Post-Examination Language Revisions in a Thesis or Dissertation
The first and most important thing to acknowledge here is that revisions will almost certainly be required after a thesis or dissertation is examined. No matter how polished and perfect you thought your text was, your examiners will discover errors. Any scholarly document boasts a few mistakes, after all, and the odd grammatical error or misplaced bit of punctuation will only require minor revisions. More extensive errors in language can constitute a serious problem in a thesis or dissertation, however, and can even compromise a student’s success. These generally require far more drastic corrections and changes.
An excellent strategy is to anticipate errors and actively look for them. It is wise to read through your thesis or dissertation right before the examination to refresh your thoughts about your own work and perhaps to prepare a presentation for your examiners. This offers a perfect opportunity to compile a list of the language errors you discover. If there are more than a few mistakes of this kind, you may want to share such a list with your examiners as you give your presentation, and the list will prove particularly useful if one of your examiners raises the matter of language errors. By preparing the list in advance, you are letting your examiners know that you are aware of the problems and plan to fix them, and the list will also help you complete the necessary revisions efficiently. Occasionally, a generous-spirited committee member will actually prepare a list of such errors (particularly typing and spelling errors) as he or she reads your work and then present that list to you at the examination. Your gratitude for this should be immediate and sincere: he or she almost certainly noticed things you did not, so the new list will also be helpful as you polish your thesis or dissertation for final submission.
If your thesis contains many small errors or inconsistencies in grammar, spelling, punctuation and stylistic elements such as capitalisation patterns and the use of special fonts, you will certainly hear about them from your examiners. They may consider the errors a minor matter or a major one, but remember that mistakes that obscure or confuse the meaning of your text are always a major problem no matter how small the individual errors may be. It is difficult to emphasise how important it is to demonstrate to your examining committee that you understand exactly what the problems may be and are determined to fix them. If, however, you were not aware of the errors until your examiners pointed them out, you should explain why. English may not be your first language, for instance, and you may have been struggling with writing your research in it throughout the thesis process. If this is the case, explain the situation (your external examiner may not already know this), emphasise the efforts you have made and the improvements you have achieved, and make it clear that you will do everything you can to correct all errors in preparing the thesis for final submission after the examination. If your examiners remain concerned, it may be a good idea to voice your intention of having a professional academic or scientific proofreader check and correct the text before you submit the revised thesis or dissertation for the degree.
Remember that sloppiness, laziness or even a lack of time is never an acceptable reason for errors in a postgraduate thesis or dissertation, so if you are unwilling to proofread for such errors or simply do not have the proclivity or time to do so, you should definitely engage the services of a qualified proofreader or editor, ideally before submitting the document for examination. Rest assured that you will certainly have to do so after you defend your thesis or dissertation if you have not done so before, and it is very likely that you will also have to use some careful language during the examination to explain your negligence.
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