Browsing the archives for the PhD tag

Can freelance writing help turn a PhD thesis into a book? by Peter Roberts
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(C) Follow These Instructions http://www.flickr.com/photos/followtheseinstructions/

Todays post is written by Peter Roberts on behalf of Academic Knowledge, who specialise in freelance writing jobs for graduates. He reflects on how freelance writing can not only bring in some pennies, but also aid in the writing process. 

The contemporary academic environment presents ECR’s with a range of challenges; the 2014 REF is fast approaching, there is increasing pressure to publish or perish and there is a requirement to reskill and to adapt to new forms of publishing in more traditional ways, but also online. The idea of doing freelance writing on top of all this may seem like an added pressure. In this post I attempt to debunk some of these myths and outline how freelance writing can not only make you a little extra cash, but also help you in the world of academic publishing.

Freelance writing for PhDs and Postdocs?

Freelance writing is something, which many PhD or postdoc students may have thought about as a way to help make ends meet. It can bring in a little extra cash here and there, and if you have got good writing skills and an area of specialist knowledge, then there’s a reasonable chance you’ll find work. But freelance writing can help in ways that go beyond the financial. If you do choose to take on freelance jobs, you’ll be forced to write in a range of styles to fit various different audiences. And if you are planning to turn your PhD into a book manuscript, having a good awareness of audience is absolutely essential.

As PhD students know very well, writing a thesis can be at times a solitary activity, and in most cases, the only people who read the finished piece are supervisors and examiners. Within the confines of a PhD, this isn’t a really big problem. The thesis is written for the benefit of the external and internal examiner to pass the viva and secure a doctorate. In this sense, a PhD is really only written for two people. But writing a book manuscript is a very different process, and you need to consider your audience more carefully. Do you want to write an academic book or produce a text more appropriate to the popular market? If you do intend to write for the popular market, it’s particularly important that you breakout of the mindset of writing for just two examiners, but after three to four years of intensive writing specifically for that purpose, this can be a daunting challenge. This is where freelance writing can come in.

If you do take on some freelance writing jobs you’ll immediately have to start writing for new audiences and in very different styles. This can be great practice, and can help broaden your horizons and give you a better awareness of who you are writing for. For example, you may need to produce work ranging from simple web copy to specialised reports. You will have to alter your style of writing. It’s certain that your prose will need to be simplified and you will have to write succinctly, and make your point quickly and clearly. You’ll have to sacrifice words and make decisions about what content is relevant to the particular job. Going through this process will undoubtedly help you convert your PhD into a book. A PhD thesis may need to go through fundamental changes to be finally accepted for publication. For the popular market, these changes will be even starker. But if you have some experience in writing for different audiences already, by the time you do start editing your thesis it may seem much less of a daunting task. You will already have more developed skills and a better understanding of how to write for a new audience. Of course, this alone will not secure a book contract, but it will go some way to improving your chances.

In this respect, freelance writing is worth considering not only for the financial assistance it can provide. If you want to broaden your writing skills, it’s an easy way to achieve this. If you are interested in finding out more, take a look round some well known freelancing sites and see if you think any are right for you – www.elance.com, www.academicknowlege.com, www.freelancewriting.com.

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Thinking From Dissertation to Book, and back again…A review of William Germano’s From Dissertation to Book by Helen Wainwright
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Todays post is written by Helen Wainwright. Helen is a final year PhD Candidate from The Department of Art History at The University of Nottingham, researching conceptual art’s supposed demise in the early 1970s in New York, and the concurrent redefinition of the spaces and/or places of artistic practice and dissemination stemming from the period. She is particularly interested in the work three separate artists: Stephen Shore (1947-present), Gordon Matta Clark (1943-78) and Anthony McCall (1946-present), and the gap that exists between their early works and later (re)interpretations of them.

Twitter: @adxhw1

http://nottingham.academia.edu/HelenWainwright

Recently, the thoughts of what to do post-PhD have started to worm their way into my mind – a good six months ahead of schedule. Rather than ignoring my subconscious efforts to prompt me into a premature job search, I used them as a nudge in the right direction to think about what I really want to accomplish in the year leading up to my viva, and likewise what I would need to accomplish in the subsequent year (or two) after it. This is when I metaphorically stumbled, via Twitter, across William Germano’s book From Dissertation to Book, an extremely useful and accessible text first published in 2005 by University of Chicago Press. I initially approached it with caution, thinking it would ultimately lead to a flurry of self-doubt, but what I actually found was an insider’s guide to what it takes, and how to make the first moves towards publishing your thesis as a book, and what decisions and barriers will more than likely be encountered along the way.

As the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social sciences at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and a former Vice President and Publishing Director at Routledge, William Germano knows exactly what it takes to take those first steps towards publication. The message running throughout the book is clear: be willing to revise, rework and even rethink your PhD research. This advice is coupled with a hefty warning: a thesis is not a book manuscript and will more-often-than-not be rejected by a publisher without any form of editing. Germano provides his readers with a list of eight options to choose from when considering what to do with the thesis once complete: ‘do not resuscitate’; ‘send the dissertation out as is…’; ‘publish the one strong chapter’; ‘publish two or three chapters as articles’; ‘revise the dissertation lightly’; ‘revise the dissertation thoroughly’ or ‘cleave the ample dissertation in two’ (p.38). It is safe to say that readers of From Dissertation to Book are most likely seeking advice on just that topic, and are thus left with the sole prospect of gentle/hefty revision. However, reading between the lines, I think the underlying message of the book is clear: there are more routes towards writing your first book than simply turning your doctoral dissertation straight into a manuscript.

