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VII. Carving Up the Dissertation into Journal Articles

Jun 12, 2012 by Amy Kiste Nyberg

If, after reading the second blog in this series, you decided the best course is for you to divide your dissertation into articles, your process will be somewhat different than publishing a book. One approach to carving up your dissertation is the “bullet points” method developed by Robert Q. Pollard Jr.

Bullet Points Method 

Here’s how Pollard recommends you move your dissertation into an article or articles. A bullet point list consists of several dozen or so bullet points, each one identifying a fact, issue, finding, or other detail that must be written about. These bullet points are chosen and organized for the average reader of your chosen journal.

Create a list of bullet points, with each bullet point attempting to capture the essence of an entire paragraph or more of text. No bullet points should be repeated.

Pollard recommends asking the following questions to see if a bullet point is essential to your article or if it should be deleted:

  • Does the reader really need this information to be a consumer of this manuscrip?
  • Does the average reader of this journal already know this information?
  • Is the point so critical that the reader needs to be reminded of it?

Once you’ve got your list, Pollard recommends building a “Functional Outline,” that includes the following headings:

  • Importance of the issue or problem. This section leads off most academic articles and must answer the question “Why should I care?”
  • Relevant literature. The bullet points describe what is known and not known about the issue you describe in the first section.
  • Fundamental concepts. This section provides the background concepts and information needed by the reader to understand your article.
  • Methodology. This section can be much shorter than in your dissertation because you need to include only the information that is relevant to what will appear in the next section, the Findings.
  • Findings. Include only those findings that are most relevant for the reader.
  • Implications of the findings. The bullet points in this section directly relate to the “Why should I care?” section at the top of the outline.
  • Future research or other scholarship recommendations. This section is short. Acknowledge the limitations of the work, and suggest how to improve or expand on the work.

Authorship considerations. Finally, consider issues surrounding authorship. If you are writing in the social sciences or the humanities, articles from your dissertation often will be single-author publications. Students in the sciences, however, often work very closely with (or under) senior researchers and faculty on research, which results in co-authored articles. In most cases, you should consult with your dissertation adviser regarding publication of your work. With your co-authored articles, determine who will have the status as “first author.” If you took the lead in designing and carrying out the research, as well as writing up the results, you should be listed as first author. However, the norms differ in different fields, so it is best to ask your advisor.

The next blog entry discusses the importance of selecting a journal before you begin revising portions of your dissertation and walks you through the selection process.


Pollard Jr., R.Q. (2005). From dissertation to journal article: A useful method for planning and writing any manuscript. The Internet Journal of Mental Health, 2(2).

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