Use of Third Party Proof-readers

Students have authorial responsibility for the written work they produce. Proof-reading represents the final stage of producing a piece of academic writing. Students are strongly encouraged to proof-read their own work, as this is an essential skill in the academic writing process. However, for longer pieces of work it is considered acceptable for students to seek the help of a third party for proof-reading. Such third parties can be professional proof-readers, fellow students, friends or family members.  This policy does not apply to the supervisory relationship, nor in the case where proof-reading assistance is approved as a reasonable adjustment for disability.

The default position is that the guidance outlined below applies to all assessed written work where the word limit is 10,000 words or greater. However, departments and faculties may opt to specify that, for certain assessments, students should not be allowed any proof-reading assistance, if the purpose of the assessment is to determine students’ abilities in linguistic areas such as grammar or syntax. In this case, the rubric for the assessment should state clearly that no proof-reading assistance is permitted. 

The use of third party proof-readers is not permitted for work where the word limit is fewer than 10,000 words.

What a proof-reader may and may not do

Within the context of students’ written work, to proof-read is to check for, identify and suggest corrections for errors in text. In no cases should a proof-reader make material changes to a student’s writing (that is, check or amend ideas, arguments or structure), since to do so is to compromise the authorship of the work.

A proof-reader may

  • Identify typographical, spelling and punctuation errors
  • Identify formatting and layout errors and inconsistencies (e.g. page numbers, font size, line spacing, headers and footers)
  • Identify grammatical and syntactical errors and anomalies or ambiguities in phrasing
  • Identify minor formatting errors in referencing (for consistency and order)
  • Identify errors in the labelling of diagrams, charts or figures
  • Identify lexical repetition or omissions

A proof-reader may not

  • Add to content in any way
  • Check or correct facts, data calculations, formulae or equations
  • Rewrite content where meaning is ambiguous
  • Alter argument or logic where faulty
  • Re-arrange or re-order paragraphs to enhance structure or argument
  • Implement or significantly alter a referencing system
  • Re-label diagrams, charts or figures
  • Reduce content so as to comply with a specified word limit
  • Translate any part of the work into English

Authorial responsibility

Students have overall authorial responsibility for their work and should choose whether they wish to accept the proof-reader’s advice. A third party proof-reader should mark up the student’s work with suggested changes which the student may then choose to accept or reject.   

Failure to adhere to these guidelines could constitute a breach of academic integrity and contravene the Proctors' Disciplinary Regulations for Candidates in Examination. It is therefore the student’s responsibility to provide the proof-reader with a copy of this policy statement.

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Education Policy Support
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Tel: 01865 270091