Publishing Your PhD: Some Advice

On the 1st of November, the Royal Holloway Geography’s seminar series Landscape Surgery held a seminar entitled Publishing Your PhD. Two Royal Holloway alumni, Justin Spinney (Cardiff University) and Amanda Rogers (Swansea University), returned to give advice on how to convert your PhD into publications. As someone who is rapidly approaching the end of their PhD without having published anything, I found the session very useful, so I thought I would summarise some of their advice here.

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Justin Spinney and Amanda Rogers give advice on how to publish your PhD research during a Landscape Surgery seminar in Bedford Square, London (Photo: Hannah Awcock).

The first thing that struck me, which I often find when talking to academics about their careers, is that there is no gold standard. There is no perfect recipe for publishing your PhD (apologies if that is what you were hoping to find here!) Justin and Amanda have taken different approaches to publishing since they finished their PhDs, and both have successful academic careers. So with that in mind, I have pulled together the bits of advice that I think most people will find useful, which fit nicely into three topics.

First of all, have a plan, or at least think about what you want your publications to achieve. Are you publishing because you have something to say, or because you want to further your career? If it’s the latter, you might want to think carefully about which journal to publish in. Some journals are notoriously slow, can you afford to wait? Are their particular journals which cater to the discipline or subject area in which you want to work? Might you be better off trying to get a book chapter published first? If it’s the former reason, there are still questions to ask yourself, such as what kind of audience do you wish to reach? There is a huge amount of pressure on PhD students now to publish in order to get an academic job, and I for one have definitely been guilty of blindly panicking rather than thinking strategically.

This leads nicely into the second area of advice I picked up from the seminar; which relates to writing format. There a range of different publishing formats available, which have different requirements and can serve different purposes. For a Geography PhD student I would argue that a book review is nice, a book chapter is great, but a journal article is the the holy grail. Different disciplines value single-author books differently, but it seems to me that they generally come 5-10 years after a PhD, if at all. Online publications such as The Conversation allow you to respond quickly to current events, and help to get your name out there without going through the lengthy and stressful peer review process. Blogs too, whether you have your own or guest-write for someone else, help your work to reach different audiences, and allow you to test out new ideas unrestrained by the formal requirements of academic writing style. So don’t necessarily confine yourself solely to journal articles.

The third area of advice relates to other people. Academia cam often be a lonely pursuit, so I was surprised when other people kept coming up again and again during the seminar. The connections you make during your PhD are significant; supervisors, examiners, or people you meet at conferences might lead to a chapter in an edited book or a paper in a special journal issue. You might even find someone to co-write with. It could be a good way of taking on that scary first publication, but you need to be clear about what your contribution was when it comes to CVs and job interviews. How to deal with referees’ comments was also a key area of discussion. The consensus seemed to be don’t be disheartened, don’t feel like you have to respond to every comment, and be prepared to stand up for yourself and your ideas- it’s OK to refuse to change something if you feel strongly about it.

So there you have it; my summary of other people’s advice. I found it very helpful, so I hope others will too. Thank you to Justin Spinney and Amanda Rogers, and Veronica della Dora for organising the seminar.

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