Q & A: Dissertation to Book?

Categories: Dissemination, Focus Series, Supervising and Teaching Research Skills and Roles, Teaching, Webinars, Writing and Editing

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November is Academic Writing Month, fondly known as AcWriMo. The AcWriMo focus on MethodSpace is on writing and publishing books. The whole series can be found through this link.

We offered a webinar, Write a Book! From Acquisition to Publication, with editors Leah Fargotstein, Eric Garner, and yours truly. We received more questions during the webinar than could be addressed in the 1-hour session, so we’ll respond to as many as possible in this series of posts. The recording, slides, and Q & A can be found through this link

Q. In the process of turning a dissertation into a published book, how much structural change can I expect to make from the original piece?

A. You can expect to make extensive changes in structure and writing style when moving from a dissertation or thesis to a book. Keep in mind that a dissertation or thesis is written to satisfy requirements of supervisors, committee members, and the institution. These doctoral works typically follow a 5- or 6- chapter format detailing the problem being studied, foundations in the literature, theoretical frameworks, methodologies and methods, findings, and discussion of the results and implications.

You might decide to write a book on any of these topics, or on all of them. Perhaps you framed the problem in a unique way, or adapted methods in a way that others might find useful. However, the way you present these topics will most likely be quite different from the dissertation or thesis. You will most likely need to do more writing, and depending on how long since the dissertation was published, you will probably need to update the literature.

Learn from others.

First, think about the type of book you want to write. Will it be a textbook, scholarly, or professional book? Then, look at other books of this type from your discipline. Peruse the table of contents, and read a chapter or two. How are they organized? What is the writing style? How does the structure and style of your dissertation or thesis compare to leading books in your field?

Look critically at your work.

Think beyond the dissertation or thesis document. What other writings or presentations can you draw on? Did you write some particularly well-researched papers, or give presentations? Do you have background notes on your research that didn’t fit the dissertation or thesis, but might add insights into your discussions about the study?

Develop a strategy.

Keep in mind that you might have material from your doctoral work that could become the basis for more than one publication. For example, you could decide to expand on your findings in a book proposal, but discuss methods used to conduct the study in a journal article. You could create a blog post or podcast on the problem for your professional society, and write a book chapter based on the literature review. Which types will reach your target audience, and create the impact you hope to achieve?

Resources for your next step.

Publishing From Your Doctoral Research offers detailed how-to steps for analyzing your work, determining what types of publications might help you reach personal and career goals, and developing a plan to bring your aspirations to life. Co-author Dr. Helen Kara and I discuss a wide range of traditional and emerging options for disseminating research.

I also discussed this strategic approach in a webinar, which is open access this week from the Textbook and Academic Authors Association. 

Please note that the Textbook and Academic Authors Association is offering webinar attendees and MethodSpace readers a $10 off for membership discount using the promo code SAGEAWM at www.taaonline.net/join.

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