When To Publish During Your PhD Program

During the course of a PhD program Candidates often ask the question as to when it is the best time for them to publish. This can be a simple and yet a complicated question to answer. Several aspects must be taken in to consideration. Below, an attempt is made to address the major issues faced with the caution that it is not an exhaustive list of issues or items but whose purpose is to act as a guide for discussion. Also, for the purpose of this article publishing will refer to scholarly articles as opposed to a book. It is my hope that PhD Candidates or those thinking of beginning the PhD journey may get a better understanding of the major considerations.

Official Versus Non-Stated Policies

First, each institution will have an unique policy on the requirement for Candidates to publish either internally in an in-house journal or externally at a third party journal. Some programs require the PhD Candidate to publish several times during their program while others might not have a stated policy. Some institutions may require the evidence of external publications as a requisite for graduation, or as a requisite to enable a candidate to defend or sit the viva, while others might not have such a policy at all. More confusingly, some institutions may not have a stated “official” policy but it may be generally expected of the PhD Candidate. If the main concern of the candidate is making sure that they address the requirement for their own institution then it is best they find out the exact nature of the policy of their institution, stated or non-stated, as early as possible. This can happen even before entering the program,  so that appropriate planning, goals and milestones can be scheduled.

Internal Or External Publishing

Some institutions, such as Monarch Business School, provide an in-house vehicle where the PhD Candidates may publish. In-house publishing outlets, such as the Monarch Management Review,  enable the PhD student to gain experience at publishing while in their program so that they can attempt external publishing either later during their program or once graduated. It is important to note that within business studies many PhD or Professional Doctoral candidates do not have prior experience in publishing. This is generally due to the professional focus of most Bachelor and Master business programs where academic publishing is not a requirement or the basics of academic writing are not included in the curriculum. Many Master programs in business studies today no longer have a thesis requirement. Thus, business PhD Candidates may come to the Doctoral level study with poor academic writing skills as a result. Due to this, an in-house publishing option is seen as a terrific avenue to assist the business PhD student in learning the proper way to write academically as well as to follow publishing rules and policies. That is, the in-house publishing outlet can act as a guide or “sandbox” where the PhD student can take the necessary time to develop their skills without the worry that their efforts may be wholly rejected out of hand.

For those PhD candidates who feel confident with their academic writing skills they may choose to publish with an external third party publisher. By third party it is meant a publisher that is not connected to the school in any way and where none of the Professors of the school sit on the editorial board of the journal. The exact publisher will depend on the focus and study area of the article at hand. There are multiple publishers available especially today with the advent of the internet and online journals. Choices abound. However, PhD Candidates should be cautious that they are dealing with a reputable journal. Otherwise said, being published for the sake of simply being published may be counter-productive if the journal in question is of low value. Low value or low quality journals that are not peer-reviewed reflect negatively on the PhD Candidate and should be avoided. Candidates should understand that getting published in a reputable journal can take time and they may need to make many submissions before they become expert enough to adequately navigate the requirements of the publisher. But being accepted in a worthy journal is where you want to be and spending the time and effort in doing so is necessary.

As a side note many PhD Candidates fail to see the importance in being meticulous in formatting their PhD manuscript and fail to understand why institutions are so strict with formatting and technical/mechanical aspects of the PhD manuscript. It is this way due to the fact that publishing material externally tends to be very rigorous from a formatting requirement standpoint and this skill: the ability to follow formatting guidelines, is paramount to getting an article accepted for publication. So you must learn this skill within your PhD program and you must be incredibly meticulous in your work. This is also true for obtaining any type of government sponsored research grant, etc. All seasoned academics know the horror stories of colleagues who were rejected out-of-hand by a journal because the Abstract for their article was a few words too long: 265 words instead of 250 limit, or the margins of the paper for the submission were not adequate, etc. Do not be a victim of the technical fail.

Of course, the feeling of being published in a respected journal is tremendous especially for a new academic. But it takes time and effort and anyone who wishes to do so must be ready to make the sacrifices in time and effort that it requires, especially on the more mundane technical aspects or writing and formatting.

