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Student at risk of plagiarism 2: What do you do when the editor risks changing too much of the text?

text with tracked changesPlagiarism involves passing someone else’s work off as your own. There are two kinds of plagiarism: there’s plagiarism done by the student when they don’t reference or credit a quotation or theory and are therefore effectively using someone else’s work without credit (which I’ve written about here). The second kind of plagiarism, which we’re talking about here, is where an editor has done so much work on a student text that they’re almost a second author, and the student is then at risk of passing the editor’s work off as their own.

I have written this series of articles for editors who are working with documents produced by students: an essay, thesis, dissertation or article, for example.

Let’s have a look at the levels of change an editor might make when working with student materials and how to tell when the editor is at risk of plagiarism from the level of work they’re doing on the text.

Usually when working on student essays, dissertations and theses, I will come across issues with the language and writing:

  • Uses capitals and hyphens inconsistently
  • Uses British and American spellings (or British s and (Oxford) z spellings) inconsistently
  • Uses inverted commas for quotations and scare quotes inconsistently
  • Uses the wrong tenses
  • Uses the wrong agreements (he have, they has)
  • Includes typos (form/from)
  • Has a sentence structure which is confused BUT I can tell they understand what they’re writing about and have made a good attempt to write that in English (English is not the first language of most of my student clients)

There’s an accompanying issue with the reference list or bibliography, so a minor issue would be:

  • Some mistakes and inconsistencies in the bibliography, where I’m not changing more than about one in ten entries in a major way (turning book titles into italics, etc.) or one in five in a minor way (full stops after initials, making spacing of initials consistent)

In these cases I will (with Track Changes turned on, of course!) and make it all consistent and amend the tense, agreement, typo or sentence.

And, if I find

  • A theory or term which is not explained
  • A sentence which can be taken in one of two ways, and it’s not clear what it means
  • A sentence or paragraph which is jumbled or confused and I can’t make it out

I will leave the sentence and add a comment explaining that the term needs to be explained, what the ambiguous sentence could mean or that I can’t understand it and the student needs to rewrite it.

And if there’s

  • A reference that’s missing publisher or place, journal volume, etc. information

I will add a note that the student needs to check and add the relevant information

It’s probably worth mentioning here that I offer to re-check up to 10% of the total word count after rewrites; this feels fair to my student clients and I’ve never had anyone ask me to re-check anything like that amount of text.

But what if it’s more major changes and the resulting risk of plagiarism?

More major issues would include

  • Confused use of terms which clearly show a lack of understanding of the subject (this sounds nebulous but jumps out in real-life examples, none of which I can obviously show you!)
  • Garbled results which don’t make sense
  • Many sentences which aren’t at all clear or, if I can guess the meaning, would need a complete rewrite to make them at all clear – and I start having to do that
  • A completely chaotic bibliography with no attempt to make it consistent or match it to the style guide which needs work on almost every entry

If any (or all) of these are present in the text, and I’m making a lot of comments on the text, plus a lot of the changes in the above sections, I will get to a certain point (usually 1,000-2,000 words in), have a look at what I’ve done, and make a judgement as to whether I’m risking changing too much.

It’s all done in Tracked Changes so surely I’m not writing it for them!

Yes, we do everything in Tracked Changes as standard, and I have standard text which asks the client to examine all changes and decide if they accept or reject them. However, there is an “Accept All Changes” button and with the best editor will in the world, some students will just press that. How much of the work then is theirs?

What do I do if I find I’m doing too much on a text?

I want to highlight here that this is often not the student’s intentional fault. This applies to referencing, too, and it’s often to do with the learning they’ve received in their home country, the pressures of having to write in their non-first language, and pressures from home around getting this UK or US degree and bringing that knowledge home. But I believe we have a duty to help the student not plagiarise. In the case of referencing, this will get caught by software used by the universities such as TurnItIn. In the case of our work, it might not be so detectable, although a supervisor presented with perfect English by a student who struggles to write in English may be suspicious. We want to help our clients and make sure they don’t get accused of something they didn’t intend to do.

Sending feedback to the student and their supervisor

It’s at this point that my articles on the two kinds of plagiarism coincide. if you’re following along with this series in real time, I’ve already written about what to feed back to the student and their supervisor and how to do it, so as to avoid making you wait for the punchline by doing it the other way round.

