Plagiarism is a crime. That’s not a grey area. But what constitutes it is a hot debate within the academic circles. For now, we are concerned with the ethics of hiring a thesis editor to review/polish your work. 

Most universities are generally okay with you getting the help of a professional editor, but with the rise of a black market of writing services (which pose as editing services) it is important to re-examine what it means to get your thesis edited and proofread by a professional service. 

Does handing over your assignment to be written by a ‘ professional’ constitute plagiarism? Not technically. Because your teacher can suspect your writing’s inauthenticity, but cannot disprove its originality. So, it’s not stealing, not exactly. But it’s definitely not original work by the student. 

Nevertheless, the idea of ‘writing services’ masquerading as ‘proofreading and editing services’ does lay a finger of doubt on the entire field. 

So is it fair to dismiss the field altogether? Absolutely not! An editor is an indispensable ally to a successful academic, especially to someone whose strongest suit is not communication, or somebody who writes in a second language. The problem begins when the interpretation of the word “editing” is not regulated. 

When does editing become interference?

There are guidelines established by universities (or institutions relevant to the field) that attempt to make the demarcation of editing and interference as clear as possible. The simplest way to define intervention in a writer’s text is to change the meaning – in this case, an act that could potentially change the rationale of the research itself. (This is why, you will find, in a PaperTrue editor’s cabin, “thou shalt not change the meaning” is a commandment that is taken very, very seriously. The most substantive our editing gets is to be an antithetical force that merely suggests alternatives, or points out gaps in your thesis. This means that the onus to act – or not act – upon those suggestions is on you, the researcher.)

The thin line between substantive editing and ghostwriting 

As an editor, it is easy to get carried away by your own ideas of good research and a well-written thesis. Editing is, after all, done by humans, and therefore subjective. If you’re an editor, it becomes a matter of professionalism to maintain your own biases when you’re working on someone else’s research. 

But then there is ghostwriting. A ghostwriter is someone explicitly hired to write a text on behalf of somebody else. In literature and journalism, ghostwriting is relatively acceptable, since all one is doing is hiring a professional writer who would convey their ideas better. In academia, however, this does not work. The very act of writing a research paper/report/thesis shapes the way to choose to argue for your work. If that itself is done by somebody else…then you end up becoming an accessory in your own research project. 

While editing and ghostwriting are not the same thing, there is a fear that substantive content editing (i.e, helping the student with the structure, organization and core arguments) will soon turn into ghostwriting, if unregulated. 

Can a thesis editor’s role be regulated? 

Yes. There are guidelines established by universities (or institutions relevant to the field) that attempt to make the demarcation of editing and interference as clear as possible. But – this is more important – these demarcations are also made by professional editors (such as ours) to know where to toe the line.