Dilemma: Editing a long paper for publication

I (Shannon) am currently suffering from a common dilemma, in attempting to edit a very long paper into a very short one. In this case, my master’s thesis, which is 25,000 words, need to be shortened into something only 7,000 words long (or 14,000 if I can publish it in two parts).

Many public librarians have written theses for their master’s programs, and haven’t published them in academic journals. Ideally, editing one’s thesis for publication would be an easy path to research–after all, you’ve already done the research, right?

Wrong. Editing something long into something short is, in my opinion, more difficult than starting from scratch. When one is as close to the subject as a thesis-writer is, it becomes extremely difficult to know what is important and what can be safely left out of your journal article.

I have searched long and hard for advice on this subject. I have found sites that help fledgling researchers to publish papers, such as 101 Tips on how to Write and Publish an Academic Research Paper, and How to Get Published. But I can’t find much on how to edit the long stuff into abbreviated form.

These articles were somewhat helpful, however:

Even after reading all this advice, I continue to suffer. With a grounded theory, how does one legitimize the themes without supplying substantiating data, i.e. lots of quotes? With a major lit review that is essentially a meta-synthesis of several fields of study, how does one end up with a few paragraphs? How does one achieve “thick description” in, say, 6 words?

If you think I’m going to answer these troubling questions, you are wrong. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the magic key yet–I hope someone else knows and will clue me in. For now, my best hope is to farm out the article to other people in hopes that they can tell me which stuff they feel is unecessary.

So I offer this for you: if you would like your thesis/dissertation read over and informal advice given on how to publish it, or if you would like to read and give that advice, please contact me. I will try to match up readers and writers.

For the readers, no particular expertise is needed, just a willingness to think critically about what is needed to build a cogent argument. Writers can take that information on board as they cut and rebuild their thesis into a publishable journal article.

As for places to publish–check back here for a list of possibilities in a future post. And the Center for Public Library Research hopes to begin an open-access online journal as well!

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