Sole Attribution Or Co-Publishing

In learning to navigate the ins and outs of publishing a scholarly article it is often a good idea to use the help of a professor, especially one that has many successful publications and years of knowledge in publishing. Assistance can come in the form of co-publishing or simple guidance. Some professors will be happy to simply lend a helping hand while others may wish to be listed as a co-author as compensation for their efforts. A caveat to consider is that not all professors have the same level of knowledge concerning publishing and so the PhD Candidate should not simply think that because he or she now has the help of a professor that it will be smooth sailing from there on. We all know that not all professors are created equal and some are much better at research and publishing research than others. Some professors are tremendous teachers in the classroom yet might lack publishing skills, while some stellar professors are good at both. No matter the case, you as the PhD Candidate will have to investigate beforehand the professor you are considering. One should think about the professor’s area of expertise and whether it is congruent with your own research domain, how many publications does the professor have, and in which publications does his or her articles appear, etc. Ask some critical questions to yourself and even directly to the Professor so that you can make an informed decision.

If you choose to co-publish with the help of a Professor then you can benefit from their years of experience including their understanding of the appropriate journals to target as well as the use of their contacts in the publishing world. Professors can help you to stay on point and keep a focus within the article that could be lost if left simply to the PhD Candidate. Publishing a scholarly article is a learning process and the solid help of a professor who knows how to do so can be a godsend.

It is important to mention at this point that  when co-publishing with a professor that the professor typically is considered the more senior academic, for obvious reasons, and as such their name will appear as the primary author. This can be negotiated between co-authors but it is typically the case, especially when the PhD Candidate lacks any experience in publishing. One must remember that when a Professor agrees to co-publish he or she is also agreeing to put their name and reputation on the line and it is paramount that the PhD student respect this fact and, if need be, make the necessary adjustment to their ego. Often, the majority of the research and writing will still be completed by the PhD student. In fact, all the research and writing may be completed by the PhD student and as long as the Professor has acted as a guide they are entitled to be a co-author and listed as primary author. This can come as a surprise to many PhD students but should be understood and acknowledged ahead of time to avoid any conflict or misunderstanding later on.

Academic or Professional Journal Focus

In the case of a business school, doctoral candidates may have the option of publishing in academic or professional journals. For the PhD Candidate the default should be an academic journal. PhD programs, even in a business school, are considered academic and as such they fall under the rubric of academic consideration where journal publications should be solely in scholarly academic journals if they are to count. This issue becomes more important for the PhD Candidate if they have the intent of obtaining a teaching position at a college or university upon graduation.

For professional Doctoral Candidates, such as: Doctor of Business Administration or Doctor of Management candidates, solid professional journals may satisfy the publishing requirement and also give the added benefit of professional exposure not available through academic journals. Again, one should keep in mind that not all professional journals are considered equal so one must exercise prudence. Typically, it is not too difficult to find the top few journals in an industry that are considered respected. Further, whether or not a professional journal satisfies the publishing requirement of the student’s institution again depends on the unique considerations of that institution and the Doctoral Candidate should make directed inquiries as to how professional journals are viewed and considered.

Learning the Publishing Rules

All publishers have different policies and rules for publishing in their journals. No two journals are the same unless they are operated by a larger publishing house whereby the policies of the publishing house may be shared by all journals under their care. Nonetheless, the PhD Candidate must understand that it takes real time and effort to learn these rules and policies and when submitting the same article to various publishers different policies will apply. In some cases you will be forbidden to concurrently submit the same article to multiple journals and you must be aware of this. In short, learning the rules and policies takes time and effort, real time and effort and you have to be ready to make the sacrifice in order to make your publishing career happen. It basically is up to you and only you will determine whether you persevere and are successful or whether you give up due to frustration. Which brings us to our next section.

Talk To Other Candidates About Publishing And Visit Publishing Workshops

No one is born with the skill of publishing scholarly articles. It is a skill that is learnt. Most large academic institutions hold workshops on publishing. Conferences solely dedicated to publishing are held around the world. There are many online resources to help the PhD student learn how to write academically and to publish. As a PhD student you need find these resources, read them and/or attend them. Your publishing career will not happen without your participation and so you need to start that by attending workshops, academic writing seminars and conferences whenever you can. Moreover, the participation at these events typically is free for PhD Candidates or have a reduced fee and they may be included on  your academic CV. So, take advantage of these events.

