Loretta Rafay has over ten years of editing experience in science, humanities, legal, and literary writing. Her specialty is working with English Language Learner academics to prepare theses, dissertations, and journal manuscripts for publication in English. She enjoys helping STEM graduate students plan and structure theses and dissertations. Meaningful public communication of scientific research is also important to Loretta, and she has a knack for helping scientific writers translate the language of the hard sciences into accessible writing, posters, and presentations for lay audience. Loretta received her MS in Environmental & Forest Sciences at the University of Washington (UW), with a research focus on the biochemistry and chemical ecology of grassland plants. She also holds a BA from UW in Asian Languages & Literature, with expertise in both Mandarin and Classical Chinese. 

WEX interviewed Loretta to showcase what an incredible editor and human she is!

What do you enjoy about editing?

For me, editing is like solving a wondrous puzzle.  I love looking at the rough shape a writer has hewn and figuring out just the right places to trim and polish, so that a beautifully sculpted piece of writing emerges.  I love the challenge of figuring out the most eloquent, concise, and powerful way to word a writer’s content.  In this way, I am able to help the writer showcase a unique academic contribution in the most compelling manner.

What is your experience of the dissertation editing process?

I have helped students at every stage of the dissertation writing process.  Sometimes it begins with a conversation before the student even begins writing.  I talk with the student about the dissertation research focus and help identify key components to include in the dissertation structural outline.  Once a rough draft emerges, I help students develop their unified dissertation “story” to confidently answer the tough academic questions at the core of every dissertation: What unique contribution does this research make to the student’s academic field?  How does it build on past research?  How does it pave the way for future research?  I help the student create a harmonious written leitmotif that addresses and reinforces these questions all throughout, from the dissertation abstract to the bibliography.  I also edit student dissertations for final formatting after the doctoral committee has given final approval.  At that final stage, I make sure every APA-required comma and DOI number is in place, and that the final dissertation aesthetics comply with program guidelines.  At this stage, I have the rewarding experience of congratulating the doctoral researcher on making the final transition from student to professional expert.

What advice would you give someone starting the writing process and in need of an editor or coach?

Reach out to a WEX coach and editor early in the dissertation writing process.  We can help you avoid a lot of stressful work by ensuring you have a solid outline and research leitmotif in place before you begin writing the proposal and dissertation.  Reach out to us again when feedback is received from the advisor in response to proposal and dissertation drafts so we can help address it effectively.  Don’t be afraid to ask us if you need help understanding the difference between peer-reviewed literature and gray literature, or if you need guidance on presenting your statistical findings in writing.  The academic writing process is daunting, and we are here for you at every stage!

In your opinion, what constitutes as good editing or coaching?

Good editing and coaching should teach a student to fish for life, rather than providing them with a fish one time.  By this I mean that the dissertation coach and editor should help the student identify areas for improvement in a way that empowers the student to learn how to do that work on their own for the rest of their career, rather than re-writing the dissertation for the student.  A good coach and editor will not only provide edits, but will also teach a student how to identify helpful online research databases, statistical forums, and other academic resources the student can then rely on during a long career in their academic field.

What have been your favorite projects to have worked on? What are your current projects?

I cannot pick any single project, because I love every project I work on for different reasons.  What I really love is the variety of work I get to do with WEX.  This variety ensures that I am always learning new skills and am being exposed to multidisciplinary research that broadens my own knowledge.  I coach students and also edit academic journal manuscripts, thesis/dissertation drafts, and professional blog posts.  I am currently helping a graduate student with developmental editing of a thesis, and am helping WEX expand its work in new ways.