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Converting theses and dissertations into journal articles
Converting Theses and
Dissertations Into Journal
URC initiative to intensify research utilization through
For use with own theses/dissertations (ideally within a year of
To provide broader context and direction for use in
Possible faculty-student collaboration
• The purpose of theses and dissertations, as well as the nature
of the reading audience (professors or committee members),
may dictate variations from the requirements for manuscripts
submitted for publication (APA, 2010).
• Turning a thesis/dissertation into a publishable manuscript
requires work on
– writing style (editorial and expository), and
– interpretation of data.
By giving attention to these features, you will increase the chance of
having your manuscript accepted for publication (Calfee &
Valencia, 2007 in APA, 2010).
• Abstract length –
International requires a
max. of 350 words for
dissertations, 120 words
for master’s theses
• Introduction – almost
similar except that author
familiarity with the
literature and develop
• Abstract length – 150 to 250
• Introduction – assumes that
readers are contexted into the
general background and
literature; however, both do not
encourage secondary sourcing
with references for laboratory
Theses and Dissertations Journal Article
• Discussion - typically longer;
Students may be asked to
interpret results more
understanding of their data, and
to engage in more speculation,
thereby offering committee
members more opportunity to
understand future research
directions that interest the
• References – may include
Bibliography to show familiarity
with a with a broader spectrum
of literature than that
immediately relevant to the
Discussion – shorter and
addresses research objectives
References - only references
cited in the text are included in the
journal article reference list.
Theses and Dissertations Journal Articles
Appendices – needs complete
Appendices - space and content
requirements may limit the use of
appendices in journal articles (with
the exception of supplemental
material placed in supplemental
online archives; see section 2.13)
Theses and Dissertations Journal Articles
Reframing for Journal Publication
• A journal article requires
– a tighter theoretical framework,
– a more succinct review of the literature,
– a more controlled presentation of methodology,
– and a more restrained discussion of results
• Trimming the length effectively
– not “cut-and-pasting” but selecting and rewriting
– substance must be preserved while cutting the extraneous detail
that is important for the dissertation but irrelevant for the journal
1. Selectivity and Brevity
• If the dissertation covers several distinct research questions,
narrow the focus to a specific topic—be selective in presenting the
• Try to bring the results under control. Often the dissertation
reports everything, including “almost significant” results. These
results are briefly mentioned in journal articles and detailed in
• Try to avoid the common presentation pitfalls of many novice
writers. These include, for example, reporting that the data were
analyzed with a certain computer package or presenting significant
findings in the Discussion section.
• Certain conventions in dissertations do not lend themselves to
the presentation format for journal articles. For example, as
Carver (1984) advised, “do not include a ‘Definitions’ section. . . . This
section is popular in doctoral dissertations but it is often a sign of naivete
in research reports” (pp. 22–23).
• Be selective in the references that are reported in the literature
review. Dissertations often have an exhaustive number of citations
—choose the most salient when revising for a journal article.
2. Writing Style
• Many theses do not follow APA Style for tables, figures,
references, and organization of sections. Failure to attend to
APA Style often signals stylistic problems throughout the
• Pay particular attention to the quality of expository writing:
– Strive for clarity;
– Delete extraneous words;
– Avoid excessive reporting and repetition;
– Be explicit, but not overly detailed;
– Use the active voice; and, of course,
– Use correct grammar.
3. Interpretation of Data
• A common problem in a poorly prepared manuscript derived
from a dissertation study is overinterpretation of the data.
Inexperienced researchers tend to have unbridled faith in the
strength of their results. Problems of overinterpretation in
dissertations are not unexpected, given that the candidate has
invested much time and energy in an academic undertaking.
Thus, going beyond the results may come out of a sense of
ownership and pride.
• Nevertheless, show restraint in forming your
• Reviewers and editors easily recognize a manuscript that has
been carelessly converted from a thesis or dissertation. The
harder a new member of the profession works to alleviate
some of the more obvious and fixable problems that
distinguish a thesis from a journal article, the easier the path to
publication will be.
Determining Authorship Credit and Authorship Order
(Fine and Kurdek, 1993)
• As an initial guideline, the American Psychological
Association's (APA's) Ethics Committee (1983, in Fine and
Kurdek, 1993) issued a policy statement on authorship of
articles based on dissertations.
– The statement indicated that dissertation supervisors should be
included as authors on such articles only when they made
"substantial contributions" to the study. In such instances, only
second authorship was appropriate for the supervisor because
first authorship was reserved for the student.The policy also
suggested that agreements regarding authorship be made
before the article was written.
