Wondering how to go about getting your thesis published? In this guide Georgina Collins provides information for early career researchers on the process of converting your thesis into a published book.
From PhD to publication
Following the PhD, if you wish to remain in academia or move into a related profession, publishing your thesis is often considered essential. Few PhD theses are published in their original form; the PhD is an academic exercise aimed at gaining a qualification and a set of skills, whereas a book is intended to be read by others. Converting your thesis into a book can be used as a building block to an academic career, to influence your discipline and expand your knowledge of the field.
One practical way in which the academic exercise and publication process differ is over copyright. Your thesis may contain content which is copyrighted to others that you will need permission from rights owners to include in publication.
Adapting a thesis
When adapting your thesis for publication you should take into account the shift in audience: as a thesis your work had a very small readership, but when published it should attract a much larger one. How will you go about amending your thesis to achieve this?
You will also need to consider whether to publish your thesis as a monograph or series of articles. Bear in mind the advice you have been given by supervisors and examiners.
Consider how these decisions may affect your employability. Sometimes three or four strong papers in refereed journals can be better when applying for jobs than having to wait several years for a monograph to come out.
You should also consider how you will balance your publication commitments alongside the inevitable post-doctoral challenges of finding a job, teaching, and pursuing new areas of research.
Choosing a publisher
There are different types of publishers – university presses and commercial presses are the most common ones. Some will pay you, while others that will expect a publishing subsidy from you. It is important to get a good sense of the range of publishers in your field, the kinds of work they publish, and their different strengths. Consider how your work could enhance their current series.
You may also consider how you wish to pitch your book – at a general readership, a trade audience or a specialist academic audience. Whether your thesis is published or not is usually decided by the commissioning editor or editorial board. That decision will be made on the grounds of intellectual coherence, whether the research is cutting edge, and also if the book is commercially viable.
Writing a book proposal
A major step in the process of publishing your thesis is getting the book proposal right. Make sure you read publishers’ guidelines. Catch their eye by being brief and punchy. Carefully proofread your work and do not just cut and paste an abstract from your thesis. There are four key criteria to consider:
- Rigour – is it a scholarly piece of work?
- Significance – is it talking to a wide audience?
- Originality – are you doing something brand new?
- Marketability – is the book commercially viable?
Your goal is to convince them that your book will be essential reading in your field.
Rewards, royalties and subsidies
In the UK, research is judged by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) which is based on peer review. Therefore, whether you are paid or have paid to be published should not make a difference to how your work is viewed: it is the opinion of your peers that will matter.
Most of the big presses do not charge and have very well-established peer review systems of their own – so on the whole, work published by these large publishers tends to be of a higher standard. The ultimate prize is a contract with royalties, but unless your first book is a trade book that will have a huge impact, do not expect much. Also bear in mind whether your publisher is tying you in for your next book – this could be either a good or bad thing.
If you are required to pay a publishing subsidy, find out who is expected to pay. Many university departments will only pay if the book is likely to form part of an REF submission, which means it will have to reach a certain quality threshold – three-star or four-star in REF terms.
With these smaller publishers, you may have to do much of the quality control, proofing and marketing yourself. If this is the case, you may choose instead to go for articles – but on the other hand, sometime these publishers can provide you with a quick turnaround which will allow you to move on to the next book or project.
The challenges of PhD publication
Don’t leave it too long to publish your thesis. PhDs are perishable and the literature review and methodological foundations will often be out of date after five or six years.
This article is based on a paper given by Professor Charles Forsdick, Series Editor at Liverpool University Press. Listen to his paper in full here. (podcast of event: Publishing Your Thesis in the Humanities and Social Sciences)
Click here for a guide to publishing for first-timers.
Image: Alex Proimos, Wikicommons
There are a number of items to consider as you prepare to submit your graduate work.
If your university does not participate in ProQuest Dissertation and Theses Dissemination program, you can still submit your work to us; use this form to request a publishing agreement.
