Panel discussion: Ethical aspects of the editing of students’ theses

24 Mar 2018 at 09:00 to 13:00
Centre for the Book, Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town
Event Details

Focus: A panel discussion of the ethical aspects and ethical boundaries of the intervention of a text editor or proofreader in the work of students that is submitted for evaluation will precede a general discussion and question-and-answer session. International best practices will be considered as possible guidelines for language practitioners in South Africa.

Date: Saturday 24 March 2018

Time: 09:00 for 09:30 to 13:00

Place: Committee Room, Centre for the Book (CFB), Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town

Panellists: John Linnegar (moderator), Tanya Barben, Vanessa Burch, Susan Lotz and Amanda Lourens

While every thesis or dissertation usually needs editorial intervention for it to pass muster and earn its writer a postgraduate degree, there are limits to the extent to which an editor may intervene. But what exactly are the ethical boundaries? At what point can it be said that the editorial intervention has been excessive, to the point of rendering the text no longer the author’s own original work? In northern countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, societies of editors have set guidelines for editorial intervention, as have the Australians. But such guidelines do not (yet) exist in South Africa, and are in fact long overdue in an environment in which such texts are written in a language other than the student’s mother tongue and where the role that academic supervisors play is often regarded as inadequate. Bringing to the discussion their rich variety of experiences in this genre, the panellists will attempt to grasp the nettle and offer some guidance to editors whose specialty is editing academic texts.

More about our panellists

Tanya Barben spent her entire career working in many capacities at the University of Cape Town libraries. She has many years’ experience as an editor of academic journals, academic books, fictional works and theses and dissertations in just about every discipline (although legal subjects seem to come her way most often). She is also an indexer.

A rheumatologist by training, Vanessa Burch is Professor and Chair of Clinical Medicine at the University of Cape Town. Considered a leader in health professions education in sub-Saharan Africa, she has received four national awards for teaching excellence, including that of Distinguished Teacher at the University of Cape Town. In addition to her roles in health professions education, Vanessa serves on the editorial boards of two international medical education journals, is a journal manuscript reviewer of four journals, and is the founding editor of the medical education journal African Journal of Health Professions Education (2009). She herself is widely published (with more than 50 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters under her belt). In her role as medical educator, she supervises master’s and doctoral students, which she has been doing since 2008.

His 30 years’ experience of editing both student writing and articles for publication has highlighted for John Linnegar the radical difference in approach to the two genres. His exposure to societies of editors in Australia and Europe has also acquainted him with the varying ethical standards they set for editorial intervention in theses and dissertations. For John, one of the great challenges to these lofty standards derives from the fact that so many academic writers are nowadays forced to write in English as a second or foreign language.

Susan Lotz has been working as a language practitioner since 2001 and joined the Stellenbosch University Language Centre in 2008. There she translates, edits and revises the work of other language practitioners, helps to manage the quality assurance process and does a bit of research. Being attached to a university, she often works with academic texts, and – consequently – regularly grapples with the ethics of thesis editing.

Amanda Lourens was appointed as short-course coordinator and presenter at Stellenbosch University in 1998. Since then she has presented various workshops on communication, academic writing skills and editing. Currently she is a lecturer in the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch (SU). She is co-author of Wetenskaplike skryfvaardighede (2004) and Scientific writing skills (2006). Her current research focuses on academic editing, more specifically the development of guidelines for the South African context.


Attendees are welcome to send any questions about the ethical aspects of editing theses and dissertations for the panellists’ attention beforehand to the Western Cape Branch Committee. Questions must be received by Monday 19 March 2018; please send them to Corné Janse van Rensburg (

PEG guides

The following guides will be on sale at the workshop:

  • Consistency, consistency, consistency: PEG’s guide to style guides (third edition) by John Linnegar with Paul Schamberger and Jill Bishop at R40
  • The business of editing: The PEG guide to setting up and running your small business (second edition) by Jill Bishop, John Linnegar and Linda Pretorius at R50
  • Marketing your freelance services: The PEG guide for practitioners by John Linnegar with Jenny de Wet and Lia Marus at R70


The price of the workshop, including refreshments, is:

Affiliation Early-bird registration fee
(before or on 16 March 2018)
Registration fee
(before or on 21 March 2018)
PEG members R250 R300
LAMP members R350 R400
Non-affiliated members R500 R600

Booking: Owing to the size of the venue, attendance is limited to 24 attendees. To book your place, please complete the attached registration form and return it along with proof of payment to Ellyn Barry at by Friday 16 March 2018 (early-bird rate) or by Wednesday 21 March 2018 (normal rate).

Cancellation policy: If members are unable to attend a workshop after registering and paying for it, a full refund is possible if members’ cancellations are received by Ellyn Barry on the Wednesday before the workshop. After the final number of attendees has been confirmed with the venue and the caterer on the Wednesday before the workshop, no refunds are unfortunately possible. Members are welcome offer their reserved places to others on the waiting list (please contact Ellyn Barry at or to all the members of the Guild (please contact Kim R2 at

Make use of the early-bird special: save money and secure your spot for this workshop by registering early!