2 Dec 2020

My Seven Steps for Successfully Publishing your MLIS Thesis

Guest post by Saoirse De Paor, Maynooth University Library. Saoirse is currently working as a Teaching and Learning Librarian. She received her Masters in Library and Information Studies in 2018 from University College Dublin. Her professional interests include Information Literacy, Teaching & Learning/Pedagogical Study, Student/User Engagement, and Social Media. 


This blog draws on my experience of writing a peer-reviewed journal article from my MLIS thesis. I completed my MLIS at UCD in 2018 and my final piece of work included a 10,000-word thesis. My thesis centred on the popular topic of fake news and the importance of information literacy to counteract this. Two years later,  in 2020, I published my first journal article titled “Information Literacy and Fake News: How the Field of Librarianship can help combat the epidemic of Fake News, in Elsevier’s peer-reviewed Journal of Academic Librarianship My MLIS supervisor Dr Bahareh Heravi was second author. 


MLIS students are required to write a thesis, however very few go on to publish their work. 

The idea of publishing an article from a thesis may appear daunting, yet most of the hard work is completed before the thesis is submitted.  Having experienced this process first-hand, and as an early career librarian, I am eager to share my seven “successful” steps for publishing your thesis. I hope these steps will encourage students to publish their theses and share their research with the professional community! 


  

Photo sourced from Canva.com



Step 1: The Writing Process – Be selective and be strict! 


Writing and editing the article was ultimately the most time-consuming and challenging step in the publication process. Journals generally have a specific word count for articles. In this case it was 7,000 words, while my thesis had been 10,000. Luckily, I was not alone with this gruelling task of revising according to the journal stipulations!


While working with my supervisor Dr Heravi, it was vital that we recorded all changes made within the document for discussion before finalising and moving on. Whether working alone or with a colleague, I highly recommend using tools to track changes and edits within your live document. We used the “Comment tool” within Word to track changes, make observations or comments, and resolve any discrepancies throughout the writing process. 


Much of the writing process involved shortening sections of my literature review and removing lengthy paragraphs that covered broad themes or extensive research. This proved to be challenging at times since I believed everything needed to be included (it did not!). However, it soon became clear that the function of the paper was to clearly state and summarise the overall key themes and findings of the original literature review. For me, this meant being selective and being strict in my approach. Not all paragraphs and points will make the final cut, therefore you must ask yourself whether they are essential and whether they add to the overall purpose of your paper.  



Step 2: Writing Practices – Routine is key 


They say routine is key and I believe it is essential when writing any piece of work. 


During the writing process, I was working as a Teaching and Learning Librarian at Maynooth University Library. This meant that I had to schedule my writing outside of working hours and within my spare time, while also facilitating some downtime to recharge. I found it difficult to apply myself to writing after working for a full day, therefore most of my writing took place in the morning and on my days off. I had to manage this time well. I dedicated specific days of the week and specific hours of the day to work on the paper. This ensured that I never worked beyond my scheduled times.  


When writing, you need to be aware, engaged and focused at all times. Creating a routine and dedicating efficient time to work on your paper helps to maintain a high standard of writing and avoids “burnout” or becoming overwhelmed. 


 

Photo sourced from UnSplash.com 


Step 3: Writing with another author – Teamwork makes the dream work!


It is certainly possible to publish your thesis alone, especially since there are a multitude of supports available online and within the professional community. However, in my experience, working alongside a colleague or researcher with both the experience and knowledge of the publication process was hugely beneficial, in more ways than one! 


Dr Heravi was a fantastic mentor who explained everything and provided excellent advice when I encountered challenges or was uncertain of how to progress. This facilitated a supportive and encouraging environment, and ultimately increased my confidence. In my case, teamwork did in fact, make the dream work! 



Step 4: Selecting a Journal – It might not be your first preference, but that’s ok!


As I had little experience evaluating and selecting journals, Dr Heravi helped to narrow down the most appropriate journals that centred on the topic and theme of the paper. This included information literacy, journalism (fake news) and librarianship. It was also extremely important that the journal was peer reviewed and open access. 


We submitted the paper to two well-established journals before it was accepted by the Journal of Academic Librarianship. The reason for a paper being rejected can depend on various factors and this should never discourage you from trying again. Your paper may not be accepted the first time, but that’s ok. 


