The Ultimate Guide to Academic Editing

After spending countless hours on research and writing, you want your manuscript to be as perfect as possible. Moreover, you want your study to get accepted on the first submission, so you can proceed with all the other research you plan to do. That’s where academic editing comes in.

You’ve made strides in the academic community, you’re proud of your research, and you’re sure that you’ve backed all your ideas with valid arguments and proof.

The question is: are they clear? Have you expressed your thoughts and conclusions effectively?

Academic editing ensures that your research paper is ready for publication, but it will also help you make sure the thrust of your argument is really driving home in your paper. An academic editor thoroughly evaluates your formatting, spelling, grammar, flow, and structure to ensure that you pass journal-specific standards of high-quality research work. The best academic editing services therefore don’t just help you get published, they also can elevate the quality of your work overall.

So, whether you’re a professional researcher, university student, or academic editor looking for more ways to improve your skills, this article is an ultimate guide for all things related to academic editing.

Definition of Academic Editing

Before anything else, let’s define what academic editing is and how it’s different from general editing.

Academic editing is a specialised service that improves the language and formatting of your work. These professionals are academic editors; they’re both experts in their specific field of research and high-skilled editors. They often cover a wide range of written work that includes college papers, dissertations, professional journals, grant applications, PhD or master theses, presentations, and reviewer comments.

The primary role of an academic editor is to strengthen your ideas and arguments, while removing repetitive data to streamline your output. They understand the idiosyncrasies of academia, have an excellent eye for detail, and have strong language skills to ensure that your work is polished, improved, and ready for publication to a broader audience.

Many researchers tend to focus only on their actual work, which is to conduct research. They may have done excellent research—but they wrote it in an unpolished, grammatically flawed, and repetitive way. Some will only have minor issues, such as misspellings and typos, while others may require a complete rewrite of some sections. But nearly every piece of academic writing has at least a few problems, like confusing sentence structures and improper formatting—and these seemingly-small things can result in your paper getting from academic journals.

That’s why having an academic editor to act as a second set of eyes before you submit your paper for review can be so beneficial. Academic editing services will help you with many aspects of your paper like:

  • Organise and structure ideas in a logical manner
  • Spot any flaws in the document
  • Ensure that the research uses the correct terminology and tone for the subject-matter
  • Check any odd sentences, grammatical mistakes, punctuation errors, and typographical slips
  • Remove any repetitive data, while still keeping all arguments sound and well-supported
  • Confirm that the research follows all journal guidelines on formatting and references

Even the most experienced researchers in academia use academic editors to improve their outputs, safeguard their reputation in the community, and publish well-written works.

Overview of General Editing

Ensuring your paper follows journal guidelines, flows logically, and creates strong arguments are some of the other key tasks that an academic editor will engage in. However, what they do is also part of a broader practice—general editing and proofreading.

Here are the typical steps in an editing process:

  1. Content Editing:

Content editing, also known as developmental or substantive editing, the first step is to revise the early draft of the document by moving, adding, or deleting entire sections.

  1. Line Editing: 

Line editing is the next step after content editing to improve the language used to communicate the content, often by changing words, sentences, and paragraphs to improve the flow of thought. 

  1. Copy Editing: 

After line editing, the editor polishes and corrects the grammar, syntax, and style according to any required formatting. This process is known as copy editing. Editors at this stage typically don’t change the content of the text.

  1. Proofreading: 

Lastly, in the proofreading stage, the editor will do a thorough sweep to check for any remaining errors and slips. Contrary to popular understanding, academic proofreading is its own practice and often considered as a separate discipline from academic editing. 

Also known as verification editing, proofreading focuses on finer details (e.g., Misspelt words, misplaced punctuations, and stylistic inconsistencies), while editing focuses on core factors (e.g., sentence construction and language clarity). In print publishing, proofreading also includes checking things like the page numbers and line spacing.

These steps can be done simultaneously or skipped entirely, depending on the type and length of the text. Even so, every good piece of writing will inevitably go through a similar academic editing and academic proofreading process—whether it’s for a blog article (like this one!) or a formal research paper. 

