How do I get my thesis published?

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The professional academic culmination of a thesis is to get it published in a leading journal in your field. Making this final step to publication, however, often proves too much for most students, leaving a couple of lonely hard copies of students' theses collecting dust on forgotten shelves forever onwards. Don't let this happen to you! Start planning early for possible thesis publication, so you can get a head start and are more likely to follow it through. Basically, the steps involved are:

  1. Consult with your supervisor. Discuss and develop a publication plan for your thesis with your supervisor. The challenge for publication purposes is basically to refine the focus and shorten the study.
  2. Authorship. As the thesis is primarily the students' work, the student should be the first author on the article and the supervisor(s) and any other significant collaborators are subsequent authors. In cases where the supervisor is the one who takes the initiative and lead in publishing and the student does little additional work, the supervisor may become the first author.
  3. Identify possible journals. Discuss possible peer-reviewed scholarly journals with your supervisor. It is recommended that you develop a list of about four to six possible journals to target, in order of priority, that you would to have your work published in. For each journal you should identify the website, scope, author guidelines, the copyright/licensing/payment details, and the ranking of the journal. Places to search:
    1. 2010 finalised journals in a Field of Research 1701: Psychology
    2. SHERPA/ROMEO
    3. Which journals were the key articles you cited published in?
  4. Author guidelines. Get hold of the journals' guidelines for authors. Get hold of recent and related articles from the target journals to get a feel for the length and style of articles the journal is publishing. It is critical to get the right 'feel' of the journal to help guide your writing and formatting. Check to see whether any of the journals are planning a special issue which is related to your topic.
  5. Refine the purpose - What is your main point? Look over your thesis and try to work out the key contribution of your research study to the broader field. Then consider what parts of the thesis are essential in making this point, and which parts can be left aside. An article is a much tighter, more focused version of the thesis and it does not necessarily have to summarise the whole thesis. But it does need to have a clear question which is succintly, even elegantly, addressed. It is strongly recommended at this point, if you haven't already, that you have a planning meeting with your coauthors to decide the direction of the article.
  6. First draft. Once the focus and the target journal are agreed amongst the authors, the first author should develop a first draft, based on rewriting the thesis. You will need to chop out a lot of material. Then work to weave the flow together. When you have a good first draft, take this to the second author and ask them to read over and make comments and changes.
  7. Redrafting. The more redrafting the better. It is always tempting to send off an article before it is really mature. Avoid this temptation by always doing just one more draft before sending it off - it might make the difference between initial acceptance and rejection. In redrafting, pay very close attention to correct APA formatting - this is critical for journal article submissions.
  8. Cover letter. Draft a cover letter to the journal editor to go with your article - this is an important component and is kind of like putting a suit on for an interview - a well-written cover letter can make a significant difference to how the article will be received. Then send it off! Note that you can only sent your article to one journal at a time.
  9. Initial response from the editor. The journal editor should acknowledge receipt of your article and reasonably quickly indicate whether the article is to be sent out for review or be rejected. If the editor decides to have the article reviewed, this will usually take two to three months. Acceptance rates vary between journals. It is extremely rare, however, that an article is accepted without need for some changes. If your article is rejected, read the feedback carefully, make appropriate changes and send the article off to the second journal on your target list.
  10. Resubmission. Having had your article provisionally accepted by a journal, it is now "in-press". Carefully go through the reviewers' comments and make appropriate changes. This should be done in consultation with your co-authors. Write a letter to the journal editor summarising how you addressed or responded to each of the reviewers' comments. This new version may be accepted by the journal editor or be sent out for review again and you may receive further feedback for minor changes.
  11. Proofs. When the article has been typeset for publication, you should receive a penultimate copy from the editor. You need to carefully examine the proof for any small errors and inform the editor.
  12. Publication! Eventually, your article will appear in print! Authors will usually receive complimentary copies of the journal. Celebrate with your co-authors! Announce the publication of your article. Add it to your CV.
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