Your PhD thesis is the culmination of years of coursework and research and it can seem pretty overwhelming. Once you complete a draft, your work is far from over. Editing and proofreading are a significant part of your work on your dissertation, but after drafting your chapters, you might feel like you have no idea where to start editing. 

This is where we come in. We’re going to walk you through the dos and dont’s of editing a dissertation thesis chapter to help the process seem less daunting. If you’re ready to learn about how to edit your PhD thesis, read on. 

Do Walk Away and Take a Break


This might seem counterintuitive. You’re finished with a chapter and now you should walk away? The purpose of taking a break is to clear your head. Don’t just take a 10-minute break either. Take a whole day, maybe more if you can spare them, and then come back with fresh eyes and a cleared mind to begin editing. 


Don’t Edit as You Write 


You might be tempted to go back and edit after every few paragraphs or pages, but try to resist that urge. If you wait until you have an entire draft of a chapter ready, you will make things much easier on yourself.

If you can wait, you can then move entire sections, judge the quality of a paragraph or section in terms of the entire chapter, and have a better idea of the full picture of the chapter rather than just a small section.


Do Create a Plan


Before you start editing, have a plan. Start with one chapter (do not try to edit the entire dissertation at once) and lay out what you are looking for.

When you edit the first draft of your chapter, you should ask yourself questions as you go through it. You want to examine how it might be improved, what you need to add, what might need to be removed, and what might need to be moved to another section.

Set yourself up with a list of questions to ask yourself as you review each chapter. Yours might differ based on your discipline, but here are some general questions you can start with:

Whether it’s the introduction, literature review, results, or discussion and conclusion chapters, you had a purpose when writing them. That purpose should be clear at the beginning of the chapter and you should carry that through the entire chapter. Ask yourself:

  • What is the purpose of this chapter?
  • Did I make that clear? (i.e., is there a clearly stated purpose of the chapter at the beginning?)
  • Does this chapter and the material in it logically follow the previous chapter?
  • Are there places where things don’t fit or seem to come out of nowhere within the chapter?
  • Am I using adequate transitions between paragraphs and sections?
  • Have I used existing research to justify your process and/or explained that your research is the first on the topic?
  • Is the chapter well-organised and easy to read?
  • Have I appropriately used headings and subheadings to help the flow and organisation?
  • Do I have a strong conclusion that isn’t just a summary of the chapter and gives the reader an idea of the content of the next chapter?
  • Does the writing flow from section to section and chapter to chapter?
  • Have I established myself as an academic authority on the subject?
  • Can I make the writing more concise?

These questions are relevant for each chapter of your dissertation.


Your PhD Thesis.
On one page.

Use our free PhD Structure Template to quickly visualise every element of your thesis.

Don’t Proofread During the Editing 


The editing step is focused more on big-picture items, not line edits. Sure, you can fix typos, but don’t worry too much about the small details. The thorough proofreading will come later.

You might even hire a professional proofreader to handle the line-item editing for you once your draft is finished and edited. Otherwise, the proofreading comes when the writing is done and the PhD is nearly complete.



Do Edit in Stages


The logical editing process is to focus on each chapter at a time. After each chapter is finished, you can edit it (after you’ve walked away from it a bit).

You can also choose to focus on one editorial issue at a time. For example, you could first go through to check for structure in one editing session and then check for purpose in another (this way is a bit more complex and you often find yourself focusing on everything in an editing session, so try a few different methods to see what works best for you).




Don’t Edit the Entire Thing at Once


Just like you need to walk away from a chapter and give yourself a break from it before editing, you also need to give yourself a break between editing sessions. The thought of sitting down to edit the entire dissertation, which could be several hundred pages, is probably extremely overwhelming. It’s enough to make someone procrastinate the editing process because it seems like such a daunting task.

Don’t do this to yourself! Instead, set goals. Decide how much you will edit in one day and stick to that. This will help you to manage your time and also make sure your eyes and mind are fresh as you edit. As you get fatigued from so much reading and editing, you’ll start to miss things.

You didn’t sit down to write the entire thing in one sitting, so don’t expect yourself to edit the whole thing in one sitting.


How to Edit a PhD Thesis Effectively


Unless you’ve written a dissertation before, chances are you are stuck on how to edit a PhD thesis chapter. Use these tips to make the editing process more manageable and less overwhelming. It’s a lot of work, but so is the writing process. You want your final draft to be the best it can be.

If you’re still stuck or overwhelmed, let one of our PhD-thesis proofreaders take on the editing process for you. Get in touch today to book your writing check-up.



Hello, Doctor…

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Be able to call yourself Doctor sooner with our five-star rated How to Write A PhD email-course. Learn everything your supervisor should have taught you about planning and completing a PhD.

Now half price. Join hundreds of other students and become a better thesis writer, or your money back.