Five tips for staying on top of your references

Ask any seasoned researcher if they’ve ever got into a muddle with references, and they will have a war story or two to tell. Whilst references are an essential part of any scientific piece of writing, they are undeniably a massive pain in the you-know-what.

It all makes sense. You’re writing your beloved thesis, the mind-blowing ideas and ground-breaking theories flowing from your fingers. You know the literature, you know where your research question came from and how it’s added to our knowledge. You’re in Csikszentmihalyi’s magical state of flow (Csikszentmihalyi & Rathunde, 1993) (that, my friends, is an example of a reference) and you’re not going to break that off for a tiny little detail like who wrote the paper proving that positive mindset is the key to everything. You’ll come back to that! So instead, you insert something like (positive mindset paper, pink folder????, come back later) and carry on writing.

That’s fine if this is your strategy for one or two references.

It’s really not so fine if this is your strategy for the 500 or so which make up an entire PhD!

Fear not – here are PGPR’s five top tips for staying on top of your references from the outset.

An old painting of an intense battle scene with knights riding horses and dust clouds obscuring the background.
Ask any researcher about references and they’ll be certain to share their war stories…

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1. Start an account with a referencing software

This is essential. I know the software might seem alien and off-putting at first, and sometimes these systems are pretty clunky, but hand on heart, I think the best move I ever made as a researcher was to get to grips with EndNote from month one of my PhD.

Think of your referencing software as an online library where you store all the details of the reading you’ll do over the course of your thesis/paper/project. Most of them are simple to use once you’ve got used to them. Google and YouTube are also crammed full of helpful tips and videos for working these programs, or you can book an appointment with your uni librarian, who will walk you through it.

As stated, I use (and am a fan of) EndNote Web, which is free, but there are plenty of other choices out there, including the paid version of Endnote, Zotero and Mendeley.

Reading some of these blogs might help you to decide which to use. Or ask your PhD supervisor which they would recommend.

2. During the lit review, record each reference, with notes, as you go

One of the first steps of any research project, big or small, will be doing a lit review. This is good as it means you can get to grips with your new software early in the process and become confident with it. Every time you read a paper, chapter or web page, import or record its details in your software and make some notes. These notes will help you remember which paper is which when you come back to them in a few months. You can also keep different reference records in different folders for different projects, which will help you locate that finding you know you read somewhere at a later date.

Top tip: If you’re unsure what details you need to record, look for the paper in question in Google Scholar and then click the ‘cite’ button. This will tell you all the details you need to know (for journal articles, this will be title, authors, year and doi as well as publication name, volume, edition and page numbers), which you can then either import or copy and paste into your software.

3. Use your software system as you write

Now that all your references are neatly filed in your software, do ensure that you use that software to insert the in-text references as you write. If you use EndNote, you need to install a plug-in which then shows up in Word. Click ‘insert citation’ each time you need to do just that, and EndNote will format the in-text citation for you and put the full reference at the end of the document.

Writing references needn’t make you glum if you’ve got the right tools for the job.

Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash

Inevitably, as you write, you will need to look for more references as questions arise, or to respond to feedback from your supervisor or peer reviewers. By this point, you will be confident with your software, so just keep adding to it as you go, being disciplined about recording all those details and notes with every paper you need. Then use the software to insert the new reference as you write.

4. Find out which referencing system you need to use for this piece and set that in your software

There are several systems for citing references in scientific papers, which include APA, Harvard, Vancouver and so on. These all differ slightly from each other and, to make matters even more confusing, differ within themselves as well. Harvard referencing, for example, is an umbrella term which is interpreted differently depending on which institution you’re at, while APA has 7 versions.

The intricate differences in these systems can lead to further confusion if you haven’t been staying on top of your references throughout the process. But this is where referencing software is so handy. If all the references in your thesis are linked to your software, you can change which referencing system the software uses to present those references, switching from APA7 to Vancouver at the touch of a button. This job would take days and days by hand and runs the risk of you throwing your laptop out the window in frustration.

5. Contact PGPR for help

If you’re reading this blog thinking, well, that’s all very useful but I’m already two years into my thesis and it’s all too late, don’t worry! PGPR can help. Our expert reference checkers can ensure that every in-text and full-length reference is formatted correctly for the system you’re using, locate any missing details and even cross-check your thesis to ensure that every in-text citation appears in the bibliography and vice versa. We even have some crazy people on our team (Hannah and Shannon) who enjoy this work! So just hand it over to us and you can get back to uncovering more thrilling new findings.

We’re always happy to help. Just get in touch via the form below.

Seven ways PGPR can help you complete your qualitative project

Completing postgrad qualitative research is an adventure. It can be thrilling, enriching and rewarding… but it can also be arduous, stressful and exhausting.