One suggestion is the transformation of chapters into publications. Not only will this allow ideas to be transmitted to a larger audience; gaining much needed publicity, but it will grant the opportunity for a moment’s pause to deliberate whether these ideas could actually form the basis of further research, and lay the foundations for an entirely different book proposal. Likewise, such reflection may aid in the dissection of the thesis as a whole; allowing it to be sliced in two, moving both parts in separate directions, and therefore furthering the possibilities of future research and publication. Alternatively, as Germano continually recommends: revision is the key. Whilst attempting to re-work the thesis, it is also highlighted that a publisher who can recognise the potential audience for a book is far more likely to accept a manuscript or proposal, because they can clearly see who the text is aimed at and who it will be sold to. In contrast to the doctoral thesis, which will only ever meet the eyes of a handful of people, despite best wishes, the book must have a definite audience, and therefore a direct and highly relevant message. If you can argue this case straight away, then perhaps you are on to a winner.

The awareness of your thesis as something far from finished, but as the stepping stone into the world of academia is a daunting prospect, given the amount of blood, sweat and tears which are poured into the work. However, this realisation is also entirely invigorating when realisation dawns that all the routes of thought that had to be closed off in order to concentrate on getting to the finish line, could one day be re-opened. As a researcher you are expected to be adaptable and full of belief in your ideas, and From Dissertation to Book echoes these basic assumptions, asking its readers to think in the same way about their doctoral research: that it is malleable and full of potential, whether published as a book on first attempt, or not.

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A primer on preparing to publish by Prof. Jan Draper
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Today’s post by Prof. Jan Draper reflects on her own experiences of carving up her PhD thesis into publications and provides excellent advice for post PhD-ers about what to consider and how to do it. Jan is a Professor and Director of Nursing at the Open University, UK, in the Faculty of Health and Social Care.

I don’t have an academic book (unfortunately!) but when I completed my PhD (2000) I did approach a number of publishers to see if they were interested. I think my recollection from this (very dated now of course) was that the publishers could ‘spot’ a PhD ‘conversion’ a mile off, so you have to be very careful in this regard. Some publishers are very happy to consider conversions from PhDs, others are not. So in order to maximise chances, I think one needs to be very well informed about which publishers do what.

With that in mind here are my Top 5 Tips for getting published:

  1. Write a good PhD in the first place! Sounds obvious but you would be surprised at the range! Include in this writing a very solid theoretical foundation. Theory can really liberate and help make connections that otherwise might not be made.
  2. Make sure that you have a good publication strategy arising from your PhD. You may need to seek some help in gauging this – either supervisors or other colleagues, depending on the nature of your work. If you are located in a practice-based discipline for example, in addition to conventional academic papers arising from your thesis, there will also be professional/practice-related papers that you could write. So think very carefully about how you ‘cut’ your thesis.
  3. Think creatively about the above. Don’t just think the obvious i.e. the description of the project and the findings. Is there something about the method that was innovative, that I can write about? Was there something about the theory I used? How helpful was this theory? Did my work advance the theory in any way? Was there something about ethical considerations that was more unusual in my study that could be of benefit to the wider community in some way? Think also about conference presentations – not just papers.
  4. Think very carefully about where to publish. This may sound very obvious. But, I was very fortunate that I ‘stumbled’ across this important factor. Don’t settle for low impact journals but think about your academic career – if of course, that is something you wish to develop and enhance. Go for high impact journals that will get your work noticed. Not only will it get your work noticed, but it is likely that the feedback you get from reviewers will be of excellent quality. I learned so much from the feedback from reviewers working for The Sociology of Health and Illness not only about the papers but also about the process of reviewing. Their contributions to me as a writer have influenced by ongoing, longer-term work as a reviewer. Strange!
  5. Don’t underestimate the time it will involve! Cutting up a thesis is a traumatic and bloody affair! It has taken so long to write the thesis to get it to its current format, so to think about carving it up in a different way can actually be quite difficult. This is where wise counsel from either supervisors or other colleagues can be helpful. But my advice would be that no matter how hard it feels – just do it! To get to this stage and not publish would be a travesty so I would always encourage students that no matter how hard it feels, you must do it! From my own personal experience, I know that getting 5 good papers out of my PhD created a solid platform for my ongoing academic career. So it is worth it – honest!

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How to publish a book from your dissertation by Tanya Golash-Boza
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Today’s post written by Tanya Golash-Boza is her second blog post for PhD2Published (see her first, very popular post about writing a peer review here). Here she reflects on her experience of publishing a book from her dissertation, providing particularly useful insights into the publishing process.

When I finished my dissertation, I knew I wanted to transform it into a book. I did not, however, know anything about the publishing process. As I am now finished with this long process, this is an ideal time for me to outline the steps so that others can know how to publish a book from your dissertation. In this blog post, I will explain the book publishing process. However, keep two things in mind: 1) there is a lot of variation beyond what I describe here and 2) this is generally the process for the first book, not necessarily for the second or third.

Step One: Write the Book Prospectus

Although it seems daunting, a book prospectus is not a complex document. I describe the book proposal in detail here. Briefly, it contains: 1) a summary of your book that outlines the main argument; 2) a one-paragraph summary of each chapter; 3) a timeline for completion of the book manuscript; 4) a brief description of the target audience and potential classes for course adoption; and 5) the competing literature. Usually these are short documents. Mine have ranged from four to seven single-spaced pages.

Step Two: Submit the Book Prospectus

The second step is to find a press that might be interested in your book manuscript and to send them a book prospectus. I explain how to find a press here and how to contact the aquisitions editor here. Once you have selected the press and found out the name of the acquisitions editor, you can send them the prospectus.  Often, the press also will want one or two sample chapters. You can send your prospectus to as many publishers as you like. Most publishers list submission guidelines on their websites. These guidelines often indicate exactly what materials they would like to see: usually a prospectus, one or two sample chapters, and a two page CV.

