Once you have winkled the topic of your paper out of its thesis shell, you need to select the journal that you want to publish in. And once you’ve made that decision, you need to remember these five things as you start to think about the process of reshaping the material.
- You are writing for a new reader
The reader is no longer an examiner who was looking for evidence that you knew how to ‘do’ research and that your research made a credible contribution to your field. The journal reader expects a paper about something that will interest them, that will connect with what they already know, that is believable, well constructed and tightly argued. Their expectations mean that you now need to tailor make the material from your thesis into something different.
2. You have to write a new rationale
You have to construct the particular case for this particular slice of your thesis. The warrant won’t be the same as you produced for your research at the outset, nor will it be exactly the same as the rationale you wrote at the beginning of the thesis text. The case for the paper must be made particular to the subject matter at hand, and to the interests of the particular journal community. Why do these readers need to read about this topic, now? How does it connect to their ongoing conversations, understandings, debates and interests? How can you signal the rationale in an engaging introduction that hooks this specific journal reader in, and makes them want to read on?
3. You have to select relevant literatures to support this paper
The literature review you did for your thesis was designed to situate your bigger project, to show the texts you were drawing on, and pinpoint where your contribution would fit. You read an awful lot during your research and you had lots of words to play with in the thesis. But you now have to choose which literatures are most appropriate for the new paper. You must present them so that they signal that you know the field, and most importantly, that you are on top of the literatures germane to your newly focused material. You’ll need to write a short and relevant literatures section which anchors the paper into the ongoing conversation in the journal. So you may even need to do a little additional reading.
The kinds of words that you should have in your mind here are remix, redesign and reconstruct. You are bringing together existing material in a new form. You are net working with raw material but not are you simply transplanting. You are reworking. What you write in this new paper may well not be the argument that you made in your thesis. You need to think about what is important about this slice of thesis material and how you can stage, sequence and evidence it so that the reader becomes persuaded of its plausibility and importance. You may well have to write some new ‘bits’ in order to make the thesis pieces hang together. A little, or even a lot, of your new paper will be almost unrecognisable from its original rhetorical form – although the substance may remain. However, you don’t want a pastiche. You want to write something that hangs together, that is demonstrably a well-crafted and deliberate reworking of your selected thesis material. So you need to particularly focus on getting the moves right and the flow and transitions smooth.
5. Your claims to significance must fit this material and this new rationale
The introductory rationale for the paper and the conclusion always work together. They ask and answer a question, put forward a proposition and then resolve it, offer a problematisation and then a way forward. The conclusion to the paper from the thesis thus can’t be the same as that in the Big Book. The paper conclusion must focus on what this argument and evidence means for whom, where and why . It should tell the reader what should/could happen as a result of this new understanding. The end of the paper is written with the journal readers at the forefront of your mind and refers, again, to the kinds of knowledge, interests, debates that they think are important.
Thinking through these five things – perhaps even jotting down some thoughts about them, free writing about them in a Pomodoro/ShutUpAndWrite – can be very helpful. Your careful thoughts about the five points will orient you to writing either an outline or a Tiny Text abstract. This text will then steer your rewriting, reworking, reshaping, reconstucting, redesigning. Call it what you will. I like remixing.
You might also find it helpful to check out some other patter posts on writing journal articles. Check the curated collection on wakelet.