Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be an academic editor? Many editors have had first-hand experience with the university sector, and editing theses and journal papers would seem to be a natural progression. There are no formal requirements or specific training courses in academic editing, which gives the impression that any editor could branch into this field.

Academic editing has become a fast-growing market in Australia. This has been due in part to the expanding market of international students whose first language is not English and the increased workload placed on academic supervisors.

However, academic editing is a complex field. Editors require some knowledge of the topic and the expectations of the thesis supervisors and the university. A thesis is a highly specialised study, and the editor is expected to understand the topic to complete the task. However, the extent to which an editor is expected to provide feedback is a grey area. This is due to the differing expectations of each individual supervisor and university.

Academic editors often have to take on a balancing role to keep all parties happy while working on a high-stakes project with an inflexible deadline. Depending on the university and whether there is funding to support the student, the payment to the editor may be through the university or directly from the student. If it is the latter, the student is usually at the end of a three-year, full-time equivalent course in which they have foregone a salary to compete the thesis.

IPEd’s university endorsed ‘Guidelines for Editing Research Theses’ recommend that students might pay to have their theses proofread and/or copyedited, but not substantively edited. These boundaries are often misunderstood by the student and supervisor.

Our panel discussion at the conference will explore issues and concerns associated with academic editing from the perspective of three experienced editors in the field. Dr Sharon Lierse is a university lecturer, thesis supervisor and academic editor. She will discuss the limited training available for supervisors and editors, and the role of IPEd’s guidelines. Dr Lisa Lines AE, Director and Head Editor of Capstone Editing, will highlight the boundaries of the role of the editor. Robyn Williams AE, Assistant Director of Capstone Editing, will discuss issues in relation to students, especially those whose first language is not English.

by Sharon Lierse

About the author

Dr Sharon Lierse is a lecturer in Education at Charles Darwin University. She lectures in Arts and Physical Education online, and supervises Masters and PhD students. Her research is in twenty-first century approaches to learning, creativity in education and a global comparison of excellence in education. She is secretary of Editors Victoria, a branch of IPEd.


A veritable feast for academic editors and delegates interested in this specialty, this year’s conference includes an academic editing stream featuring seven individual presentations and the panel discussion described above. There are also many other streams, presentations, panels and workshops on related topics, including ethics, copyright and making research accessible to general audiences.