You have spent months – perhaps years – on your research paper. You have given your blood, sweat, and tears to this project and it’s finally done. Many of you might be wondering: What now? Is this it?
A research paper – whether conducted on a doctorate or post-doctorate level – contains invaluable information based on in-depth studies and countless interviews. Surely there should be a way to use it as a foundation for something else, something even bigger.
There is. And that’s what we’ll be discussing today – turning your research paper into a book or monograph.
What is the difference between a book and a monograph?
A monograph is a special type of book. It covers a highly specialized subject and is often compared to a large survey paper. A monograph does not necessarily need to answer all the questions about the narrow field it investigates. In fact, it can pose questions for its readers. Furthermore, a monograph tends to be shorter than a book due to the hyper-focus that it assumes.
A book, on the other hand, is generally a compilation of years of research and observations on a specific subject. Its scope is wider than that of a monograph and it strives to answer one or more questions. You can use your research to write an academic book (in which case students and other members of academia would be your target audience) or a business book (in which case your research will need to be translated into highly practical applications).
Turning your research paper into a book or monograph
Many researchers wonder just how much they would need to adjust their research paper to make it suitable for a book or monograph format, getting discouraged. Many others think that due to the length and depth of their paper, very little needs to be adjusted.
While it is not as straightforward of a process as many would wish, it is something we strongly encourage you to consider. If you believe that your research can add valuable information to your field’s knowledge bank or can meaningfully contribute to the discourse in that field, then it deserves to at least be considered to be turned into something bigger.
Critically evaluate your research paper and identify how it fits in the larger ecosystem. What questions does it answer that are relevant in its field? What are the potential applications of your research findings? How does your research topic tie in with other concerns or topics in the field? It can be difficult to take a step back and zoom out on your research. However, it is imperative that you evaluate it from a macro perspective.
Put on a non-academic hat and establish yourself as a subject matter authority. Yes, you’ve used the works of many experts in your literature review, you’ve spoken to dozens of authorities, but, at the end of the day, you turned all of these learnings into a unique perspective. Use your research to back up your claims, but don’t let it replace your authority as a subject matter expert.
And, while we are on the subject, you will need to revise your research from a non-academic perspective if you are targeting a wider reader audience that goes beyond academia. You will need to find a balance between sounding authoritative and using accessible language. You will need to translate your academic research findings into real-life applications.
Create a story around the subject of your research paper. That’s what nonfiction books are about – engaging, educational stories. You will not be able to copy/paste large chunks of your paper into the book (among many other issues, this raises the self-plagiarism concern). Rather, think of your research as a starting point, a knowledge pool that you can draw facts and figures from.
Once you successfully create a story around your research topic and determine how it fits in the larger context, you will need to prepare a book pitch and start contacting publishers. This can be a grueling exercise, but do not despair. Be consistent and diligent in your efforts.
If, however, your publishers’ outreach fails, you can always self-publish. The e-book market is booming and, thanks to modern tools, you can create a stunning website and prepare promotional materials for your book.
If you do end up getting a publishing contract, you will be working closely with an editor assigned to your project. Many find themselves so attached to their research paper that they find it difficult to receive and implement criticism and suggestions from their editor. Find a way to detach yourself from your research and focus instead on the goal of the book. What value are you trying to provide your readers with? What problem are you trying to help them solve? Your research paper is a puzzle piece, but it’s not the full picture.
Finally, if you want the book to remain a highly specialized scientific piece of work, we suggest going the monograph route. While the scope of your monograph will be more narrow than that of a book, you will still have to follow all of the steps outlined above, from re-working the angle to identifying how your research fits into the larger field.