the ocean and drowned. So the allegorical moral to the story is that we should, indeed, fly as high as we possibly can, just short of flaming out.

So how does one achieve greatness while minimizing the risks of utter failure? By creating art. Always be creating. And always be creating relationships through your art. “Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another.” True quality is customer/client/friend/acquaintance aware, driven, and accomplished because “people want your humanity, not your discounts.” If you make cabinets, make cabinets people will be amazed by. If you treat patients, treat every patient as you would your own child. If you clean carpets, clean them as if your own baby will be crawling on them. “When we treat the people around us with dignity, we create an entirely different platform for the words we utter and the plans we make.”

Clearly at the heart of Godin’s books is his enormous heart. One of today’s greatest shining lights, he inspires, he instructs, he pats you on the back—saying, “You can do it!”—and kicks you in the ass—saying, “What are you waiting for?”

Ultimately, Godin professes tough love for all and antipathy for those grounded in apathy. “We embrace the humanity in those around us, particularly as the rest of the world appears to become less human and more cold. Who will you miss? That is who you are listening to.”


6 Tips for Using an Academic Editing Style Guide

In performing any academic editing, such as dissertation editing or thesis editing, you will usually need to use two style guides.  The first is provided by your university and may or may not be combined with the policies and procedures for dissertations and degree conferral.  The second is a professional style manual.

One Style Does Not Fit All

editing service
Some schools use one professional style manual for all departments; others allow each department to choose its own manual. The most common of these are the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA), The Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), and the MLA Handbook (MLA).  Some departments use A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Turabian).  Other manuals are used less commonly in the writing of dissertations and theses.

Go Right to the Source and Ask the Horse

You can determine which style manual you are required to use by checking the university style and formatting guide or asking your advisor.  Ideally, the professors for your courses leading up to the dissertation process will expect you to use the required professional manual for their assignments.  In that way, you will begin to build the skills needed in the dissertation or thesis process.

Learn & Apply Its Rules

Professional style manuals include information related to the technical aspects of writing your dissertation, including the requirements of formal language, and to the publication of articles and books.  Some manuals are narrow in focus; others try to anticipate as many situations as possible that writers may confront.  Most typically include information related to the following:

  • Grammar
  • Punctuation (including use of italics)
  • Capitalization
  • Preferred spelling (including hyphenation)
  • Use of numbers
  • Use of abbreviations
  • Use of scientific terminology
  • Formats for tables, charts, and other graphics
  • Reference list or bibliography entry requirements by type of source
  • Internal citation formats
  • Footnote and end note formats
  • Levels and formats for headings and subheadings
  • Elimination of bias in writing (including gender bias and preferred terminology for racial and ethnic groups)

Pay Attention to the Edition

When you locate the specific professional style manual for your department, be sure to note which edition the university requires.  These manuals undergo continual revision, with new editions being published as often as every three years.  Typically, universities will update their requirements to include the most recent manual editions.  However, students who begin the dissertation process under one manual edition are not usually required to change as long as they complete their dissertations in a timely manner.

Be Wary of the Guides’ Limitations and Contradictions!

You should also be aware of the limitations of these professional guides.  For example, APA and MLA are geared specifically to the sciences and language and literature, respectively.  CMS is much broader in scope and is generally used in the social sciences.  When APA and MLA do not contain specific information, editors often rely on CMS to determine correct form and required information.  They then adjust the formatting to meet APA or MLA requirements.

You may also find that information in the professional guides contradicts information in your university dissertation style and format guide.  Remember, the university guide always trumps the professional guide.

Consider Using an Editing Service

If you’re stumped or just want to be sure, you may want to hire an editing service to check everything for you. Be sure to tell your academic editor not only the specific style manual required but also the specific edition.  Editors often have multiple editions of these manuals to use as resources.  Knowing which one you must follow is imperative to ensuring an accurate edit of your paper.



15 Tips on How to Survive an Online Class

Students occasionally have difficulty adjusting to online formats, especially if they are accustomed to being in a classroom with ‘real’ people and a ‘real’ instructor. When instructors design online classes, we work under mandates to align them as closely as possible to their on-ground counterparts as far as material covered. Although this is true, the dissonance arises because students may feel alone, hanging on the periphery of the educational arena, attached only by a rectangular screen.

