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Kits: Postgraduation Kit


These resources are for doctoral students who are interested in adapting some or all of their doctoral capstone research or project for publication after graduation.

Receiving a doctorate means achieving the highest form of scholarship in the field. After this accomplishment, many new graduates look for ways to disseminate their research beyond publishing their capstone manuscript in the ProQuest database. Some Walden doctoral capstone documents already include material specifically intended for publication beyond Walden, such as white papers or other scholarly products inspired by the study findings. Other documents do not have sections or chapters immediately ready to publish out of the context of the full study, but they still have the potential to turn into great articles.

The question for a doctoral capstone document is how to reshape what is already written into a different, publishable form, which means condensing a document the length of a book into something the length of an article. Much depends on the unique standards and guidelines for each journal, so scholars need to consider where they want to publish and who their new intended audience will be. The purpose of this postgraduation kit is to provide strategies for students to condense the capstone into something that could be submitted for journal publication.

Finding the Right Venue

  • To begin, doctoral capstone authors should examine the References list in their manuscript and note any journals that appear with some frequency.
    • Anyone interested in publishing their doctoral research can create a list of journals that appear in multiple reference entries. These are a great place to consider submitting to, as they will generally fit well with the topic and/or method in the capstone study.
  • People interested in publishing their doctoral capstone should conduct a general web search to research which journal(s) may be a good fit for the topic.
    • Prior to graduation, students could also search Walden Library databases for relevant journals or publishers for their work.
  • Doctoral capstone authors can visit the journal homepages to learn more and see how well their research may fit a particular publication.
    • The homepage should also contain information on submitting an article, such as the guidelines on any topics they are currently soliciting, page length requirements, style requirements, and so forth.
  • Capstone authors should download a few articles from those journals that look interesting (or go back to their capstone study and look at some of the articles they cited from those journals) and examine the format.
    • Make a list of headings that appear in the published article(s).
    • Take note of the length of the article(s) and depth of discussion in each of the headings (i.e., Is there a heavy discussion on literature and methodology? Do the articles focus more on the results and conclusion?).
    • In general, get a feel for how much discussion is included under each of the headings.

Condensing a Whole Doctoral Capstone Into an Article

  • As they begin to revise, doctoral capstone authors can use the notes they made while searching for potential publishing venues (common headings, length and depth of discussion in different sections) to create a guide for pulling information from the capstone study to place under the headings commonly found in the journal.
    • These headings may be similar to the ones already in the document (e.g., introduction, literature, methods, results, conclusions), but some journals use different terminology for these areas.
  • Given the length restrictions, authors should read through each chapter/section of their capstone and pull out the relevant information, put it under the appropriate heading, and then edit for content, flow, relevancy, and so forth.
  • Authors should remember that they are writing an article for a different audience than the one for their capstone, so there is no need to explain or provide definitions for some topics as they had in their capstone study. Here are some common areas to condense:
    • The literature review may only retain relevant information for the problem and conceptual framework or theory.
    • The same is true for the methods discussion.
      • The revised article likely will not need explanation for the different types of research methods and why the author chose the one they did.
      • In a shorter article, the author may not need to explain each of the potential designs and why they chose the one they did, either; the condensed article is for a different audience and purpose.
      • The typical revised article will not need as much discussion about the process of sampling, interacting with participants, scheduling interviews or e-mailing surveys—the general academic audience will again assume that the research had IRB approval and that the author was conducting ethical research.
  • Doctoral capstone authors should use some of those sample articles they downloaded as a guide. See how those published authors wrote about the literature and methods, data collection processes, results, and reflections, and then use the same level of detail when revising the doctoral capstone.