Here at PGPR, we can help you through every step of your journey. Here are seven services we think will benefit you as you progress through your project.

The PGPR team is on hand to help you every step of the way!

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1. Interview schedule check

Collecting your data is so important. Asking participants the right questions can unlock access to the rich, lovely data which will underpin your entire study. We can look at your interview schedule and talk it over in a video consultation, giving you pointers for ensuring your questions are open, comprehensive and ordered in a way that is likely to generate rapport.

2. Feedback on analysis

Analysis can feel fun and fascinating – and it can feel overwhelming! Trying to conduct analysis without many qualitative colleagues or at a university without many qualitative experts can feel especially lonely and daunting. Fortunately, the PGPR team loves analysis, so we’re always excited when a client asks for feedback at this stage. We can offer written feedback or feedback via one of our video consultations. We’ll look at whether your data truly supports your conclusions, if there are areas where you can dig deeper, and whether your analysis fits in with your chosen methodology.

3. Feedback on word length and structure

Once you start putting the chapters of your thesis together, you might find that you’re several thousand words over your university’s word limit. Don’t panic – this is a common problem and is something we can help with. We’ll read your chapters and offer feedback which will help you tighten up your structure and delete those unnecessary words.

Feeling overwhelmed? We hear you!

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4. Correcting your spelling and grammar

While we love giving feedback, we’re also all huge word nerds here at PGPR, so you can come to us if you need any sections of your thesis proof-read. We’ll correct any spelling and grammar issues, ensure that you’ve used terminology consistently and offer suggestions to make your sentences read as smoothly as possible.

5. Checking references

Reference sections: can’t get by without them – but you CAN offload them to us! When you’re immersed in analysing your beautiful data or wrangling with that tricky discussion section, ensuring that your reference list is also perfect can feel incredibly onerous. Don’t worry; we’re here to help. Our proof-readers Hannah and Shannon particularly enjoy checking reference lists, so it’s likely that one of these two superstars will undertake this job for you. They find it soothing – clearly, we need to clone them!

Enjoy more time to relax while we proof-read your reference list for you!

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6. Formatting

Word has lots of features that can help you present your thesis in a professional manner; unfortunately, it often feels like you need a degree in IT to be able to get them all to work. We have several Word experts on the team who will be more than happy to create tables of contents, ensure that your headings are consistent and caption all your figures for you.

7. Conference check package

Once your research is complete, it’s time to share it with the wider world. If you have a conference coming up, PGPR can offer feedback on your slides and give you an opportunity to practice your presentation via video for a friendly audience. Just get in touch to find out more.

We look forward to hearing from you – just fill in the contact form below and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

Client FAQs

As well as proof-reading, will you edit my work?

We will ensure that your work reads well and is in good English. Depending on the level of service you have paid for, we will also offer feedback on structure, methodology and analysis. However, we won’t change the meaning of your work or re-write any sections for you.

We’ll make sure your paper reads well and is in good English!

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How quickly will you return my work?

We will aim to get your work back to you as quickly as possible. We can usually proof-read 5,000 words per day, meaning a 15,000-word piece takes three days after we start.

Johanna often has a waiting list, so you might have to wait longer if you are specifically requesting to work with her.

We can work to your schedule; if you have some sections finished earlier than others, we can start work on those while you complete the rest of your thesis. Please note that we don’t book work in with a member of the team until we have a copy of that work.

Why can’t I book a slot before my piece is ready?

Postgrad work is unpredictable. It might take longer to recruit your participants than you had hoped. Your supervisor might go off sick. You might really need a break. For this reason, we no longer book clients in until their pieces are ready to go. This saves you having to feel stressed about a deadline that is no longer realistic and saves us reserving time for work which doesn’t materialise. We have a large enough team of experts that we can still offer quick turnaround times.

You’re already working to multiple deadlines, you don’t need to with us!

Don’t Image by Shiv Mirthyu from Pixabay

What format should I send my work in?

Send your work to us in Word: either .doc or .docx. This is essential because we use Word’s track changes function to proof-read your work.

Why will you send me back two copies?

Many proof-reading services will only send you back one clean copy. You may feel that this approach would mean less work for you. However, since this is your project and is so crucial for you, we feel it’s important to offer you the chance to collaborate. Ultimately, it’s your choice whether to accept the changes we suggest. Including a copy with the track changes on it gives you the option to accept or reject those changes. The clean version means that if you are happy to trust our judgment, you can work with this version rather than going through the changes we’ve suggested.

What is included in the service?

We will proof-read your work and, depending on the level of service you are paying for, suggest feedback as well. See how it works for more detail about this. We are also happy to answer short questions via email and may, in certain circumstances, agree to brief video chats to talk through the work.