It doesn’t have to be that way, however. Online is not an abyss; it is merely a new way of communicating. The majority of online courses provides a venue for discussion and encourages interaction with your instructor and your classmates, ‘bonding’ if you will. In the best online classes, students ‘get it’ and sustain productive dialogue. Thus, the primary difference between online and on-ground courses lies with you and has to do with self-motivation, self-discipline, time management, and sticktuitiveness, all qualities that will put you ahead, not only in academia but also in the world of work.

Whether you are a first timer or a seasoned pro in the virtual world, there follows a list of suggestions that can aid your online success.

  1. Download and read the syllabus. Be aware of when modules or discussion boards will change or close.
  2. Transfer all due dates to a planner or calendar. Monthly ones work best because they allow you to see ‘what’s ahead.’
  3. Avoid procrastination! Just because there are ending due dates does not mean you should put off the assignment. In an on ground class, there are constant reminders; in an online class, these may not be as evident.
  4. Check email at least daily. Most online instructors use this form of communication and many will send periodic reminders of due dates along with other information. [Email will go to your university address].
  5. Frequently, check the course home page for announcements.
  6. Check the To Do or Assignment List in each module. They will clearly spell out the expectations for the week or partial week of the course.
  7. Do NOT be afraid to contact your instructor. If you have a question, chances are good others do as well.
  8. Note the instructor’s posted response time on the syllabus. If you do not receive an answer within that specified period, send another email. Technology is miraculous but, occasionally, things do fall into a virtual black hole.
  9. On the point above … your classmates may be clever and bright and terribly together but asking them questions about assignments is often less informative than asking the instructor.
  10. A little known fact … your instructor can monitor your time on the computer. If an accrediting board or board of regents mandates x number of contact hours per course [in Tennessee, it is 45 for a three hour credit class] and your report shows that you have been online for four hours, your grade may reflect that deficit even if you have submitted all the academic work. Even downloading or printing the modules takes a certain amount of time, which will show in your report.
  11. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that you enrolled in the class. That may sound odd but it happens … if you have been absent in an on-ground class, your instructor may say ‘welcome back’ or ask where you’ve been or remind you that attendance is important. In an online class, the instructor may send an inquiry by email but, without a response, we may assume you have dropped or are merely disinterested.
  12. Please adhere to correct formatting on your papers … instructors appreciate a readable 12-pt font and double spacing. Put your name on everything and use it in your document tags [e.g., Save As … Paper 2 Your Name]
  13. Please adhere to the rules of grammar and spelling [even in your discussion board postings and responses].
  14. Learn and use APA documentation … if you have doubts, purchase the book, access, or ask your instructor. [Important: If you cannot write a paragraph explaining the difference between plagiarism and paraphrasing, please contact your instructor before submitting work].
  15. Save your documents in an accessible format, preferably .doc or .docx … do not submit papers marked “Read Only,” which prohibits corrections.

To review: show up, communicate, discuss, dissect, and analyze. Don’t procrastinate.

Edit911 is the world’s finest online proofreading and editing service. Our PhD editors are experts in book editing, dissertation editing, and other document, copy and text editing. Click here to get an instant quote for our editing services, or visit the contact page to discuss your project with us!

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How an Editing Service Can Mentor and Teach through the Use of MS Word’s Comment Balloons

All of Edit911’s dissertation editors and book editors use an MS Word function called “Track Changes” to edit the documents our clients submit. In case you’re not familiar with the program, you can find it on your toolbar under “Review.” Simply click on it to turn it on. The Track Changes program allows the copyeditor to do two things to your manuscript: to make changes in the text itself (indicated by a color other than black, so that they can be found easily) and to add comments in the right-hand margin of your manuscript.

Dealing with Changes in Your Edited Text

There are two ways to deal with the changes in the text itself. If you agree with the copyeditor’s changes in the text, you can either highlight each suggested change individually and then go “Accept” on the Review toolbar, or if you are satisfied with all the changes your copyeditor has made in the text, you can click on “Accept All Changes in Document” on the Review toolbar, but you don’t have to highlight anything for those changes to occur.

Value-added Editing with Comment Balloons

In the right-hand margin, your copyeditor will chat with you about issues arising within the manuscript. It is important to pay attention to these comment balloons because in general they are an attempt to talk with you about issues greater than the spelling of a word or the correct punctuation of a sentence.

Here are some balloon comments I made on a recent document that I edited:

“Change OK?”

“I don’t understand what this word means in this context. Can you choose a different word that will be clearer for your reader?”

