Turning your MSc dissertation into an academic paper

May 23, 2019

Students who complete the MSc in Evidence Based Health Care at the University of Oxford often produce high quality research for their dissertation, which we encourage them to publish in academic journals. Dr Anne-Marie Boylan is the Dissertation Coordinator for the MSc in EBHC. She spoke to Mark Howe, a dentist who recently completed his MSc about his experiences of writing up his MSc thesis for publication in the Journal of Dentistry.

What challenges did you face in getting your thesis published?

I found condensing the dissertation down to meet the word count required for the journal whilst maintaining all the important points was a big challenge. This took a substantial amount of time and quite a lot of editing. I also faced lots of challenges because of what was required in the submission process. The formatting the journal required for tables and figures was different to what I had created for my thesis. They didn’t always convert cleanly when uploaded, which took some time to identify and correct. Despite all my efforts to ensure I followed the guidelines for authors, the manuscript was returned immediately due to issues with format changes and missing entries. But I got there in the end.

What did you think about the reviewers’ feedback?

The initial comments ranged from just basic proof-reading corrections to what felt like quite extensive criticism. So you need to be prepared for frustration and rejection. The publication process assumes you work in a close-knit experienced team where there is access to people who have published before, which isn’t always the case for MSc students.

The reviewers asked for amendments to what I thought were very important aspects of the research. I saw this an opportunity to argue that these data should not be changed.

How did you feel when your article was accepted?

I felt relief rather than joy as the profession now had to accept there were some weaknesses in their previous robust results. Getting the dissertation published was for me the true endpoint of the MSc in evidence-based healthcare as my research was now going into the public domain. I was surprised to see how expensive it was to make my paper ‘Open Access’. I had no funding for this so it’s behind a pay wall.

What would you say to other students who are preparing their thesis for publication?

Choose your journal carefully.

Be patient – the submission process is more experiential than intuitive. Try and get some advice from colleagues who have published more papers in your field.

Be prepared to defend your research against the reviewer’s comment where necessary. Try not to take the reviewers comments personally. Maintain a calm perspective, and possibly leave the manuscript for a few days before working through the corrections.

Mark’s paper can be accessed using the following reference: Howe, M.-S., Keys, W. and Richards, D. (2019) ‘Long-term (10-year) dental implant survival: A systematic review and sensitivity meta-analysis’, Journal of Dentistry. Elsevier B.V., 84(March), pp. 9–21. doi: 10.1016/j.jdent.2019.03.008.

Read Mark’s blog summarising his research findings here.

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