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Academic editors can save time and reduce stress for researchers

Academic editing

Academic editors can save time and stress for writers of academic material, both research students and academics, at all stages of an academic project. Editors can help ensure a smooth transition from research to publication by working with authors to improve language and expression.

Academic editors work on a range of documents, including, but not limited to:

  • theses
  • academic articles
  • books and book chapters
  • conference papers and academic conference-related material
  • journals
  • reports
  • working papers
  • academic job and promotion applications
  • policy recommendations
  • proposals
  • grant applications
  • survey, interview and data collection materials

An academic editor’s work includes:

  • identifying and correcting errors and problems, including in spelling, grammar, terminology and punctuation
  • suggesting changes to improve the flow, concision and/or presentation
  • ensuring clarity of expression, correct idiom and appropriate tone
  • helping with formatting and layout to meet department, journal or grant application instructions
  • translating technical language to more general language when needed
  • advising on argument and structure (although not usually for theses, which must adhere to the Guidelines)
  • creating style sheets and templates
  • editing, formatting and converting references to required styles.

IPEd members can find further resources on academic editing via the member-only portal.

Guidelines for editing research theses

Guidelines for editing research theses outlines the nature and extent of services that professional editors may ethically provide when editing students’ theses and the responsibilities of editors, students and supervisors relevant to editing. The Guidelines applies to all forms of research theses, including an exegesis that may accompany a creative work submitted for examination.

This 2019 edition of the Guidelines has been consolidated and updated after a critical analysis of the previous version by the IPEd Standing Committee on Academic Editing (SCAE), particularly the Guidelines Pod, during 2018.

The revised Guidelines has been approved by the IPEd Board and endorsed by the Australian Council of Graduate Research (collaborator on earlier versions, 2001 and 2010).

The revised Guidelines now comprise one document, which replaces the four documents (webpages) that made up the earlier version:

  • Guidelines for editing research theses
  • Editing academic theses (for editors)
  • Engaging a professional editor for your thesis (for research students)
  • When your student wishes to engage an editor (for supervisors).

Download the Guidelines [PDF 156KB].

Indicative costs of academic editing

Range of indicative costs for academic editing (excluding GST)

IPEd’s Standing Committee on Academic Editing has developed indicative costs for editing common types of academic work. The table and the notes provide a range of costs to guide potential clients on budgeting.

Type of academic work Copy editing
(Excluding GST*)
Journal article, conference paper or book chapter (including references)
4000 words $350–$450
8000 words $500–$700
20,000 words $900–$1300
Thesis by publication with 3 main chapters of 10,000 words each – approx. total 40,000 words $1400–$1800
Thesis – approx. 60,000 words $2000–$2800
Thesis – approx. 100,000 words $3500–$4500
Grant application or research proposal
Approx. 7000 to 8000 words, such as Australian Research Council or National Health and Medical Research Council $700–$900

Updated March 2024.

*Costs are in $A. Australian editors registered for GST are required to charge 10% GST.

Notes on indicative costs

  • Because many factors can affect the time and cost of editing academic work, there is no set price for editing a thesis or per page or per 1000 words. Editors set their own prices based on the work required. Clients should provide the work to be edited to editors so editors can provide a quote or guide on the cost.
  • Academic work, including theses, can vary greatly in the total length and the editing work required. IPEd’s Guidelines for editing research theses [PDF156 KB] notes that ‘the cost of editing a thesis depends on a range of factors that affect the time needed for editing, including the quality of the writing and the length, complexity and presentation of the thesis’.
  • Many factors may affect the time and cost of editing academic work:
      • length of the work in words and pages
      • editing and proofreading services required, reflecting the English and software skills of the author
      • formatting required such as applying styles and generating a table of contents and lists of tables and figures
      • number of iterations of editing and proofreading required
      • number of tables and figures and the editing or formatting required of the material
      • use of reference management software (or not)
      • inclusion of material in foreign languages or transcribed material
      • inclusion of previously edited and/or published material such as journal papers
      • urgency of the editing and specific deadlines
      • experience of the editor
    • The indicative costs reflect IPEd’s fair hourly pay rates for self-employed editors.

    Editing services
    The range of editing services provided can vary depending on the need. An agreement for academic editing between editor and client may refer to IPEd’s Australian standards for editing practice or IPEd’s Guidelines for editing research theses [PDF 156KB] or use IPEd’s sample agreement here [DOCX 20KB].

    Copy editing can include editing for:

    • clarity of expression and flow of the text, such as removing ambiguity, wordiness and needless repetition, and ensuring clear and logical connections between phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs and sections
    • correct use of grammar, spelling and punctuation
    • appropriate use of idiom, style and tone
    • appropriate use of technical and specialised terminology, including discipline-specific items, abbreviations and units of measurement
    • consistency in the presentation of illustrations, diagrams and other display items.

    Proofreading can include checking that all elements are complete, consistent and correctly placed including:

    • completeness of all parts of the work
    • correct use of grammar, spelling and punctuation
    • consistency in the use of language, style, terminology, numbers, symbols, shortened forms, capitalisation, italics and other mechanics of text
    • consistency in the presentation of illustrations and tables
    • consistency in the format and layout according to a specified style
    • conformity of references and citations to a specified style.

    The indicative costs may not include:

    • extensive formatting work, particularly if features in Word and reference management software have not been used
    • cross-checking of references in the text and the reference list if reference management software has not been used appropriately
    • urgent work.