The Academic Editing Process

While academic editing includes the steps mentioned above, its process may differ depending on the purpose and funding of your research:

  • Self-Funded: If you’re funding your own research, you can work with an academic editor to revise your work as much as you need to. You can either look for an academic editor yourself or use software like Flowcite that has partnered up with Enago—a global leader in editing and publication support services. 
  • Organization-Funded: If a private or government entity funds your research, the sponsor approves who will edit your work and has the last say on how many rounds of revisions there’ll be. Often, universities will have research officers and ethics review boards in charge of your editing process. It’s a “relay process” where your work will go back and forth until it meets their standards and requirements.

Of course, you can still use Flowcite’s editing services before submitting your writing to your formal academic editors, so you cut down the editing process as much as possible. For example, you wouldn’t want to spend a whole year just getting one chapter approved (which happens quite often, unfortunately).

These editing processes may differ, but the goal remains the same. Academic editors polish your work and ensure that it’s publication-ready. No matter who’s funding your research, the goal is to minimise the revisions needed by already hitting all the marks an academic editor will point out.

Key Focus Areas of Academic Editing

Even though you’ll inevitably undergo a formal editing process, you significantly increase your odds of getting approved by submitting work that already considers the critical focus areas of an academic editor.

Here are four key factors to keep in mind when editing your own work:

Style Guide Format

Every reputable journal or university will have a clear formatting requirement that depends on multiple factors. Confirm which style guide format they want you to follow to understand their expectations.

The most common style guide formats are American Psychological Association (APA), Modern Language Association (MLA), and The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS or simply, Chicago). Each of them have specific guidelines that include font choices, page layout, heading format, and reference page format.

Here’s a synopsis of the styles and their corresponding requirements.

    • Formatting an APA Style Paper:
      • Times New Roman (12 pt) or Arial (11 pt)
      • 1-inch page margin on all sides
      • Double line spacing
      • Include a title page
      • Insert a running head on every page (for publication only)
      • Half inch indent for every new paragraph
      • Use APA heading styles
      • Cite sources with APA in-text citation rules
      • Cite the final list of sources on a reference page
  • Formatting an MLA Style Paper:
      • Times New Roman (12 pt)
      • 1-inch page margin on all sides
      • Double line spacing
      • Include a four-line MLA heading on the first page
      • Titles should be centre-aligned
      • Half inch indent for every new paragraph
      • Title case capitalisation for headings
      • Cite sources with MLA in-text citation rules
      • Cite the final list of sources on a Works Cited page
  • Formatting a Chicago Style Paper:
    • Times New Roman (12 pt)
    • 1-inch page margin on all sides
    • Double line spacing
    • Half inch indent for every new paragraph
    • Include a title page
    • Have page numbers in the top right corner or bottom centre
    • Cite sources with author-date citations or footnotes
    • Cite the final sources on a bibliography or reference list

While these lists are not exhaustive, they should cover most of the formatting requirements you need to make. There is no avoiding proper style guide formatting, so keep these guidelines in mind as you edit your work to cut down the changes an academic editor will make.

Spelling and Grammar

Using proper spelling and grammar is also important when writing your paper. Not only is this expected of basically any written document, but an error-free article will help you look more professional and present your ideas in the best light.

Here are ways you can have your paper proofread:

  • Use Grammarly to identify common mistakes such as extra spaces, missing commas, missing hyphens, incorrect subject-verb agreement, incorrect capitalisations, incorrect spelling, and mixed-up possessive and plural forms.
  • Use Microsoft’s built-in tools to check your spelling, writing style, and grammar. Depending on the version of your software, you can turn these features on by clicking “Preferences” then “Spelling & Grammar” to tick both the Spelling and Grammar boxes in the menu.
  • Use Flowcite’s premium proofreading service to correct your sentences efficiently. Flowcite’s expert editors and 400 more from Scribendi will review and correct your work, ensuring your paper is free from any errors. Additionally, you can also use paper review services that report your spelling and grammar mistakes, among many other benefits.
  • Get help from one of your writer friends to proofread your work. Whether or not they are professional researchers, a pair of fresh eyes will always be more helpful than your own.

