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How to turn your Arts or Humanities thesis into journal articles

Lucy English

Image credit: Simon Goldstein

For your PhD, you will have carried out a considerable amount of original research. You may have written up to 80,000 words of text and created diagrams, graphs or illustrations. Alternatively – like me – you might have carried out practice-based research. My PhD was an exploration of poetry and short film. I created an extensive online poetry-film project in collaboration with 27 film-makers and wrote a 20,000-word critical paper. Whatever the format of your PhD, you can adapt your work to publish it in academic journals.

Why publish in journals?

Academic journals publish the most up-to-date and relevant research in your particular area, and it is through publication that this research is disseminated to others. Your article will advance new knowledge and also your own reputation as a researcher and academic

But how can you transform your thesis into articles suitable for publication in an academic journal? Here is some guidance.

Adopt a tailored approach

Writing an article for a journal is not a simple matter of cutting and pasting existing text. You might rework some previously written material, but you will also need to write new text suitable for the readers of the journal you choose.

Identify research questions

See if you can identify up to five individual research questions from your thesis. These may range from the general to the more specific. For example, my thesis examined a brief history of poetry film and analysed similar projects as well as my experience of blending poetry with film. My research questions included:

  • What are the historic influences on contemporary poetry-film creation?
  • Which contemporary poetry-film projects are developing the genre into new forms?
  • What are the most effective methods for artistic collaborations?

All of these research questions could be the subject for separate journal articles. Select your favourite one to start the next part of the process.

Find a suitable journal

During the research for your PhD, you will have read numerous articles in journals that are specific to your subject, so you already know a few publications. These are good places to start. You could ask for journal recommendations from your supervisors or university library staff or search the Access to Research database of research journals.

You can also think more creatively about your research. Researchers from other disciplines may be interested in your discoveries. The content of my PhD would appeal to people researching contemporary poetry; film-makers creating short movies; researchers into collaboration, creativity and the creative process; and educators in the field of creative writing. There are academic journals that cover all of these topics.

Understand the guidelines

Once you have selected a few journals, find the answers to these questions:

  • Who reads this journal?
  • How often is it published?
  • Are articles peer reviewed?
  • What are the submission guidelines?
  • Check if the journal has an open submission policy or if you have to send in an abstract first.

Check the following details too:

Content guidelines

Academic journals usually have clear guidelines about the type of articles they are looking for. Make sure that you fully understand the aims and scope of your chosen journal. My practice-based research into poetry and film is not appropriate for Creativity Research Journal, as this journal is geared towards data-evidenced social science research. It is more suitable for Writing in Education because I could explore how I incorporate my creative process into my teaching of creative writing.

Content rules

Each journal has guidelines about data sharing, using third-party material, referencing and copyright.


The most prestigious journals offer a fee.

Writing style

Individual journals favour particular writing styles. Check if the language is formal or less formal, and whether authors use the first person in their writing, for example.

Create your article

Once you have selected a suitable journal, start to draft the text. As with almost any piece of academic writing, your article will contain an introduction, the main body of evidence-based research and a conclusion. Your article will be referenced and have a bibliography. The introduction will set the stage for your selected research question rather than explore the entire background to your PhD. You may find that you are using passages of text from your PhD, but you will also be writing new material that supports your selected research question. For your conclusion, make sure you stay within the focus of that question.

A successful approach

This approach works! So far, I have published five articles based on my PhD in a variety of journals, both national and international. On the strength of these articles, I was asked to write a guest blog for the British Library and a chapter for a collection of essays on poetry film. I have been invited to present the project at two short film festivals, one in Germany and one in the USA. Through publishing in journals, I have widened my reputation as a practice-based researcher and academic writer.

Some useful links

Oxford Academic list of academic journals
A huge selection

Royal Society Journal
Mostly medical and scientific

Bristol University Press Journals
Mostly social sciences

A selection of recent literature journal articles

4 March 2021

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