Are you ready for the next step? How to transform your thesis into a journal article (or three)

Once you have completed the massive task of writing, submitting and defending your PhD thesis, the next step is to increase its audience by transforming it into at least one article.  You may have already published parts of your research, probably with your supervisor, along the way but if not you should definitely start now.

Depending on the structure of the manuscript, you may find that particular chapters group nicely, providing you with enough material for three or four sizeable articles. Producing several scholarly articles will help to boost your readership and your visibility.

Your institution may require that you publish a minimum number of journal articles as part of your masters or PhD. Use this guide to understand how to publish your first scholarly article and create an impact. Elsevier’s Researcher Academy has published 8 Tips for Converting Your Terminal Degree for Journal Publication. Here’s our take on how you can re-purpose your thesis to great effect:

How to reach your audience

Your supervisor  will usually guide to through the stages of your first article publication. If you’re a scientist, your first stop will most likely be Springer Nature or the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) journal, Science.

What are the journals you read? They are likely to be the same journals that your target audience also accesses. Set your sights high. There are a multitude of journals that cater to specific areas of study, so create a shortlist of 3-5 potential journals, based on the level of impact you think you can achieve. Work down the list in the event your first choice(s) rejects your submission.

You may be a social scientist or a mathematician, but what are the key points of your thesis? Be specific. If your research is concerned with mental health or civil engineering, then look closely at journals that fit the core areas of study. To make real, lasting impact, you need to reach researchers and academics who can reference your work in their own studies.

Finding a journal

Many academic publishers provide helpful tools to make it easier to identify potential journals using key search terms. Elsevier, Wiley, Taylor and Francis, Sage and Oxford University Press are just some of the publishers who have built journal search engines on their digital platforms to help academics find specific journals.

Gold, Green or Platinum Open Access?

Open access journals remove barriers and will increase the reach and scope of your research. They fall into three categories, ‘Gold’, ‘Green’ and ‘Platinum’ (sometimes called ‘Diamond’).

‘Gold’ journals require the author to bear the responsibility of the publication costs.

‘Green’ journals cover the financial costs through library subscriptions.

‘Platinum’ or ‘Diamond’ journals use various business models to fund the publication of articles, that may include university laboratory funding, capital from learned societies, foundations or government agencies.

Take the time to understand the public access policy at your institution or funding body. There are thousands of potential journals to choose from, so use your network and ask for advice.

Structure Accordingly

An article is structured somewhat differently to a thesis. Make sure all the key elements are present.

  • Title
  • Author(s)
  • Acknowledgements
  • Keyword List
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion & Conclusion
  • References

Tip: In the Keyword List, don’t use the same words included in the title. Optimise your searchability by using a range of related search terms.

Short and Sweet

Tighten up the prose and edit the text down to the core findings and discussion points. Avoid repetition and treat the article/s as leaner, streamlined versions of your thesis. Rewrite difficult passages or omit them altogether. You don’t want to turn readers off with long, indigestible paragraphs.


Ensure that you name your PI or supervisor as a co-author if your article derives from masters or PhD thesis, if you are not writing the article together. Ask where they would prefer to be listed, usually in the second or last place in the list of named authors. Be aware that some supervisors will ask to be the first named author, although the ethics of this are debatable. Remember to include them in the acknowledgements, along with any other key people involved in your research.

Be Bold and Be Clear

The first thing readers will read is the title. Come up with a strong and engaging title that captures the readers’ imagination, while conveying the key elements of the thesis.

The next essential element is nailing the abstract, so that it clearly and effectively communicates the content. A brief summary of your research – 200 words maximum – will help readers determine whether the article is relevant to them. Learn some copywriting skills and write a killer abstract that will grab the reader’s attention.


Once the manuscript is ready for submission write a compelling cover letter to accompany it. Having identified appropriate potential journals, contact Editors with a well-crafted request, clearly stating who you are, why your article is well suited to a specific journal and the relevance of your research.

If accepted, a peer reviewer will give you feedback on suggested improvements. In a ‘single blind’ peer review, the identity of the review will remain anonymous to the author. In A ‘double blind’ peer review, both author and reviewer remain anonymous to one another. An ‘open’ peer review reveals the identities of both the author and reviewer.

The purpose of a peer review is to carefully consider the validity of the data, the methodology and the ethics of your research (Elsevier, 2018). This is an opportunity to receive valuable feedback, which you should consider carefully and use to make necessary changes. Improvements should always be made to increase your chances of publication.

A peer reviewer will make recommendations to the Editor, who will then make the final decision to publish, either with or without revisions. Your article may still be rejected but, having made a shortlist and improved your article with input from your first round of reviews, you will be in an even better position to contact the next potential journal editor.

In Summary

By following these steps, you will maximise the potential readership of your full thesis, helping to raise your profile and increasing your number of citations. All essential to furthering your academic career and boosting your journal metrics score.

Elsevier have published a comprehensive guide on how to transform your thesis into an article. Click here to read the full paper.

Further Reading:

 Maximise Your Impact – How Academics Can Communicate Knowledge Through Traditional and Print Media

How to increase the reach of your published work

Turning your article into a blog post


How to Turn Your Research Thesis into an Article: 8 Tips for Converting Your Terminal Degree for publication

How to turn your thesis into an article

Journal and Article Metrics

Journal Metrics

Suber, Peter (November 2, 2006). “No-fee open-access journals”. SPARC open access Newsletter

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