1. The ALP editing service
The ALP editing service is part of the Writing Centre of the Academic Language Programme (ALP) of the Faculty of Humanities. The Writing Centre is one of the initiatives that the ALP has developed to support members of the VU community in developing their communicative skills in English and Dutch (which we also do with workshops, coaching, and tutorials, see www.fgw.vu.nl/alp).
The staff at the Writing Centre are teachers with extensive experience in teaching academic English and Dutch. They are also responsible for training our young editors, who, by dotting the I’s and crossing the t’s, help Master’s students and PhD candidates to produce texts written in clear and correct English or Dutch, in a style befitting of an academic text.
Our ALP editors work under the supervision of the experienced teachers in the Writing Centre.
The ALP editing service is a response to a worrying trend that students are increasingly appealing to services outside the university to help them with writing their dissertation. These commercial services offer online supervision, coaching and editing (in some cases even ghostwriting and worse still) in the Netherlands and abroad. A major concern of this type of ‘shadow’ education is its non-transparent character: university staff find it difficult to judge to what extent the student really is the author of his/her own thesis, and programme committees find it difficult to reliably test whether students have fulfilled the relevant learning objectives.
With the editing service, the ALP seeks to support thesis supervision in a transparent way, by offering comments and advice on English and Dutch following strict guidelines. This will help students to achieve the required learning outcomes for communicative skills. The service is offered in consultation with the dissertation supervisors. The editing service thus makes a concrete contribution to the VU’s language policy, which aims to offer an educational setting which allows students to acquire the communicative competencies in both English and Dutch which will give them an advantage in their future careers.
2.How do ALP editors go about their work?
The ALP editors are not ghostwriters, nor are they solely proofreaders. They work in the following way: they check the final version of a student’s dissertation and show the student – with the help of ‘track changes’ and comments – where the text can be improved. The track change function shows the student what corrections the editor has made in the text. These will always relate to simple and clear linguistic errors. The comments are used to point out unclear passages in the text, or cases where there are different options for improvement. If the editor thinks it will be useful for the student, he/she will add some general comments on the student’s writing style at the end of the document.
Students always make their own decisions about whether or not to accept the track changes and to incorporate the comments. This approach encourages students to look at the proposed changes and to think about the comment, and to make their own decisions. This way they will still – in this last stage of their studies –learn something about English or Dutch, and the dissertation can play a role in the development of their communicative skills in Dutch or English. The student pays for the ALP editing service. If it’s part of the agreements made at the beginning of the process, the supervisor will also receive the edited text.
3. What does the ALP editing service do and what does it not do?
The editors only look at the linguistic quality of the actual text, that is to say the chapters in which students report on the research they have done. They don’t look at everything before and after, such as the Table of Contents and the Bibliography. They also don’t consider the layout of the text, nor do they check the references in the text, because there may be very specific guidelines for these in the relevant field. They will, however, make a comment if they see that the references in the text are not consistent.