Rewriting PhD Research for Journal Publication

This our fourth blog post and I hope that you are remaining healthy in the face of the terrible pandemic that is affecting the daily lives of all of us. We have something different this week. It is aimed primarily at PhD students and recent PhD graduates to assist you in rewriting your research for journal publication.

Your PhD is NOT an Article

This week, I want to talk particularly to those of you who are completing, or have just completed, your PhDs and who want to publish from your research. You are to be commended for wanting to do this. You can share your original research with the field, begin to build a publication record, and gain recognition in the academic community. However, there is a "but", and this is an important "but", your thesis is not an article and, although you will have spent long and often agonising hours writing your PhD, you will need to re-write your work to turn it into an article. An article differs in many ways from a PhD including length, style, verb tense and scope. I have received many submissions that are clearly straight from a PhD: over 20,000 words, and even with chapter headings. This isn’t acceptable: so, what can you do?

Slice and Dice

One way that you may be advised to move your PhD from thesis to journal article is to "slice and dice" it: take it chapter by chapter and write a paper perhaps on each chapter. Naturally, this does not mean submit a chapter as originally written and hope it is published. This is highly unlikely. A chapter will frequently be unable to stand alone. For example, unless your methodology was an original method, you will not be able to write an article describing a known methodology. Similarly, your data chapter cannot really stand alone from your chapter discussing your results. This means that you cannot easily adopt the "slice and dice" approach.

What Do You Want to Say?

Before beginning to use your PhD as a basis for a journal article you need to consider what you are wishing to convey. Are you writing a review, critiquing the literature, or outlining the contribution of your research to the filed? Each of these will require a different style and will almost certainly be submitted to different journals. Hence, you need to plan exactly what you are wanting to say and check the aims and scope of a range of journals to select the most appropriate (see for further information on this).

Check the Guidelines

Once you have chosen your journal you will need to check the guidelines carefully. How many words are you allowed to write? Your 15,000-word literature review will almost certainly have to be halved if you have chosen to write a review. Is there a limit on the number of tables and figures? How will you reduce the number from your data section?

Some Useful Advice from Publishing Companies

There are many different ways in which you will need to consider how to re-write your PhD for publication. The three websites below provide useful advice from three of the large journal publishing groups. They are well worth visiting and have both similar and different tips for you to consider. The Elsevier webpage also has a link to a webinar which considers this topic in greater detail. It is an hour-long discussion of the topic and is part of their Researcher Academy (sign up with your email -it’s free).

I hope you find this useful and we wish you well in your publishing endeavours.


Dr Yvonne Masters
IAFOR Journal of Education

Posted by Publications