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Checklist for Revising Dissertations for Book Publication

  1. Eliminate the review of literature. A book manuscript is not for your dissertation readers; it's for your colleagues, who have done their homework and will do you the courtesy of assuming that you have also.
  2. Outlining. You have probably divided each chapter into sections and each section into subsections. This shows that you know how to outline or write a brief, but for most scholarly monographs the outline should disappear into the fluidity of a context. The book should flow; it should not hop from stone to stone.
  3. Repetition. Does the beginning of each chapter and major section announce what you are going to say—and then, at the end, do you announce that you have said it? Remove repetition.
  4. Footnotes. Dissertation writers are apt to footnote almost every statement, as is expected by their committees. As an author of a book in an area of your expertise, this is not necessary. Delete half your footnotes.
  5. Bibliography. A useful bibliography must do more than alphabetize footnotes. A judicious bibliographical essay, grouping major references into sections according to their importance to your topic, can be part of what readers will pay for when they buy your book.
  6. Too much? When beginning writers don't know quite how to make their points—when they are teaching themselves the techniques of writing as they compose their material—they are apt to fumble a great deal, and the result is wordage by the yard. They don't know when to stop or how to move on. Re-examine your dissertation critically—others will. Ruthlessly cut out the flab. Don't depend upon the editor to do this. A flabby manuscript may never survive to get into the editor's hands. Read questionable passages aloud. If they sound stilted or obscure, they probably are.
  7. Too little? Is your manuscript a thorough, definitive study or a superficial treatment? Has the treatment been stretched beyond the scope which the topic warrants?
  8. Up to date? "If accepted for publication, I plan to update." Better do it now, before the material is submitted. The reviewer has no way of gauging the effectiveness of work yet to be done.
  9. Is it readable? The strictures surrounding dissertation writing seldom produce readable writing. Stuffy phrases, passive voice, attribution, and polysyllable jargon are roadblocks in the path of readership. Again, read it aloud. Does it sing or sag?
  10. Research. It is also essential that a scholarly publication include original research performed by the author. Moreover, this research should be consistently organized according to a sound theoretical perspective.
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