When you hire a proofreader to work on your thesis or dissertation, you can expect them to make suggestions on changes to layout, consistency in headings, capitalisation and titles, grammar, spelling, word forms and sentence structures, up to a point (past that point being considered plagiarism). But in a few cases, you will find that your proofreader has not worked on your bibliography.
I’ve written this article to explain why I might not have worked on your bibliography. Different proofreaders / editors will go to different extents to work on your content. I tend to have a light touch, because I want to protect myself – and you – from any whisper of a hint of possible wrong-doing. Passing someone else’s work off as your own is the basic definition of plagiarism (whether that’s not referencing a quotation from a source or asking someone to rewrite your text considerably), and unfortunately, some bibliographies need an amount of work which, if done by your proofreader, would constitute them doing work that you should be demonstrating you can do.
PhD theses and Master’s dissertations are not just assessed on their content and novelty. One of the things the student needs to demonstrate is that they are able to create references and a bibliography which has the requisite amount of detail and is consistent in its presentation of that detail. So, if I change too much in your bibliography, it will appear that you understand and have applied knowledge that you actually haven’t done.
We all know that bibliographies are a bit of a pain to get right. But you need to demonstrate that you can get it right, and if I get too much of it right for you, it’s not you that’s done the work at the end of the day.
It can be hard to understand the rules of creating and laying out a bibliography. Of course, it’s the last thing you want to mess about learning at the end of however many years of study and writing up. That’s why I don’t leave my clients stranded – I will tidy up 1-5 pages of the bibliography and provide guidelines on how to make the rest of it consistent, so that it’s your work that shines, and not mine.
I want to protect my clients and myself from any accusation of plagiarism, so if I find I have a very inconsistent set of entries in front of me, and I’m going to need to change something in more than about 1 in 5 entries, I will send the bibliography back to you unedited, with notes explaining why and what you need to do (and now, linking to this article). I don’t do this because I’m running out of time, or I’m lazy, but to make sure that you’re showing your abilities to your examiners in the best light possible, to make sure you get the result at the end of your postgraduate course that you deserve.