Dissertation to Publication:
Why Publish? Where to Publish?
The following module provides an overview of the process of how to go from dissertation to publication, including a discussions of why publication is important, publishing options, and the basic steps involved.
- Discuss the importance of sharing dissertation findings in a scholarly publication.
- Describe the difference between a dissertation and an academic publication.
- List options for publishing a dissertation.
- Discuss the pros and cons of the possible options.
Almost all dissertations have the potential to result in one or more publications. A tremendous amount of work, blood sweat, and probably some tears, went into your dissertation. You owe it to yourself, and to your academic community, to take the final steps necessary to share your work by publishing your results. Following is a list of some of the most important reasons that it is vital to your academic future that you take that next step and publish the work from your dissertation:
- It advances your academic career by establishing your academic credibility and expertise in your field.
- You are really obligated to share your findings with others in your discipline to advance the knowledge in your field of study.
- Publications build your academic vitae.
- It creates networking opportunities and opens the door to potential collaborations with others interested in your work.
- Previous publications may be critical in securing support and funding for future projects.
There are many options for publishing your dissertation results. Following is an overview of the options. A graduate student who has completed his or her dissertation should begin by carefully considering these options. It is important to understand that the dissertation itself is considerably different than an academic publication and that it will require significant revision and re-writing to produce a publishable product. A dissertation is a complete and detailed account of the entire research project, including both content and process. The graduate student includes a great deal of content to establish their knowledge base and build credibility. The student will also include all aspects of the process including successes, failures, changes to plans, explanations for paths not taken, and so forth. This information serves to provide evidence of the thought processes and research abilities of the student and justification of the methods. In essence, the graduate student is proving his or herself to the committee. Much of this detail is not desired or necessary in an academic publication. An academic publication will be much narrower in scope and focus and often results from just a portion of the dissertation. This is why one dissertation could potentially lead to more than one publication. In an academic publication, the author needs to briefly demonstrate their knowledge and discuss current literature, describe the methods and ensure that they are reasonable, and discuss the findings in a way that proves their contribution to the field. Manuscripts submitted for academic publication are also reviewed by an editor and/or through a peer review process. The review process provides the author with feedback that helps revise and refine the manuscript, ensuring that it will be a quality publication. Therefore, to share the dissertation with the wider academic community, the researcher will have to be willing to undergo the steps necessary to create a manuscript that can be considered ready for academic publication. These steps will be outlined in more detail in future modules in this series.
There are a variety of options for publishing the work from a dissertation and each has its pros and cons. Following is list of common options and a discussion of each.
- ProQuest - This a commercial, online repository for full text theses and dissertations. Authors are charged a fee and can choose between restricted or open access. The authors may receive modest royalties if choosing the traditional, restricted publishing. The cons include that some publishers will consider an open access dissertation a prior publication, which will prevent the author from future publications from the dissertation. Authors also cannot license re-use rights. Authors should keep in mind that this is a way to make the full dissertation available, but is not considered an academic publication and will not be as available to the academic community, nor will it have the same level of credibility.
- Self-Publishing - This term refers to any method of publishing your dissertation where the publication is not reviewed, edited or selected through a peer review process or by an editor. For example, self-publishing online printing companies, such as Lulu.com, allow students to upload their dissertation and have it turned into bound hardcopies or uploaded to the Lulu Marketplace. This allows it to be opened up to the public and the student may receive a portion of any profits from its sale. Students may also have their dissertations published in Conference Proceedings if they present a paper at that conference. These are just a few examples of ways to publish a dissertation, but graduate students should keep in mind that these are not considered academic publications. As with ProQuest, there is also the risk that professional journals may consider your dissertation to have been previously published if you try to submit a manuscript to them at a later date.
- Books - If a graduate student decides to pursue academic publication, books and scholarly journals are their primary options. Often times, the more appropriate channel may be discipline specific. For example, a chemist would likely choose to try to publish a journal, whereas a historian may decide that a book is more appropriate. Other factors may also be important in the decision. If your topic is time-sensitive, a journal will get your results out faster. If you are not a natural writer, a book may seem too daunting and may not be the right choice. The advantage of books is that they target a broader audience. However, they often require additional research and there must be a sufficient amount of original work within the dissertation to warrant a book.
