Dissertation to Publication: Why Publish? Where to Publish?

RR graphic - no words.jpgDissertation to Publication:

         Why Publish? Where to Publish?

The following module provides an overview of the process of how to go from dissertation to publication, including a discussions of why publication is important, publishing options, and the basic steps involved.

Learning Objectives:

  • Discuss the importance of sharing dissertation findings in a scholarly publication.
  • Describe the difference between a dissertation and an academic publication.
  • List options for publishing a dissertation.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of the possible options.

Almost all dissertations have the potential to result in one or more publications. A tremendous amount of work, blood sweat, and probably some tears, went into your dissertation.  You owe it to yourself, and to your academic community, to take the final steps necessary to share your work by publishing your results. Following is a list of some of the most important reasons that it is vital to your academic future that you take that next step and publish the work from your dissertation:

  • It advances your academic career by establishing your academic credibility and expertise in your field.
  • You are really obligated to share your findings with others in your discipline to advance the knowledge in your field of study.
  • Publications build your academic vitae.
  • It creates networking opportunities and opens the door to potential collaborations with others interested in your work.
  • Previous publications may be critical in securing support and funding for future projects.

There are many options for publishing your dissertation results.  Following is an overview of the options.  A graduate student who has completed his or her dissertation should begin by carefully considering these options. It is important to understand that the dissertation itself is considerably different than an academic publication and that it will require significant revision and re-writing to produce a publishable product.  A dissertation is a complete and detailed account of the entire research project, including both content and process.  The graduate student includes a great deal of content to establish their knowledge base and build credibility.  The student will also include all aspects of the process including successes, failures, changes to plans, explanations for paths not taken, and so forth.  This information serves to provide evidence of the thought processes and research abilities of the student and justification of the methods.  In essence, the graduate student is proving his or herself to the committee. Much of this detail is not desired or necessary in an academic publication.  An academic publication will be much narrower in scope and focus and often results from just a portion of the dissertation.  This is why one dissertation could potentially lead to more than one publication.  In an academic publication, the author needs to briefly demonstrate their knowledge and discuss current literature, describe the methods and ensure that they are reasonable, and discuss the findings in a way that proves their contribution to the field. Manuscripts submitted for academic publication are also reviewed by an editor and/or through a peer review process.  The review process provides the author with feedback that helps revise and refine the manuscript, ensuring that it will be a quality publication. Therefore, to share the dissertation with the wider academic community, the researcher will have to be willing to undergo the steps necessary to create a manuscript that can be considered ready for academic publication. These steps will be outlined in more detail in future modules in this series.

There are a variety of options for publishing the work from a dissertation and each has its pros and cons. Following is list of common options and a discussion of each.

  • ProQuest - This a commercial, online repository for full text theses and dissertations. Authors are charged a fee and can choose between restricted or open access.  The authors may receive modest royalties if choosing the traditional, restricted publishing. The cons include that some publishers will consider an open access dissertation a prior publication, which will prevent the author from future publications from the dissertation.  Authors also cannot license re-use rights.  Authors should keep in mind that this is a way to make the full dissertation available, but is not considered an academic publication and will not be as available to the academic community, nor will it have the same level of credibility.
  • Self-Publishing - This term refers to any method of publishing your dissertation where the publication is not reviewed, edited or selected through a peer review process or by an editor. For example, self-publishing online printing companies, such as Lulu.com, allow students to upload their dissertation and have it turned into bound hardcopies or uploaded to the Lulu Marketplace. This allows it to be opened up to the public and the student may receive a portion of any profits from its sale.  Students may also have their dissertations published in Conference Proceedings if they present a paper at that conference.  These are just a few examples of ways to publish a dissertation, but graduate students should keep in mind that these are not considered academic publications. As with ProQuest, there is also the risk that professional journals may consider your dissertation to have been previously published if you try to submit a manuscript to them at a later date.
  • Books - If a graduate student decides to pursue academic publication, books and scholarly journals are their primary options. Often times, the more appropriate channel may be discipline specific. For example, a chemist would likely choose to try to publish a journal, whereas a historian may decide that a book is more appropriate.  Other factors may also be important in the decision.  If your topic is time-sensitive, a journal will get your results out faster.  If you are not a natural writer, a book may seem too daunting and may not be the right choice. The advantage of books is that they target a broader audience.  However, they often require additional research and there must be a sufficient amount of original work within the dissertation to warrant a book.
  • Scholarly journals - Journals are the most common choice for academic publication. The focus of a journal is much more limited, however, and therefore the author will need to spend considerable time narrowing down a particular aspect of the dissertation to focus on.  For this reason, some students are able to get more than one publication out of their dissertation if there are several worthy topics or findings. One advantage of journals is that the audience is narrower and more knowledgeable about the topic in general.  Therefore, journals put the information from the dissertation into the hands of people who are genuinely interested in the study.  Journals are also published in a more timely fashion than books, which may be important depending on the topic.  Most scholarly journals also utilize a peer review process and that feedback may be very helpful.

It is important to note that Pro Quest and other self-publication options are not academic, peer-reviewed publications.  Therefore, they do not assist in advancing an academic career in the ways discussed in the beginning of this module. Peer-reviewed books and journal articles should be the primary focus for publishing dissertation results. 

In summary, a tremendous amount of effort and energy goes into finishing a dissertation.  While academic publications will require additional work, it is important to share results with others in the academic community and publications are also important to the careers of the researchers.  Because scholarly journals are the most common kind of academic publication pursued by dissertation students, the remainder of the modules in this series will focus on journals.


Suggested Readings:

  • Becker, H. S. (2008). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article. University of Chicago Press.
  • Berg, B. L., & Lune, H. (2004). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (Vol. 5). Boston: Pearson.
  • Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods. Oxford university press.
  • Devlin A. (2006) Research Methods.  Thompson Wadsworth.
  • 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.
  • Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Resource Links

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

From Dissertation to Journal Article - The following resources is an article aimed at outlining the process of publishing a dissertation.

From Dissertation to Book - The following discussion focuses on advice for graduate students considering publishing a book and offers some do's and don'ts.

How to Turn Your Dissertation, Thesis or Paper into a Publication - The following website links to four parts that fully discuss the options available for publishing a dissertation and suggests factors to be considered.

ProQuest: Submit Dissertation or Thesis - Following is the link for more information regarding submitting a dissertation to Proquest.

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