So to find out my good practice in contacting students and their supervisors over the risk of plagiarism, please see this article.

Related posts on this blog:

Student at risk of plagiarism 1: What do you do when a text isn’t referenced properly?

Student at risk of plagiarism 3: Sending feedback to your student client and their supervisor

Plagiarism in business texts

On plagiarism

How to quote sources without plagiarising

Referencing for academic writing

Choosing a proofreader – student edition

My terms and conditions

Why has my proofreader not edited my bibliography?

On (not) crossing the line

 

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Student at risk of plagiarism 1: What to do when the student hasn’t referenced their text correctly

text with tracked changesPlagiarism is the act of passing someone else’s work off as your own. There are two kinds of plagiarism in student work: one is plagiarism done directly by a student, where they fail to reference or credit a quotation or theory and are effectively using someone else’s work without credit. The second kind of plagiarism is where an editor has done so much work on a student text that they’re almost a second author, and the student is then at risk of passing the editor’s work off as their own.

This article is written for editors who are working with student texts, whether that’s essays, dissertations, theses or articles for publication.

Let’s have a look at the levels of risk of plagiarism and an example of good practice when working with student materials when the editor is at risk of plagiarism from the level of work they’re doing on the text.

Often when working on student essays, dissertations and theses, I will come across a small example of a risk of plagiarism. This could include

  • A statement such as “researchers have found that” before an assertion, without a reference to who has found this information
  • A reference not being included after a quotation, where most of the quotations are referenced correctly
  • What is clearly a direct quotation which has not been placed in inverted commas, even if it’s got a reference after it, but this is an anomaly in an otherwise well-referenced document
  • What is clearly a direct quotation which has not been placed in inverted commas AND it hasn’t got a reference after it, but this is an anomaly in an otherwise well-referenced document

I count these as minor infringements and I will just mark these up with a comment asking the student to provide the reference, add inverted commas or rewrite the sentences in their own words.

I should mention here that I offer to re-check up to 10% of the total word count after rewrites; this feels fair to my student clients and I’ve never had anyone ask me to re-check as much as that: if it happens, it’s usually about 1%.

Red flags in referencing

Unfortunately, I do come across student texts (and this is not limited to students: have encountered web text and even books lifted from other sources without reference) where the following occurs:

  • What is clearly a direct quotation which has not been placed in inverted commas, even if it’s got a reference after it, happening multiple times
  • What is clearly a direct quotation which has not been placed in inverted commas AND it hasn’t got a reference after it, and this is happening multiple times, even pages and pages worth of direct quotations from other sources
  • A section in a different colour or font where no attempt has been made to hide this has come from elsewhere
  • A section where the client has either added a comment or put it in a particular colour and asked me to rewrite what is clearly a direct quote from elsewhere (this is thankfully rare)

How do I tell when something’s a direct quote that the student hasn’t either referenced or written themselves?

  • The standard of English changes, sometimes subtly, sometimes very obviously
  • The type of English changes (US to UK, s to z spellings, and vice versa)
  • Referencing within that section is markedly different to that within the student’s own work
  • It’s in a different colour or font

How do I check if text is not written by the student?

Google is my friend here? I take a sentence, pop it in Google and see where it came from. My suspicion that it’s someone else’s text are usually correct.

Sending feedback to the student and their supervisor

I try to be kind here. The student may be under a lot of pressure, or may not have understood how to do referencing. I will guide them to ask their supervisor or any support they have in the department or their university library.

It’s at this point that my articles on the two kinds of plagiarism coincide. if you’re following along with this series in real time, I’ve already written about what to feed back to the student and their supervisor and how to do it, so as to avoid making you wait for the punchline by doing it the other way round.

So to find out my good practice in contacting students and their supervisors over the risk of plagiarism, please see this article.

Related posts on this blog:

Student at risk of plagiarism 2: What do you do when the editor is at risk of changing too much?

Student at risk of plagiarism 3: Sending feedback to your student client and their supervisor

Plagiarism in business texts

On plagiarism

How to quote sources without plagiarising

Referencing for academic writing

Choosing a proofreader – student edition

My terms and conditions

Why has my proofreader not edited my bibliography?

