Publishing Your Thesis or Dissertation through a University Press
Although discussions about the gradual decline of university presses have been relatively common in recent years, many university presses are not only still producing excellent publications on a regular basis, but also working to conquer the challenges presented by today’s unprecedented publishing environment. As they reassert or redefine their roles within this new environment, some of them are thriving as well as surviving. Therefore, if you are hoping to publish your thesis or dissertation as a book, there are many good reasons to consider a university press as a serious contender for publishing your work, and if the university at which you are conducting your research has its own press, that may well be the best place to begin your efforts.
University presses have traditionally existed for the primary purpose of disseminating the knowledge produced by the advanced research conducted at institutions of higher education, and they have tended to publish sophisticated work of this kind largely apart from the marketplace. Of course, virtually all publishing activities are now linked to marketplace trends, but many university presses still try to retain the ideal of spreading knowledge beyond the university without tipping their caps too far to profits and marketability. This places them on the same page as the many academics and scientists whose primary goal remains the communication of research in order to advance knowledge in their fields and disciplines.
While the books produced by university presses can appeal to a wide variety of readers, these publishers nonetheless focus especially on the publication of highly specialised scholarship for readers who are themselves advanced and specialised researchers. Such presses tend to choose their projects based on the quality of the research and argument presented in a manuscript and the importance of the topic and contents, so they are often willing to invest in unconventional books that commercial publishers might not consider popular or profitable enough to warrant the expense involved in publishing a quality monograph. It is therefore no surprise that university presses have been responsible for many innovative, occasionally even groundbreaking publications that have influenced not only scholarly fields of study, but also politics, social policy and other trends beyond academia.
Most university presses seem to understand the importance of a unique and interesting author, perhaps because they cater to successful scholars. Their publications therefore range widely in format, approach and content, and each book tends to communicate the personal style and concerns of its author or editor, which can be extremely refreshing for readers and writers when compared with the kind of homogenised style in which many books intended to be bestsellers are written. A university press may therefore be far more likely to appreciate the unique qualities of your research, your manuscript and your voice as an author. In addition, many university presses will be delighted to consider theses and dissertations for publication, especially those written by students studying at the same university.
A university press might prove a particularly appropriate option if you work in the humanities, arts or social sciences – fields in which the monograph, as a form that can contain a long and detailed argument gradually woven together with evidence of various kinds, remains central to research and its dissemination, as well as to promotion, funding and tenure. In these and other fields, university presses still function as nurturers of scholars and their scholarship, enabling the wider communication of the most interesting, innovative and controversial research and thereby advancing the careers of serious and dedicated academics and scientists.
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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.