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Thesis Revision Guidelines

The best places to look for general information on making the transition from thesis to book are: Eleanor Harman et al., The Thesis and the Book, Beth Luey, A Handbook for Academic Authors, third edition, and William Germano, From Dissertation to Book. Drawing on these sources, we identify five steps in revising the dissertation for publication:

First, does the material require updating or consideration of new sources? Will the research 'age' quickly, or will it have a long shelf life? How does your research reflect this? Should the scope of the research be enlarged, or should more comparisons be made?

Second, think about issues of structure and style. How have you organized and arranged things, and is that the most effective way? Will it appeal to your audience (and who is that audience in a broad sense?) Is the language sufficiently accessible and engaging? Are there too many subheads, which tend to fragment the argument and stand-in for solid transitions? Is there direct quoting from other experts in the field to establish points of central importance?

Third, are the transitions between chapters smooth? What you have to bear in mind when thinking about this is whether your chapters build upon each other in a sustained way. What is there about the book manuscript that is greater than the sum of its parts? (Or, to rephrase, would it be more appropriate to have selected chapters appear in journal form?)

Fourth, is the scholarly apparatus excessive? Are the tables and appendices illustrating something that the text cannot? What do the notes look like? The ideal is that notes should contain source material and not digressive sidebars, so paring will be in order.

Fifth, look closely at your introduction and conclusion. Does the introduction give too much away? Is it sufficiently exploratory? Is it enticing? Does it offer your readers a hook? Does the conclusion merely summarize what has been proven? Conversely, is there too much new information introduced? Is there excessive quoting and coverage of the points of others, obscuring your own central aims and arguments?

You should be able to show that there is a demonstrable difference between the thesis version and the book manuscript version. The better and more thorough the revisions to theses are, the quicker the manuscript passes through the peer review process.


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