writing from the PhD thesis – the publishing plan

I’m assuming that if you’re reading this post you have a publishing agenda – that is a list of potential articles from the PhD arranged in priority order. I’m also assuming that this might include a book – but I’m not going to talk about the book in this post. I do have some posts already on the book and you might want to check them out here and here and here and here and here.

So you’re now ready to do a publishing plan. There are three key parts to the plan- choosing the journal, writing the abstract, and setting a deadline for drafts and completion. I will talk briefly about each. I’m really not trying to get you to buy the new book on writing journal articles, honest, but Barbara and I do deal with each of these steps in much more detail in it.

Step One: Choose the journal.

Well in reality choose two, one that you try first and then another one for backup in case the first one doesn’t work out so well.
In choosing a journal, you are actually choosing a community of researchers, writers and readers (a discourse community), so you need to think about
• which discourse communities you are already in – which journals did you use most in your PhD?
• which discourse communities you really want to read your work. If this is not the same as the first answer, then you have a substantial bit of research to do in order to find out where these discourse communities publish.

You can tell something about a journal’s discourse community from looking at the editorial board – they will be respected members of it – and you can find out something about the kinds of conversations they have, and have already had about your topic, from the title and abstracts of papers. You might also want to do a search of key terms.

Step Two: Write the abstract for each article

The point of doing this is twofold – so that you can see whether in fact you do have separate articles or you are just writing the same one over and over, and so that you can actually remember what you were thinking about when you come back to number two, three, four and five on your list.

It’s good to work with sentence skeletons for your abstracts which you can get from the journals you are looking at. However, below is a generic starter which will at least get the argument and content down on paper and can be rewritten later to suit the journal:

Working abstract draft skeleton

(1) XXX is now a significant issue/debate/problem/trend … in/for ( name literature, policy, practice )… because .. ( add up to two sentences)

(2) In this paper I focus on ( name the aspect of XXX you are going to talk about)

(3) The paper draws on findings from/literatures in/ texts/theories .. ( be specific) which I ( something about your method here) …. in order to…

(4) My analysis/reading … shows that..

(5) The paper argues/I argue that …

(6) I conclude by suggesting that ….. (refer back to the issue/debate/problem/trend)

Step Three: Schedule the papers

You will need here to look both realistically and ambitiously at your calendar and your obligations and allow enough time for each paper to be written. You could even timetable writing each of the five pieces of the separate papers that you’ve outlined in the working abstract.

You also need to find a way to keep this plan with its journal research, abstract and timetable handy and visible. You need to keep it in mind as well as keeping it together. There are lots of ways to do this including hard copy. I tend to use a word table with linked abstracts, stickies on my desk-top and deadlines in my calendar.

It’s all change-able of course. However, getting the plan and the abstracts together does give you a real road map of how to get things published and when.

In the next publish from your PhD post I will talk about writing for new readers.

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
This entry was posted in abstracts, academic book, academic writing, books, early career researchers, journal, publication plan, publishing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to writing from the PhD thesis – the publishing plan

  1. gsulcas says:

    Thanks for the post. The abstract draft skeleton is especially useful.


  2. Angela Flynn says:

    Excellent post. Thanks!


  3. Tracy Shroyer, PhD says:

    This is VERY helpful for me! I printed so I can use it as a guide. Writing the abstract for each article using the template you provided will ensure I am thinking through the topic of the article and what level of details to include more thoroughly before writing it all out. In addition, I have heard about choosing the journal first, and I need to be strategic and take time to do this step, especially because you can only submit an article to one journal at a time typically, and the process can be quite lengthy. Appreciate you taking the time to provide this information!


  4. Elaine says:

    Thank you for this post, I have a couple of articles at different stages but I think I’ll do a whole plan at the first opportunity. I am a bit unclear about publishing material from my thesis though- should I literally lift passages out or does it require a complete rewrite? Then, what are the implications for turning the thesis into a monograph at some later stage, won’t the material be “owned” by the publisher? Best wishes, Elaine


    • pat thomson says:

      A if you are writing journal articles, it’s probably a fair bit of rewriting. You are taking a piece of something not a chapter, and writing for a specific journal. The argument will require a new line of rhetoric. Re book, you need to work out what is going to be book and what papers. You’re right, there is a danger you could do the lot I n papers, in which case there will be nothing new left for a publisher if it’s already out there.


      • Elaine says:

        Thanks for the reply, Pat. I’ve reviewed my options and think I can manage to produce these articles without reproducing word-for-word and to focus on material which is incidental to the main argument of my thesis. I’m writing a publications plan straight away! Thanks so much for this site, it’s so useful! I think a “what’s next” course should be mandatory at the end of a phd.


  5. Pingback: when is it too late to write from the PhD? | patter

  6. Pingback: Plotting a paper from your thesis - Enhancing Postgraduate Environments

  7. Irfan Raja says:

    Extremely useful, relevant and a much needed piece of writing


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