- Scholarly journals - Journals are the most common choice for academic publication. The focus of a journal is much more limited, however, and therefore the author will need to spend considerable time narrowing down a particular aspect of the dissertation to focus on. For this reason, some students are able to get more than one publication out of their dissertation if there are several worthy topics or findings. One advantage of journals is that the audience is narrower and more knowledgeable about the topic in general. Therefore, journals put the information from the dissertation into the hands of people who are genuinely interested in the study. Journals are also published in a more timely fashion than books, which may be important depending on the topic. Most scholarly journals also utilize a peer review process and that feedback may be very helpful.
It is important to note that Pro Quest and other self-publication options are not academic, peer-reviewed publications. Therefore, they do not assist in advancing an academic career in the ways discussed in the beginning of this module. Peer-reviewed books and journal articles should be the primary focus for publishing dissertation results.
In summary, a tremendous amount of effort and energy goes into finishing a dissertation. While academic publications will require additional work, it is important to share results with others in the academic community and publications are also important to the careers of the researchers. Because scholarly journals are the most common kind of academic publication pursued by dissertation students, the remainder of the modules in this series will focus on journals.
- Becker, H. S. (2008). Writing for social scientists: How to start and finish your thesis, book, or article. University of Chicago Press.
- Berg, B. L., & Lune, H. (2004). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (Vol. 5). Boston: Pearson.
- Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods. Oxford university press.
- Devlin A. (2006) Research Methods. Thompson Wadsworth.
- Fox, M. F. (1985). The transition from dissertation student to publishing scholar and professional. Scholarly writing & publishing: Issues, problems. and solutions. Westview Press: Boulder, 6-16.
- Rocco, T.S. and Hatcher, T. (2011). The handbook of scholarly writing and publishing. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
Once your thesis, dissertation, or manuscript has been accepted by the Graduate Division, it is submitted for publication to the UCSF Library and to ProQuest/UMI where it will become available to other academic institutions and to the general public.
The following information was taken from the Proquest/UMI Guide F2009.
Publishing with UMI® Dissertation Publishing: Effects on Publishing your Content Elsewhere
The first thing to remember is that YOU own your copyright; unlike most scholarly publishers, ProQuest/UMI does NOT acquire copyright when we publish your dissertation or thesis. You are free to re-publish your work in whole or in part, with whomever you choose without asking our permission.
Some authors are concerned that journals and other publishers will not accept content that has been published in or as a dissertation or thesis. This concern is less valid in the case of peer-reviewed journals, and potentially more valid in the case of commercial book publishers. While every case is unique, here are some general rules of thumb in examining this issue with regard to your own work:
- In most cases, you will not be submitting your dissertation or thesis as is to a peer-reviewed journal (unless it is a journal that publishes a monograph series). Most often, the content submitted for journal publication is an excerpt, chapter, or section of your dissertation or thesis. At the very least, it would be a significantly shorter distillation of your graduate work. The content is likely to be rearranged and reformatted to fit the style of the journal to which you submit. Finally, the content is likely to be revised and updated through the peer-review process and finally the editorial process if it is accepted. All of these processes mean that the material as finally published by a journal is substantively and substantially refined and therefore different from the content that is published as your dissertation or thesis. For this reason, journals are not historically concerned about your content having appeared and been distributed as a published graduate work. This is particularly true in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
- Academic presses, monograph publishers, and commercial presses are more likely to consider your dissertation or thesis as a book. This is more often the case with the humanities, social sciences, and arts. Still, even if not peer-reviewed, the editorial process that turns your graduate work into a book is likely to change it substantially. The key in this consideration is whether the content changes substantively; i.e., is there a real difference in the content that makes the press comfortable with investing its resources in producing a book from your dissertation/thesis. Historically, presses have not been terribly concerned that distribution of your graduate work would harm potential sales as a book. However, as dissertations and theses have become widely available over the internet through libraries, consortia and institutional repositories as well as from our subscription database, more presses may look more carefully at the question of marketability.
