Guidelines for the editing of dissertations and theses: a survey of editors' perceptions

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This article presents the findings of an empirical study undertaken to investigate South African editors’ perceptions of the tasks and responsibilities of the editor working with dissertations and theses. The general lack of explicit policy guidelines for the editing of dissertations and theses in South Africa, and the variation among sets of guidelines that do exist, create a possible ethical dilemma, with potential ramifications for the editor, the postgraduate student and the highereducation institution from which the qualification is to be obtained. As a first step in investigating this problem, this article examines editors’ perceptions of the responsibilities of an editor working on dissertations and theses. An e-mail survey questionnaire was employed to solicit the opinions of a sample of editors on which tasks (of 63 generic editing tasks) and modes (of 9 modes of editing and querying) are appropriate to the editing of dissertations and theses. The data yielded by the questionnaires were analysed using descriptive statistics and significance tests. Based on this analysis, a list of tasks that respondents view as part of the mandate of an editor working with dissertations and theses is formulated. The findings of the study suggest that while editors view the majority of copyediting and stylistic editing tasks to be appropriate when editing dissertations and theses, the same does not hold true for structural and content editing tasks. In addition, some conclusions about appropriate modes of editing and querying are also presented, and some avenues for further research suggested