Journals have guidelines on the topics they cover, the approaches they favour, their citation style and other factors. It’s really important to read the journal guidelines before submitting. If unsuccessful, you can learn a lot from the submission process which may result in helpful feedback and an opportunity to strengthen and improve your paper all while moving closer to acceptance!



Photo sourced from Canva.com



Step 5: Set those deadlines! 


Setting deadlines allowed us to prioritise, organise and focus on the goal. 


Since I was working with Dr Heravi over a period of seven months, it was vital that we set deadlines every few weeks to ensure that we were making progress and prioritising the work. It can be easy to fall into those “back and forth” e-mail exchanges throughout the process, therefore setting deadlines helps to minimise those unnecessary encounters! 


After the paper was accepted to the Journal of Academic Librarianship we were met with another deadline which is discussed further in Step 6.  



Step 6: The Stages of Submission and the Moment of Truth


We were required to submit the anonymised manuscript (the completed paper), the abstract, keywords, the title page which included author names and affiliations, and the full version of the paper with authors’ tracked edits and comments. This isn’t always required, but for this journal the editors were keen to review our writing process. 


To demonstrate the submission process clearly, I’ve included a timeline which illustrates the various stages we encountered when submitting the paper; 


24th March: We submitted the paper to the Journal of Academic Librarianship in a PDF format which contained all necessary documentation listed in the Journal Guidelines. The submission was acknowledged by the journal via e-mail and we were informed that it would be sent out for peer review. When a paper is sent for peer review, the reviewers recommend one of the following: accept as is (this is very rare); accept with major revisions (this involves a rewrite); accept with minor revisions or reject.


27th May: The paper was accepted and returned to us with reviewers’ comments. Reviewers comments are observations or constructive critiques of the paper made by the reviewers assigned to the paper by the journal. Our feedback included minimal revisions, and we were given a new deadline and a month to resubmit. Three individual reviewers provided three separate sets of comments regarding our paper. 


18th June: We were given a month to respond to the reviewers’ comments and edit the paper where necessary. This involved minor editing and composing a response letter stating the changes we had made to the paper. On the 18th of June, we submitted the revised paper with tracked changes and our response letter. 


19th June: A day later, we received an e-mail stating that the reviewers had accepted our response letter and the changes made. We were then asked by the reviewers to accept all tracked changes made within the paper and resubmit the final version for publication. 


23rd of July: In late July, we finally received an e-mail from the journal to confirm that the paper was officially published and now accessible online as an open access peer reviewed article. Disclaimer: Dr Heravi sent me an e-mail to share the amazing news while I was out on a walk and I remember beaming with excitement and feeling a great sense of achievement! 


The timeline above illustrates how the submission process can be lengthy and can often require authors to make changes to the paper. However, the feedback from reviewers strengthened our paper and provided us with valuable recommendations. 


A successful submission means including all the necessary documentation required by the journal, making a commitment to work on additional changes if needed, and waiting patiently for the paper to be accepted. It can be a long road, but it is most certainly worth the time and effort.  


 

Photo sourced from Canva.com



Step 7: Publicising your Publication – Share, Share, and Share!


On receiving the excellent news that our paper had been published in a peer-reviewed journal, I set out to share my achievement with my family, friends, colleagues and of course, the professional community. 

I shared the article on as many platforms as possible. I tweeted about it. I pinned the link to my Twitter account. I shared it on my Instagram (a peer-review paper does not get half as many likes as your smiley dog, let me tell you!) and included it in my LinkedIn profile. Twitter was particularly important to me as many Librarians share their ideas, research, and conversations there. It was also where the article received the most traction. 

Publishing any piece of work is a fantastic achievement and I highly recommend that you share your newly published article on as many platforms as possible! Who knows who might end up reading it!   You might even be invited to talk on the topic at a seminar or conference.


Conclusion:

My seven steps for successfully getting your MLIS thesis (or any thesis) to publication will hopefully give you an insight into the different stages of the publication process and show you how any student can do this with the right support and determination. While I knew very little about publishing papers at the beginning, I am now confident enough to sit at my PC and write a blog on that very topic! 

If I can do it, you can too. 

And finally, here’s a link to the article. Enjoy! 


 

Photo taken by Saoirse de Paor 



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