In this section of the TCQ Author's Guide, you will find helpful hints on the scholarly writing and publishing process. This is the newest section of the guide and is still a work-in-progress, so check back frequently for updates.

Revising Dissertation Chapters for Publication as Journal Articles

If you’re thinking about developing a portion of your dissertation into an article for submission to TCQ, here are some general guidelines. Following these guidelines will not, of course, guarantee acceptance in the journal. Rather, the guidelines are meant to serve as a starting place to help you think about the best way to present your dissertation research in a journal article format.

  • One of the biggest challenges in revising for journal submission can be the reorganizing that is required. Because they are longer documents, dissertations are often structured so that much of the theoretical discussion and literature review appear in their own chapter(s) and the research results are presented separately, also in their own chapters. Journal articles, by contrast, tend to work better when the theory is integrated with the research results. If you browse past issues of the journal, you will see that most articles begin with a theoretical overview and/or literature review, but the rest of the article also integrates theoretical insights and citations of previous scholarship into the presentation and analysis of research results, weaving both forms of material together into an argument. Although it is common to think that each chapter in your dissertation will produce a separate article, it usually does not work out this way. Instead, as you think about dividing the dissertation material into different articles, you might think about the specific message you want each article to convey, or the purpose you want it to accomplish. Then build each article around that message or purpose, taking material from different parts of the dissertation as needed.
  • Make sure your review of literature is current, coherent, and targeted at an audience of TCQ readers. Each of these traits is discussed in more detail below.
  • Keeping it current. Because dissertations can take a long time to write, it is easy for the literature review to get outdated, especially if it was written early in the dissertation process as part of a proposal or early chapter. If your literature review was thorough when you wrote it for the dissertation, it should be relatively easy to update it to include the most recent relevant publications.
  • Making it coherent. A literature review in a journal article has to cover a lot of ground in a relatively small amount of space. You want your article to emphasize your own findings, but at the same time, it is crucial to acknowledge relevant work of other scholars. Accomplishing both these goals can be difficult. Even though your literature review in the dissertation might have been an entire chapter, your literature review in a journal article will probably be limited to just a few pages. As such, you will need to make some careful choices about which texts are most important to discuss in great detail and which ones can simply be mentioned in passing. Remember that a literature review does not need to individually discuss each text that is being reviewed; rather, your job in the literature review is to point out trends, basic ideas, and themes in the previous literature. When you are transitioning from dissertation to journal article, try to identify the trends, ideas, and themes from your larger literature review that are most salient to the specific message or purpose that defines the article you are working on.
  • Targeting TCQ readers. One of the biggest challenges we face in our field is that technical communication research tends to draw from methods and theories in a wide range of disciplines. As such, it can be difficult to know how extensive your literature review should be in a journal article, and it can be overwhelming to try to cover all the relevant research from all possible disciplines. This is why it is important to develop an awareness of the journal’s readership. The best way to do this is to familiarize yourself with past issues of the journal. Which bodies of scholarship are being cited most frequently? Which disciplines outside our own field do TCQ authors tend to be drawing from most often? Let those questions be a guide in determining which areas of research are most important to cover.
  • Emphasize what’s new about your research approaches and your findings, but don’t overstate the novelty. This can be a difficult balance to achieve, especially as you transition from dissertation to journal article. Remember that scholarly writing is a conversation, very similar to other kinds of conversations you have with people. As such, there are rules and conventions you should always follow. Part of what you learned in writing the dissertation was how to follow these rules. But when you transition to writing journal articles, this conversational aspect becomes even more important because you will be trying to enter the larger scholarly conversation that extends beyond the boundaries of your home institution. As in any conversation, be polite and be aware of the key players. When you are citing previous scholarship, make sure you have read it thoroughly and done your best to understand it. Do not add a lot of citations of texts you have not read (name dropping), and try not to take quotations out of context. Finally, even as you present your own “new” findings, remember those findings would not have been possible without the extensive work of those who came before you. Your goal in entering this scholarly conversation is to shed new light on a subject, maybe offer some new insights, but this does not mean you have to discredit the body of knowledge that existed before.
  • Follow APA and TCQ style guidelines from the beginning of the drafting process. This is especially important if you used a different style for the dissertation and find yourself needing to convert to APA style for the journal article. But even if you used APA for the dissertation, it might not hurt to take another look. The APA Manual is a comprehensive guide that covers all aspects of the writing process, not just formatting of references and documenting sources. The Style Guidelines section of this author’s guide also contains some useful advice for applying APA to the context of our field.


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