Turning your dissertation into a journal article

Turning your dissertation into a journal article – Stage 1:  Deciding

Turning your dissertation into a journal article is fundamentally a painful process; root-canal treatment can be more relaxing.  You will be taking a dissertation or thesis ranging from 12 to 90 thousand words and cutting it down 5,000 words.  You may have worried about every word, cared about ever comma and imbued passion in every paragraph – but – no one gives a damn!

The blood, sweat and tears involved in the initial output has served its purpose – you have gained your degree.  Congratulations!

Celebrate the moment, take the rest of the day off; you have earned it. If you have not passed, do not try turning your dissertation into a journal article, you would be wasting your time – here is a link to Mary Berry’s Scones – go try baking them instead, much better use of your time.


What is your motivation for turning your dissertation into a journal article?

There are many different motivations for turning your article your dissertation into a journal article, it does not really matter which one applies to you, as long as you are motivated!  Some motivations, of course, could be considered more ‘worthy’ than others, but really who cares about that…  Here are some common motivations:

  1. Contribute to the advancement of knowledge
  2. To confect a more credible application for a PhD Scholarship
  3. Help to get or keep a job, or even gain promotion
  4. A little something for the CV
  5. Find yourself on Google Scholar or have something to post on Research Gate
  6. Family bragging rights, especially over that annoying cousin or brother


If you have passed your degree, you can still face looking at your work again for a few more hours and have an avowed intent or at least some latent motivation which involves turning your dissertation into a journal article, first consider these three initial questions.


Initial Questions: Turning your dissertation into a journal article


Turning your dissertation into a journal article: Three Questions

Value – Is it any good?

Well objectively, your dissertation probably does not contain any innate goodness.  If your thesis has, however, created a cure for colon cancer or solved the remaining issues with the malaria vaccine, what in the name of all that is holy are you doing reading this page!


If you got a decent grade for it, or your supervisor or for that matter your marker or any other experienced academic told you it was good, give it a shot! However, one of the clearest indicators of goodness, is having something significant to say.


Message – What are you going to say?

At the most basic level your journal article must make a contribution to knowledge.  What does that mean?  Ideally it should be original, and participate in an existing ‘conversation’, that is contribute some existing discussion advanced slightly move on and leave it to be developed by others.  You may hear a lot of people talk about contributing to academic theory, if you have gone through an undergraduate or master’s dissertation under still unsure of what academic theory is, that is forgivable if not entirely understandable.  If, however, you have completed a PhD and you still do not understand what academic theory is – how on earth did you manage to achieve that.  either way, your journal paper stands a much better chance in published if there is a clearly articulated contribution to academic theory.


Destination – Where are you submitting it?

The idea of contributing to a pre-existing conversation is particularly important when choosing a journal.  One of the things that you must clearly demonstrate to the editor is that your paper contributes to a dialogue that is already taking place within their journal.  How do you do that? Well, the simplest way is to make sure that you have cited existing papers from that journal that your paper is building upon. Simply put, your paper must have value to the editor and his journal.


Now, turning your dissertation into a journal article here is a seven stage process you might consider following.