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Editorial and Research Assistants

The Job

Editorial and research assistants work for many kinds of publishers, publications, and corporations. They assist editors with the tasks necessary to provide clearly written, accurate reading material. Both positions tend to be entry-level jobs that may provide the opportunity for advancement. Editorial and research assistants may be assigned to support one editor or writer, an editorial team, or an entire department. They may work on one project at a time or several projects simultaneously.

Editorial assistants perform many different tasks. They may handle the clerical aspects of an editorial project, such as going through the editorial department mail, filing documents, making photocopies, corresponding with authors, and submitting expense reports and invoices to accounting for payment. They may be responsible for obtaining permission to reuse previously published materials such as artwork, maps, tables, or writing from another person, or verifying that the author has already obtained permission. They may also perform other tasks more directly involved with editing, such as reviewing text for style and format issues, correcting any spelling or grammar errors, and adding or deleting content to make the text more readable or to adhere to space specifications. They may use desktop publishing software to edit text, photos, or art and create page or web layouts. 

In addition to the tasks mentioned above, some editorial assistants who work with artists and photographers are responsible for writing captions for photographs or labels for artwork. Editorial assistants who work for newspapers may perform basic and formulaic tasks such as updating the winning lottery numbers, sports scores, or calendar events listed in the newspaper, or they may undertake simple writing assignments such as creating birth, engagement, wedding, or anniversary announcements, or obituaries. Editorial assistants who work for book publishers may be responsible for reading through unsolicited manuscripts from writers and determining which editor, if any, it should be forwarded to for further consideration.

Research assistants generally perform research tasks such as verifying the dates, facts, names of persons and places, and statistics used by a writer. They may review a writer's sources and then verify that the information provided by these sources is correct. They may contact any persons interviewed by the writer to ensure that any quotes used by the writer are truthful and correct. Research assistants also contact experts in subject areas pertaining to the topic of the article, often to obtain additional information for the writer, or verify information already used in the article. If a research assistant finds any errors or discrepancies with the writer's text, they are expected to flag and correct them. A research assistant may meet with the writer and/or editor to discuss any discrepancies that are not easily resolved.

Research assistants use a variety of tools to do their jobs. They rely on telephones, fax machines, and computers to obtain the information they need. Researchers may utilize libraries, the Internet, and in-house collections of information as sources of facts, figures, and statistics. Although they may work in a variety of settings, many research assistants work in the magazine/periodical publishing industry.

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