We all know that publishing is part and parcel of being an academic.
As a PhD student, publishing can feel like one of those things you should be doing but that can easily be put off for another day (or year) while you concentrate on your thesis. From the outside, academic publishing can also seem very opaque. How on earth do you actually get started?! I’ve written about this elsewhere.
While you might be able to come up with any number of reasons to put off publishing, I’m going to suggest three reasons why you should start carving out publications from your thesis now.
Reason No. 1: By the time you finish your thesis, you won’t want to look at it anymore. At least not for a while. After spending four years slogging away on your thesis and thinking about little else besides your research topic, you’re going to want a break. You might only need a brief hiatus and feel compelled to revise your chapters into journal articles after a few months. Or, you might be completely fed up with your topic and move on to something new. Meanwhile, your thesis will sit idly by on a shelf, full of papers-that-might-have-been, collecting dust. The only way to make sure you don’t find yourself in this second scenario is to start publishing from your thesis before you have the option of setting it aside (i.e. while you’re still working on it).
Reason No. 2: It is possible to write chapters and papers in parallel. PhD students often worry that working on journal articles will distract them from finishing their theses. For some people this might be a reasonable concern, but I suspect that they are in a very (very) small minority. The content of your thesis chapters is also the content of your journal articles – you just need to package it differently. True, repackaging takes a bit of effort and a chunk of time. You should be well compensated, though, by peer review feedback that will improve not only your article, but your thesis as well. As an added bonus, you automatically avoid (at least in part) the dust-collection scenario described above.
Reason No. 3: A 2-year embargo isn’t as long as it seems. Many (most?) universities now require that you submit your thesis electronically so that it can be deposited in an online repository. The upside is that it makes your research widely – and freely – accessible without any extra work on your part. The downside is that it makes your research widely – and freely – available, which may deter reputable publishers. It is often possible to request an embargo that will delay the online publication of your thesis. I speak from experience, though, when I say that two years isn’t as long as you think it is. 23 months after submitting my thesis, I am finally ready to turn it into a book, have a proposal under review at a reputable publisher…and am trying to extend my embargo…
My point is that your opportunities to publish from your thesis after submission will almost certainly be limited. If not by lack of interest, than by lack of time. So, gather ye rosebuds, seize the day, start publishing from your thesis now.
Here are a few resources that might help you get started:
- Belcher, W.L. (2009). Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
- Huff, A.S. (2009). Designing Research for Publication. Thousand Oaks: Sage
- Johnson, N.F. (2011). Publishing from your PhD: Negotiating a Crowded Jungle. Farnham: Gower.