The main benefit of these events is networking and mutual support with other authors and in particular with other PhD Candidates such as yourself. At Monarch, we always say that no one gets through the PhD program alone. You have the professors and your fellow PhD colleagues. So, as you take advantage of the knowledge of your professors you must also take advantage of the knowledge of your student colleagues. They are facing the same challenges as you are and so there is no need to be shy or timid. Reach out, make new friends and ask one another for help. I can not underscore enough how important this is. Without an open attitude to learning from your fellow student colleagues PhD studies can be a very difficult journey, and publishing even more so. And in the process of sharing, supporting and networking you might even find a new co-author for your next article.

Times When One Can Publish During The PhD

With the above said, many PhD Candidates are confused as to when they can publish. They may feel that they do not yet have anything important to say or that they lack the insight required to publish. Again, at Monarch, we remind the PhD and Professional Doctoral Candidates that they are researchers and that they are carrying out research. Monarch is a Doctoral Research Institute. Being a business school that means social science research and that also means PhD Candidates are social scientists. Business is made up of people and since it is made up of people it is an anthropological pursuit and squarely falls within the social sciences. It often comes as a surprise to PhD or Professional Doctoral students to be referred to as scientists, or anthropologists, since the term “scientist” is often used in connotation with the pure and applied scientist working away in a lab. But scientists we are.

This is important because as soon as you make the mental switch to referring to yourself and your fellow PhD colleagues as scientists it reduces down that felt uneasiness with respect to the challenge of publishing. As a PhD level research scientist doing real theoretical or applied research you have something important to say and you need to develop the confidence to say it. The first and most important step is by seeing yourself as a scientist.

Through the various stages of the PhD or Professional Doctoral programs there are several times when the Doctoral researcher can make important contributions. A few of them include:

  1. Case studies and term papers as developed through the first and second year courses;
  2. At the time the research proposal is authorized;
  3. When the Literature Review & Critique section or portion thereof is at a final draft stage;
  4. When the initial data analysis is completed and a few preliminary findings may be shared;
  5. The final perfected dissertation is defended and may be published.

All of the above are instances where the deliverable within the context of the Doctoral program may be published in some form. An example is the Literature Review & Critique section of the dissertation that typically appears as Chapter 2. A solid, well-structured and current review of the seminal authors and important theories in a noted domain, whether based on a thematic or historical perspective, is of great value for both students and fellow academics. The boundaries of scholarly domains are continually being pushed forward and the ability to make sense of the movement of the field of study and provide the landscape of the scholarship across years up to the present day for others is a key contribution. Some of the most referenced articles take this form.

As PhD Candidates, we may not see that our own work in completing a Literature Review, as exemplified above, has much merit for other people. But that is simply due to suffering a type of personal myopia. We get shortsighted in what we are doing and we fail to see the larger picture of our research and what it can contribute. Once we remove our blinders we can appreciate that our research can make a difference for other researchers, academics and industry participants and be of value in helping to push the scholarly domain forward. And that is what being a PhD or Doctoral Candidate is all about.

Conclusion

In Summary, it is important for all PhD and Professional Doctoral Candidates to see themselves as social scientists doing real practical, applied or theoretical research. We must keep in mind that the research we do is useful and valuable for many different people within academics and the professional arenas. But in order to get our contribution out to the larger world we have to learn the intricacies of publishing and that takes real time and effort. There is no easy road. It is a skill that must be developed, honed and perfected over time. In doing so, we must take advantage of academic writing workshops and conferences, interact with fellow PhD colleagues and Professors and  learn the rules and policies that constitute good publishable research. By considering the various stages and deliverables required within the Doctoral program we can identify several possible contributions that can be made and shared with the outside world. It is just a question of getting down to the task at hand and doing it.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Jeffrey Henderson holds the position of Dean of the School and Professor of Business Ethics. Dr. Henderson has held the position of Dean of Studies and Dean of the Faculty in the past. Earlier, Dr. Henderson was an affiliate professor at the Grenoble Graduate School of Business, France. Dr. Henderson has also been a lecturer for real estate finance within the Faculty of Management at McGill University, Canada. Dr. Henderson holds a D.Phil. in Business Research from Monarch Business School, a Doctorandus (Drs.) and MBA from Nijenrode Unversiteit in The Netherlands and a Bachelor of Commerce with distinction from McGill University in Montreal.