Revising Your Dissertation

Below are some tips on revising your dissertation for publication.

  • Consider whether your dissertation would be best published as a single book or as a series of articles. There may be strategic career considerations to consider when making such choices, but not all dissertations were born to be books.
  • Think about the “structuring logic” of your book. How does one chapter lead to another? Often the simplest evolutions (e.g., chronological progression from earliest to latest, geographical expansion from building to site to region) are the best.
  • As you rethink the structure of your work, ensure that it is designed for a defined audience. Talk to potential readers to ask how they would want to use the book you are writing. Divide your work into logical chapters, and introduce appropriate signposts within these chapters. Hierarchical headings are helpful guides for the reader, but don’t overdo them.
  • Consider transforming your final chapter into your first. Hook the reader immediately by telling them why your work is important. Avoid the temptation to make your book into a mystery novel.
  • Reduce your literature review substantially. Consign secondary scholarly arguments to notes. Minimize block quotes, and paraphrase where possible. The reader of your book assumes that you are the expert, and while you may stand on the shoulders of giants, you shouldn't hide in their shadow.
  • Rethink all your illustrations. Images should be publication quality, and you should assume that you will need permissions for almost everything. Think about whether each image deserves its place. Is that photograph referred to in the text, or is it just decorative? Similarly, does that data really need to be in a table or could it be integrated in the text?
  • Find your voice, and think about style and readability. Be alert for jargon, and be wary of overusing the passive or the first person.
  • Books like Revising Your Dissertation: Advice from Leading Editors, edited by Beth Luey (University of California Press, Berkeley, updated edition 2007) are helpful. They tend, however, to focus on a narrow definition of the “university press monograph,” and your book may be a fieldwork report, a prosopography, or an epigraphical study with its own rules and logic.