Is professional proofreading allowed at US universities?
The simple answer is yes! Most universities allow outside proofreading for longer texts like a Ph.D. dissertation, but for normal essays be certain to double check your department and university guidelines.
As long as your university does not have a policy in place against using outside proofreading services, proofreading is generally allowed.
What proofreading is
Proofreading is when you or someone else looks over your work and helps identify and correct language errors. This includes common grammar mistakes, spelling, and sentence structure. All of this falls within university policies and standards.
What proofreading is not
Proofreading is not writing your essay for you or touching the content of the paper. This includes writing or rewriting sections of a paper for you. This is what universities will consider plagiarism and against their academic policies.
Scribbr editors will not write or rewrite your essay for you.
Here’s what universities say:
“You may want to ask a friend or family member to check the draft for you, which can be helpful since other readers won’t be as close to the work as you are. Make sure, however, that you do your own final read-through. After all, you’re ultimately the one responsible for your writing.” – Texas A&M University
- Texas A&M University also provides a list of editors for students to use if they want to use a professional proofreading service.
“Q. How do I find a copy editor to review my written work?
A. Our graduate writing consultants do not edit or proofread. If you need copy editing or proofreading services, you will need to find and pay someone to do that kind of work. One way to find a graduate student is to advertise your job through the graduate student listservs in departments like English, Applied Linguistics, or Education (we do not provide this information, but departmental contact information is publicly available in the UCLA online directory). If you need help with a piece of writing that will be submitted for coursework or a formal requirement of your degree, you should also clear the use of an editor with your professor or academic advisor.” – UCLA Graduate Writing Center
“I just need help proofreading my paper. Will Hume tutors do that?
If you are interested in proofreading, our tutors will help you become a better proofreader of your own work. In other words, the tutor won’t just do the proofreading for you, you will have a conversation about proofreading. This can happen in a number of ways. For example, you may read your writing out loud to “hear” your errors, or as you and the tutor are looking at your paper together, the tutor may point to a word or punctuation mark that is inhibiting your meaning that you can then together resolve. You will leave with insight into patterns of error that may be occurring in your writing as well as ways to address them.” – Stanford HUME Writing Center
For certain papers, like a Ph.D. dissertation, getting an outside proofreader is acceptable and suggested. As long as there isn’t a policy explicitly stating otherwise, using an outside proofreading service won’t violate your university’s academic code of conduct.
Most universities will allow you to use a professional proofreader if:
- Your editor does not alter the content of your text
- Your supervisor or professor suggests and/or approves it
- Your assignment meets any possible word count limitations
- The editor acts as an adviser by identifying areas needing improvement or change
There are a few exceptions, but it is very likely that your university allows you to use third party proofreading services. If you’re uncertain what your university’s exact policies are, ask your professor or department.
What Scribbr does:
Scribbr editors provide similar guidance your university writing centers do, with the added bonus of proofreading and being able to look over your whole document. Our style of editing is in compliance with university guidelines and policies around the world so you don’t need to worry about unintentionally violating your university’s academic code of conduct.
Your editor will point out your mistakes and make suggestions, but never rewrite the paper for you. All the content will remain untouched and completely yours. Your editor will provide you with personalized feedback that gives you an overview of the corrections they have suggested.
If you order a structure or clarity check, they will also provide you with checklists that outline how your text fulfills each of the points listed. If there are any points for improvement, they’ll also list it here.
Having a second pair of eyes is always recommended since sometimes it can be difficult for you to spot your own mistakes. Even if you’re confident that your paper is error free, it can be helpful to have someone to look over your work and help point out those easy to miss mistakes.
If your university has specific requirements, just include them with your order and your editor will make sure to follow them.