You can use one or all of these tips to rule out spelling and grammar weaknesses, boosting the credibility and professional appearance of your research.

Flow and Structure

Most people in academia write in less-than-ideal conditions. Whether you’re writing in the middle of a forest (while conducting research, of course) or writing with only an hour of sleep, there will inevitably be writing gaps between one section and another. 

Interrupted writing can tamper with the paper’s structure and flow, so make sure to take the time to read and analyse how each section of your paper goes from one to another.

Here is the general approach academic editors take to check your work:

  • Purpose and Logic: An academic editor will try to understand the purpose of your paper and ask themselves the following questions:
    • Does the introduction provide a good overview and direction for the reader?
    • Does it provide necessary pieces of information to shape the context?
    • Does the body of the paper flesh out the research question, significance, argument, contributions, and findings of the work?
    • Do the research questions and arguments transition smoothly throughout the paper?
    • Does the conclusion answer the question posed in the introduction?
  • Repetition: They will remove unnecessary information that will only confuse or lengthen the research without adding much value. All redundant data will be deleted or asked to be re-written to “trim the fat” and still cover the research scope.
  • Cohesion: An academic editor will also check the transitions between each section, ensuring that there is logical sense to the thoughts presented. They will ask questions such as:
    • Does the discussion flow smoothly?
    • Are there topic sentences for each paragraph?
    • Is the signposting language adequate and appropriate to guide the reader?
  • Clarity and Brevity: Sentence structures will be revised for clarity and conciseness. Run-on sentences will be re-written, ambiguous or vague expressions will be flagged, and all tautologies and empty phrases will be removed.

An academic editor will revise unnecessary jargon to remove complexity and ensure that key terms and concepts are defined when introduced.

In checking your paper’s flow and structure, you can either read your work aloud or have a friend review your writing style. You can even try reading your article starting from the end—preventing any distractions or bias you may have because of root memorisation.

Journal-Specific Requirements

Finally, an academic editor will judge your work based on where you intend to submit the paper. Because of this, you need to read specific journal submission guidelines carefully and ensure that you’ve covered its required layout, content, and style. Not only does this cut down editing time, but it also demonstrates the respect you have for the journal and its editors.

For example, here is a summary of The Lancet’s editorial policies:

This is just one example of requirements that will vary from one journal to another. One strategy you can use is to read a published article of a particular journal that mirrors your methodology. Doing so is an excellent way to grasp what their academic editors expect.

If you want to make things easier, Flowcite ensures that your paper is formatted and peer-reviewed according to the journal you’ve chosen. If you’re unsure which journal to submit to, Flowcite can help you also help identify the most suitable one for your research.

Our team of subject specialists has reviewed manuscripts for prestigious journals across the globe, including Nature and The Lancet. We conduct an extensive review of your work and will check your paper against the necessary journal guidelines. All of these will be presented to you in a detailed report so you can revise your paper according to journal-specific requirements.

Flowcite: The All-in-One Solution with Academic Editing Services

The most significant and impactful research papers have stood up to the scrutiny of the toughest peer reviewers and academic editors. As a result, they’ve gained international recognition not only because of their topic but also because they met strict English language and presentation requirements.

Your study can achieve the same—especially with the help of quality academic editing services

At Flowcite, we take your work to the next level by connecting innovative solutions for collaborative research, writing, and publishing. You’ll have access to the tools you need to handle every aspect of your paper—including academic editing for style guide format, spelling and grammar, flow and structure, and journal-specific requirements:

  • Our AI-driven research tools are integrated into our text editors and plugins for writing proficiency.
  • Optimise your paper with our professional proofreading and editing services from subject experts.
  • Use our reference and citation manager to search, save, and organise references in the correct format to produce quality work.
  • Our all-in-one service is made even more powerful with our academic editing and proofreading services, provided through our partnerships with Enago and Scribendi.

With Flowcite, you can save countless hours editing your work. Your study will be ready for review and submission without the hassle of dealing with meticulous academic editors.

Optimise your research process today! Sign up for Flowcite to get access to all our features.

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