Prioritizing, Pruning, and Editing Content

RR graphic - no words.jpgPrioritizing, Editing and Pruning Content

The following module provides advice and tips on how to effectively prioritize and prune the content of a dissertation into a focused manuscript.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the need to focus dissertation content
  • Develop strategies to prioritize content and create an outline
  • Understand and utilize methods to prune, edit and streamline the content to match the outline


The following YouTube video, How to Turn Your Dissertation into a Journal Article, is an interview with a journal editor. The editor offers first-hand advice and insight into submitting your dissertation results for publication in journal. The editor emphasizes the differences between a journal article and a dissertation and the need to prune, focus and streamline content from your dissertation to create a manuscript that can be submitted for publication.

Once you understand the differences between a dissertation and a journal article, you can begin to examine your dissertation and identify topics, sections or findings from your dissertation that may have potential for submission to a journal. Create a prioritized list of your topics for publication. Starting with your highest priority, identify a journal that may be interested in your topic (see the Selecting a Journal module in this series). You will want to familiarize yourself with the guidelines and requirements for this journal before you begin to edit your content.

Editing and pruning the dissertation involves careful selection and re-writing of the material. It is way beyond simply cutting and pasting content. The process of pruning and editing your dissertation may seem overwhelming and therefore, organization is the key. The following tips will assist you in this process.

  • Begin by going through your dissertation from start to finish and creating a list of bullet points of your major facts and findings. Some authors even create one bullet point per paragraph. Each bullet point should be concise and only contain information the reader needs to know. A good rule of thumb is to limit each one to a dozen or so words. Do not repeat the content of the bullet points.
  • When you have completed this process, go through your list and distinguish between essential and non-essential points. Keep the audience and their level of knowledge about your topic in mind as you go through this process. Eliminate any unnecessary points.
  • Go through the bullet points and identify all points related to the topic you have chosen for your manuscript.
  • Organize those bullet points in a logical order that flows smoothly. This will create a functional outline for writing the manuscript. One common way to organize the bullet points is as follows:
    • Importance of the issue
    • Relevant literature
    • Fundamental concepts and background information (which may be incorporated into the previous two when writing the manuscript)
    • Methodology
    • Findings
    • Implications of the findings
  • The final result is a blueprint for writing the manuscript.
  • For tips, suggestions, and resources on how to write a research paper for publication, see the CIRT Research Ready module, Writing a Research Paper.

Pruning the content by using the bullet point method does require an investment of time and energy up front. However, the outline created from the process provides great assistance when sitting down to write the article and is worth the effort. The Resource Links to the right offer additional suggestions and insight.

Suggested Readings:

  • Belcher, W. L. (2009).Writing your journal article in twelve weeks: A guide to academic publishing success. Sage.
  • Calfee, R. C., & Valencia, R. R. (1991). APA guide to preparing manuscripts for journal publication.
  • Fox, M. F. (1985). The transition from dissertation student to publishing scholar and professional. Scholarly writing & publishing: Issues, problems. and solutions. Westview Press: Boulder, 6-16.
  • Luey, B. (Ed.). (2008).Revising your dissertation: Advice from leading editors. Univ of California Press.
  • Pollard, R. Q. (2005). From dissertation to journal article: A useful method for planning and writing any manuscript.The Internet Journal of Mental Health,2(2), 1-10.
  • Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Resource Links

From Dissertation to Journal Article - The following resources is an article aimed at outlining the process of publishing a dissertation, including a discussion of how to narrow your focus and prune the content of your dissertation.

Carving up the Dissertation in to Journal Articles - The following blog post offers advice on how to derive several journal articles from your dissertation and discusses the bullet points method.

Publishing Your Dissertation - This guide from the APA gives an overview of the steps needed to publish a dissertation.

Dissertation to Journal Article: A Systematic Approach - The following link provides a comprehensive discussion of how to prune, narrow and focus the material from your dissertation into a journal article.

Converting the Thesis or Dissertation into a Journal Article - This PDF resource offers an overview of revising the dissertation to create manuscripts for journal submission and include a discussion of re-framing the dissertation material.

Viewed 2,350 times