There are two ways to approach publishing from your PhD.
One is to write the first thing that interests you. Or the recent thing that you presented at a conference. Or write the thing that someone very important has invited you to put in an expensive edited collection.
All of that is fine of course. It’s good to write the things that you are interested in. And it might be very strategic to accept that invitation to be in a particular collection of writing.
But there are some risks when you just write all the things. One is that you confuse the writing and presentations that you did during the doctorate – those that helped you get your head around the work and finish the analysis – with the major contributions of your research. The second is that you write lots of stuff, but you don’t actually write the key results from the research, the results that constitute the contribution you sweated over for so long.
The thing about publishing from the PhD is that you want to get your key results out into the right places. You want to be known for a something substantial. You want to stake your claim to be someone you want to hear on a particular topic. You want your research to make a difference.
Now this means writing strategically – writing for those who need to read your work. And what you write will probably include journal articles, but it might also include professional or popular publications. This will certainly be the case if your research arises from practice or policy and you hope to have an influence. And it might be a book, although not all PhDs turn neatly into books.
So given this, you are better off opting for the second publishing option, not the first. And that second option is to plan. Having a publication plan means that you can sensibly respond to invitations, and you can decide when, where and what to write and in what order so you can maximise your contribution to the field.
So when do you plan? Well, when you are at the point where you know what your contributions are likely to be. When you know what your key messages are, then it’s time to spend some time thinking about how you’re going to publish, and where. Even if you’ve already published some things, there is a point in the thesis writing when you do know what you have to say.
If you’re at that point, and you’re ready to make a publishing plan, you might like to self-guide yourself through this set of workshop slides. Or perhaps do them with a peer and talk through your ideas.
Once you have an initial plan, it’s a very good idea to talk it through with your supervisor. They know your work well, and may also have some ideas about where and what you can write. They may well be able to help you with introductions to editors and publishers too.
Oh, and you might also want to look at some of these supplementary posts about publishing.
Writing a book – a collection of posts