Step Three: Submit the Book Manuscript

When acquisitions editors receive your prospectus, they make a decision as to whether or not they will send your book manuscript out for review. If they do not, they will send you a letter with their regrets. However, if they are interested, they often will call or email you with a request to see more materials. Some presses want to wait for the whole book manuscript to be completed. Others will send out just the prospectus for review. Others will send out 1-4 finished chapters. That depends on the book and the press. They will let you know.

Step Four: The Press Sends Your Manuscript out for Review

You wait between one and twelve months for the reviews to come back. If just the prospectus is under review, this will not take very long. If it is the whole manuscript, usually you will wait several months.

Step Five: You Get a Contract

The press makes a decision based on the reviews. They can decide to a) offer a contract based on the reviews; b) ask you to do more revisions and send it out for review again or c) decline to offer a contract based on the reviews. If it is c), you go back to Step Two.

Step Six: You Sign a Contract

If the reviews are favorable, the press will offer you a contract, which you first negotiate and then sign. Here are some items often up for negotiation: 1) who will pay for the index; 2) who pays for the cover and inside pictures; 3) who pays for the copy-editing; 4) the royalties rate; and 5) when and whether the book will be released in paperback. You may or may not be able to negotiate these items, but it does not hurt to ask.

Step Seven: You Revise the Manuscript

You revise the manuscript based on the reviews. Some presses will send it out for review again once you revise it. Others will review it internally and ask you to make further revisions. Still others will send it as is to the copy-editor after you make your revisions.

Step Eight: Copy-Editing

Once the book manuscript is revised, it goes to the copy-editor and they proofread the text. This usually takes 1 to 3 months.

Step Nine: Revision

You revise it again, based on the suggestions made by the copy-editor. You then send it back to the copy-editor who sends it to the press after your final approval. You usually have one month to respond to the copy edits.

Step Ten: Page Proofs

Your book is put into page proofs that you get to read and revise again. At this stage, however, you can only make very minor changes. You correct any mistakes and then it goes to the printer.

Step Eleven: In Press

The page proofs are sent to the printer, and you wait for your book to be printed. Printing usually takes a couple of months.

Step Twelve: On the Shelf

Your book is available for sale! Now that your book is for sale, be sure to include a link to the publisher’s website or to Amazon.com in your email signature to advertise your book.

As made clear in these twelve steps, publishing an academic book is often a very long process. It is important to keep in mind that it can take years to publish a book, even after you have completed the manuscript.

For example, I completed the manuscript for my first book in May 2009 and sent it to a publisher who had agreed to review it. I received the reviews in November 2009, and the publisher offered me a contract on the basis of the reviewers’ evaluations at that time. I signed the contract and then revised the book according to the suggested revisions and returned it to the publisher in March 2010. In June 2010, I received and reviewed the copy-edits. In October 2010, I received and reviewed the page proofs. The book was released in February 2011 – nearly two years after I had originally “finished” the book manuscript! Keeping this timetable in mind is particularly important if your university prefers you to have a bound book when you go up for tenure.

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Weekly Wisdom #82 by Paul Gray and David E. Drew
Posted by atarrant

BE SURE TO SPELL-CHECK AND GRAMMAR-CHECK AND FACT-CHECK your work. Your degrees certify you as a literate, educated person. Grammatical or spelling errors in a résumé or in an article submitted for publication turn off reviewers who are making judg­ments about you. For example, in a résumésent to one of us as an outside reviewer for tenure we found the following: “My research activities has centered on . . .” and a reference to the journal Group Decision and Negotiation wound up as Group Decision & Negation.

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Writing Across Boundaries – introduced by Bob Simpson and Robin Humphrey
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Today’s post, which includes some useful links to blogs about academic writing in the social sciences, introduces an exciting writing initiative currently being run by Project Leaders Bob Simpson [Durham University] and Robin Humphrey [Newcastle University]. The Writing on Writing link in particular provides great advice for doctoral students and academic writers alike. Bob tells us more about the project;

Doing a doctorate in the social sciences involves reading a lot of words, thinking up a good question and, in methodological terms, figuring out how to answer it, and then doing fieldwork or some other form of data collection and analysing it all and then comes the ‘writing up’.  In our experience, a lot of energy goes into preparing students for all these challenges, except, that is, the last one.  ‘Write me a draft of chapter three’ can be a very troubling request for a student perched at that tricky point between analysis and writing.

In recognition of the difficulties that might arise in negotiating this gap in the training of doctoral students we initiated  a series of workshops [with the help of an ESRC Researcher Development Initiative grant]. These were aimed at exploring some of the challenges faced by researchers writing a thesis which would draw on qualitative data of some kind.  The Writing Across Boundaries project held its first workshop in 2007 and for four years thereafter.  The workshops were extremely successful in bringing together researchers from a range of social science disciplines, who are all post-fieldwork, who could set about the specific task of reflecting on their own and others’ writing strategies.  From the feedback we have had, the opportunity to focus over two days on the business of writing and analysis has proved very useful for PhD students in their quest to produce texts that are engaging, accurate and analytically insightful.   Crucially, the workshops have dealt with some of the more personal challenges faced in producing text for others to evaluate as well as covering the practicalities of writing.  The workshops will now place annually, open to all, but organised within the ESRC North East Doctoral Training Centre.

Accompanying the workshops is a Writing Across Boundaries website which provides open access support for those writing up qualitative data.  The main sections are as follows:

  • Writing on Writing is an initiative in which scholars who have made a significant contribution to the social science literature offer personal reflections on the process of writing.
  • In Postgraduates on Writing, we publish short pieces from research postgraduates on any aspect of the process of writing in doctoral study.
  • In the Resources section are sections dealing with Drafting and Plotting, the Data-Theory Relationship, Narrative, Rhetoric, and Representation. We have also included a general section containing Hints and Tips on Writing.

