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Scholarly Publishing and Open Access blog

The latest news and answers to your questions about scholarly publishing and open access.

Can I publish my thesis?

Published December 5, 2018 by Jennifer Zerkee

Your Masters or PhD thesis is the result of years spent in study of a specific topic. It's no surprise that many grads would like to turn their thesis into an article, a series of articles, a book chapter or a monograph.

Do you have the right to do this? What are SFU's rights to your thesis? Will publishers want a work that is based on a thesis, especially once the thesis is publicly available in Summit?

Your rights

As the author of your thesis, you own copyright in it from the first draft through to the finished paper. When you submit your thesis, the SFU Library asks you to sign a Non-Exclusive Copyright License. A license is a form of permission to use something, not a transfer of copyright ownership. This license gives the Library permission to make your thesis available in Summit, and to provide a copy to Library and Archives Canada's Theses Canada Portal. This license does not give SFU any further rights to your work--you still own copyright. And because this license is non-exclusive, you are free to enter into agreements with other organizations, individuals or publishers relating to the use of your work.

Be aware though that you may not have the right to republish images, figures, maps or other content created by someone else, even if you had permission to include them in your thesis or were able to include them under fair dealing. You will likely need to contact these creators or rightsholders again for permission to include the content in a publication.

Developing your thesis for publication

Your thesis was written for a specific purpose and a specific audience, so it's definitely going to require revision to make it suitable for publication. You might develop one chapter into a journal article or book chapter, or you might expand the whole thing into a book-length manuscript. Any of these situations will likely require extensive revision and rearrangement of elements to tailor the argument, content, tone and length for the venue you decide to submit to. Be sure to check the submission requirements of the journal or publisher you select, and use these to guide your revisions!

Will publishers be interested in a thesis-based work?

Many publishers will not consider a thesis to be a "previously published work," even after it's been made available in Summit, and may accept an article, chapter or book based on it, provided you revise as needed for the new format and in accordance with the publisher's guidelines. However, this is up to the publisher; some may not be interested in a thesis-based work at all, and some may ask for more extensive revisions or specific changes. You may want to reach out to the publisher first or investigate their website to see if they have any rules or guidelines specific to republishing theses, before you invest the time to tailor your work to that venue.

Where do I start?

If you would like to continue working with your thesis content, revising it for a new venue and audience, go for it! Start by considering the type of publication you're interested in and investigating what their requirements and expectations might be, and expect to revise your work thoroughly to suit that venue.

Need some guidance or have questions? The SFU Library provides a variety of writing and publishing support:

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