Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

From Qualitative Dissertation to Quality Articles: Seven Lessons Learned

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

From Qualitative Dissertation to Quality Articles: Seven Lessons Learned

Article excerpt


Writing papers for publication poses an immense challenge to new scholars. For those who embrace qualitative methods, the process of getting papers published can be even more daunting. After all, qualitative research is still marginalized in some fields, where it is not considered "legitimate" science; and publications based on qualitative research are often undervalued (Marschan-Piekkari & Welch, 2004).

Soon after completing a doctoral program, many emerging scholars set their sights on getting published. Mounds of data have already been sorted and analyzed, and the research has already been written up as a dissertation. Converting the dissertation into a journal article or two is the next logical task. Articles in professional publications, particularly peer-reviewed journals, are a tangible touchstone of scholarly achievement. However, doctoral students are not usually taught the process of writing for publication and are therefore unprepared for the attendant demands. An early introduction to the publication process would provide a context for future thinking about scholarly writing, demystify the process, and lead to the improvement of writing skills (Nolan & Rocco, 2009). It would also prepare university-based scholars, especially those who accept tenure-track faculty positions, to handle the imminent pressure to publish.

This paper is a primer on converting a dissertation based on qualitative research into a manuscript that merits publication in a scholarly journal. It is written primarily for newly minted scholars who, with their doctoral diplomas displayed prominently on the wall, are eager to get published. In it, I summarize seven lessons learned in the context of actual publication experiences over a five-year period after I earned my doctorate.

While preparing my dissertation, I similarly learned seven lessons, which I shared in a reflective article in The Qualitative Report (Bowen, 2005). The seventh lesson delineated in that widely cited article was "Prepare to publish." I had long concluded that what has been written down as observational field notes, analytic memos, and preliminary reports should be written up as papers for publication. Publishing is a paramount obligation of researchers, necessary for accumulating a professional body of knowledge and fully developing its implications for theory and practice (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Indeed, the findings of original research, especially cutting-edge research, should be made available in the public domain as they could provide answers to questions or offer new insights (Bowen, 2005). Besides being a valuable lesson for me, "Prepare to publish" constituted timely advice to doctoral students working on their dissertations. This paper underscores that advice as it offers some guidance to emerging scholars who are preparing to turn their qualitative dissertations into quality articles.

The question of quality

Qualitative research involves the systematic collection, organization, and analysis of largely textual material. Phenomena and events are studied in their natural settings. The issue of quality in qualitative research has been receiving considerable attention in the literature (e.g., Dingwall, Murphy, Watson, Greatbatch, & Parker, 1998; Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, 2002). In this regard, quality is a contested concept, often bound up with a debate about the nature of the knowledge produced by qualitative research (Mays & Pope, 2000). Despite this epistemological debate, there is some agreement - at least among many qualitative research experts - that quality research (i.e., good- or high-quality research) demonstrates rigor, trustworthiness, and relevance (Bergman & Coxon, 2005; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Mays & Pope; Morse et al.), with findings that are applicable or transferable to other, similar settings or groups.

Quality articles are produced by a scientific approach as distinguished from superficial conjecture. …

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