Check it out!

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Part 6 of Online thesis: On the Outside of Academic Publishing by Kathryn Allan
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The final post in this series about posting a thesis online is by Kathryn Allan. Kathryn completed her PhD (English) at McMaster University in 2010. Her doctoral thesis, Bleeding Chrome: Technology and the Vulnerable Body in Feminist Post-Cyberpunk Science Fiction, is awesome and available online for free here. She operates an (academic) copy editing and dissertation coaching business, Academic Editing Canada, as she pursues independent scholarly research into (feminist/cyberpunk) science fiction. Dr. Allan is currently putting together a collection of essays that deal with the representation of disability in science fiction. She tweets under @BleedingChrome.

When I finished my PhD in English Literature in 2010, I also said good-bye to the ivory tower. Frustrated with the current funding and work environment of academia (in North America), I set out on my own – and I took my dissertation with me. While my committee members encouraged me to consider publishing my thesis the old-fashioned way, I felt like it wasn’t the right option for me. Instead, I decided to publish my dissertation in pdf format and make it freely available on my professional blog to anyone interested in reading it.

At first, I was slightly worried that someone might plagiarize my work, but after a minute of thought, I remembered that nothing stops students who want to plagiarize from doing so, regardless of the medium of the text. With confidence, I made my thesis available on my blog. It shows up in relevant Google searches and I have repeatedly shared the link over email and Twitter with people who share my research and reading interests.

I share my thesis online because: (1) I believe that publicly funded work (like my Canadian graduate education) should be publicly accessible; and, (2) as an independent scholar who studies feminist and cyberpunk science fiction, I want to easily share my work with the science fiction fan community.

Accessibility

When I state that I believe academic work should be accessible, I mean it in all aspects of the word. I put in a good deal of effort into writing my thesis in language that can be followed by non-academic readers, so putting my thesis online is a natural extension of my dedication to open research and communication.

My PhD thesis is available on ProQuest through the university where I studied, but access to that database is still limited to people with university library access or who are willing and able to pay. Since I don’t believe that anyone should have to pay to read my thesis, simply having it available on academic marketed sites like ProQuest is not a good enough solution to accessibility.

Independent Scholarship

My thesis was a labour of love and passion for the subject matter. I want to share the knowledge I gained with as many interested individuals as I can. Admittedly, I also enjoy operating outside of the formal academic system. Science fiction, particularly the feminist science fiction of my interest, has generally been a marginalized field of study, so it felt right to pursue a more marginal and independent approach to publishing my dissertation.

One of my goals as an independent scholar is to connect with fans in the vibrant and diverse science fiction community. If my thesis was only available through one university and a pay-to-read internet platform, then most fans are not going to read it (or even know that it exists). While I could have arguably sought out a publisher to reach this fan audience, I am also aware that “free” and “online” appeal to far more readers. And it has.

It’s All Good

It has almost been a year since I made my thesis available online and the response I have received has been overwhelmingly positive. Many people – some are academics, some are science fiction fans – have emailed or tweeted me about my thesis. Most of the comments I get are “thanks for sharing” or specific nerdy questions about something I’ve written. To date, I can’t think of one drawback from having my thesis online. Not a single one. I don’t intend on applying for an academic position, nor am I pursuing independent scholarship for financial gain. For me, there is simply is no downside to having my thesis online.

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Rochelle Melander, ‘Write-A-Thon: Write your book in 26 days (and live to tell about it)’ – A Review by James Smith
Posted by atarrant

“You have to do the work. Tired, angry, worried or overwhelmed: You need to write. You have to work in the midst of your complicated life. There will never be a perfect time to write the book bubbling within you. Sometimes you just have to work at the big things while the little ones pile up around you.” (p. 6)

I would like to take the time to explore Rochelle Melander’s Write-A-Thon: Write your book in 26 days (and live to tell about it) from the perspective of a PhD student. At the start of a new year and at the beginning of many new ventures in writing, this book has provided many timely pieces of advice. The merits of the Melander’s book for the PhD student are two-fold: First, Melander sets out to disabuse any potential writer of every excuse that one could possibly think of for delaying, procrastinating or otherwise sabotaging the decision to write. As I’m sure we can all agree PhD students are serial offenders in this regard. Second, the book sets out a veritable arsenal of tools for shaping and creating a book-length piece of writing, many (although not all) of which are highly relevant for PhD writing. The book shames the tardy writer into action while simultaneously encouraging strategies to ease the strain of writing. It is a toolbox full of useful devices for writing, some highly relevant to the academic, others less so.

During the month of November of last year, the PhD2published community embraced AcBoWriMo (Academic Book Writing Month for the uninitiated) with great gusto, featuring a series of blog posts and a vigorous #AcBoWriMo tag on Twitter. As part of the experience, Charlotte presented us with a series of four posts based around Write-A-Thon (i ii iii iv), each of which I highly recommend that you read. As you will apprehend, the book is extremely good at seeking out excuses and stripping them away, anticipating your paranoia and soothing it, pre-empting your mistakes, correcting your mistakes, anticipating your confusion and providing answers. Writing is an inherently uncertain endeavour, and yet Melander’s confidence in the power of human motivation provides many useful strategies for boosting one’s writing. The blurb promises to teach the reader how to start out well prepared, maintain their pace and bask in their accomplishment.

