How to Convert Your Thesis or Dissertation into a Journal Article
Successful publication is a vital aspect of an academic or scientific career, so it is an excellent idea to publish your thesis or dissertation as soon as possible either as a monograph or as one or more articles. By dividing your work into several articles, you will obviously achieve a larger number of publications than you would were you to publish your work as a book, and in many cases articles will achieve more exposure and reach a wider readership as well. Given the enormous pressure to publish both early and frequently in order to receive citations, promotions, research grants and salary increases, the temptation to divide your thesis or dissertation into the smallest possible chunks in order to squeeze as many publications as possible out of it is understandable. However, it is important to remember that a minimum publishable unit is required to produce a traditional research paper that will be seriously considered by the acquisitions editors of top-tier scholarly journals.
By a minimum publishable unit I mean a complete study of a topic, problem or phenomenon, with a complete study being one that describes, explains and analyses a piece of original research that produced significant results and also constructs and presents a meaningful argument about that research. Content rather than length is the issue, since a short paper can represent a minimum publishable unit for a small piece of research if all of these elements are present, while a long paper can fail to achieve the minimum requirements. Breaking your thesis or dissertation into more pieces than your research warrants in order to produce a larger number of publications is not likely to produce publishable research articles, and repeating material across several papers to shore up their deficiencies is not the answer either. Such approaches tend to result in papers that stand a better chance of being rejected than accepted by the best scholarly journals, so although it may be tempting to stretch the research you have done in your thesis or dissertation out over as many articles as possible, your time will be better spent and your professional reputation better served by preparing even a single complete and accomplished piece of academic or scientific writing that will be appropriate for publication as original research in a highly respected journal that suits your work perfectly.
There are, of course, certain types of paper for which the kind of minimum publishable I have indicated is not necessary. A study protocol in which a project is simply described is a good example, as is a literature review that aims to outline what has been published on a topic or in a particular area to date. Either or both might be the product of research for a thesis or dissertation, with the first potentially publishable if your study is especially innovative and the second possibly of interest to journals and their readers if no survey of publications on the subject has yet been published. There will be specific requirements for these papers as well, so do check journal guidelines to be sure that what you have in mind will be appropriate, and remember that while these kinds of papers will certainly increase the number of publications you have to your name, a traditional research article representing a minimum publishable unit is the kind of publication that can truly advance knowledge in a field and therefore establish a scholar as an authoritative voice on a subject.
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If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.