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Rate for proofreading/editing a PhD dissertation
Thread poster: psherald
psherald
English
Jan 21, 2009

It appears that I am going to be helping a faculty member at my former university with his dissertation. He wants to discuss how he can pay me, but I am unsure what to charge. He used the term editing, but it is entirely possible that proofreading is what he is really looking for (he is Korean). I have tutoring and newspaper editing experience, but have not taken on a job like this before. Is there a norm for editing rates? Proofreading? I have seen 30-40 an hour mentioned here for editing services, but should I really try to charge that much this time? And how much should I lower that cost if what he is really looking for is proofreading?

Those of you that have had projects like this in the past, would you recommend charging an hourly rate, or by the page/word? Note that I am not translating, but the writer is ESL.

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2009-01-21 20:20 GMT]

[Edited at 2009-01-21 21:03 GMT]


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:43
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Discuss it Jan 21, 2009

Some things to straighten out before you quote a rate:

a. What exactly does "editing" entail? (That is basically the point you raised.) Are you dealing exclusively with the language issues, or does the author expect you to comment on the research methodology, conclusions drawn, etc.?

b. How familiar are you with the subject of the dissertation? Are you going to be learning about the general background subject matter as you go along? Is the author willing to give you general tutorials on basic geology (or whatever the field in question is)?

This is not the only way you could spend your time. What are the other uses of your time worth?


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psherald
English
TOPIC STARTER
re: Jan 21, 2009

I am venturing the guess that the author's concern is with language issues. This appears to be his concern from what I understand so far.

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KSL Berlin  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 01:43
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
What happened to the original question? Jan 21, 2009

I would assume the normal rates would apply, perhaps higher rates if you have to deal with very difficult terminology issues in a field where such things are not well documented.

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psherald
English
TOPIC STARTER
Answers Jan 21, 2009

I spoke with him tonight, and he was working with someone else prior to me who is no longer available. He was paying her 500 dollars per chapter, which is ~10 dollars per page. He offered the same to me, provided that my work was satisfactory, and this sounds fair to me. As I suspected, his concern is language usage, as he is still struggling somewhat with writing in English. I was able to see a couple of pages of the dissertation, and they needed some help, but were not in horrible shape by any means.

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Robert Forstag  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 20:43
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Be very careful Jan 22, 2009

My suggestion would be to edit 5 pages of it and carefully track your time. Then use that as a basis to extrapolate and determine how many hours the whole project will take. Add in another 15% or so to the final total to cover exchanges of e-mails, reviewing material a second, third, or fourth time, etc. and you can then determine how much per hour you are willing to live with (and your client is willing to pay).

I have some experience editing dissertations by non-native English speakers and my general observation is that, even in the best of cases, you will never get anything approaching what your work is worth. I'd personally consider $35 per hour a fair rate for such a painstaking, professional service. But for a 150,000-word dissertation, this would result in a charge of perhaps 8-10K--far more than most people are willing to pay.

The question, then, is what you are "willing" to work for, and what your client is willing to pay.


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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 17:43
Spanish to English
+ ...
agree with others (esp. Paul and Robert) Jan 22, 2009

Robert Forstag wrote:

My suggestion would be to edit 5 pages of it and carefully track your time. Then use that as a basis to extrapolate and determine how many hours the whole project will take. Add in another 15% or so to the final total to cover exchanges of e-mails, reviewing material a second, third, or fourth time, etc. and you can then determine how much per hour you are willing to live with (and your client is willing to pay).


Like Robert, I also edit dissertation and diss-into-book projects for non-native speakers of English. When editing for presses, the pay is not good, but the last two jobs that I contracted (just this month), I quoted $35, and I found out through a friend that one of the people said "that's a bargain!" The other client didn't blink.

But do ask to see the manuscrip and edit 5 pages. Clock how long it takes you. And then ask the author: "Is this what you expect me to produce?" Make sure his expectations are completely clear to you.

fwiw there are several different levels of editing: developmental, substantive, copy editing, and proofreading. He is probably expecting a heavy copy edit of the work, but if he expects substantive editing, it is going to take you even longer than a heavy edit and you ought to know the subject matter well.

Good luck!
Patricia


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Tina Vonhof  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 18:43
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Editing Jan 22, 2009

This definitely sounds like there maybe major editing involved. Good suggestion to do a few pages first and estimate the time and cost from that. This person seems to welcome editing but tread carefully, too much editing may offend him. I edited a paper once for an ESL client who had me reverse every change I made!

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