Although aimed at anyone interested in writing any kind of book and inspired by the annual NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) initiative, Write-A-Thon has several virtues that recommend itself to the graduate student, early career academic or seasoned academic in need of motivation and inspiration in the face of a writing project. This recommendation turned out to be highly convenient, for it helped me write this review. I turned (not without a certain amount of irony) to the first section of the book I was to review, entitled ‘Attitude Training: Get Rid of the Excuses’ (pp. 9-25). It helped; a fact to which the existence of this review can attest. Melander always seems to have something to say to the PhD student, a category of writers constantly plagued with motivational problems and doubts. We all need a constant stream of encouragement and exhortations to write when struggling with a thesis deadline. The section ends with a section on the healing power of writing, reminding us that writing need not be a chore. As Melander puts it, “Write now, get healthy!” (p. 25). On the topic of health, the PhD student will also be drawn to a section entitled ‘Life Training: Schedule the Marathon’ (pp. 103-129) in which the reader can find useful advice on shaping one’s writing environment, measuring one’s progress and maintaining one’s schedule.

Melander offers a great deal to any PhD student faced with one of those inevitable ‘crunch time’ moments when there appears to be far too many words to write and not enough hours in the day in which to write them. Open Write-A-Thon on any given page and you will find a tool to write coupled with games, tricks and strategies to avoid commonly encountered pitfalls in writing. In the second part of the book, entitled ‘The Write-A-Thon’, the book schools the reader in the avoidance of writing phenomena such as ‘Monkey Mind’ (p. 138). Although a great deal of the material in this section is perhaps more suitable for fiction writing, it covers many problems shared by all writers regardless of background. This was a refreshing dose of perspective, for it reminded me that all writers, any writers, experience these problems regardless of what they are attempting to write. The final section of the book, entitled ‘Recovery’ (pp. 202-218), contains some general information about revising your writing and pitching it to a publisher. Whereas the PhD student would perhaps be better served by the more specific advice in ‘How to Publish your PhD’ by Sarah Caro, there is some good common sense information in this section that should be of interest to the PhD student.

In summary, Melander’s book contains much of interest to the doctoral student in need of strategies specifically tailored to the purpose of writing a great deal in a very short amount of time. Melander functions as a writing guru and a source of moral support in equal measure. Although the timeframe and the nature of the project proposed by the NaNoWriMo style project of the book differs from the PhD experience, the reader will find that Write-A-Thon has a great many features that will appeal. I will leave you, as the book does, with a piece of advice that we should all keep in mind.

“And so, dear writers, the journey is not over. You have finished one race. Be proud and happy for what you have accomplished. But know this: You have more races to run, more books to write. Take a break, celebrate, and begin again!” (p. 219).

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Part 5: Where can I make my PhD thesis available online?
Posted by atarrant

If, having considered all of the issues, you still feel that you want to make your thesis available online, the question you may now face is where to post it? This blog post explores where you can publish your thesis online and what options there are.

Library and university archives for E-Theses

According to Emily Kothe on Twitter (@emilyandthelime) some universities already require students to post their thesis online upon submission, along with paper copies. When I submitted in July 2011 I was not required to do this, but having contacted the librarian at the university where I conducted my PhD, I learned that it has now become a requirement for students submitting their thesis from 2011/2012 onwards to submit a further digital copy. I missed out on this but have been informed that if I want to, I can make it available through this outlet. At present I am uncertain who is aware of this service, other than students who submit their thesis to it from now on, or who can access the service beyond the university, if at all. According to the online deposit for Lancaster University (which you can view here) there are benefits to both the student and the university itself:

For the student

  • Increased visibility for your work
  • Easier access to your thesis
  • Raise your personal profile
  • Can use digital services such as links to datasets, videos etc.

For Lancaster University

  • Raise institutional profile
  • Showcase successful graduate research

There are several of these services now available and visible through a simple Google Search that PhD students in particular may find useful if they are looking for ways to structure their thesis and want to look at some examples of theses that have passed. Durham University depository and Nottingham University depository are good examples. It may be important too inform academic book publishers if your thesis is available in this way; these issues are discussed in Part 3 of this series.

Ethos – British Library

Rob Myers on Twitter (@robmyers) initially drew attention to Ethos, an electronic online thesis service run by the British Library (see Part 4 of this series about EThOS by Sara Gould). This is a site I had actually used myself when writing my PhD. I downloaded some theses in order to explore how they were structured and to access additional research in my topic area. My university does subscribe to the service and I was informed that “if a thesis is only available in print form, we send it to the British Library to be digitised, and the person making the request has to pay the British Library £40 towards the cost of digitisation”, not entirely free but eventually Open Access. There are now 44,000 online theses available, and to download a copy you first need to register so that records can be kept and to ensure the intellectual property of the author is protected.

Personal Blog Site

I have also considered posting a copy of the thesis to my own personal blog. Before I posted it online however I wanted to check copyright right and intellectual property issues, something that RuthFT (@RuthFT) warned me of and that I discuss in Part 2 of this series. Some universities hold intellectual property rights to the thesis even if you have written it and conducted the research for it so it is essential that this is considered before rushing ahead to do it. A librarian at my university informed me that because my thesis is an unpublished piece of work it can be uploaded online on my personal blog, as long as I respect and observe the rights of those who participated in the study, which of course is part of ethical research practices anyway. It is highly recommended that you check with your own institution first though because rules may differ.

There are therefore several places where the unpublished PhD thesis can be deposited online, if you deem the issues detailed in previous posts to be outweighed by the benefits of disseminating your research more widely. These are just a very few of those I have explored (in repsonse to Part 3 for example user moorbi, introduces us to GRIN, a free German publisher). Having researched this in greater detail, I am still concerned that by posting my thesis online I may face additional challenges in publishing a monograph. This ultimately has become an issue of Open Access and I have to admit I find it encouraging that universities (in the UK at least) and EThOS and the like, are making it easier for PhD researchers to make their PhD research available online.

