Do you need a PhD to be an academic editor? (Guest blog by Dr Lisa Lines, Capstone Editing)


A popular throwaway posits, ‘if you’re good with words, consider becoming an editor’. Seventeen years’ experience in the editing industry—as a freelancer, in-house editor and now director and head editor of my own editing company—has not disproved this assertion, but instead asked that it perhaps qualify itself. Being ‘good with words’ is not, strictly speaking, quantifiable. Moreover, the title ‘editor’ can apply to a myriad of roles across every industry. Editors of the output of academia carry the necessary qualifier of ‘academic’—an academic editor must be both a highly skilled academic and highly trained and experienced professional editor, possessing the skillset and experience necessary to engage in a specialised form of editing for academics, students and universities. The element of ‘highly skilled academic’ begs the question, especially in regards to editing PhD theses, do you need a PhD to be an academic editor?

What is a PhD?

‘PhD’ is shorthand for ‘Doctor of Philosophy’, an advanced postgraduate degree entailing three or more years of independent research (supervised by one or more expert academics) resulting in a thesis offering a ‘significant original contribution to human knowledge’. A PhD is a deeply (and intentionally) immersive and transformational experience that not only requires development of independent scholarly research skills, but also skills in teaching and written and oral communication, and engagement with the publishing process.

What is an academic editor?

An academic editor is a specialised editor for academic proofreading (including PhD theses). Two elements are present: 1) an academic editor is a professional editor, 2) an academic editor has experience in academia. The first element entails training and experience in the field of editing, usually gained through tertiary education and on-the-job training (editing is a skill that cannot be self-taught and where you undertake training is important) and, ideally, accreditation through a governing body (such as IPEd in Australia or SfEP in the United Kingdom). The second entails experience in and with academia to the point of familiarity that enables a professional editor to be an academic editor. Is a PhD required for either of these elements? Strictly speaking, no.

An academic editor (especially one who edits PhD theses) should have a PhD, but this qualification is not the key component to be an academic editor. Often, you will see academic editors who do not have a PhD, but who have received professional training from people who do, and some editors possess skills and experience sufficient to preclude the need for a PhD. Completing a PhD gives you an in-depth firsthand experience of what a PhD thesis is, what it should be, its structure and what it needs to be to be complete. But, your PhD experience is with one thesis—your thesis—and does not render you able to professionally edit a thesis (yours or someone else’s). A PhD in Mathematics does not qualify someone to edit a PhD in Psychology—an individual with the former has undertaken the academic experience of a PhD, but they do not possess the education in editing (qualification- or experience-wise), much less academic editing, to undertake a professional edit of a PhD thesis in the way an academic editor does.

Likewise, editing experience must be relevant; experience in editing magazines, fiction or cookbooks does not give you the skillset of an academic editor—being a professional editor does not make you an academic editor. To be an academic editor you need to have formal training and education in editing and have had significant experience (really, immersion) in the academic process. For the latter, a PhD is ideal but not essential. A PhD is hugely beneficial for an academic editor, but a PhD alone does not qualify someone as a professional editor, much less an academic editor.

Dr Lisa Lines is an academic editor and owner of Capstone Editing. Visit her website and her Find a Proofreader listing for more information on her services.

23/02/2018 |

Proofreaders beware: the overpayment scam is still out there


Computer keybords scamsWe wrote an article in 2013 about an email scam that was doing the rounds at the time. It was targeting proofreaders, although apparently the general idea for the scam had been around for a while before that and has previously preyed upon other types of freelancers, too. You can read our previous article here.

Worryingly, I have now been informed by one of our advertisers (who would prefer to remain anonymous, so I’ll refer to her as ‘Nicola’) that she has been targeted by the same malicious trick TWICE in the past few weeks.

I should point out that the scammer(s) contacted Nicola by email rather than via her Find a Proofreader profile, so we don’t know whether they found her via our directory or some other channel. The important issue is that any proofreader with any form of web presence is vulnerable, so if you’re not already familiar with the overpayment scam, you need to read on!

Nicola was targeted twice in a fortnight, and probably by the same person (one claiming to be a female and the second a male, with different email addresses and different home countries). The first sent her a document and said “she” would post a cheque in advance, but as Nicola didn’t have time to take the job on, she recommended her friend, another proofreader based in the same area.