If you have booked a video consultation, we will spend an hour beforehand reading the work you have sent us, and then an hour talking it through with you online. If you need more time, that can be arranged with the team on a case by case basis.

PGPR is not a supervision service, so we cannot offer ongoing extended conversations about your work or emotional support for the ups and downs of postgrad life.

What if I need to cancel or change my VIDEO CONSULTATION timeslot?

If you need to cancel or change your video consultation, you need to give us 24 hours’ notice. Otherwise, your payment is non-refundable.

How can I pay?

You can pay via BACS transfer or Stripe. Please note that we do not accept PayPal.

If we are working on a larger piece, we will ask for a deposit of 50% before we commence work. We will send a second invoice for the balance once the work is done.

We are confident you will be happy with our work!

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What if I’m not satisfied?

For larger pieces, we will work on and return a small section to begin with. This gives you a chance to check that you are happy before we go any further. Working together in this way means you can let us know if there’s anything you would prefer us to do differently. However, we are so confident that you will be pleased with our work that we will not charge you for any completed sections if you are unhappy.

If you want to book PGPR to undertake some work for you, just fill in the form below.

Why PGPR charges more for university clients

Here at PGPR, we’ve recently decided to start charging clients who pay through their universities (who we’ll call university clients) more than we charge those who are paying personally (personal clients).

If you are paying through your uni, you might be asking why we’ve decided to do this. After all, it can’t take us any longer to read your words than those of someone who is paying from their pocket, right? So how are these extra charges fair?

While you’re right that the work itself takes no more time, our experience has shown us that setting up and receiving payments from universities is much more time-consuming and stressful than receiving payments straight from clients. That’s why we’ve decided to raise our rates for those clients. Read on to find out more…  

  1. The associated admin for receiving payments from universities is much more time-consuming

When we are invoicing a personal client, all we need to do is send a couple of invoices: one for a deposit before the work commences, and one for the balance once the piece is done. The invoice lists all our payment details, and the client can use BACS or Stripe to pay. Quick and easy for everyone.

When a university is paying us, they usually need to set us up on their system. This involves filling in lots of forms, sometimes having to print them off and post them back. We often have to go through this process two or even three times when the forms get misplaced under the boss’s coffee cup or shredded by an overly zealous work experience student. Some universities need us to fill in a host of forms for every single job we do for them. This takes time – time which we’d much rather be spending reading your fascinating research.

No-one loves endless admin

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2. Waiting for payments from universities can take a (really) long time

Once work is complete, we ask for payments in 14 days. Deposit payments are due immediately. We rarely have to chase personal clients for payments – the researchers who hire us are generally so pleased with our work that they can’t wait to pay, which makes us feel top-notch!

Sadly, the same cannot be said for universities. Their payment cycles tend to operate in a way that means suppliers should be paid within 30 days, rather than the 14 we need for our cash flow. And unfortunately, invoices, like other paperwork, go missing with alarming regularity in university payroll offices, meaning payments from university clients are always late. Sometimes by days, sometimes by weeks – often by months.

Chasing up payments takes time and really doesn’t feel good – so we have decided to be more lenient with the speed at which university clients pay us but ask them to pay us more to make up for this (sadly, inevitable) delay and difficulty.

We hope this blog has answered your questions about why we charge university clients more than personal ones. Of course, if you still think this is unfair, you are welcome to look for another proof-reading service. But we do hope you will stick with PGPR’s winning combination of expert proof-readers, quick turnaround times and honest, friendly service.

Why should you work with one of the PGPR team?

If you’re reading this blog post, you are either an existing PGPR client, or you’re thinking about using our services. Either way – thank you! We are so appreciative of your business. Everyone on our team finds the research you send us fascinating, meaning that a day’s work for PGPR is better than a day off from a more traditional job in academia.

I have been personally recommended to many of my clients, which means some people feel a bit unsure when I tell them that it won’t be me looking at their work. If this describes you, this handy blog post will explain why you are in safe hands at PGPR, no matter which team member tackles your thrilling thesis.

  • The team are carefully vetted 

I am ultra-careful when recruiting PGPR team members – after all, our reputation relies on their excellence. Most of our clients are working in the field of qualitative psychology. As such, I ask experts in that field for recommendations of people who might want to work for me, and then I follow those recommendations up. All potential team members complete a series of tests before being interviewed, meaning I am satisfied that their work is excellent and their values align with those of the company; those values being honesty, efficiency and kindness, in case you were wondering.

Feel the love with the PGPR team
 
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  • All of the team are experts

Every member of the PGPR team is an expert in their field. Some are expert proof-readers with years’ experience on a multitude of texts. Others are experts in qualitative methods, with PhDs of their own. Some teach at universities. Others were taught by Jonathan A Smith, who devised IPA, the method so many of my clients use.  