“In the previous paragraph, you referred to this character as a male (he), but in this paragraph, you referred to the same character as female (she). Was this just an error?”

“This statement is a direct quote from a published article, and so you need to give the appropriate bibliographic reference in parenthesis.”

“This paragraph would be better to sum up your argument, rather than to introduce your argument.”

“I think scenario would be a better word choice here than script.”

“In your bibliography, you have spelled this author’s name as Smith, but here you have spelled it as Smyth. Please locate the correct spelling and then change accordingly.”

“This would be a good place to cite a reference from Foucault to support your argument.”


Using the Comment Balloons to Maximum Effect

Occasionally these comments opened up some back-and-forth discussion with the author, though most were straightforward in pointing out a need for change that the author could take care of herself.

If your document will go back and forth to the copyeditor, you can type inside the balloons yourself, though you might want to write in all capital letters to distinguish your comments from the copyeditor’s.

To get rid of the Comment Balloons once you have attended to each, you must click on them individually. The advantage of this is that you can once again review the dialogue with the copyeditor before making it disappear.

Track Changes is quite easy once you get the hang of it. When you do, you’ll wonder how we ever did without it!

Starting Your Dissertation Editing Right: The Importance of Your University Style and Formatting Guide

Writing a dissertation or thesis can be traumatic enough without making it more difficult than it needs to be.  The first two documents you should find, read, and follow are (a) the university’s dissertation policies and procedures handbook and (b) the university’s style and formatting guide.  The policies and procedures handbook contains the details of the dissertation editing process from writing your preliminary proposal to having your final paper professionally bound and microfilmed and everything in between.  The style and formatting guide contains all the nitty gritty details for ensuring your dissertation meets the publication requirements your university.  Often the two items are combined into one document, but do not assume this is so.  Check all the resources available to you through your university to be sure you have the information contained in these two documents.


When it comes to writing the final paper, the style and formatting guide will be your best friend.  Find it, read it, and follow it.  Doing so will minimize the myriad potential problems when you assume that writing this paper is just a longer version of any basic research paper.  Should you choose to hire an editor, this is also the first document he/she will request to ensure the editing is done properly.

What does the style and formatting guide contain? A brief glance at this list will show you how important it is:

  • Organizational structure of the final dissertation
  • Margin requirements
  • Footers and headers
  • Font style and size
  • Line spacing
  • Paragraphing
  • Required preliminary pages
  • Headings and subheadings
  • Acceptability of widows and orphans
  • Quotations (block and run in)
  • In text citations
  • Footnotes and end notes
  • Tables and figures
  • Pagination
  • Reference list or bibliography
  • Appendices
  • Biographical sketch or vita
  • Templates and examples (sometimes templates are in a separate document)


As you can see, the physical appearance of your dissertation is dependent on the information contained in the style and formatting guide.  You will do yourself a favor, save your editor much time, and possibly save yourself some money by setting up your dissertation files according to the requirements in the style and formatting guide before you begin to write anything.  In fact, to avoid the mysterious emergence of font styles and colors you didn’t intend to use that sometimes occurs when numerous changes are made to a document, set the defaults in your word processing program to the requirements for your dissertation.  That way, anytime you add to your dissertation, you won’t have to worry about resetting margins, spacing, and font style and size.  You will already have it done.

By becoming thoroughly acquainted with your school’s style and formatting guide early in your doctoral program and setting the defaults to those requirements before you begin writing your dissertation, you will make the whole process much easier.  Use the school guide in conjunction with the professional style manuals required for your department (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) to set up your paper correctly from the outset.  You will then be able to concentrate on communicating your content.

And remember: If you do choose to hire a professional dissertation editor to proof your dissertation, be sure to include a copy of the style and formatting guide or a link to the page within the school’s Web site where the editor may access it.  Having access to this document allows your editor to ensure a finished document that meets all the publication requirements of your university.

10 Things an Editing Service Needs to Know to Provide the Best Copyediting Possible

If you’ve never used an editing service before, you may not know what to expect or how to get the best results from the service that Edit 911 provides. All the editors at Edit 911 are highly skilled professionals who have earned PhD degrees and have years of experience helping clients improve their writing to yield the best possible outcome. Many of us are currently writers ourselves, with an active publication schedule, so we are quite familiar with the production of quality documents, including the importance of attention to detail. We know what we’re doing, and we want to help you produce a final product that proves that you too know what you are doing!