I’d love to hear more about this issue, particularly if anyone is against doing this or has critiques of it (most people I have spoken to support onlinethesis). Please do get in contact if you want to add, or contribute any ideas and do let us know if you plan to submit your thesis online (#onlinethesis).

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Part 4: Should you make your thesis available online?: Introducing EthOS by Sara Gould
Posted by atarrant

Today’s post, which contributes to our series about publishing dissertations and theses online is written by Sara Gould. Sara is the EThOS Service Manager at the British Library, UK. She is managing the transition of this e-theses website to a sustainable Higher Education shared service.

Anna has been wondering whether to publish her thesis. Or if not ‘publish’ then put it online somewhere to share the results of her work more widely, and gain the benefits she mentions, like raising the level of interest in her research and making connections with like-minded researchers.

EThOS is the UK’s e-theses website that gives instant access to 55,000+ doctoral theses. Pretty much all UK universities have their theses listed in EThOS so there’s around 300,000 records in all, with a variety of routes to get hold of the full text if it’s not already available.

That’s a fantastic resource for students and all researchers, not just to be able to dig deep into research that’s already happened, but to see who’s researching what and who the key players are – individuals, departments, institutions, even funders.

It almost goes without saying that open access to research theses is a ‘good thing’ for new researchers, for those looking for source material. But what about for thesis authors themselves? Should Anna try to make sure her PhD thesis appears in her university’s repository and/or EThOS, or not?

Here are a few frequently expressed concerns:

1.    It’ll spoil my publication chances later

Well, it might, but in a recent survey only 7% of institutions cited this as a frequent concern amongst their students, and no concrete examples were found of publication being refused because the PhD thesis had been added to an open access repository. If reassurance is needed, then an embargo period can be applied, with may be the record plus abstract still being available to all.

2.    My work will be plagiarised

It’s possible, but then again people can plagiarise from printed theses too, and in those cases there’s no automated way to detect the crime.

Allowing open access to your thesis does open it up to all sorts of people who may come along and use the content in whatever way they like. But plagiarism detection services can help to mitigate the risks, and in EThOS at least, users have to register their details, so we could if necessary track all users of a particular thesis. So far that’s never been needed. And as people get more and more used to open access and theses become increasingly available in institutional repositories, it may be that the login process is becoming a tiresome deterrent to use and has had its day.

Brown J. (2010) Influencing the deposit of electronic theses in UK HE: report on a sector-wide survey into thesis deposit and open access. UCL. http://eprints.ucl.ac.uk/116819/

3.    All that hassle with third party copyright

We do need to take copyright ownership seriously and it can be really time-consuming to seek permissions from any third party for permission to publish. Some university libraries are able to support their students to make sure any third party copyright is managed properly, but most don’t have the resources to undertake such a massive task. Take-down policies and embargoes come into play here, and digitisation services, whether through EThOS or another route, will carefully redact any sections, diagrams etc that aren’t copyright cleared on instruction from the institution.

List of redactions from a 2002 thesis held in EThOS.

The world of repositories and open access is moving fast. EThOS celebrated its third birthday last month. When it launched – on the same day as another auspicious event – theses were held in paper format in the university library and a microfilm copy held by the British Library. Now those microfilms have been packed away, and an average of 450 people a day download a copy of a full-text thesis from EThOS. With possibly the same number again accessing copies held directly in university open access repositories, it appears that full-text open access is here to stay.

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Part 3: Should you make your thesis available online? Thinking about publishing
Posted by atarrant

You have made your thesis available online, but does that affect whether or not it will get accepted for publication as a monograph? Academic publishers have varying opinions about this…

This is a very important issue for postdocs who are planning how to disseminate and publish the findings from their PhD research and an increasingly common question that academic publishers are now being asked. It was this question that originally kick-started my desire to run this blog series and start this conversation (#onlinethesis). I know that I am not the only one who has been dealing with this question either. One of the comments made in relation to Part 1 of this series was that a thesis that is available online is something that may be seen as problematic to publishers if a monograph based on a PhD is proposed. Others on Twitter are also interested in how publishers responded to this question. I contacted several publishers to find out more about this and these were the responses.

Jay Dew of University of Oklahoma Press informs me that this is a question he is frequently asked and his response is in favour of making theses online:

“On the whole, I don’t believe that having a dissertation or thesis available online works to the detriment of publishing a monograph. Indeed, more and more dissertations and theses are available online through library databases such as Dissertation Abstracts, etc. A dissertation and a book are two different things, with two different and distinct audiences. The revisions that are almost always necessary to bring a dissertation into book manuscript form are usually substantial enough that one need not cannibalize the other. There may be exceptions, of course, especially in the hard sciences, but at least for my press and the kinds of books we publish, this is not a problem.”

John Yates of University of Toronto Press extends this debate further arguing:

“I believe the situation in North America is different from yours [in the UK]. I understand that here all PhD thesis are licensed to ProQuest. I also understand that in Canada, theses are posted on-line by University libraries. Consequently scholars have quite a bit of work to do to convert their thesis into a scholarly monograph since libraries are not interested in purchasing titles that are effectively a thesis with minor revisions.

In your situation, if there is no requirement to post the thesis on-line and you’d like to have it published it as a monograph, I would think by not posting it on-line you’d be able to have the monograph published sooner, since fewer changes would be required than if the full thesis was publicly available on the web.”

The responses I have received in relation to this issue support the idea that making a thesis available online is generally acceptable to academic publishers, as long as the proposed monograph is substantially different to the submitted PhD thesis. Nonetheless, concerns are still evident amongst authors and researchers and it is recommended that potential publishers are contacted in advance of proposing a monograph to find out how they view this because opinions may vary depending on discipline and research topic. A more specialised research topic for example with a smaller market and audience may be seen as more problematic for some publishers if the material is already accessible online. It is possible to embargo the publication of your thesis in university depositories if this is considered an issue and you plan to propose a monograph but it is increasingly important to make this decision before the thesis is submitted, and made available electronically.