Requests for Delayed Publishing
Classified or Confidential Material
Occasionally there are special circumstances when a student does not want all or part of the dissertation to be published. Such circumstances may involve disclosure of patent rights before a patent is granted, disclosures of facts about persons or institutions that violate professional ethics regarding protection of confidentiality or other circumstances that would be detrimental to the rights of the author. In such cases, the dean of the Graduate Division may permit the entire thesis, dissertation, manuscript or an appendix to be held for a specified period of time, usually not longer than one year. This is called a "publishing embargo."
All requests for a publishing embargo must be made to the dean of the Graduate Division. This request should come in the form of a letter from your graduate advisor, PI, or the chair of your thesis, dissertation, or manuscript committee. Unless there are extreme circumstances, the maximum length of the embargo request should not exceed one year. Please email these requests to Ellen Levitan, together with the letter from your advisor or PI. The graduate dean will review your request and the Graduate Division will let you know if your request has been approved or not.
A publishing embargo is usually granted for reasons involving intellectual property or patent filing issues. If this is the reason for requesting the embargo, you should provide as much detail as possible about what is involved, what stage you are at in the patent process, and what needs to be accomplished to complete the patent application or process.
The Graduate Division does not automatically approve embargoes strictly for the purpose of providing additional time to prepare published works, but if there are extenuating circumstances involved (i.e. you are in the patent application process) then this will be taken into consideration.
All requests for embargoes add some time to the dissertation filing process. This is especially important to consider if you are near the end of the term deadline for filing your dissertation. Your request will take at least some time to be reviewed and approved, and the time required to gather additional details from you or others, may bring the actual acceptance date of the dissertation past the end of the deadline for that term. This, in turn, would delay your degree conferral date until the end of the following term, which would require that you be re-registered in that following term in order for the dissertation to be accepted.
To retain the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, or sell your work you must copyright the material. To copyright your work, you must include in your thesis, dissertation, or manuscript, a copyright page, which directly follows the title page, and bears the following notice at the center of the page just above the bottom margin:
(Your name as it appears on the title page)
However, in order to protect your rights in a dispute or to be compensated for damages caused by infringement, you should register your copyright with the Library of Congress. Students may designate UMI to act as their agent in registering the copyright. UMI will file the appropriate forms, submit the fee, and provide a copy to the Library of Congress. If you wish to have UMI register your copyright you may elect to do so during the submission process. You may also register the copyright yourself by paying the registration fee and following the directions provided by the Library of Congress.
Using Previously Published Materials
With the approval of the thesis, dissertation, or manuscript committee and your graduate program, published materials may be accepted as part of the master's thesis, doctoral dissertation, or DPTSc manuscript when:
- The publication(s) represents research or scholarship comparable in scope and contribution to the portion of the standard thesis or dissertation it replaces.
- The published material is substantially the product of the student's period of study at UCSF and was primarily conducted and written by the student.
- An introduction showing the historical development, methods used, and result is required. This may be summarized if already part of the published material.
- The usual preliminary pages are required for a thesis, dissertation, or manuscript that includes previously published material. The acknowledgment page of your preliminary pages should include a reference to the publication in which the material originally appeared.
- The published material and preliminary pages must meet all other formatting requirements for the thesis, dissertation, or manuscript.
Multiple Published Papers
If several papers from the thesis, dissertation, or manuscript have been published they may be used as individual chapters. Conventional thesis, dissertation, or manuscript chapters may be combined with published papers in the thesis, dissertation, or manuscript. Theses, dissertations, or manuscripts at press should be treated as published papers.
If the published material lists a co-author, and the co-author is the person who directed and supervised the research, then only the student's name is listed as the author in the preliminary pages. However, the acknowledgment page should state: “The text of this thesis/dissertation/manuscript is a reprint of the material as it appears in ______________ (name of publication). The co-author listed in this publication directed and supervised the research that forms the basis for the dissertation/thesis.”
If the published material lists co-authors other than the research advisor, a statement from the research advisor clarifying what work the student completed should be included in the acknowledgment page. This statement should also explain how the work is comparable to a standard thesis or dissertation.
See more information on formatting your thesis, dissertation, or manuscript. Or see general information on submitting these documents.