There is a time when every student who has achieved a Masters or PhD degree and has entered the junior academic career track considers publishing their thesis. How does one determine whether or not to pursue this goal and decide which path to take?
1. Why should I publish my thesis?
If you are staying in academia, publishing your thesis can be extremely helpful if you are seeking to earn tenure; for others, it is an excellent way to gain a reputation as an expert in your field.
Remember, however, that very few theses are published in their original form. The manuscript will require a significant amount of adaptation and editing before being submitted to a journal or book editor.
When you write a thesis, it is for a small audience: your thesis advisor and a committee, perhaps. When you rewrite your work for publication, your audience is much larger, less interested in the mechanics of your research, and may come from a range of different backgrounds. Your revised style needs to take this all into account.
2. Should I publish my thesis as a book?
Publishing a book is typically a more difficult path to take, especially as a young academic, but shop around and ask those who have read your work.
The central criterion for whether your dissertation can convert well into a book is its commercial value compared to journal articles. We encourage academics to answer these questions:
- Will it be selected by other professionals to teach from in their university classes?
- Will your colleagues purchase it and encourage librarians to do so as well?
- Will it appeal to a broader, more mainstream audience?
- Are you willing to put in the significant time required to reshape the thesis for these new audiences?
3. Should I publish my thesis as a series of journal articles?
Most academics take this route to publication. It is likely to be easier and faster, and it adds quickly to your reputation and opportunities for career advancement. In addition, if your findings are cutting-edge, this is the swiftest way to share your knowledge. You may opt to publish distinct sections of your thesis or revisit elements of your research that hold value but needed removing in the writing process.
4. What kind of journal shall I choose?
Based on the literature review conducted for your thesis, you should have a good sense of the types of journals that publish in your field.
You can decide between aiming high for a top tier journal, which may take some time and may result in an explicit rejection, or a more mid-level journal that is well respected among your colleagues.
You could also opt to self publish or aim for Open Access publications (see the point below). If you are unsure of reputation or style, ask one of your more senior colleagues.
We highly recommend reading a few of the most current articles published in each of the journals you are considering. Research their policies and mission statement online and carefully read the submission requirements.
5. Should I consider Open Access?
Open access publishing has democratised the publishing space to some degree, allowing for diverse voices to populate the landscape. Arguments favouring open access also suggest that your audience is broader and more significant, which in turn increases your readership, citations and makes your work more meaningful.
6. How do I find a book publisher?
There is a range of different commercial and university publishers you could consider. Again, check the publication details of the books you have been reading in your subject. Then decide if you want to submit to a large organisation with a long legacy or a more agile, modern publishing house with a niche focus in accord with your work.
Seek out editors at academic conferences or join publishing webinars. Most of all, ensure you have a similar philosophy about publishing and a strong potential for a good, long-term working relationship. Again, check with senior colleagues, scour the publishers’ websites, and do your homework.
7. Does publishing my dissertation online affect my chances of a publishing contract?
Nowadays, many students are required to make electronic copies of their theses or dissertations available online. Some have raised concern about the impact this might have on their publishing possibilities. However, there is very little evidence to support this notion. Making a dissertation available online does not negatively affect the chances of it being published. When it comes to copyright, the author retains control.
Moreover, as discussed above, turning your dissertation into a book requires a significant rewrite for a new audience, so they are two very different products. You can also request an embargo for six, 12 or 24 months.
8. Do I need an abstract?
Just as you need an abstract when writing your thesis, you also need an abstract for a journal article or a book proposal.
This is a short, sharp summary of your work that serves two purposes:
- To entice the reader.
- To enable indexing.
If you submit your manuscript for consideration as a book, the abstract is the first piece of writing the editor will see. If you are creating an abstract for a journal article, make sure it has all the relevant key terms so that your audience can immediately situate it in a larger body of work.
As a side benefit, depending on whether you choose to write it first or last, an effective abstract can help you focus your efforts or sum up your contribution.
9. How long will it take?
How long is a piece of string?
First of all, don’t take too long to convert your manuscript to a book or journal articles. Your literature review, which is likely to have to be adapted, may become outdated after a few years, depending on your field.
Then, anticipate at least six to 12 months from submission to publication for a book and 12-18 months for a journal article.
Specific journals are notorious for taking a long time to cycle the manuscript through peer review; others are more nimble. It may also take some time to determine how many articles you can carve out from your thesis and then identify the suitable journals for this work.
Be patient, but be consistent. And never, ever submit the same article to more than one journal at a time. It is considered unethical.
The longest part of a book conversion may be in the beginning – crafting an abstract, submitting it to various editors, and being accepted for publication.
A writing club or academic coach can be extremely useful to hone and reshape your thesis.
10. What should I do next?
If you have submitted and the editor has expressed interest in your article or book, be prepared to write and rewrite several times. Take their feedback seriously and respond carefully. It may take three or four times before it is finally accepted.
If you are on the cusp of submitting, consider presenting your thesis to colleagues in a workshop or conference setting to get one last round of feedback. With COVID-19 still affecting travel, online writing groups may also be an ideal outlet.
First and foremost, though, take a break. Not only do you deserve a rest, but also stepping away from your deeply immersed period of writing will help give you some perspective before you start on the publishing path.
If you’re looking for a publishing partner to get started on your journey, please click here to get in touch with us.
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