This post is inspired by a question from my friend and colleague Sophie Payne, who recently passed her PhD Viva (Yay Dr. Payne!!) and is currently grappling with the important questions of how, what and where to publish from her PhD. When she asked for my thoughts on this, I realised that, having just completed the final publication to come out of my doctoral research, I may be something of an authority on this topic. My advice does come with the huge disclaimers, however, that a) different fields and disciplines can differ greatly in terms of what to publish and where – my experience is broadly in the areas of applied linguistics and discourse analysis, so is probably most relevant if you’re working in these areas; b) I don’t have extensive experience of editing, accepting and rejecting work, so I won’t try to tell you how to actually get your work accepted. If you’re happy with those caveats… Read on!
1. Monograph or journal articles? This doesn’t have to be either/or. If you want to do both, I suggest that you do the journal articles first. This is because journals are very particular about publishing original material, but you will be ok to reproduce some material from your journal articles in a monograph (with permission). However, you may be limited by time, money, or other factors, and want to just focus on one medium. I’m therefore going to offer some guidance on the relative merits of each one.
2. The Monograph. I personally feel that a monograph is a great way to go, if you can stomach the commitment that will have to go in to this, after the blood, sweat and tears you just lost completing your thesis. With a monograph you can really stake your claim on the particular niche area you are working in, and whether people have read it or not, they’re likely to remember and associate you with your book. One thing you will also have far more space for in a book are methodological details, so if your approach is particularly unusual, or likely to be useful to other researchers, a monograph may be a good option. You’ll need to think about how to reframe your work so that it doesn’t read like a thesis, and you may want to emphasise certain parts of your research, or target a particular audience. For example, I published my monograph as part of a social media series, so I had to make sure it was relevant for this audience. It’s also worth bearing in mind that a monograph doesn’t have to be a 90,000 word tome. Most relatively large publishers, such as Palgrave and Routledge, do short series (20,000 – 50,000 words), and these are usually turned around far more quickly than the longer ones.
3. Journal Articles. These are a good option if you have different elements of your research that can stand alone. For example, I analysed two very different Mumsnet Talk threads in close qualitative detail, and published the results two articles, in Gender and Language and Discourse and Society. I also published a paper as part of a special issue on internet research ethics, because I wanted felt I had some important insights to share about the complex ethical issues involved in researching an online discussion forum. Journal articles are also, obviously, much shorter, so if the prospect of a book seems too daunting, or if you just don’t have time at the minute, the 7,000 – 9,000 word limit for most journal articles will be a blessing. You can always go for the book at a later date.
4. Where to publish. My advice here would be to go to the journals and/or publishers you have consulted the most throughout your research. You could also ask others in your field which journals they go to most frequently. Colleagues may also be able to offer some advice about the practical merits of different journals; some, for example, have very long waiting lists for publication, and some are notorious for taking a long time to get back to authors. This might be a bit controversial, but I don’t see much value in poring over different journals’ impact factors in a bid to publish in the ‘best’ places. The important thing is that your work is read, and that’s most likely to happen if your paper is in a relevant journal. Prospective employers who are genuinely interested in your research are far more likely to be concerned with the content of your work, not where it’s been published.
5. Other options? Books and papers are, of course, not your only options for sharing your research. If you want to share your progress as it unfolds, at the same time as engaging with your research community, blog posts are a good place to start. This can also get you in the habit of writing, and encourage you to think about how to communicate with different audiences. If you don’t want to start your own blog, you can write short pieces for other relevant people and organisations, which will help get your name and work known more widely (for example, I’ve written for the NVivo and IGALA blogs, as well as for the BAAL newsletter). You may want to try and get your work recognised by the media; if you’re interested in a career outside academia, this may be far more appropriate than academic publications (though it’s important for academics too). I confess that I don’t know much about this area, but most universities offer training on media engagement.
I should add that there is most definitely not one ‘right’ way of publishing your research. Talk to the people who know you best about your options, and use your Viva to quiz your examiners – this is a precious opportunity to talk to leaders in your field who have read your work in detail. This post is mostly based on my own experiences of doctoral research and publication in a UK context; others will likely have different points of view. If you have any advice to add or reflections on your own experiences, feel free to post your thoughts below, or respond to me on Twitter. Happy writing!