On (not) crossing the line

 

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Student at risk of plagiarism 3: Giving feedback to your student client and their supervisor

text with tracked changesWhat do you do when you detect a risk of plagiarism in a student text and you need to give feedback to the student and possibly their supervisor? How do you stop a student feeling accused? How do you get confirmation from the supervisor that what you’re doing is acceptable by their institution?

In this post for editors working with student texts, I share the good practice I’ve developed over my ten years in operation when dealing with the two kinds of plagiarism I encounter in student work:

  • Plagiarism conducted directly by a student who does not reference or credit quotations, results and theories (therefore passing other people’s work off as their own)
  • Plagiarism that arises when you as the editor are doing far too many corrections and effectively risking co-writing the text (therefore risking the student passing your work off as their own)

I will write about these two risks of plagiarism in two further articles which I will link to here when they’re published. I’m publishing this one first to avoid leaving readers who are reading along dangling, as this article covers both types of plagiarism and is referenced at the ends of both articles as the end point of their processes.

What do I do if I encounter or risk enabling plagiarism?

Once I’ve realised a text is at risk of plagiarism (and in my experience, both kinds often come together in a text), I will follow these levels of action/escalation:

  1. Stop working on the text*
  2. Contact the student client immediately
    1. Explain what the problem is
    2. Offer solutions the client can use (go through the text, find where you’re missing references or need to show direct quotes/reference and insert those, etc.)
  3. The student client will get back to me with one of two answers
    1. “I will amend the text and send it back to you”. If that happens, great, and if they’ve done it correctly, I carry on working on the text
    2. “It’s OK, just rewrite the direct quotes”/”Just make the changes to my sentences, my tutor says it’s OK”. If that happens, I go to step 4
  4. It’s time to stop the work or ask for contact from the supervisor:
    1. If 3. i has occurred, I reiterate that the student must write direct quotes in their own words and I can’t do that for them. If an impasse is reached, I state I cannot work on the text any more and invoice the student client.**
    2. If 3. ii has occurred, I ask the student to provide me with evidence that their supervisor has approved the level of work I need to do on the text
      1. I send the student the text that I have amended so far, asking them to present that to their supervisor (I might in an extreme case save this as a PDF to prevent them accepting all changes and then just going and using someone else for the next part)
      2. I ask for either a letter from the tutor on headed paper OR a direct email from the supervisor instructing me to do this work. I leave this up to the student to do. This helps them not feel I’m reporting on them (as I say in Part 2, this is often down to stress, pressure or lack of understanding rather than explicit wrongdoing) and it saves me having to try to contact the supervisor myself.
  5. Depending on what I hear from the supervisor, conclude the work relationship or continue working:
    1. If I hear back from the supervisor in the negative, I stop work, invoice the client and keep the letter from the supervisor for a period of time
    2. If I hear back that I can continue, I continue with the work, present it to the client and save the tutor’s letter with the work files

* I have a statement in my terms and conditions that I will invoice for any work done before I detect plagiarism. I charge by the word, so I check the word count and invoice based on that.

** I will always suggest to the student that they contact their student support services, often attached to their department or library, who can give help with language issues and referencing procedures. I see my role as helping, not blaming or punishing the student for their mistake.

This article has outlined what I do to provide feedback to the student client and their supervisor when I encounter plagiarism in student work. My resources this website about plagiarism are listed below. Do comment if you use another good method or have used this one with success.

Related posts on this blog:

Student at risk of plagiarism 1: When the referencing is missing

Student at risk of plagiarism 2: When the editor is at risk of doing too much

Plagiarism in business texts

On plagiarism

How to quote sources without plagiarising

Referencing for academic writing

Choosing a proofreader – student edition

My terms and conditions

Why has my proofreader not edited my bibliography?

On (not) crossing the line

 

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I want to publish my book but I’m confused! Do I need an editor, a line editor or a proofreader?

a hand writing in a bookI was recently writing back to a prospective client who had got very confused about the different types of editing and proofreading and the process needed for publishing their book. I sent them some resources from this blog and thought it might be useful to share those here, too.

So, here are some articles I’ve written about the different kinds of editing, the process of editing and proofreading (and where your beta readers fit in to that process) and how to make sure your editor and proofreader are, ahem, on the same page. At the bottom are two articles I’ve written about how to deal with an editor – that can feel like an alarming process in itself, so hopefully I’ll reassure you there!