All of our team have read at least one book this big, so you know you can trust them
 
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  • You will be matched with the right member of the team

We will always ensure that our clients are matched to the team member who best aligns with their needs. Are you looking for a super speedy and accurate proof-read, but don’t need any feedback? Then Hannah or Rosy are your women! Need feedback on your qualitative work, but feel confident your English is strong? We’ll pass you on to Fiona or Lydia. If you need proofing and feedback, then Rachel, Astrid or Elly will be perfect for your project. Between us, we have expertise in a range of qualitative methods, so we’ll ensure that your proof-reader’s skills fit with your research.

  • Quicker turnaround times

When I started PGPR in 2018, I had no idea it was going to be so popular. I quickly found myself with a waiting list more than four months long, which was no use for stressed-out students working on a deadline. Expanding the team has meant that we can offer much tighter turnarounds, which is good news for everyone.

  • Four eyes are better than two

There are times when it’s useful for a client to work with more than one proof-reader. For example, they might have a huge thesis with a turnaround time which is just too tight for one person to complete. If so, we can put several proof-readers on the case for you. Or a client’s supervisor might be giving feedback which conflicts with ours. When that happens, we can ask for a third opinion from another member of the PGPR team.


Two heads are better than one
 
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I hope this blog has calmed any concerns you might have had about working with my team. Of course, if you have any more questions, please do get in touch on info@postgradproofreader.co.uk and we will happily answer those queries for you.

To book a slot with one of PGPR’s excellent team, visit www.postgradproofreader.co.uk

Six Reasons You Should Work with a Proof-Reader

Finally, you have finished writing your paper and it’s ready to check over before you submit it. Well done!

Now you want to make sure that it’s absolutely perfect so you feel confident to send it off to a journal or your supervisor.   

Have you ever considered working with a professional proof-reader to get your fabulous paper looking flawless? Here are a few reasons why you might want to do just that…

1. Proof-readers are trained to catch tiny little details that you might just miss, even on the second or third read-through.

Before you decide to proof-read your own work, ask yourself:

Would you notice if you accidentally type two spaces instead of one?

What about getting the full stop in the right place in every single reference?

Does Microsoft Word notice that you have typed ‘affect’ instead of ‘effect’?

Mistakes like this reduce the quality of your article. You might have created the greatest piece of research known to humankind (we know you have!), but errors like this will make your paper seem unprofessional.

2. Automatic grammar checkers do not replace the eyes of a professional proof-reader.


You might want a robot to do your housework, but do you really want one checking your beautiful, human research?
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Algorithmic programmes such as Grammarly can sometimes pick up if a sentence does not read well, but they usually just check for grammatical or spelling errors. And quite often, such programmes get it wrong.

To make sure your paper has an impact, clarity is vital. Proof-readers can consider how your sentences, paragraphs and sections read as a whole, and advise you on any restructuring that needs to take place.

3. Proof-readers will pick up on anything that might be difficult for your reader to understand.

You have probably become so familiar with your research that it is easy to forget which points might not seem clear to your reader. If anything seems even slightly fuzzy, a professional proof-reader will query what you mean and help you to rewrite it in a way that will make sense to your audience.

4. Proof-readers will check your references and make sure you stick to your style guide.

You’ve slaved away over your APA reference list three times… but have you forgotten to italicise a book title? Or maybe you missed a comma after a full stop in the list of authors. Don’t let your blood boil over emboldened brackets! An eagle-eyed expert can check that everything in your references is in the right place.

The same goes for sticking to your style guide in the rest of your paper. Accidentally started a sentence with ‘37’ instead of ‘Thirty-seven’? No sweat! Your proof-reader has got it covered.

5. You will feel more relaxed when the paper is out of your hands.

You can be sure that after the proof-reader has finished, if they have no queries, the article is ready to submit. Working with a pro-proof-reader means you are not going to be marked down or rejected for formatting or language. So, that means no waking up in cold sweats worrying about whether you had formatted your literature review correctly!


Don’t you hate it when you have a nightmare about whether your paragraphs are too long?
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6. Proof-readers can help you express yourself more precisely if you struggle with English.

If you are dyslexic or English isn’t your first language, it can be difficult to express your ideas succinctly. This is where an expert proof-reader can really help. They can remove clunky phrases, cut sentences down, and replace words to make your paper read beautifully.

So, instead of tearing your hair out over the final readthrough, why not put your feet up and let the Post-Graduate Proof-Reader get your paper ready for submission? 


Get the superhuman eyes of a proof-reader all over your paper!

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