The scammer then wrote to Nicola’s friend, saying she had accidentally sent a cheque for €2,000 rather than the €200 quoted, and requested the return of the balance into her bank account. Her friend was suspicious at this point and checked the piece (which she hadn’t actually worked on at the time), and it turned out to be taken directly from the UNICEF website. She replied to the scammer with a link to the piece and that was the end of it. Not surprisingly, the cheque never arrived!

Nicola had a similar experience last week, but unfortunately she spent four hours on the job before realising that there was something funny about the four documents, on management: they were all in different styles. Nicola googled the pieces and discovered that, again, they all came from the web. She then went back to her original email from the scammer and saw that he had asked for her phone number and postal address so that he could send Nicola a cheque in advance.

The fact that this proofreader was targeted twice in a matter of weeks suggests that the scam is rife once again, and I sincerely hope that none of our other advertisers have been affected by it. The crime relies on the spammer sending the proofreader a cheque, so probably the simplest solution is to not accept cheque payments at all – or if you do, don’t commence the proofreading until you know that the customer is legit. If they send a cheque for more money than intended, you know it’s a scam!

Please reply with a comment below if you have been affected by this issue, or if you have any information that you think we need to add.

23/03/2016 |

Three Ways Online Invoicing Software Can Save Freelancers Time


Online accountingAs a freelancer, you know better than most that time really is money. So wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to spend less time chasing payments, doing admin, or talking to your accountant, and more time concentrating on your work? Well, funnily enough, if you use online invoicing software, there is!

Before getting started, I should add a QUICK DISCLAIMER: I’m the marketing manager at Zervant, providers of online invoicing software to over 70,000 freelancers, contractors and small businesses. So of course, I can’t say that I’m 100% impartial (but I have tried to include as many objective facts and figures as possible!). So why not take five minutes to read this post and see what potential time-saving benefits invoicing software has for you?

Invoicing Software – Save Up to Seven Hours a Week

One of the first things you do when you complete a job is to invoice your customer. And the quicker you do this, the quicker you get paid. The most common method is to use a ready-made Excel invoice template. You fill in the details, print it out, send it. There’s nothing wrong with this method, it certainly gets the job done.

But it is rather inefficient.

You need to enter each and every customer’s details manually in the template. Then you need to put it in an envelope and send it, via snail mail or email attachment. It might not sound like a lot of work, but research shows all the combined paperwork that comes with working for yourself can take up to 20 hours out of your working week! Not to mention that the whole thing is also rather boring…

Which is where reason number 1 comes in. With online invoicing software, you can create an invoice at the click of a button. A couple more clicks to add your customer and your product (all of the details of which are securely stored in your account), and the whole thing can be sat on your customer’s desk in under 30 seconds.

In fact, such is the difference that in a recent survey of small businesses we found that those using online invoicing and accounting software saved up to seven hours a week!

Time Is MoneyReason number 2 is to do with the perennial bugbear of late payment. The financial implications are clear enough, but it also wastes an incredible amount of your time. Because even if you do manage to get an invoice to your customer without a hiccup, if it doesn’t get paid you’ll need to make phone calls, send email reminders and constantly check your accounts for the payment. This, on average, takes almost 130 hours a year.

But you can claim a lot of this time back with online invoicing software. When you log in to your account you can instantly see what invoices are paid, and which ones are overdue. For late payments, it’s quick and easy to send reminders. And when you mark an invoice as paid, the money will automatically be booked in your accounts.

Last, but by no means least, is time-saving reason number 3 – the accessibility of online invoicing software. Indeed, because it’s a cloud computing solution – much like Gmail, Facebook or LinkedIn – you can use it anywhere, at any time. All you need is an internet connection and you’re good to go. You’ll be able to run your business from anywhere, be it at home, at work, or on the go. So a long train journey or a cancelled appointment far from home can quickly be turned into valuable working time.

Online invoicing software is also a lot safer than only using your desktop. All your important business records and information are stored remotely. So you won’t ever have to spend time trying to recover data (which, unfortunately, might happen if you lose or break your computer). Google’s analogy for this is the difference between storing precious family jewels in a bank vault (the cloud), or in a sock stashed under a mattress in your bedroom (your desktop).

I hope that these three reasons have given you an overview of how online invoicing software can help freelancers save time. But, as with most other things in life, the best thing to do is really to see for yourself. And you can do this with a free 30-day Zervant trial.

John Hills ZervantJohn Hills is the marketing manager for Zervant, a UK-based online invoicing solution for freelancers. Check out Zervant’s website here:

06/01/2016 |
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