Five Steps to Turn Your Old Papers into Thought Leadership

As a graduate student, you likely spent countless hours reading, thinking, writing, agonizing, and ultimately completing course papers, a pilot research project and other candidacy work, and a thesis or dissertation.

After nearly 20 years of working with master’s and graduate students, I see people taking varying approaches to their completed academic work. Some have sliced and diced their work in myriad ways, producing an astonishing number of other works--from blogs to books and even businesses.

But far more leave their papers, theses, and dissertations to languish on the shelf. Knowing the passion and hard work they poured into their degrees, I can’t help but feel a little sad about the lost opportunity this represents for the student and for those individuals, organizations, academics, and practitioners who would be helped by the student’s work.

So I’m taking it upon myself to encourage you to consider dusting off that work and seeing what you can do with it. Here are three reasons to turn your completed academic work into other forms:

Reason 1.png

Have you ever thought about what happens to your work once you complete it? No matter how much you finely crafted your papers, they probably never saw the light of another monitor after a grade was assigned.

Your thesis or dissertation may not have fared much better. Your committee read it, but if you didn’t publish it to ProQuest or some other outlet, did it even happen? If you posted it to ProQuest "traditionally," only the abstract is available to registered ProQuest users, but the full text needs to be purchased. If you never received royalties, no one has ever bought … or read … it. If you posted it open access, theoretically, anyone with Internet could download and read it. But what are the chances?

You did good work. Share it! Converting it to another form, such as a white paper you distribute, a published journal article, a book, or developing it into a new business offering enables others to benefit from the new insights, knowledge, and applications you created.

Reason 2.png

Papers, theses, and dissertations simply aren’t written in a way that makes people want to read them. Converting your work into a different form—and more closely connecting it to current trends or issues—can help people realize they want to read it, and make it easier for them to understand and apply it too.

Reason 3.png

In my ideal world, students complete coursework, theses, and dissertations deliberately, meaning that the topics of the specific papers they produce reflect their unique personal and professional passions. Assuming you were able to do this, each work you produced is a potential reflection of your thought leadership—the unique difference and contribution you make in the world. Converting your completed academic work into other forms helps you recognize and fully exploit each paper as the opportunity it is: making your unique mark. Furthermore, each paper and the pieces you create from it become platforms for your continued work in the world.

And Now, the plan.png

Hopefully by this point, I have convinced you to pull out those papers, theses, and dissertations again. Now here are five basic steps to follow to help you get as much mileage as possible out of your completed coursework:


Step 1. Identify the possible articles you could create from the work.

After you select a piece of work to convert, take a fresh look at what you could do with it. In my experience converting theses and dissertations into other forms, I have found that these lengthy pieces can be spun in several different ways, and often can be carved into a number of distinct pieces. This is particularly true if you examined multiple research questions. Once you identify the different ideas, create a working title and short abstract for each.


Step 2. Identify potential outlets for the article.

Having identified your article ideas, think about the outlets you might write them for. Identify suitable academic, professional, and popular journals, conferences, and social media outlets. Then find and pitch your ideas to their respective editors (as applicable). This process can give you valuable feedback about the potential interest level in your article and can help you fine-tune your plans.


Step 3. Create an article outline and reorganize your existing content.

Ideally, you now have a working title, abstract, and tentatively interested target outlet. Based on these, create the outline for your article and then reorganize your existing material according to the outline.


Step 4. Perform any additional work needed.

Expect to do some new work if you are carving your thesis or dissertation into multiple distinct works, if you are adapting your original work to fit the specific focus of a journal or other outlet, or if you simply need to bump up the breadth, depth, or quality of your original work. It is not uncommon to have to do a bit of additional literature review or new data analysis and interpretation to produce a spin-off work. You might get away with skipping this step if you are simply condensing the original work into a shorter form.


Step 5. Edit, edit, and edit your work again.

Editing is an ongoing process, and this may be no truer than in the case of producing a work for publication. First, you will need to condense your original work into a much shorter form without losing meaning. Second, you will need to edit any new work you created. Third, you will need to make sure everything hangs together tightly, as if it was always part of one document. Fourth, you will need to make sure the formatting of your document matches the requirements of the outlet. Fifth, you will need to respond to the edits and requests of the editorial board and reviewers (if there are any). Finally, you will proofread the print version before it is ultimately published.

Turning your completed work into other forms can be a rewarding and fruitful endeavor, although it is not without effort. If the process sounds intriguing (or daunting), schedule a complimentary consultation now to learn more.

We can help you through the process from start to finish through our innovative boot camps, coaching, editing, and even ghostwriting services.







What have you done with your completed coursework? Share your story below!