Publishing an Excerpted Chapter or Section

  • Rather than revising a whole study and its main findings into an article, people who have written a doctoral capstone could turn a section of their manuscript into a valuable article on its own. For example, a well-crafted literature review may be a chapter/section that a student or new graduate may want to publish.
    • One main contribution to scholarship could be an assessment of the current discussion in a shifting field, new research in an area that is gaining more attention, or a reevaluation of existing knowledge and practice. Revising the literature review into a stand-alone article is one option for publication.
  • Some studies contain chapters or sections that are meant to be a stand-alone document already.
    • The DNP project may contain a Scholarly Product (Section 5) intended for publication, the EdD project study contains a project based on the study findings for dissemination in the local setting (Appendix A), and the DBA consulting capstone contains an Organizational Profile (Section 3) that is based on the Baldrige Excellence Builder and Baldrige Excellence Framework. These are documents intended to stand separately from the full doctoral capstone.
  • To convert this section of the manuscript into a stand-alone document, follow these steps:
    • Select the text that is not necessary (i.e., Section/Chapter 1, 2, etc.) and delete it.
      • Do this with the hidden formatting marks showing in MS Word by selecting the pilcrow (¶) on the Home tab to ensure that page and section breaks are not deleted inadvertently.
    • Delete any unnecessary front matter (additional title page, abstract, acknowledgements, etc.).
    • Delete any unnecessary appendices.
      • Be sure that remaining appendices are lettered in order and that the references to those appendices in the main text are correct.
    • Right click on the Table of Contents and update the Table of Contents headings and page numbers.
    • Review the tables and figures.
      • If any were removed from the main text by deleting chapters or sections, be sure that they are removed from the List of Tables and/or List of Figures as well.
    • Double check pagination and other formatting.
      • Pagination will likely adjust automatically as text is deleted.
      • Margins should remain as formatted in the template, but based on the purpose of the excepted chapter or section, margins can be adjusted to the standard 1".
  • These steps are a way to get the text of the stand-alone portion of the capstone into its own document, but capstone authors should remember to follow the particular journal’s submission guidelines on formatting when submitting an article for consideration.

Talking to faculty, networking with colleagues, and attending and presenting at conferences in the field are also great ways to find publishing opportunities. Walden University publishes several journals, and students should consider sharing their work with the wider academic community well past graduation. Completing the doctoral capstone is how scholars demonstrate their worthiness to conduct doctoral-level scholarship, and publishing that scholarship is one of the main ways new doctoral graduates can move the academic conversation forward and contribute to positive social change in their communities.

Professional White Paper or Executive Summary

As another option, students may choose to represent their work in a white paper or executive summary. Their purpose for doing so can be to share findings with the organization where they conducted their research, share conclusions or recommendations in a professional setting, begin creating a conference presentation proposal, or create a more concise exemplar of their work. There is no standard definition of a white paper or executive summary, nor is there a set of guidelines or requirements across fields of study. The information that the student wishes to share may vary greatly based on the discipline and venue for information sharing. Students producing this type of summary as part of their doctoral capstone work, for example, should confirm with their chairperson what the expectations are in their field.

Generally, this type of summary is a short and comprehensive report. Because the capstone is lengthy and requires discussion of material that is not always relevant to all audiences (i.e., the decision to use the qualitative method over the quantitative, justification for the sample size, or detailed analysis process), white papers and executive summaries should be focused on conveying enough information to provide the necessary context for the results.

We recommend students consider presenting the following:

  1. Begin with some discussion of the context and the problem/purpose statements.
    • A short introduction that sets the stage for the study and describes the problem and purpose of the research is helpful in opening the discussion of the study.
  2. Include some key literature.
    • A summary of the key points of previous work in the area will help provide context and demonstrate the gap.
  3. Describe the population and sample.
    • Consider how much discussion is enough that readers can understand who the focus of the study was and why, as well as to what populations the results may be generalizable or transferrable.
  4. Add a short description of data collection.
    • Explain to the readers how data were collected. Many readers may be familiar with methodology and research design, so simply indicating the data collection method (e.g., surveys or interviews) is generally enough.
    • However, be cognizant of the audience. Depending on the venue, a discussion of the data analysis may be beneficial to include as well.
  5. Focus mainly on the results.
    • Identify the “hook” of the study and discuss the important results.
    • Generally, the results mentioned in the abstract are the key ones on which to focus.
    • Students should provide a substantive discussion of the results and the meaning for professionals and practitioners in the field.
    • Social change implications may or may not be relevant, depending on the venue.
  6. End on a point that makes sense for the goal of the summary. Suggestions include:
    • Ending with implications for the field.
    • Ending with recommendations for industry leaders to implement.
    • Ending with social change implications.
  7. Consider the length.
    • We recommend keeping white papers and executive summaries brief and conveying short, concise explanations of the different components.
    • Though there is no standard minimum or maximum number of pages, we recommend that these summaries not exceed 5–6 pages. (Always review any submission or publication guidelines to find out specific length requirements.)
    • White papers and executive summaries, though generally short documents, often begin with a one-page summary. Consider whether using the abstract or an abbreviated discussion of the items mentioned on this list may be useful as a one-page summary at the beginning.

As we mentioned, Form and Style Editors also recommend that students work closely with their chair, as the chair should be able to provide more detailed advice and recommendations on what to cover, depending on the specific field and target audience of the white paper or executive summary.

For more information and some suggested steps to approaching writing these types of shorter, summary documents, visit our Form and Style SMRTguides page on Writing an Executive Summary (ES) or White Paper (WP).