Pomeranian dog wearing glasses looking at an ipad

While proofreading your work is an important part of completing an assignment, for many of us it is often forgotten, rushed, or left to the last minute. But what is proofreading? Why is proofreading important? When is best to proofread your work? And how might you improve your proofreading?

Here, I share my tips as a 4th Year PhD student on how you can master the art of proofreading for university and beyond. This includes techniques that I have found useful, as well as a fantastic Proofreading Toolkit to help further brush up on your skills.

What is Proofreading?  

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, ‘to proofread’ is to ‘to read and correct a piece of written or printed work.’ Therefore, for us as students, it means reading our assignments to make the necessary corrections and edits before we submit them.

Why is Proofreading Important?  

You may have written up your work extremely well, have the right content and readings, include critical analysis and discussion, and even have a fantastic structure. However, if it is not proofread and checked during your editing process, it may give a poor impression to the reader and/or examiner. As part of the marking process, the examiner will notice any typos, spelling mistakes and/or any poor grammatical errors.

Yet, it is not just about checking for errors! The examiner will also refer to your standard of written English and the structure of your sentences, including the tenses you use. By proofreading your work, you can ensure what you have written is concise, smooth, interesting, and clear.

When is Best to Proofread Your Work?  

The best time to proof and edit your work is once you have your first written draft as one whole, finished piece. Although you might feel the pressure of deadlines looming, it is important to leave time before you submit your work to proofread and edit it.

Proofreading and editing can take time, so ensure you factor it into your assignment planning process! You can do this by organising and managing your time effectively ahead of the deadline. Depending on how long your work is, you may find it useful to leave at least a few days (if not a week or more!) for checking over your work.

Pomeranian dog wearing glasses looking at an ipad

My Top Tips for Proofreading:  

  1. Print out your work and go through it with a fine-tooth comb, highlighting any errors to fix and edit.  
  1. Read it aloud to yourself. Perhaps record yourself reading your work and listening to yourself back.  
  1. Read your work backward! This will help you focus on each word individually and help you catch spelling errors without being distracted by the sentence as a whole.
  1. Download the UniSkills Proofreading Toolkit, which is filled with helpful tips, explanations, videos and more!  
  1. Proofread for one type of error at a time. For example, look for punctuation first, then sentence structure second, and so on.
  1. Take it slowly. When spending such a long time on a piece of work, you can easily get used to it. Take a break and then go through it slowly, section by section.  
  1. Check your referencing against your referencing style guides. Are your references in the correct places? Have you missed a citation?  
  1. Use feedback from previous assessments. You may have received some guidance or corrections in previous work from the examiner. Check your feedback and feed it forward and improve!  
  1. Attend a UniSkills workshop or webinar! They cover everything from referencing to paraphrasing, and even offer 1-1 support.
Student Advisor Liz, wearing a check dress and glasses, smiling at the camera

To find out more about all things Proofreading, download the UniSkills Proofreading Toolkit.

By Elizabeth Devine