When you make a submission to Edit 911, you will be assigned a specific editor. For the relationship between an author and an editor to be truly productive, a great deal more information is needed. The list below details the information needed in order to make your working relationship with your editor much more successful.

1. Who or what is this document for? A school assignment? Completion of a degree (if so, what degree and what university)? For publication in a journal? For publication by a commercial publisher? For self-publication? For a professional newsletter? In any of those cases, please describe your readership in some detail, so that your editor can judge how well the text and the expected readership “match.”

2. If your document is for publication, where do you plan to publish it so that we can try to locate the publisher’s or journal’s style guide? Have you been assigned to use a specific style guide? If so, please provide the name of the guide and the edition—for example, APA 11th edition, or Chicago Manual of Style 16th edition.

3. Do you prefer American spelling and punctuation or British/Australian/New Zealand/Canadian spelling and punctuation?

4. What is the earliest reasonable deadline by which you need your work to be edited and returned to you? If there are significant problems with your manuscript, are you willing to submit it for a second round of editing after you have made all indicated corrections?

5. Are you using an electronic data base for your academic references? If so, please provide the name of the data base and the edition—for example, EndNote 5.

6. Does your manuscript need a formal Table of Contents? If so, please provide the name of the software or word processing program that was used to create your document. Give as much detail as possible.

7. Does your document contain pictures, diagrams, tables, charts, or graphs? If so, what program were they created in? Do those need to be edited? Did you check these pictures, diagrams, tables, charts, or graphs against any required style guide?

8. Are foreign words used regularly in your document? If so, please provide the name of the language/s used, and if possible, provide a link to an on-line dictionary of that language so that we can check your spelling and usage.

9. Are technical or unusual words used in your document? If possible, provide a link to an on-line dictionary for those words so that we can check your spelling and usage.

10. Is there anything else you would like to say to your editor in order to insure that you get the best possible service from him or her?

A Process of Writing that Works

When you begin to write, whether a dissertation or a novel, you must fight the urge to edit your work too soon.  Your first responsibility must be to get your ideas down on paper or in a computer file.  Only then should you make a concerted effort to edit your work.

Ideas generally do not flow smoothly or sequentially.  They often come in spurts that allow you to write several paragraphs to several pages without stopping to think about what should come next.  One idea may also trigger related ideas, like shoots on a tree limb that will either grow into separate branches or be pruned to keep the tree shaped and healthy.

Don’t stop the creative process. When you stop the flow of ideas prematurely to wordsmith a sentence, second guess the name of a character, or determine the appropriateness of the content you are writing, you may be terminating your creative thinking process prematurely.  You can become so fixated on ensuring you have the perfect word or the most appropriate name that the plot line of your novel or the next connecting idea in your chapter is removed from your short-term memory bank, possibly never to resurface (at least in that particular form).  What is left is a well-crafted sentence that goes nowhere, often accompanied by deep frustration at again not knowing how to continue because you have also lost your momentum.

Instead, keep writing.  Don’t worry if you are suddenly developing a different but related idea.  Don’t worry about word choice.  If another word pops in mind as you are writing, note it in the margin (if you are a pen-and-paper writer) or in parentheses at the end of the sentence or in a comment using the track changes feature of your word processing program.

Reread & Evaluate. When you have completed your writing for the day or whatever time period you have set aside for writing, reread your material.  As you reread, begin identifying what works and what doesn’t.  Substitute the words, names, or other things you noted to see what works best.  Note anything else you need to think about more before changing or developing more fully.  Work on those areas later.

If you have changed subjects and begun developing a different idea, move that material to a later point in your writing.  Either physically cut and paste it into the appropriate section or, if you haven’t begun to section yet, move it to the end of your writing to be used later (or not).

Resist the urge to edit intensely until you have your first draft complete.  This draft may be the entire chapter of a dissertation or thesis, one section of a paper, a chapter in a book, or an entire article or essay.

Then do a preliminary edit.  This edit is strictly for content and organization.  A well punctuated sentence with appropriate word choice that does not contribute to the main idea of your paragraph is still a poor sentence, so concentrate on content.  Look at the flow of ideas.  Look at the relationships between ideas.  Identify what has to be developed more fully.  Identify anything that is off topic.  Look at word choice and clarity of meaning.  Based on what you find, return to research and writing mode to fill in missing information to ensure the content moves smoothly from one idea to the next.

