How a Master’s thesis becomes a peer-reviewed article: Episode 1 – Editing (and learning to live with what you’ve done)

When I began writing up my thesis, I had no idea how many times I would slowly pick through that document, changing and adding details as I read a new paper or learned a new statistical technique. Eventually, I’d have done enough work that I could send it to my advisor.  I’d get it back a few days later, covering in red ink (actually, red pixels – it’s 2012!), and have a whole new set of edits to make and comments to address. Foolishly, I’d thought this process would stop when I’d submitted the final version of my Master’s thesis, but that document was destined for more!  A whole new chapter in the editing process opened when we decided to prepare my thesis as a manuscript for a peer-reviewed journal article.

Revisiting my work over and over as I have been learning new skills and knowledge in my education has slowly made me realize all the things I should’ve done differently. (If only I’d known then what I know now!)  While I still like most of the ideas in my work, I now see some of problems in the design and data collection I should have anticipated and controlled for. Some of these  weaken some of the conclusions of my work, which is a hard pill to swallow. While I could take another year or so to collect more data and draw new conclusions, my advisor and I decided that the best thing to do was to be transparent about the flaws of the work, and hope that the cool concepts will carry it to publication.

My project last weekend was finishing the edits on my long-ago submitted (6 months ago!) Master’s thesis to prepare it for submission to a scientific journal. In the end, (after grouchily putting it aside for a couple of months) I’ve had to accept all the flaws in my study design that it’s too late to go back and change, and stop writing and re-writing phrases and sentences. Soon, I’ll be sending my paper off to a journal, where it will hopefully become my first-ever first-authored paper.

Track changes can be a cruel mistress.

Stay tuned for part 2 of my manuscript’s journey: the submission process.