Carving the Best from Your Thesis for a Publishable Journal Article
When you are in the process of using the work from your thesis or dissertation to write a publishable article for an academic or scientific journal, one of the most challenging tasks is to carve off a slice of your research that will perfectly suit the much shorter length of a journal article, yet still provide you with enough meaty substance to produce a complete research paper. The process will be different for every author, every thesis and every article, but the following tips may prove helpful.
The metaphor of carving a roast is an apt one, because one of the most productive things you can do as you begin planning your article is to be somewhat merciless about which aspects of your research processes and findings you will cut away from the larger body of your thesis or dissertation. Focussing on one trial out of the three you conducted for your thesis might work, for instance, or perhaps selecting only two texts to discuss if you are studying several. Whatever you choose should function as the heart of a sound piece of research and stand as a significant contribution to knowledge all on its own, but it should ideally also serve as an introduction to your research project as a whole.
The slice you choose to sink your teeth into for your article should represent the best parts of your research to date. A procedure or trial in which you used particularly innovative methods or obtained especially striking results would be suitable. Focussing on the most significant or intriguing findings within the sea of data that tends to be presented in many theses can be an excellent way to streamline a topic and deal with it thoroughly even within the confines of a short paper. Your perspective should be informed by the wider range of your research, of course, including ambiguous or less than successful results, but limiting your discussion and interpretation to the most revealing evidence will result in a better paper.
It is helpful to anticipate what you will want and need to say about the material you plan to use. If the slice you carve from your thesis is too thin, you may not have enough interesting material to produce a convincing argument. On the other hand, if the slice you choose is too thick, you will probably not have enough space to present the key points of your argument and chew on them in reflective and sophisticated ways in your discussion and conclusion.
If you have already selected the journal to which you hope to submit your paper, do be sure to consult that journal’s guidelines for authors, paying special attention to any length and structural requirements. Certain aspects of your research may be more appropriate or inappropriate for some journals on this basis alone, and knowing the expectations of the journal that interests you might make your choices easier as you plan your paper.
Finally, try to avoid excessive details and unnecessary digressions as you weave your new text. You may feel as though you are abandoning important and interesting aspects of your research, but this is appropriate for the sake of a good article, and there are excellent options for making use of omitted material. You can, for example, include detailed data in tables that will appear in an appendix or online archive, and remember that the most interesting evidence and ideas that simply will not fit can always be saved for your next article.
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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.