How to extract articles from your dissertation

When I finally got around to writing my dissertation writing tree(that’s another story), I realized that its organization easily fell into several relatively self-contained chapters. Once I defended, I needed to convert as much of the dissertation to publishable articles as I could, for the “hound of tenure” was fast on my heels.

I realized that I had written each chapter with a possible article based on it already in mind. In philosophy one often takes on positions articulated by others, and seeks to attack them in a way that makes one’s own view more plausible and defended against those who would, or should, attack it. So, I “carved” the dissertation into three chunks and wrote them up as independent articles. I sent them to the same journals that had published the articles I was attacking, and they were accepted (usually subject to some revisions). Hence, my first three publications, followed by a fourth when one of my attackees sought to defend himself in print. Those, plus a couple of short pieces, secured a tenured appointment.

I started to direct dissertations, and told this story often. Two of my students took the story to heart, and both wrote each term paper with an eye to its being a chapter or part of a chapter in the dissertation. This proved to be a terribly efficient way to work through the graduate courses.

But the final exemplar of this strategy was the man hired as my replacement. His dissertation consisted of papers published prior to the dissertation presentation and defense. Hence, he extracted a dissertation from his articles.

Not a pair of bad strategies at all!


Richard T. Hull, Professor Emeritus SUNY at Buffalo, Visiting Professor at Montana State University, (Southwest) Texas State University