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This chapter discusses the difference between writing for school and writing for publication. It gives you a general overview of what needs to be done to go from a dissertation/scholarly project paper to a published article.

The first step to becoming an author is to start thinking of yourself as an author. You're no longer writing a paper—you're writing a manuscript. A manuscript is very different from a student paper. Although the purpose of your research or project hasn't changed, the purpose of your writing has. And so has your audience. You're no longer writing for professors who want evidence of your learning. Now you're writing for readers—clinicians, researchers, educators, policymakers—who want information they can use.


imageAs a student, you wrote to impress others with your knowledge. As an author, you write to share your knowledge with others.

Student Paper vs. Manuscript: Purpose

The primary purpose of a student paper is to show the professor that you have an in-depth understanding of a topic and that you are able to communicate that understanding in a well-written scholarly paper. This is true even of your dissertation or project paper. A lot of the information is there to show your professors that all the decisions you made—from choosing your topic onward—were thoughtful and appropriate and grounded in the concepts and processes learned throughout your education.

The primary purpose of a manuscript isn't to demonstrate what you know; it's to share with readers what they need to know. Your first challenge as an author is figuring out what it is, among all that information your paper holds, that readers need to know. It is key to taking a 100- to 200-page dissertation or project paper and reshaping it into a 20- to 30-page manuscript.

Student Paper vs. Manuscript: Supporting Information

A lot of the supporting information in a student paper is there for the benefit of the professor. You “support” your decisions with evidence, expert opinion, and detailed descriptions of methodological choices. Supporting information is needed in a manuscript as well, just not as extensively. For example, you need to include the information about your methodology so that the reader can have confidence in your results or replicate the project, but not detailed explanations of all the methodological choices you made (unless those choices are unusual or open to debate).

Student Paper vs. Manuscript: Length

In a student paper, you kept writing until you had written at least as many pages as the professor required. Often that meant adding a little padding to get you there. Conciseness was not a virtue. That's not true for a manuscript. You will more often find yourself agonizing over what to delete to get your paper down to the word count the journal allows. It's ...

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