Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Crafting a Peer-Reviewed Journal Article from a Thesis

Guest post b
y Anne-Marie Murphy, James Joyce Library, University College Dublin.

In February 2014 my article “Understanding the relationship between the librarian and the academic” was published in the peer-reviewed journal  New Review of Academic Librarianship. The article was based on my thesis and publishing it was an interesting journey for me.
I completed my MscEcon Information and Library Studies in 2012 with Aberystwyth University in Wales. My research dissertation focused on the relationships between academic staff and librarians across the island of Ireland.
 In June 2013 I attended an ANLTC course called “Publishing and Disseminating Your Research and Practice” which was run by Helen Fallon at NUI Maynooth  Library. This course got me on my way to rewriting the thesis as a journal article. The course covered submitting your work to an editor/publisher, how the editorial/peer review process works and most importantly how to structure a journal article. By the end of the day I had a draft query e- mail ready to send to a journal editor to see if they were interested in publishing  an article based on my thesis.

 Selecting a Journal
I selected the New Review of Academic Librarianship to approach,  as this journal had been mentioned during the day and I was interested in publishing in a peer-reviewed academic journal, as I had completed a body of research. I submitted a short query e-mail and an abstract to the editor in early July 2013.  She expressed interest in seeing the article in early July 2013 and asked me to submit a draft by 1st September 2013.
Initially I thought it would be just a case of editing my thesis but it involved much more work than that. The thesis was 15,000 words and the journal article could be no longer than 7000; also the style and format of a journal article is quite different from that of a thesis.

The Peer Review Process
After I submitted my article it was sent out for peer review. It was reviewed by two reviewers. A few weeks later, via the editor, they sent comments and suggestions on how to change and develop the article to make it suitable for publication in New Review of Academic Librarianship. For example the main change they were looking for was “more analysis, more description and more discussion on the findings”. They wanted stronger links between the theory and current practice in the LIS sector in order to make my article more relevant and interesting. There was also the issue of currency. I had to update my literature review to bring my references up to date and to bring the discussion chapter up to date with more information on current practice.

 Writing and Rewriting
I spent the next few months re-writing the article. I read more on the topic including more  about possible future developments in academic libraries. I cut a lot of the methodology chapter as the reviewers said they were not interested in why I  had chosen particular research methods; rather they wanted more emphasis on the results and the analysis. In addition to omitting references that were out of date or not directly relevant, I omitted the rationale for the design of a questionnaire I used in the thesis. While this was an important chapter in the thesis, it was not appropriate for an article in New Review of Academic Librarianship.

 The Structure
I had to rework the structure in keeping with the structure of articles in this particular journal. Because I was editing from the thesis and the work was so familiar to me certain paragraphs which I used in the article did not make sense without the wider context. While drawing on my thesis, I needed to rewrite from scratch to ensure that the sections flowed and that the piece worked as a journal article. I had to re-work all my references in the bibliography to comply with the MLA journal style, as I had used the Harvard style in my thesis.

In early November I got an e-mail to say they had accepted my revised paper! It was then sent for copy editing and typesetting and I signed their copyright form. In February 2014 my article was published online.
I reworked my thesis as an academic journal article for my own personal continuing professional development and to share my research.
The purpose of research is to get it out to the research community and to add to the knowledge base. Overall it was a very worthwhile and fulfilling thing to do.

Advice to anyone who is thinking of writing an article from a thesis
I would advise anyone to try and do a course such as the ANLTC course I did as this is what motivated me to do the article. I had great support from Helen Fallon who read my drafts and made valuable suggestions to me and gave me encouragement.
Remember it takes time! The process from the day I attended the course to getting published took eight months.
Remember a thesis is very different from a journal article. You will need to recraft.

Approach a journal editor with your idea before writing/submitting the article.

Talk to someone who has gone through this process.
It is hard work! Writers need a lot of self-discipline and self-motivation in order to keep writing and re-writing until the article is ready for submission.

My article Understanding the Relationship between the Librarian and the Academic
is available via the Taylor & Francis website.

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