This one talks about the different kinds of editing and proofreading (it’s biased towards fiction but also works for non-fiction):

https://libroediting.com/2014/05/22/do-i-need-editing-or-proofreading/

This one sets out the processes you go through and their order:

https://libroediting.com/2016/10/19/what-questions-should-i-ask-my-beta-readers/

It’s certainly best to have different people do the edit and final proofread, as it’s not great to have the same eyes going over and over a text (that’s why we can’t proofread our own work!). If you use two people for these stages, make sure your editor provides you with a style sheet to pass on to your proofreader – more on style sheets here:

https://libroediting.com/2016/01/14/what-is-a-style-sheet-for-people-using-editors/

And when you’re ready to talk to an editor (or proofreader), here are two articles explaining that side of the process, so you and your prospective editor can experience a smooth process and happy negotiation:

How to request a quotation from an editor:

https://libroediting.com/2016/11/30/working-with-an-editor-1-how-do-i-request-a-quote-from-an-editor-or-proofreader/

Ideas on negotiating and booking in your project:

https://libroediting.com/2016/12/07/working-with-an-editor-2-how-do-i-negotiate-with-an-editor-or-proofreader-and-book-my-project-in/

I hope you’ve found this very quick guide to dealing with the complexities of getting your book edited and proofread, and how to deal with contacting an editor, useful. If you have, please share this article using the buttons below, or leave me a comment. Thank you!
 
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Posted by on June 27, 2018 in Copyediting, proofreading, Writing

 

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What’s an acceptable error rate for an editor?

I have found this article from the marvellous industry journal copyediting.com considering acceptable error rates for editors extremely useful for sharing with clients and setting expectations. Although editors/proofreaders do tend to be perfectionists, we are human, and it’s good for us and our clients to remember this.

If a piece is full of errors, even a 99% accurate editor will leave some errors behind.

Read Adrienne Montgomerie’s article, “Error Rates in Copyediting” here.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2018 in Copyediting, proofreading

 

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What do I actually do? What do you actually do? Who does an editor or transcriber work for?

Taking a well-earned coffee break this week, my friend Jen challenged me to draw a Venn Diagram of what I actually do, for whom. I accepted the challenge.

Libroediting services venn diagram

Especially if you have a portfolio business, where you offer more than one service, can you draw out your customer base and services? How many attempts do you have to make (four for me!)? Can you see any patterns?

 

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Working with an editor 2: How do I negotiate with an editor or proofreader and book my project in? #amwriting

Working with an editor 2: How do I negotiate with an editor or proofreader and book my project in? #amwriting

This article follows on from Working with an editor 1: How do I request a quote?, where I explained what an editor needs from a prospective client in order to give them a price and turnaround quotation. Now we’re going to look at where you go from there – what will the editor/proofreader send you, is it OK to ask for a sample edit, and how to proceed with negotiating and then – hopefully – booking an editor.

What does a quote from an editor include?

Your editor will usually quote you a price and a turnaround time. I work in a price per 1,000 words (different people do different things: I like my clients to know up front how much they’re going to pay) and will tell the prospect how much time I’ll take to do their work and when I can slot it into my schedule. So I might say something like “I can take on this project for £7.50 per 1,000 words, I’ll need 2 weeks to do the work and I would be able to start it on 1 May”.

Be assured that a good editor will have thought very carefully about the pricing before they send it to you. I try to be as fair as I can to myself and the author, basing my price on the amount of work that the edit will involve. This is why most editors and proofreaders will offer a “from” price on their website if they have a price at all, as that’s a guide to the least it will cost (for something involving a very minimal amount of editing). Some editors offer discounts for students or self-publishers, so make sure you’ve explained if you’re one of those categories.

How to negotiate with an editor

In my opinion, the negotiations should be about dates and turnaround times, and about what you want your editor to do, not about price. I don’t offer a high price so that I can be beaten down to my “real” price, and I don’t know anyone who does.

The price an editor offers you reflects …

  1. Their experience and training
  2. Their knowledge of your subject area or genre
  3. Their knowledge of English grammar, sentence structure
  4. Their ability to help you to express yourself in the best way possible, while retaining your unique voice and writing style
  5. Their knowledge of standard style sheets
  6. Their ability to match the style sheets of publishers, journals, etc.

