Once you’ve shelved it, however, it can become challenging to get back to it. If it’s a master’s thesis in a non-terminal PhD program, you move onto candidacy, comps, and new projects. If it’s a dissertation or a terminal masters, you start a post doc or a full time job, and it becomes harder and harder to pull it out of the proverbial file drawer. Everything else you are doing seems so much more interesting than the dusty old dissertation.
Fine, put it aside for a week. Go out for drinks with your friends. Watch some bad TV. But then pull it out, spiffy it up, and submit it for publication, preferably within 3 months of defending. Why?
Sometimes, I hand write myself notes, or jot notes on my computer in shorthand. If I look at the notes within a couple of days, I figure out what I meant. But if I wait a few weeks, sometimes I can’t read my own writing, or decipher my own shorthand (“fix paper topic”? What does that mean?). Often, your committee will provide edits you must do before you file, and improvements to make in order to get published. If you work on the document soon after the defense, that feedback will be clearer than if you wait a year to finally get back to it.
As you get involved in new projects, other people will rely on you to complete new papers. It will be harder to get back to the thesis when you are working with new people, whom you see every day, who want you to get these new projects completed.
As you get involved in new projects, the dissertation will start to seem weaker. You will be moving onto some of the “future directions” you talked about at the end of your dissertation. Now the dissertation seems somewhat flawed to you, and less important than your new work. Get it submitted right away, and you can build on it, rather than returning back to it when you’ve already done new projects that seem stronger to you.
I admit this one is self-serving. But here it is. Your adviser spent years working on your thesis or dissertation. In the amount of time it takes to supervise a master’s thesis, many faculty could write a first authored paper; for a dissertation, probably two. For me, a thesis or dissertation generally involves weekly meetings for a year or more; hunching over SPSS output for hours with the student; and reading many drafts of various pieces and of the whole. I’m not complaining (most of the time). Supervising graduate students is one of my favorite parts of my job. But it does lead to a sense of loss, in a sense, if that thesis or dissertation never becomes a product to disseminate. You worked hard on it, your adviser worked hard on it, so let’s get it out there.
The publication process takes some time. In a good case scenario, you get an R&R in 2-4 months, you submit a revised paper about 2 months later, you get a conditional accept about 2 months later, and the final version is accepted 2 months later. That’s 9 months, assuming the paper didn’t get rejected from the first journal, in which case you need to add on more months. So, it’s likely to take a year or more to move the paper from first submitted to in press. You want to space out the papers on your CV. If you are planning a tenure track career, this one year is critical. If you just defended your master’s thesis, you want to get it in the pipeline as early as possible so that when you apply for post docs or jobs, you have a paper published during the first half or so of your grad career. If you just defended your dissertation and are starting a post doc, it’s only 1 year or so until you apply for jobs, so you need to get it in the pipeline immediately. If you just started a tenure track job after defending, it’s less than 3 years until your first pre-tenure review, so again, you need to get it in the pipeline.
And here’s a place where I can brag about practicing what I (now) preach. I defended my dissertation in June, 1998. I moved to my new (and current) job in August, 1998. But before I moved, I shortened the central paper of my dissertation, and submitted it for publication. I received an R&R in October 1998, when I was quite busy with a new tenure track job and teaching for the first time. But working on revising a manuscript was the perfect task for that level of busy-ness, and much more doable than writing a new one. It was published in 2000. I have a number of papers I have sat on for long periods of time, or that have had more trouble with the publication process. But my dissertation was my life’s work for 2+ years, involved a project I was really proud of and spent an immense amount of time on, and I wanted to make sure to get it published as soon as I could.
In conclusion: File it, take a very short break, and get it out there. Your adviser will thank you, and your future job hunting self will thank you as well.
“The post Filed your thesis or dissertation? You’re not done yet first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on December 2, 2013.”