How to Turn Your Thesis into Journal Articles

Are you planning to turn a thesis into journal articles? For many, the completion of a thesis (or dissertation as it is called in the U.S.) is the ultimate high point of their formal education. However, to be considered a member of the academic or scientific community you will need to consider becoming a published academic author. The two main types of publication are journals and conference papers.

Converting a thesis into journal articles is not as simple as copying and pasting sections of your thesis and sending them off for publication. Each publisher has its own requirements and preferences which will not be the same as the university guidelines that you followed to prepare your thesis. Also, these publishers only publish original texts that have never been previously published, including published as a thesis. Turnitin or similar software is used to check for originality. The ideas, findings and concepts included in your thesis can, of course, be used and you should cite your thesis in the article, but you cannot copy the text verbatim.

Turning thesis into journal article

While theses typically run top 80,000 words, the longest journal articles tend to be 8,000 with many publications accepting shorter ones. Hence, the journal article may focus on one aspect of your thesis. If you did a mixed-methods study you could use one or the other methods in the article rather than both. If you conducted a qualitative study which found, let’s say, five main themes you could do one article for each theme. If you conducted a quantitative study, you could extract only some of the variables and analysis. You could focus on only one of the relationships between the variables not all of them. These are just some of the possibilities for turning your thesis into a journal article.

Differences between thesis and journal article

There are many differences between a thesis and a journal article, not just the length. In your thesis, you may have used figures created by others but a journal publisher will expect you to create original figures and charts. In your thesis, the examiners are not so strict if the data you quote is a few years old, but journal publishers will insist on the latest available data from the current year or the previous year. Also, journal publishers have strict guidelines on the size and format of figures and charts. Remember, your thesis is A4 one column but a journal usually publishes in two or three-column format.

Peer reviewing

There are many differences between a thesis and a journal article, not just the length. Your journal article will be reviewed by the editor and usually two other academics – a process called peer-reviewing. Each will make their own set of comments that you will be expected to follow. It would be extremely unusual for your first submission to be accepted without amendments.

So to conclude, your PhD gives you the credibility to have your academic work published. The ideas and findings of your thesis can, of course, be used but you cannot just copy the same text. Journal articles have to be original and never published before. So there will be more work to do to get a journal article published but the reward is that you can accurately describe yourself as a published author!

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