Note:  This is still not the time to work intensely on nitty-gritty details such as punctuation and capitalization.  Correct or change items that you see immediately as you read, but do not get bogged down in the details.  Once you have your content under control, then you can begin editing in earnest.

Editing Dissertations, Theses, and Works of Nonfiction

In your second edit, look primarily for clarity and tone.  Do your sentences make sense?  Have you used the most appropriate word choice?  Have you used appropriate transitions to get from one idea to the next?  Are your sentences so long that they become difficult to follow? Have you used the correct verb tense?  Have you used active voice?  Have you eliminated all contractions?  Have you used abbreviations and acronyms appropriately?  If you are writing a dissertation, be sure you have organized each chapter according to university requirements.  Be sure each section contains the required information.

Also check to see you have eliminated possible plagiarism.  Make sure all quotations are clearly punctuated (often people forget to put the ending quotation marks in) and that the citation for each quotation includes not only the author and publication date but also the page number on which the quotation appears.  Make sure any ideas that are not completely your own (e.g., conclusions based on your findings or personal interpretations) are credited appropriately.  Better to cite something than to overlook citing something!  Then be sure you have all the sources you cite listed in your reference list or bibliography.

What’s next? After this second edit, you may be ready for the final edit or you may need to return to research/writing mode.  Your decision depends on whether you have areas that still need to be finessed in terms of style, beefed up in terms of specific content, or moved or removed because the material does not work in its current location.

The 3rd Edit—That’s right, 3rd. Once you are sure your content is as near perfect as you can get it, you are ready for the third edit.  This edit should focus on nitty-gritty details.  You may consider this proofreading; and, if you have been successful in your previous edits, this may be the case.  However, if you had to redo content, you may be combining proofreading with the areas outlined in the second edit.  In this third edit, focus on grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, paragraphing, usage, sentence structure, and any of the stylistic requirements your publisher (or university) expects.

Finally, ensure that your reference list and your citations match.  Generally, any work cited must be placed in your reference list and any source given in the reference list must be cited within the main text at least once.  Bibliographies may include works not cited; however, check your university dissertation formatting and style guide to be sure this is allowed.

Works of Fiction

Writing fiction is a bit different from nonfiction, but the basic premises are similar.  You should have some kind of plot outline to guide your story development just as doctoral candidates have the specific chapter outlines to ensure all the content in included in the final paper.  However, you have more freedom to play with your material and let your story spin itself than writers of nonfiction.

Write first; edit later. Just as with nonfiction, you want to get your ideas down before wordsmithing and reorganizing your material.  Unlike nonfiction, you have a myriad of details that you must keep straight as you move through your storyline, from the color of the hero’s eyes to the car used in the bank heist get away.

However, your first priority should be in getting the story roughed out in as much precision as possible.  If you get to the end of a scene and aren’t sure where to go from there but know that later a particular event must occur, jump to that portion of the book and develop it.  If you want to frame your story using a flashback technique but have difficulty creating the transition, consider writing the whole story in chronological order first and then playing with framing to create the tension and tone you desire to keep your reader reading.

Let your characters write their story. You often hear published authors talk about their characters taking on lives of their own.  Even though these authors begin with plot outlines, their characters dictate the action, often changing the original storyline completely.  So think like your characters when you get to a point where your story is not moving forward.  What would John do here?  How would Mary react?  What would happen if Tim and Stephanie divorced?  Moved to another city?  Adopted a child?  Were involved in an accident?

Reread & Evaluate. After you have completed your story, begin rereading to see how the story flows.  Identify what needs to be developed and what needs to be removed.  Examine not only the progression of your story but also the consistency of content and characterization details.

Profile your characters. In terms of characterization, keep a file for each character as you write.  Note the person’s physical and personality characteristics and background information.  If you change someone’s characterization as the story develops, be sure there is a reason for the change (e.g., the outgoing little boy becomes withdrawn because of his father’s disappearance, a divorced woman lies about her age and former experience because she is desperate for a job; the accountant changes his physical appearance to escape the mob).  Otherwise, rewrite to eliminate the inconsistencies.

You will need to keep locations and timelines consistent.  For example, the physical layout of the main character’s apartment must remain the same throughout a story unless part of the storyline is changing its arrangement.  Note in your file, even if you never mention it in the actual story, its complete layout.  Draw it, including doors and windows, furniture placement, colors and décor, east-west orientation.  Then, if you have to have a character exit the apartment because of a fire, you aren’t having him crawl out on to a balcony that did not exist earlier in the book.  Similarly, you won’t have a character seeing the sun rising over the skyline from his bedroom at the beginning of the chapter and then seeing the sun setting in the horizon from the same bedroom later in the book.

