Friday, May 1, 2015

Freelancers for Hire!

If you read our last blog post, you know that the University Writing Center (UWC) is offering a free summer Dissertation Bootcamp for doctoral students to learn what, exactly, is expected of a dissertation. These sessions demystify the process and product, and, of course, the UWC offers extensive writing help to all NIU students and faculty every semester.

But dissertation and thesis writers still have a huge feat: they must write a lengthy, formal, scholarly work that follows conventions of scholarly style, formatting, and documentation.  Some may not have the time or proclivity to master all the conventions; some may need to focus all available energy on the content of the work. Some may have the added difficulty of being English language learners. For those and other reasons, the Thesis and Dissertation Office maintains a list of Freelance Formatters and Editors who can help with a thesis or dissertation’s grammar, mechanics, and/or layout … for a fee.

If you go to our Thesis and Dissertation webpage, you’ll find a group of links at bottom under “Additional Support.” The first link takes you to our list of Freelance Formatters and Editors. These professionals offer different services with different fee schedules. However, the important thing to remember when considering a freelancer is, like anything else in grad school, to plan ahead.

Carol Abrahamson, who has been working with NIU students for seven years, told a little about the process as she sees it. She says a typical experience starts with students contacting a few freelancers early in the semester prior to their expected graduation semester. Students should round up fee rates (some freelancers charge by the page and some by the hour), contract or payment requirements, and available timetables for completion. Abrahamson advises students to make a decision in that penultimate semester and get on the freelancer’s schedule. Abrahamson blocks out week/s as necessary for a student’s work, and she cautions students to allow enough time, especially if they need extensive editing work.

Editing, for Abrahamson, consists of pointing out errors according to the appropriate style guidelines in terms of “idea flow, typos, grammar, punctuation, academic language, and consistency of expression,” as well as cross-checking citations and reference entries for accuracy, while formatting consists of “altering people’s documents in Word” to meet NIU regulations, again including citation checks for accuracy, and is a much faster activity. Abrahamson cautions that hourly rates cannot be equally assessed without determining an editor or formatter’s pace, and she prefers to work on some pages of text before estimating the project total, as every writing is different. The student pays for her initial work and receives valuable editing and feedback in exchange, even if an agreement isn’t reached.

Carolyn Law often quips that many working graduate students have more money than time. Not everyone’s schedule allows them to master all the editing and formatting rules. As Abrahamson says, “A great many students are surprised there are dozens of APA rules to worry about besides those that apply to reference list entries and citations[, such as] which title words to capitalize; which numbers to write in words and which in digits; when to use a colon, semicolon, and dash; the many prefixes that APA says should not be followed by a hyphen; when to say "that" and when to say "which"; the tense to use when discussing research completed by others …”

If these ideas are making your head spin, check out our freelancer list and make some calls! Otherwise, get the latest edition of the appropriate style guide for your discipline, and definitely read NIU’s Format Guidelines for a thesis or dissertation, posted on our website. Good luck!

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