How do I Become a Research Editor?

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  • Written By: Vicki Hogue-Davies
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2019
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Research editors check the accuracy of factual information contained in manuscripts, find additional information to support written material, write and edit, and research new ideas. To become a research editor for a consumer or trade magazine or book publisher, strong writing and editing skills are necessary. Gaining experience editing and performing research for high school and university publications is a good step to get a job as a research editor. Interning is often a good way to get experience in this field.

Most research editors work for print and online magazines, book publishers, medical and scientific journals, and other publications and organizations. Depending upon the size of the publication, the research editor may do all the hands-on fact checking or may supervise a staff of fact checkers or assistant research editors. Smaller publications often do not have formal research editors at all. Instead, this task is a responsibility of lower-level editors.

Like other editorial professions, a college degree in journalism, English, mass media, communications, or a related field is usually required to become a research editor. An exception is for research editors working for scientific and medical journals publishing original research. Rather than being educated as journalists, research editors in these areas are often highly educated experts in their fields of publication, with strong communication skills that make them a good fit to work in an editorial field.


That said, the most common way to become a research editor is to first gain experience in a lower-level editorial role or as a writer. Many people start out as editorial assistants, assistant editors, or fact checkers. Sometimes writers, used to performing research when writing articles, move to the editorial side and find that research editing is a good fit. Strong curiosity and interest in the publication's subject matter and the world in general are very important when seeking to become a research editor.

Research editors may work on staff at publications or they may be freelancers. After gaining the appropriate editorial education and experience, finding work involves networking and looking at job ads to find open positions. For freelancers, building up a large network of editorial contacts can open doors to becoming a research editor. Often, freelancers will start out doing fact-checking work. Job boards for freelancers may also provide information about research work.

Another research editing position, often performed by freelancers, is photo editing. Photo research editors identify photographs and images for books and publications, and obtain the necessary use permissions. They also select the final images to be used.


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Post 4

@MrMoody - That sounds like an excellent opportunity actually, one that I believe you should pursue.

One of the most challenging tasks for a research editor in my opinion would be to work for a peer reviewed scientific publication. It would be your responsibility to check manuscripts that come in and verify that they are scientifically accurate.

That might be a bit of a daunting task, considering that some of the submissions are from people with PhD degrees, who might have more credentials than you would have in the chosen specialty.

Of course, the manuscripts would be peer reviewed as well, but I believe that the research editor would be the gatekeeper, so to speak, for all the manuscripts that came in. The last thing you would want to do would be to publish a manuscript where the science was fundamentally flawed. The buck of responsibility would stop with you in that case.

Post 3

I majored in English in college but made a transition into Information Technology and software development. I think having both skill sets has been a boon for me.

One of the opportunities for people who have worked as programmers yet also possess writing skills is to work as a technical editor. Some of the computer book publishers are always on the lookout for freelance technical editors.

You won’t assume the supervisory role that the book publisher’s editor has, but you will be used mainly as a fact checker. So if someone is writing a book on C++ and you know that language and can write well, you will be asked to review the book for its technical accuracy.

I’ve never done that myself, but I’ve considered it on a few occasions. It could be a foot in the door towards eventually writing my own computer book for a book publisher.

Post 2

@sunnySkys - Perhaps you could take a few more English classes and apply for a position with a publication that deals with photography? After all, the article said sometimes they hire people with a certain expertise and good communication skills. I think it would be worth a try!

I actually have a friend who works as a research editor and she really enjoys her job. She isn't a big fan of dealing with people all day long, and working as a research editor, you don't have to! Most of her work is pretty self directed and she even works from home some days!

Post 1

When I was in college, I loved doing research papers. I know that sounds weird! But I really enjoyed doing the actual research.

I really should have considered going into something like this instead of getting a degree in art. Not that I didn't enjoy my art classes, but the degree certainly wasn't conducive to getting a job after college!

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