But within the negotiation, it’s fine to, for example, ask for a sample edit, or ask if the work can be done in a shorter time period (this may involve an urgent fee but your editor will explain that).

Regarding time slots, it comes as a surprise to some people to discover that their editor / proofreader has other clients on the go. We have to keep booking in clients and rebooking regulars in order to have a constant stream of work and, basically, a continuous income. So if your editor really can’t start working with you until the week after next, there will be a good reason for that and they may not be able to move that commitment. However, do give them a chance and ask, just in case.

Is it OK to ask for a sample edit?

Some people are nervous about asking for a sample edit but most editors are happy to provide one. We usually limit it to about 1,000 words, which should show up any major issues that are going to come up in the job as a whole. I use Tracked Changes in word or marked-up PDF as appropriate, and I also send back a skeleton style sheet detailing the decisions I’ve made so far, so you can see how I work.

It’s a good idea to send your sample text from the middle of the work in question. You will typically have gone over and over the start of your manuscript, but not paid so much attention to later sections. A section from the middle will offer a truer representation of the level of editing needed.

Asking for quotations from more than one editor

It’s of course fine to do this, and good practice, as I would do when engaging a plumber. There are some other elements of good practice here, though:

  • It’s polite to let an editor know you have asked other people for quotes and may need time to make your decision
  • It’s not polite to play editors off against each other. Editing is quite a small world, and if you claim to Editor A that Editor B has offered a very low price, well, they might just know each other and check … Be honest and fair as you expect others to be fair to you
  • Let the editors know when you are going to make your choice
  • Let the unsuccessful editors know the result, as well as the successful one

This last point is really important. If I’m negotiating with a client on a job, I’ll be holding open a slot for that job for the time frame we’ve been discussing. It’s only fair to let me know if you don’t want to book my services, so I can accept another job in its place.

Choosing an editor or proofreader is a whole topic in itself. You need to feel comfortable with them and they need to work in your subject area or genre. You might think I’m great, but however lovely I am, I’m just not going to be able to edit your horror novel! It’s fine to look at references (a good editor will have references or testimonials on their website) and to discuss how they would approach your book. It needs to be a good fit from both sides. If I don’t think I’m a good fit for you, I will usually be able to recommend on someone who will be more useful, but an editor’s ability to do this does rely on the networks they’re in.

Booking in your editing or proofreading project

So, you’ve chosen your editor, you’ve told the ones you don’t want to use that you have no need of their services. Now you’ve got a slot and a price that you’ve accepted. These are the next stages:

  1. Signing a contract or accepting terms and conditions in writing – I ask people to do the latter, but will create a formal contract if one or other of us thinks it’s necessary. Make sure you read all the terms and conditions carefully and ask about any you’re not sure of.
  2. Maybe paying a deposit in advance if your editor requires it.
  3. Submitting your work.

Now, most editors and proofreaders understand that the date you think you’re going to have your work completed isn’t always the date you’ll have it completed. Even if you think you’re ready, something might come up. If you’re using the booking to force yourself to finish the job (and there’s nothing wrong with doing that in principle!) then something might come up.

The golden rule for me is: it’s fine if you get delayed, as long as you let me know.

If you’ve booked to send your work to your editor next Monday and it’s Friday and you’ve not finished, then let them know. Preferably let them know before that, so they can book another job into the space. Let them know when you think you’ll be ready, and update them. As I mentioned above, most editors have more than one job going on at the same time, so it should be possible for your editor to shuffle work around to leave your slot open in a week’s time, say. However, if you don’t let them know and don’t keep them informed, then suddenly expect them to edit 100,000 words for you with no notice and a month late, they simply might not have the time in their schedule to do that!

Don’t miss your slot: if you get delayed, let your editor know as soon as you can.

Negotiating and booking in with an editor or proofreader

This article has given you, the author or writer, some hints on negotiating with editors and getting your job booked in with them. Everyone works slightly differently, so I’ve tried to keep this as general as possible, and based it on my own practices.

If you’ve found this article useful, do please comment and share using the buttons below! Thank you!

Other useful articles on this website

Working with an editor 1: How do I request a quote?

Do I need editing or proofreading?

Working with Tracked Changes

What is a style sheet?

On completion of your edit, will my manuscript be ready for publication?

 

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2016 in Copyediting, Ebooks, proofreading, Writing

 

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