Turning a piece of marked coursework into a publication
Recently I sat down with Dr Rachael Fox to reflect on our publishing experiences, both independently and as collaborators. In the process we discussed some tips and tricks for publishing. In last week’s post, I highlighted some info about finding a journal for your paper. In this post, I have drawn out some high-level points about taking a piece of marked coursework, like a dissertation or thesis chapter, and turning into a standalone paper for publication. This isn’t a step-by-step guide. It’s a short prompt post to get you thinking about the difference between writing for markers as compared to readers.
If you want to hear the whole conversation between Rachael and I, you can listen on the Psych Attack podcast website or on your preferred podcast platform (e.g., Spotify or Apple Podcasts).
Dr Rachael Fox is Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology, Charles State University. Rachael’s qualitative research is mostly in the areas of Community Psychology and Critical Psychology. Rachael is one of two editors of the Australian Community Psychologist, an open access journal by the Australia Psychological Society.
When writing for a marker:
- The length of the work is usually longer and you are using a writing style and terminology that demonstrates you are part of the ‘club’.
- You need to demonstrate knowledge, competence, and capability to justify passing or a higher grade.
- You take more care and time explaining theoretical, methodological, and analytical decisions and procedures.
- You are more likely to describe all of the findings from your study, including null findings.
When writing for a reader:
- You need to explain the real-world value and impact of the paper – but hey, as someone who loves applied research, I say do this in your thesis too!
- Sociopolitical or practice context is provided to justify the scope and aims. This is especially true when aiming to publish outside of your discipline or in a journal from another country.
- The length is generally shorter and the writing is more succinct.
- There is more affordance for shared conceptual and methodological knowledge between the writer and the reader.
- You have greater freedom to label what you did without having to demonstrate you know what that method is and how it is done. You might only go into detail if you did something original and want to make methodological contributions to your field.
- You are more likely to focus on a subset of your analysis and findings. You probably collected and explained a much larger set of variables and findings in your dissertation than you can fit into a publication. Journal editors and reviewers can also prioritise significant findings over null findings.
In my thesis, I spent a lot of time explaining things like trauma exposure and diagnostic criteria of various psychological disorders. When developing papers for publication, I removed all that detailed info. I was aiming to publish in journals where the readers know what I mean when I talk about various mood and anxiety disorders, for example.
After publishing my first paper using a certain method, I also just refer back to that paper in subsequent papers submitted to journals for review, rather than re-explaining the whole thing again. This helps save space and establishes some credibility in the method used.
Note: Even though I remove (or seriously cut down) this background and method content from papers I submit to journals, I still mention that I have developed this extra content in the cover letter accompanying my submission. If a reviewer comes back wanting a lot more info on disorders, constructs, or methods then I want the editor to know that this will not require ‘major revisions’. I can make these additions quickly – like on a cooking show, ‘here’s one I prepared earlier’.
If your thesis/dissertation or data is publicly available, I suggest letting the editor know in the submission cover letter and describing the nature of the public access and differences between the publicly available coursework and your submitted draft paper.