“If scholarly publishers don’t want what I’ve just written, why was I advised to write this, and to write it this way? Your university’s requirements, down to the language of your dissertation proposal and the number of chapters your committee insists you produce, constitute a set of rules—a grammar, if you like—within which you produce the dissertation. whose unrevised dissertation has just been rejected by a publisher, isn’t doing anything Pat hasn’t been led to believe is right. A cautious editor determined to minimize financial risk for the publishing house?
Once you leave the institution where you were awarded your degree, that support structure can seem, in retrospect, a great asset no longer in reach.
One senior scholar, veteran of many dissertation committees, cheerfully told me that the doctoral thesis was, at heart, a paranoid genre.
“You’re writing it to protect yourself,” the professor observed, and meaning, too, that you are therefore not writing in order to create as bold and imaginative a work as possible.
In this course, I’ll show you how to turn your MA or Ph D thesis into a popular book.
Encouraged by the response, Pat sends off the manuscript, fresh from the defense. To scholarly publishers it seems that for generations, dissertations have been built on a surprisingly simple formula.
thesis and is congratulated by the supervising committee. “You must publish this, Pat, and soon,” one committee member says, and goes on to suggest two or three publishing houses to which Pat might now write. The pages, which appear not to have been disturbed, are accompanied by a note. The tenure system, with its demand for book-length publication in the face of increasingly unattractive odds?
We don’t publish unrevised dissertations.” The new Ph. That framework is both a harness and a help, and it determines the shape of an argument, the nature of the prose, the pace of writing, even the place where the writing will be done. But the operating instructions of scholarly publishing rarely form a part of graduate training, which means that young scholars are usually thinking about the academic book business for the first time when the dissertation is already complete. In today’s market, even a first-rate dissertation may fail to find a publisher, at least on the author’s first try. A dissertation committee out of touch with scholarly publishing today?
Each year dissertations appear that will become books.
(Become—not are already—books.) To judge by the manuscripts that scholars send to publishing houses, the majority of the theses for which the Ph. is awarded are still highly limited enterprises—confident treatments of narrow subjects, making claims to boldness but doing so by means of elaborate reference to the work of others.