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Research: Publishing Your Thesis as a Book

Library support for postgraduate students and researchers

Publishing Your Thesis as a Book

The goal of researchers in particular subject areas, such as the humanities, is to publish their work as a single authored book. If you are considering publishing your thesis as a book it is important to critically assess who you are going to publish your work with.

Useful information for authors can be found at the Australian Society of Authors website.

Pros & Cons of placing an embargo on your thesis?

Characteristics of Commerical Book Publishers

As noted in the HERDC Specifications a commercial publisher is "...an entity for which the core business is publishing books and distributing them for sale." The HERDC Specifications add that publication involves more than book production and includes editing, copy-editing, and a number of quality control measures such as peer review or in-house expert assessment. This definition indicates that academic book publishing requires the same rigourous peer review that is undertaken by scholarly, peer reviewed journals.

It is also important to bear in mind that a thesis is written for examiners whilst a book needs to have a wider appeal. Whereas the language of a thesis is often based on an argument, the language of a book should be engaging to a broader audience. The editing and review processes provided by commercial publishers can potentially assist in re-shaping a thesis into a book for distribution to a more suitable to a general readership.

Print-on-Demand and Vanity Publishing

Some Print-on-demand publishers offer a thesis publication service. The content of the thesis may remain unaltered from the original thesis and the thesis may be sold without any peer review or editing of the manuscript. Authors may also lose a percentage of the copyright of their thesis to the publisher.

Vanity publishing is another model whereby publishers charge authors to publish their thesis. The publishers' profits are derived from author fees rather than book sales and as such they may not employ a rigorous selection process, which may in turn impact on the reputation of the publisher.

Many recently graduated HDR students and early career researchers receive emails from publishers wanting to publish their thesis. One such publisher is LAP Lambert Academic Publishing. For more information on this publisher refer to the LAP Publishing FAQ from Swinburne University of Technology. LAP is also part of the VDM Publishing group.

Generally speaking as an HDR student you retain copyright to your work and the decision on where you publish is yours. For assistance in deciding where to publish your thesis, refer to the Reviewing a Book Publisher box below.

Reviewing a Book Publisher

Given the diversity of publisher models that are current employed to publish theses, it is important to ask a number of questions before proceeding to publish:

  • Is the publisher asking for a fee to publish your thesis?
  • Does the publisher peer review manuscript submissions?
  • Will the work be professionally edited and/or formatted by the publisher?
  • Do you recognise the names and/or academic credentials of the editors?
  • Do authors retain full copyright to their thesis after publication?
  • How does the publisher market the books it publishes? Does it market its books at all?
  • What kind of distribution model does the publisher employ? Are they a print-on-demand service?
  • Does the publisher have a good standing in the academic community?
  • Most importantly, will publishing a thesis with this publisher add to your academic reputation?

ECU Theses, Research Online and Copyright

Current ECU theses are added to ECU's institutional repository Research Online. This includes Doctorates and Masters theses as well as First Class Honours theses. Authors can define the level of access they wish to provide to their thesis on their Final Thesis Submission Form. For more information on accessing  theses refer to the Theses page of this guide. Refer to Submit a thesis page on the ECU Library website for more details on the submission process.

As noted in the copyright for students page of the ECU Office of Legal Services, ECU students own the copyright to their thesis and so you generally do not need to obtain ECU's permission to publish your thesis unless you have entered into an agreement with ECU such that the right to publish your thesis requires the University's permission.

However, be aware of third party copyright. Permissions will need to be sought from third parties before you include copyrighted material in your published thesis, including images, figures and tables produced by others.

Refer to the copyright for students page of the ECU Office of Legal Services for more information pertaining to copyright and your thesis.

HERDC, ERA and Books

When selecting a publisher to publish your thesis as a book it is a useful to see what characteristics a publisher must have in order for its publications to be counted as part of HERDC or ERA.

"The Higher Education Research Data Collection (HERDC) comprises of research income and research publications data submitted by universities each year." The collection of HERDC data is controlled through the HERDC Specifications which determine the apportionment of the Australian Government's research block grants. Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) is the research quality evaluation initiative of the Australian Government, administered by the Australian Research Council (ARC). ERA is used to evaluate the quality of research undertaken by each university in Australia.

Both in the HERDC Specifications and in the ERA 2012 submission guidelines it is noted that one criteria a book must satisfy to be included in assessments is that it be published by a commerical publisher or be peer reviewed.

The HERDC Specifications define a commercial publisher as "...an entity for which the core business is publishing books and distributing them for sale." It is also noted that publication involves more than book production and includes editing, copy-editing, and a number of quality control measures such as peer review or in-house expert assessment. Further elaboration on what constitutes a commerical publisher are provided in the HERDC Specifications.