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Role and Responsibilities of an Academic Editor

While the University doesn't expect that you will use an editor during your program, if you decide to work with one in either a paid or unpaid capacity, please make sure that you are  clear with that person regarding your expectations of the scope of the edit. Copy editors often make changes within documents to improve flow, grammar, logic, structure, etc., but since you are being assessed on your ability to write, you need an academic editor, not a copy editor. The difference is that an academic editor will note where there are problems within the document, but leave the fixing of the problems up to you. Remember that accepting the changes of an editor and representing them as your own work can leave you open to charges of plagiarism because you're claiming the work of someone else as your own.

Please keep in mind the following section from RRU's Academic Misconduct Policy:

"The extensive use of paid editors and similar assistants may qualify as plagiarism. Learners are encouraged to discuss any such editing plans in advance with their instructor/advisor."

If you work with an editor, make sure that person only indicates where there are problems, rather than fixing the problem or telling you how to fix the error(s). You should also review RRU's policy regarding the use of editors and ensure that your editor is not going beyond these guidelines:

The role and responsibilities of an editor
(Approved by Academic Council on November 10, 2007)

When editing a document for an RRU learner, editors should consider that the learner will be graded upon the quality of his/her writing, which means that the editor should not be a contributor to the document. Rather than correcting errors within the document or suggesting a correction, editors should instead indicate the error, be prepared to direct the learner to more information when appropriate, and leave the actual correction of the error to the learner. Maintaining the authorial separation between author and editor will support the academic integrity of the document and ensure that the author avoids any charges of plagiarism stemming from the use of an editor. For more information regarding RRU's Academic Misconduct Policy, which includes a statement regarding the use of editors, please refer to

The elements checked by an editor may include:

  • Typographical errors

  • End-of-line word divisions and bad breaks (incorrect line or page breaks)

  • Spelling errors

  • Errors in word usage

  • Errors in grammar and syntax

  • Errors and inconsistencies in punctuation

  • Establish and maintain consistent patterns of mechanics (e.g., capitalization)

  • Format of document, text, citations and references according to the appropriate style guide

  • Apparent errors in arithmetic and in other facts within the realm of general knowledge

  • The styling of tables, graphs, and other art, including their labels, captions, and text mentions

  • Conventions such as the use of italics, boldface, and underlines, of metric or imperial measurements, and of abbreviations and symbols, the treatment of technical and trademarked terms, and the choice of spelling and punctuation styles.

  • Ambiguous vocabulary and syntax

  • Redundancies and verbosity

  • Jargon that is inappropriate for the intended audience

  • Connections and transitions, parallels, and paragraphing

  • Consistent style in headings and in captions for tables, figures, and illustrations

  • Statements that should be checked for accuracy, and follow up as required. (The flaws the editor watches for under this standard are not those involving the content of a thesis but, rather, incidental references: e.g., a “billion” dollars becomes a “trillion”; “Montreal is east of Halifax”; “Ontario is the largest of the Great Lakes.”)

  • Inconsistencies in logic, facts, and details, and query

  • Possible legal trouble spots (e.g., libel, plagiarism, missing reprint permissions) or departures from social acceptability (e.g., gender, ethnicity, age, (or other) bias; failure to give sources).

(Source: Editors’ Association of Canada, Toronto Branch GUIDELINES FOR EDITING THESES, April 2005)

If you hire an editor to assist you during your thesis/major project/OCP process, here are a few suggestions to ensure that you have a smooth editing experience:

  • inform your thesis supervisor before hiring an editor

  • you, your supervisor, and your editor should all agree upon the scope of the edit

  • indicate within the appropriate section of your thesis/major project/OCP that an editor was used and provide a description of the scope of the edit