Preparing your manuscript for submission
Depending on the method supported by your graduate school, you will submit your manuscript in one of three ways:
- As a PDF file through our online submission tool (preferred), ETD Administrator
- Via your university delivering the files to ProQuest via another electronic means (typically via FTP)
- As a paper copy we will digitize
Regardless of your submission method, there are several things that you can do to optimize your manuscript. Please see the Preparing Your Manuscript Guide for further information.Author Agreement
Authors enter into a non-exclusive publishing agreement with ProQuest, where the author keeps the copyright in their graduate work. Authors are paid a 10% royalty for sales in all formats. See the full traditional publishing agreement for the details.
Inclusion of other people's copyrighted material
Including material produced by other authors in your dissertation or thesis can serve a legitimate research purpose, but you want to avoid copyright infringement in the process. Republishing someone else's work, even in abbreviated form, requires permission from the author or copyright owner. You must receive permission from the author(s) and include it with your submission before we can publish it in your dissertation or thesis.
For more detailed guidance on avoiding copyright infringement, please see our Copyright Guide. In addition, Dr. Kenneth D. Crews, a Professor at Indiana University's School of Law, has kindly given us permission to provide a PDF copy of his booklet Copyright and Your Dissertation or Thesis: Ownership, Fair Use, and Your Rights and Responsibilities. It provides a detailed overview of copyright law that no new dissertation author should miss.
Optional Copyright Registration at Participating Institutions
If you live in the United States, registering for U.S. copyright can be a significant benefit for the protection of your work because of the availability of content on the open web via repositories and other avenues. For only $55, you can protect your dissertation or master’s theses and become immediately eligible for statutory damages and attorney fees. Registering for copyright allows for the claimant to receive statutory damages set out in Title 17, Section 504 of the U.S. Code, which range from $750 – $150,000 plus attorney fees per copyright infraction. This contrasts with those who do not register for copyright – authors without copyright registration can claim only actual damages and no attorney fees.
At ProQuest, we make copyright registration easy—by submitting your application to the United States Copyright on your behalf and providing you with the certificate from the Library of Congress. Once your dissertation is published, a permanent link to your citation is created for your curriculum vitae and to refer scholars to your work.
Registering with the U.S. Office of Copyright establishes your claim to the copyright for your dissertation (which you already own) and provides certain protections if your copyright is violated. If you wish, ProQuest Dissertation Publishing will act on your behalf as your agent with the United States Copyright Office and apply for copyright registration as part of the publishing process. We will prepare an application in your name, submit your application fee, deposit the required copy or copies of the manuscript, and mail you the completed certificate of registration from the Library of Congress.
ProQuest Dissertation and Theses Dissemination program offers a number of mechanisms that can help address concerns about prior publication and its potential to impact future publishing opportunities. The following statement explains in detail how we assist author’s with prior publication concerns.
Who can submit their dissertation?
ProQuest welcomes graduate (post-graduate) works from all countries. As long as your work is a Master's Theses or PhD Dissertation / Thesis, ProQuest is able to accept the work. In the United States, ProQuest's policy is to accept master's theses and dissertations from all institutions which have been accredited by one of the six regional accrediting bodies (Middle States Association, New England Association, North Central Association, Northwest Association, Southern Association and Western Association) for inclusion in the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses database. Regional accreditation means that the accredited institutions are eligible for membership in the Council of Graduate Schools, which is the standard by which the United States higher education community judges itself. Master's theses and dissertations from independent medical and law schools accredited by the AMA and ABA are also accepted. Learn more.
2013-2014 Agreement Forms (United States)
2013-2014 ProQuest Dissertation Publishing Paper Submission Agreement (PDF)
2017-2018 Agreement Forms (United States)
2017-2018 ProQuest Dissertation Paper Submission Agreement
2017-2018 FTP/CD ProQuest Dissertation Submission Agreement
2017-2018 Agreement Forms (Outside United States and Canada)
2017-2018 AFTA ProQuest Dissertation Submission Agreement
2017-2018 Subject Guides
ProQuest Subject Categories 2017-2018 Academic Year
ProQuest Subject Categories 2017-2018 Academic Year (French)
ProQuest Subject Categories 2017-2018 Academic Year (Spanish)
Contacting ProQuest Dissertation Dissemination
If you have any questions that are not answered here or elsewhere on the ProQuest website, you can contact our Author and School Relations team directly at 1-800-521-0600 ext. 77020 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.