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Turning your coursework papers into publishable articles


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Hello everyone,

I will start a PhD next September and my goal is to turn a few of my coursework papers into publishable articles as soon as possible during my PhD journey. Any tips on how to do that? I have never written non-empirical articles for peer review before. 

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  • 1 month later...

The short answer is that they probably won't be publishable, because you won't yet be sufficiently familiar with work in the area to generate a new piece of scholarship. That doesn't mean you shouldn't try, just that you shouldn't go in expecting too much of yourself. As a new PhD student, you're still just learning the ropes.

Now that all that's out of the way: in order to do this, you'll need to explicitly set out to do it, and that means choosing your paper topics with care. You'll need them to make an original contribution, and that means having a good grasp of the relevant literature, and doing a lot more independent research for the papers. You'll need to start them early, and revise, revise, revise. Revise. And you'll need to have a good sense of where to send them, what the norms are for that journal, etc. And all that is a lot of work, especially for a new student who's still in coursework. So don't beat yourself up if you don't get around to trying to publish them for a few years. Coming back to the topic with fresh eyes and more experience will make it much easier to see what work still needs to be done, or even whether it's a worthwhile cause in the first place.

So I'd advise you to take a long view. Try to come up with interesting and original ideas for your papers, and do your best writing them. Then try to present them at conferences. The feedback you get there will help you to determine whether it's worth pursuing publication, and will give you a sense of what you need to do to get there. Plus, it'll help you do some of the other stuff you need to do as a grad student, and get you started on networking.

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I agree with @maxhgns

I probably wouldn't because you are not going to have enough knowledge about the field at this point.  I would wait until you are a couple years into PhD coursework (or really after comprehensive exams) before you start submitting solo author work to a journal or work with a faculty member who really understands the academic publishing process and can mentor you.  You also need to know which journals to target, acceptance rates, and the type of research that the journal typically publishes so you are more likely to get in and frame your work appropriately.

I say this as someone who has 1-2 earlier pubs that maybe I wish I waited on because they could have been a lot better, but I just didn't have the skillset/knowledge/experience at that point.  They are okay - but I am definitely not directing people to read them as representative of my work!

One suggestion is a book chapter in an edited volume. Although usually you need to get invited to participate by the editor(s), sometimes there are open calls for chapters (at least in my field) that you can submit a proposal for a chapter that matches the theme of the volume and the editors select a certain number of people to write up their proposals into a book chapter.   

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  • 3 weeks later...

Something else to think about is whether or not those papers would help to produce a really coherent idea of the scholar you will be upon exiting your PhD experience. One of the professors I spoke to during my interview process at the PhD program I’ll be attending this fall really discouraged the idea of publishing simply to publish (not saying that’s what you would be doing, but I definitely understand the desire to publish as much as possible without maybe fully knowing how those publications will speak to your interests/marketability later on), and spoke to some folks’ early publications as actually being detrimental to them when they entered the job market, because they muddied the waters as far as what that person ended up wanting to research and teach upon graduation. His comments really opened my eyes as to the purpose of publishing as a future job seeker within academia, not sure it’d they're helpful to you, but thought I’d share just in case! Good luck!

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  • 7 months later...

It's very difficult to write worthwhile non-empirical articles as a jr. scholar, even post-PhD.

Concentrate on using your content classes to write lit reviews for papers that you write for your method classes. If you can coordinate well, you may be able to get one paper out of every 3-4 classes (2-3 content classes and 1-2 method classes).

Another more reasonable thing to do with class papers is turn them into small grant applications. I know many people who have had luck with this.

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  • 5 months later...
On 3/17/2019 at 12:08 PM, Adelaide9216 said:

Hello everyone,

I will start a PhD next September and my goal is to turn a few of my coursework papers into publishable articles as soon as possible during my PhD journey. Any tips on how to do that? I have never written non-empirical articles for peer review before. 

Most of my first-year course essays were too immature to turn into publishable material. The possible exception was my independent study--'Intuition and Cognitive Science'--paper, which only recently (i.e., five years later) made some of its way into a conference proceeding proof. First year was largely for establishing departmental identity.

My only full-length, non-empirical journal article resulted from a term paper for my course, 'Ecologies of Mind'. It took 1.5-2 years to get this published (in International Journal of Global and Environmental Issues). This was my most frustrating term paper to get to writing...it didn't change much throughout its development. Most of the work happened in bed on my laptop over the course of a week.

The more independent my papers were in terms of content and direction, the more likely they were to get published in peer-reviewed outlets. If academia is your jam, over time, you will become more and more of a peer-reviewer yourself. This can come with the privilege and power to get more innovative conceptual material published!

The majority of my own publications are non-empirical. Once I became program board member of a prestigious international conference, I became capable of converting content from past graduate years into conference proceedings. This venue is typically for more STEM-focused research, though.

Edited by Suraj_S
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