Timelines must be realistic.  Draw one for your story, and possibly for each main character, to make sure their comings and goings are doable.  It’s hard for someone to live fulltime in New York in 1963 and fulltime in Florida in 1965 when the character moved to New York in 1963 and lived there for five years.  Either the dates have to change or you have to create a scenario in which this is possible.  Even in the genres of science fiction and fantasy, consistency is important to create and maintain the suspension of belief necessary for readers to stay engaged in these storylines.

Now edit and proofread. Once you complete your story, including elimination of any inconsistencies, you are ready to proofread and edit your work for the technical aspects of writing.  Even during this time, you should be attuned to the flow of the story, especially dialogue.  You should also look carefully at the way you have divided the story into parts, sections, or chapters.  These should reflect not only the appropriate structure for your story (location, time, character) but also the creation of anticipation for the next page in the story:  Do you maintain the momentum of the story?  Does the chapter end with a mini cliff hanger so that the reader wants to know what happens next?  Is the character sufficiently charismatic that the reader will keep reading to see what he or she will do next?  Is the situation plausible enough that the reader will want to continue reading the story? Does the story flow, especially if you use flashbacks or other time devices that disrupt the chronological order of the events in the plot?

If need be, employ an editing service. It’s no secret we often can’t see our own writing’s flaws. Most of the world’s best writers have an editor. At Edit911, our dissertation editing service and book editing service has helped over 23,000 people improve and maximize their writing.


Writing is a process, one that is slightly different for every person.  However, editing your writing too soon may result in abandoning your story or dissertation out of a sense of frustration rather than in completing the finely crafted work you want to create.  Concentrate first on the creative part of the writing process.  Get your ideas down.  Then work on flow, framing, and organization.  Look at the nitty-gritty details of the conventions of writing last.  Doing so will help you fulfill your writing goals.




5 Tips to Expressing Yourself Through Your Dissertation

I really didn’t have a topic for my dissertation as I finished my coursework. I knew that teaching was one of my strengths, but research was not. I had earned my teaching certification as an undergraduate. Then during seminary I found myself gravitating to topics relate to education, human development, and spiritual development, but I just wasn’t sure the direction I should go for my research.


Then it happened—fatherhood! When I found out that we were expecting I began that 9-month process of reading everything my hands could find related to parenting. My life started to take shape as a parent-to-be. Suddenly it clicked. I would research Christian parenting theories and how they impact faith and childhood development. This was perfect for me, bringing together my past studies and experience along with my current life situation. Becoming a parent was the thing that brought focus to my life and to my research.


In doing so I found my voice. I was living this search for the best parenting theory in my personal life and in my research. This topic was almost too personal at times, but it was definitely me, through and through. Life experience had led me to this place. But is this for everyone? If so, how can you express your voice and passion in finding the right topic for your dissertation?


Look at your experience. You will probably find yourself working in your areas of interest long before graduate school. Think of what interests you and turn your attention and studies in that direction. Your experience and interests are part of your passion, who you truly are, and hopefully can become part of your dissertation.


Consider your strengths and weaknesses. You do not want to work on a dissertation that requires skills you do not possess. You may find that you can do so for a small time, but this effort will wear on your passion as well as the rest of you. You can talk with your professors honestly about your strengths and weaknesses and trust their guidance.


Meet others with similar writing, work, and research. Place yourself in similar situations with those who are writing and researching projects that interest you. Ask yourself if you would you be happy examining that topic for months or years. That is the reality of what you will do, so do not pick a topic or scope that is so difficult that you cannot stand to work on it every day.


It’s OK to switch directions. If you are heading down the wrong path, it can be devastating. Putting work, time, and money into research that proves wrong for you and your project is frustrating. Taking stock of your research whether changing scope or completely changing plans is OK. You will not be the first to do it. Better to find your sweet spot early in the process than to do so later.


Find the happy medium between passion and obsession. Be able to distance yourself from your research and disassociate criticisms of your project from your personal feelings. Not being able to do so is setting you up for many difficulties along the way. A healthy passion means that your work inspires you to action and motivates you, but that you can step back and examine your work when needed. Inability to stop and step away from your work will interfere with daily life and should serve as a warning sign to gain perspective.