Advice from our Editors: Revising the Dissertation into a Monograph

Palgrave Macmillan accepts proposals based on PhD dissertations, even those that have been made available online. Prospective authors should bear in mind that every PhD thesis will need to undergo rigorous revision in order to be published as a monograph with our press. To help with this revision, our editors have put together the following advice:

How do I go about planning the revisions and when should I start?

  • Be aware that transforming your dissertation into a publishable book is a complex process, which will take time and require some careful planning. Time will be an issue, especially if you need to juggle the work on the book with full-time teaching and/or other research activities. Most authors take at least a year to complete a PhD-based book, but this could also take longer if the book requires fresh data and new research.  
  • You should endeavor to begin working on the book proposal only after having submitted your thesis and successfully completing your PhD program. This will allow you to look at the thesis with a fresh eye and to take into account any helpful feedback from your examiners as you develop your proposal.
  • Consider all the available formats.  Depending on the subject and breadth of the topic, some proposals may develop into a full-length monograph (c.90,000 words), whilst for others a shorter format like Palgrave Pivot (25,000 to 50,000 words) may be suitable – for example a single-case or single-country study once they have been extracted out of any redundant or unnecessary content.

What’s the difference between the PhD thesis and a monograph?

  • Audience.  While a PhD thesis is meant to be read and scrutinized by your supervisors and examiners, the readership of your book will extend to the broader academic community, scholars and practitioners, who may not be specialized on or even familiar with your research topic.
  • Rationale. The motivation behind writing your book will need to be rethought to reflect the expectations of your new audience and should clearly unfold in the introduction. The objective is not to convince your examiners that you have what it takes to complete a PhD, but to make sure the book is coherent and your conclusions are persuasive. 
  • Structure. Your introductory chapter should also offer readers a concise ‘preview’ of the various chapters. The conclusion should summarize your key findings and identify avenues for further research. Look over the table of contents in books which you would consider as related literature or competitors. How does that differ from the structure of your thesis? You should simplify and optimize your table of contents so as to articulate the material in a logical and accessible fashion.
  • Length. Monographs are normally much shorter than PhD theses. Separate chapters about the review of literature and research methodologies may be vital in a thesis, but will not be necessary in a book, as readers and experts in your field will be familiar already with both. References to the relevant literature can be moved to the endnotes of individual chapters, and what is not pertinent to advancing your own arguments can be cut out. The methodology chapter should be reduced and merged with the introduction if not omitted altogether.

How do I write a proposal for a PhD-based book?

  • Think of it as a brand new project which builds on rather than derives from your PhD research. 
  • Avoid mentioning phrases like ‘this PhD’ or ‘this thesis’ throughout the proposal.
  • Identify your USPs (unique selling points) and build your proposal around them so as to highlight what is really original about your research, its contribution to the field and what makes the book ‘stand out of the crowd.
  • Avoid recommending your supervisors or examiners as potential peer reviewers.
  • Keep footnotes and endnotes to a minimum.
  • Be mindful that you will need to obtain permission to include quotes from interviewees if they were not informed at the time of the interview that these could appear in print. Otherwise, these quotes must be attributed anonymously or removed completely.
  • Reduce third-party materials as much as possible, as obtaining permission for this content is the responsibility of the author and can be a time-consuming process.
  • Select illustrations/tables/diagrams that further the argument of the text, rather than are illustrative.  
  • Informally ask colleagues or mentors to read your chapters before submission. An outside perspective can help refine the work for final publication. If English is not your first language, it might be useful to ask a native speaker to read-through the manuscript as well. 

We also have dedicated advice on the Dos and Don’ts for writing a proposal.

In addition to the above advice from our editors, a number of our authors who have gone through this process themselves have been kind enough to share their experiences. All of these advice articles can be found on the Early Career Researcher Hub.

A monograph is a very different body of work to a thesis. So, rather than sending out a proposal at once, and simply rewriting a chapter of the thesis to go with it, I ignored the advice and decided to think of the book as a new project. This involved taking key concepts from the thesis, but significantly reworking and developing them. This approach took a long time (three years, post-viva) because the work was undertaken alongside HPL teaching and summer work, which slowed the project down considerably.

However, the proposal I eventually submitted to Palgrave was a book proposal, rather than a modified thesis proposal. As such, the submission process was significantly easier; the project was accepted, a contract issued, and the completed manuscript took just three months to finish and submit. The book appeared in print just eight months later (less than a year after I first submitted the proposal.) I have no doubt that this was because I took that time to develop the project.