• Current guidelines for making decisions regarding authorship credit
and order are presented in the APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists
and Code of Conduct (1992), which supersedes the 1983 policy.The
APA code has a section relevant to the determination of authorship on
scholarly publications. Section 6.23, Publication Credit, states:
– (a) Psychologists take responsibility and credit, including authorship
credit, only for work they have actually performed or to which they have
– (b) Principal authorship and other publication credits accurately reflect
the relative scientific or professional contributions of the individuals
involved, regardless of their relative status. Mere possession of an
institutional position, such as Department Chair, does not justify authorship
credit. Minor contributions to the research or to the writing for publication
are appropriately acknowledged, such as in footnotes or in an introductory
– (c) A student is usually listed as principal author on any multiple-authored
article that is based primarily on the student's dissertation or thesis.
• Stems from the unique nature of the faculty-student
• Need to balance the potentially competing duties of
fostering the growth of advisees and presenting them to
others in a fair and accurate manner.
• 2 main dilemmas:
– when faculty take authorship credit that was earned by the
– when students are granted undeserved authorship credit.
Relevant Ethical Principles
– "to abstain from injuring others and to help others further their important
and legitimate interests, largely by preventing or removing possible
harms" (Beauchamp & Walters, 1982, p. 28).
– to avoid harming students and others in the long run, beneficence
implies that faculty should grant students authorship credit and first
author status only when they are deserved.
– ethical duty to treat others fairly and to give them what they deserve:
"An individual has been treated justly when he has been given what he
or she is due or owed, what he or she deserves or can legitimately
claim" (Beauchamp & Walters, 1982, p. 30).
– if students are not considered to be meaningfully different from
professional colleagues, then they should be awarded authorship credit
and order on the same basis as those of nonstudent colleagues.
However, if one makes the contrasting assumption that students have
less power and competence than nonstudent collaborators, then justice
would be served by giving students differential treatment.
– "treatment that restricts the liberty of individuals, without
their consent, where the justification for such action is
either the prevention of some harm they might do to
themselves or the production of some benefit they might
not otherwise secure" (Beauchamp & Walters, 1982, p.
– Parentalistic actions are generally considered to be
most appropriate when they are directed toward
persons who are nonautonomous (i.e., lack the capacity
for selfdetermination; Beauchamp & Walters, 1982).
Thus, the appropriateness of parentalistic behavior in
the authorship context depends on the student's level of
PROCESS: it is recommended that both faculty and students
participate in the authorship decision-making process
early in the collaborative endeavor.
OUTCOMES: Authorship credit and order decisions should be
based on the relative scholarly abilities and
professional contributions of the collaborators.
1. To be included as an author on a scholarly publication, a
student should, in a cumulative sense, make a
professional contribution that is creative and
intellectual in nature, that is integral to
completion of the paper, and that requires an
overarching perspective of the project.
– Examples of professional contributions include developing
the research design, writing portions of the manuscript,
integrating diverse theoretical perspectives, developing new
conceptual models, designing assessments, contributing to
data analysis decisions, and interpreting results
(Bridgewater, Bornstein, & Walkenbach, 1981; Spiegel &
Keith-Spiegel, 1970 in Fine and Kurdek, 1993).
– Such tasks as inputting data, carrying out data analyses
specified by the supervisor, and typing are not considered
professional contributions and may be acknowledged by
footnotes to the manuscript (Shawchuck et al., 1986 in Fine
and Kurdek, 1993).
2. Authorship decisions should be based on the scholarly
importance of the professional contribution and not just the
time and effort made (Bridgewater et al., 1981 in Fine and Kurdek,
1993). Even if considerable time and effort are spent on a scholarly
project, if the aggregate contribution is not judged to be professional
by the criteria stated above, authorship should not be granted.
3. Authorship decisions should not be affected by whether
students or supervisors were paid for their contributions or
by their employment status (Bridgewater et al., 1981 in Fine and
Kurdek, 1993). It is the nature of the contribution that is made to the
article that determines whether authorship credit is warranted and not
whether participants received compensation for their efforts.
Financial remuneration is not a resource that can serve as a
substitute for authorship credit.
4. Consult with colleagues when authorship concerns arise.
Furthermore, supervisors should encourage their students to do the
5. If the supervisor and student cannot agree, even after consultations
with peers, on their authorship-related decisions, it is recommended
that, as do Goodyear et al. (1992 in Fine and Kurdek, 1993), the
establishment of an ad hoc third party arbitration process.
• American Psychological Association. (2010).
Supplementary material: The publication process.
Publication manual of the American Psychological Association
edition). Washington, D.C.: Author.
• Calfee and Valencia. (2007). APA guide to preparing
manuscripts for journal publication.
• Fine, Mark A. and Kurdek, Lawrence A. (1993). Reflections
on determining authorship credit and authorship order on
faculty-student collaborations. American Psychologist,
Recommended Next Steps
Review theses/dissertations at hand
Do journal market survey for possible matching
Rewrite abstracts of selected theses/dissertations
Send out to target journals / “make a pitch”