The key message then, is that the monograph based on a PhD thesis should be in substantially different format to the submitted PhD. Publishing houses from different countries are in agreement about this as presented here but it is important to be aware that making it available in an online depository may slow down the process of writing a book. It is also important to check the position of publishers who you wish to write book proposals for, to ensure that your decision is well informed. In a period of increased debate over open access to research, making the thesis online should not be, and doesn’t appear to be, a barrier to publishing a monograph but is certainly a consideration.

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Part 2: Should you make your thesis more widely available online? Fear of idea theft
Posted by atarrant

Following my first post that introduced my musings on the debate about making a PhD thesis or dissertation available online, this blog explores the issue of fear in relation to the theft of your ideas. This is an issue that is fairly central in Alex Galarza’s article for @GradHacker. The student in question feared that their ideas may be more susceptible to being stolen if they were to be made available online; a reasonable assumption given that, if the intention to put your thesis online is to make it more widely accessible, then the more likely it is that the ideas can be accessed and potentially lifted.

For me, this fear is not altogether unfounded and essentially boils down to a lack of knowledge about how online material is managed and regulated. In university teaching in the UK at least, students are taught about plagiarism, or the use of someone else’s work without acknowledgement, and are warned of the need to avoid doing it. Not only is it considered bad academic practice, but a plagiarised essay or piece of coursework is more likely to be of poor standard. As academics this becomes deeply ingrained in everyday working and writing practices, and is currently regulated through the processes of peer review and assessment. How this may be regulated online however, is less clear and the boundaries of citing and discussing the work of others is increasingly blurred.  Similarly if the aim of publishing online is to reach broader audiences, there is potential that those audiences are unfamiliar with referencing practices or maybe unwilling to use them.

A research paper about electronic theses by Copeland et al (2005, pg 195) suggests however that ‘it is easier to detect instances where this activity [plagiarism] has taken place when the material is published on the web. Electronic detection software is available’. My university in the UK uses Turn-It in for student essays for this purpose.

While this is comforting to know to some extent, an important thing to do before making your thesis available online is to check the copyright regulations of the archive you post to and to ensure that you own those rights as primary researcher. This should discourage any potential theft, protect your property rights and discourage the potential for idea theft by others. Where you make the thesis available online is also a consideration. The chances of having your ideas stolen and reproduced online or elsewhere are much less likely if you post to a university online archive than a personal blog for example because these are better regulated. It is also recommended that you seek advice from your PhD supervisor before posting online to check if there are any issues with copyright that you hadn’t thought of (especially important if the work is funded). You could also protect your work using a Creative Commons license. These allow ‘everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work’ (Creative Commons website).

Fear of theft of your work when making it more readily available online is reasonable, and was something that led me to research and produce this series of blog posts. However there are frameworks and laws in place that are designed to protect your ideas and your intellectual property, as well as new technologies that are detecting plagiarism online. Make sure you are aware of these before you make your research outputs available online however. If you want to disseminate your work more widely to broaden its impacts, you should be able to, and it is important that academic work is accountable but also used in appropriate ways.

A recent hashtag on Twitter that has been used in relation to these ideas (and also Will’s post) is #notopenenough (thanks @ThomsonPat). Publishing online is becoming more popular, and hopefully fear of theft won’t stand in your way in your quest to make your research more widely known.

Join the conversation at #onlinethesis.

Reference

Copeland, Susan,  Penman, Andrew and  Mime Richard (2005) “Electronic Theses: The Turning Point.” Program: Electronic Library & Information Systems 39, no. 3 : 185-197.

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Structural Engineering Journals: A Top 5 by Eva Lantsoght
Posted by atarrant

Eva Lantsoght is a structural engineer currently pursuing a PhD at Delft University of Technology on the topic of shear in one-way reinforced concrete slabs. Originally from Lier, Belgium, she received an Engineering Degree from the Vrije Universiteit, Brussels and an MS from Georgia Tech. At her blog PhD Talk, she blogs about her research, the process of doing a PhD, the non-scientific skills you need during your PhD, living abroad and her travels.

Recently on Twitter, PhD2Published posed the question “What is your academic discipline and what are your top 5 recommended high impact journals?”

I am a structural engineer with a focus on bridge engineering, and my research is done in the Concrete Structures group at Delft University of Technology. For my PhD research on the shear capacity of concrete slab bridges under the wheel loads of trucks, I’ve been reading about bridge engineering as well as about structural concrete. For bridge engineering, I’ve been mostly focused on gaining an understanding of how slab bridges work, and how we model the traffic loads on bridges. For structural concrete, I’ve been focusing on slabs (as structural elements) and shear (as a failure mode). My scope has been from the small scale of how the different elements in concrete, which is a non-homogenous material, work together and transfer stresses, to the scale of real-life bridges.

I’ve mostly been reading papers from these five journals (in no particular order). In between brackets you can see the impact factor of these journals:

- ACI Structural Journal (0.782 in 2010)
- Journal of Structural Engineering / ASCE (0.834 in 2010)
- Journal of Bridge Engineering / ASCE (1.009 in 2010)
- Beton- und Stahlbetonbau (0.265 in 2010)
- Magazine of Concrete Research (0.52 in 2010)

Three of these journals are American, one is German and one is British. Two of the journals are publications of ASCE, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and these two are as well the publications with the highest impact factor in the list. The ACI Structural Journal is a publication of the American Concrete Institute, and the Magazine of Concrete Research is issued by the Institution of Civil Engineers.

