Veronika Drake, who did her doctoral work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, shares the experience of extracting publishable articles from one’s thesis.
A dissertation represents years of painstaking data collection, transcription, analysis, writing, revision, and editing. Eventually, we defend and deposit it. And it is here that paths diverge. Some people move on to a completely new project, and others plan to revise and submit the manuscript for publication as a monograph. Still others decide to revise a portion of the dissertation for an article-length publication. I fall into the latter category, opting for the ‘downsizing’ option and submitting a portion of my dissertation to ROLSI.
Condense, re-evaluate, edit!
I started by condensing the chapter in which I discuss preference organization as it relates to the organization of adjacency pairs in which the first-pair parts are turns such as “Does that bring up jealousy or…”. I merged that with some of the introduction, the data description, discussion, and conclusion. With this shift in and narrowing of focus comes a reevaluation of the dissertation: I reevaluated the excerpts I had chosen for the dissertation; I compared them to some other excerpts in my collection; I weighed which excerpts would work best in a shorter piece of writing.
Sometimes, the longer and more complicated excerpts actually work better to explicate the phenomenon at hand. However, short and succinct illustrations yield a better use of the article’s limited space. What’s more, I had to decide which portions of the accompanying analysis and discussion to keep or delete, all the while making sure I don’t lose any of the central argument. These decisions were often difficult to make, because – in essence – what the revisions amounted to were a downsizing of my dissertation. I had to chisel away any layers that were extraneous to the essential argument for an article-length publication; layers that would show breadth and depth of analysis in a dissertation.
Hit the ‘send’ button – what will they say?
Eventually, I hit that “send” button, with hope that this svelte new version, this downsized dissertation, would make it into the pages of ROLSI. Next, it was time to sit and wait for the reviewers’ feedback. What will other, more senior, researchers in the field have to say about my argument, my research? Will it make sense to them? What if they don’t ‘buy’ it, what if they think it’s subpar? The ROLSI editor Charles Antaki and the anonymous reviewers were fantastic. I received incredibly helpful feedback all around. Don’t get me wrong: They do set you straight! But when I read through the comments, I realized that, really, their input was a gift! Having other scholars engage with my work on this level, with this much detailed feedback, was simply astounding.
One of the key points I gleaned from these comments was that in order to improve my manuscript and argument during the revise & resubmit process, I had to merge key points from all chapters. So I began the process of incorporating elements from all my chapters, specifically, portions on preference organization with those on epistemics in interaction. That meant doing even more revisions, more evaluating of excerpts, rephrasing the argument, rethinking the argument, more distilling. I numbered each reviewer’s comment and, using Microsoft’s track/changes feature, added them into the working document. Next, I focused on each comment individually, one after the other. That way, the wealth of feedback was manageable and I was able to address each comment in my cover letter of the resubmission. I went through two rounds of revisions before I received the news of “accepted for publication”, which felt pretty darn good!
To answer a question along the lines of “Are you downsizing your dissertation or”, I would say “No, I’m downsizing AND supersizing it”.