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Graduate Writing Support

The Writing Commons is staffed with professional writing consultants trained to work with graduate students on a variety of academic and professional genres. Many of our professional writing consultants have completed graduate coursework and a master’s thesis or Ph.D. dissertation and can help you at any stage of the writing process. While we cannot provide proofreading services or subject-area expertise, we can share reader-based feedback on your course and conference papers, proposals, theses, dissertations, and fellowship applications. Professional writing consultants are not subject-area experts; however, they can discuss writing strategies and support you in setting goals for long-term projects.

Graduate students working on large projects (e.g. theses, dissertations) are encouraged to make appointments with professional writing consultants in advance through WCOnline. Graduate students are welcome to use walk-in hours for short projects. However, if undergraduates are on the waiting list, we may ask that graduate students reschedule. Please note that undergraduate peer writing consultants are not trained to provide support to graduate-level writers.

Graduate writing consultations may include discussions about:

  • Strategies for managing a large project, including time management, setting short-term and long-term writing goals, and creating writing and revision plans
  • Drafting strategies, such as outlining, prewriting, and freewriting
  • Strategies for writing and organizing literature reviews and effectively incorporating sources, including feedback on formatting in common style guides (e.g. APA, MLA, or Chicago). You may also contact a librarian for citation assistance.
  • Strategies for writing abstracts and proposals
  • Goal-oriented conversations about your writing process, including when and how to ask advisors for feedback and guidance and when and how to share your drafts with a variety of readers.


  • Be familiar with the Master’s Thesis and Dissertation guidelines published by your department. Keep these guidelines accessible so that you and your consultant can refer to them, if necessary. Please note that we do not provide support for formatting theses and dissertations.
  • We encourage you to contact your college librarian for research assistance. The Wallace Center Library has a wealth of resources for graduate students, including sample theses from your department.
  • If your primary concern is grammar and mechanics, we are happy to read a short portion of your thesis focusing on those issues.  Based on our reading of that portion of your theses, we can then recommend strategies for how you can revise and copy edit the rest of your thesis.

Locating a proofreader:

The Writing Commons does not provide copy editing or proofreading services. Rather, writing consultants focus on global concerns (e.g. development of ideas, claims and evidence, structure and organization) and guide writers in a goal-oriented conversation about their writing. During this process, writing consultants will point out particular patterns they see in your writing (e.g. inconsistent verb tenses, punctuation errors, subject/verb agreement) and support you in learning how to correct those mistakes in your current and future drafts. Consultants will not proofread written documents for errors.

Currently, the Writing Commons does not provide copy editing or proofreading services. If you are interested in having your thesis or dissertation edited or proofread for errors before you file with the Wallace Library, you will need to locate an editor and pay for this resource. We recommend that you consider the following before hiring an editor or proofreader:

Recognize that there are differences between copy editing and proofreading
  • Copy editing involves examining your writing to ensure that it is clear, correct, concise, and consistent. A copy editor might adjust your words and sentences, restructure your paragraphs, and potentially delete and rewrite components of your text. Some copy editors will check and standardize grammar, spelling, and punctuation, as well as fact check your claims and references. You can expect noticeable changes in your document once it has been copy edited. Most copy editors will use Microsoft Word’s Track Changes feature, enabling you to accept or reject their edits.
  • Proofreading involves examining your writing to detect and correct errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and verb-tense consistency. A proofreader might also ensure that your text adheres to the technical rules of writing defined by style manuals (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago) and that the visual elements of your text (e.g. tables, images, page numbers, captions) are spaced and formatted consistently and correctly. Proofreaders will not make radical changes to your sentences or words, but they will point out typos in your text. Proofreaders often work with PDF files.
Get support in determining what you need and when you need it
  • It is often difficult to know when your text is ready for copy editing. We recommend that you meet with your advisor to discuss any expectations about the role of a copy editor or proofreader in your writing process. You, your advisor, and your copy editor should all agree about how much rewriting is acceptable from the copy editor.  A Writing Commons professional writing consultant can support you in making a list of patterns they see in your drafts that you can discuss with your advisor at this meeting.
  • Copy editing and proofreading takes time. If you plan to hire a copy editor or proofreader, make sure you leave enough time in your schedule to send and receive feedback and make revisions. We recommend accounting for this time when you develop a writing schedule for your thesis or dissertation. Note: Many editors will not accept “rush” jobs. You should plan for a minimum of a week for an editor to turn around a draft. Theses and dissertations will take even more time.
Locate a copy editor familiar with disciplinary conventions
  • There are hundreds of thousands of people working as copy editors and proofreaders. In order to ensure that you are obtaining correct feedback, it is important that you work with someone that understands the disciplinary conventions of your writing project. For example, a good copy editor should understand the basics of your methodological approach (e.g. qualitative vs. quantitative research) and the conventions around language use in your discipline (e.g. Is it acceptable to use the first person? How is passive voice used?) For disciplines that require a significant amount of technical writing, look for an editor or proofreader that has a technical background.
  • While professional writing consultants working in the Writing Commons are not disciplinary content experts, they can guide you through an analysis of the disciplinary conventions of the relevant literature in your field.

Recommended steps for locating a copy editor or proofreader:

  1. Meet with your advisor and/or a professional writing consultant to discuss whether or not your text may be ready for copy editing or proofreading. Develop a list of specific aspects of your text that need this support based on your advisor and committee’s feedback and your conversations with a professional writing consultant. Have this list ready to share with the editor or proofreader you hire.
  2. Many colleges and universities maintain lists of vetted copy editors and proofreaders for their graduate programs. Sometimes, programs within a university have an online list of copy editors they recommend for specific disciplines. If you are unable to locate a list specific to your discipline, consider contacting graduate offices in your discipline area and ask for recommendations. College and university writing programs and writing centers may also maintain lists of copy editors and proofreaders from various disciplinary backgrounds and levels of technical writing expertise and may have recommendations.
  3. When you contact a copyeditor, ask about their disciplinary background and experience, if it has not already provided online. Find out how much experience they have editing and/or proofreading theses and dissertations. Ask her or him about your specific concerns (i.e. the list you generated and discussed with a professional consultant and your advisor) and timelines for feedback and proofs. Think about this process like a job interview: you may not hire the first copy editor you contact. Give yourself time to locate someone with the background and experience you need.
  4. Once you have selected a copy editor or proofreader, make sure you obtain a signed contract. A contract should outline the scope of the project: what will and, just as important, what will not be done; timeline for the work; whether payment is by the hour or by the page; and what will happen if either the editor of the student does not live up to their end of the contract (i.e. exchanging drafts on an agreed-upon time). Consider visiting to get a sense of what the going rates are.