As a final remark, I would like to zoom in to Beton- und Stahlbetonbau, a German journal. Even though I can barely put a sentence together in German, I don’t have much trouble reading technical German. Initially I had to read German papers with a dictionary right next to me, but by now I know most of the technical vocabulary. I do think it was worth the effort of trying to understand technical German. I’ve found information in German journals which I did not find published elsewhere at all, and I’ve found a goldmine of carefully described and executed experimental research in there. It’s been of tremendous importance to my own research so far.

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The Now Frontier: Posting Dissertations Online
Posted by atarrant

A note from Anna: As part of a series of blogs on PhD2Published about Online Theses, Will Deyamport, III explains why he will definitely post his dissertation online. To engage in this conversation on Twitter please use the Online Thesis hashtag #thesisonline

Will Deyamport, III is an Ed.D student in Educational Leadership and Management at Capella University. He is the founder of peoplegogy.com, a blog that focuses on life and career developments. He is a monthly contributor to MyPathfinder Career Blog, where he writes about higher education. Currently, Will is writing his dissertation on how Twitter can support the professional learning needs of teachers.  You can follow him on twitter @peoplegogy.

This digital world we live in isn’t going anywhere. We pay bills online, we shop online, we make phone calls online, we date online, and now we’re streaming movies and going to school online. So why wouldn’t I post my dissertation online?

Has the academy become so insular that it has failed to understand and embrace the realities of this digital age? Has it become so arrogant that it believes that it can remain the sole guardian of academic knowledge? Or has the academy so blindly held on to its beliefs of what scholarly work is that it refuses to see this work being published on a daily basis on blogs around the globe?

Whatever its reasons, I plan to publish my dissertation online and here’s why:

  • I happen to have a passion for digital media and most of what I read is read online.
  • What I do and want to do for a career is done online. I’ve been a social media strategist, I blog, and I am earning my doctorate online. So for me the online space is a place of isn’t some separate entity. It’s a part of who I am and how I express my ideas.
  • I am a digital citizen. As such, I see the online world as the way for mobilizing the world towards a common humanity.
  • I routinely seek out information online. Whether it is via Youtube, LinkedIn, or my personal learning network on Twitter, I am able to gain access to experts from a variety of fields and disciplines.
  • I believe that academic knowledge belongs to the masses and should be made available and given freely to those who seek it.
  • My dissertation is on teachers using Twitter to support their own professional development.  The topic doesn’t belong is some bound book. It was meant to be posted online and shared with scholars and practitioners alike.

The ivory tower and those who worship at its feet need to understand that education is no longer insular. Holding information hostage does nothing for the academy or the betterment of society. In order to truly build a thriving academic knowledge-base and further the continued and expansive research expected in academia, technology has to be a part of how that research is shared and disseminated. Using emerging technologies, schools have the capacity to expose its students’ research to every corner of the globe. It is with this type of free exchange that the academy can reinvent itself and lead the way in today’s growing global economy and workforce.

Moving forward, I would like to see every doctoral student publish their dissertation on ProQuest or some other online platform. Just like TED has revolutionized the conference model, as current and future scholars, we have an opportunity to revolutionize the way people think, learn, and are taught about academic research.

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Should you make your thesis more widely available online? Part 1
Posted by atarrant

A brief note from Anna: Being Managing Editor of PhD2Published has been a fantastic opportunity for me so far. It has introduced me to lots of interesting people and has helped me to think about key issues I am facing post-PhD. My current thinking is about whether or not to make my PhD thesis more readily available online. This post, which is the first in a series, explores this idea in more detail.

Impact has increasingly become an academic buzzword and requirement, which has led me to think much more about my PhD thesis, its accessibility and the impact it could (and should) have on a variety of audiences, both academic and public. I have heard from several colleagues that the only people who are ever likely to read the actual thesis are yourself and your supervisor (my family and friends certainly haven’t read it!). Frankly this seems wasteful and a bit sad (just look at the picture!), especially considering all of the hard work that went into it, including by myself, my participants and my supervisors. Even with the potential of developing publications and monographs from it in different formats, later on, in its unpublished form, my thesis is meaningful to me and took time and effort to construct.

This thinking prompted me to consider how I could make my thesis more accessible and more widely read, particularly in an age of social media and open access. Before launching into making it available online however, I wanted to do some research into the potential barriers to publishing online and the current debates that will inform this decision.

Following these musings, I posted this question on Twitter: “What are people’s opinions on making theses available online?” Several interesting and important issues and questions were raised. While limited,  there is already an emerging debate about the digital dissertation, which you can read about in this interesting and informative post by Alex Galarza for @GradHacker. There are several positives for doing this, and indeed many universities are now making it a requirement, if it isn’t already. @Gradhacker outlines that online material such as the unpublished thesis for example is still protected by copyright, useful to know if there is concern about the acknowledgement of your work. At the same time, in being overly cautious about protecting your thesis/dissertation you may risk restricting the development of your academic identity, online and otherwise. Furthermore (and some publishers may vary on this) putting your thesis/dissertation online may actually aid in the communication and appeal of your research to a variety of audiences and may even encourage sales of subsequent published work should you wish to publish it elsewhere in a different form. Twitter follower Christina Haralanova (@ludost11) has also received positive replies from people who have read hers.

Despite the many positives, I still think it is important to consider the range of different issues relating to putting a PhD thesis out there; issues that I will explore in a short series of blogs that will be posted here on PhD2Published in the coming weeks. These include posts I have constructed myself, and also opinion posts, and feedback from academic publishers. If any of this resonates and you have anything to add that has occurred to you, please do get in touch, either by Email or Twitter (@PhD2Published). Should you wish to join an online discussion on Twitter about the debate please use hashtag thesisonline (#thesisonline).

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