I am attempting to transform the content of my MA thesis into a piece of academic writing which can be published. This is the first time I have done this, and I am concerned that some of my main arguments will become lost in the process.

How can I successfully condense my writing but still present my points, when I have 6–8,000 words to work with, rather than the original 20–30,000, on the basis that many of my arguments are theoretical and need careful explanation?

2 Answers 2


Rather than thinking in terms of condensing your writing, begin with an empty document in a suitable format for publication. For purpose of writing the paper, treat your thesis as though it were your notes from a period of research.

Remember the two documents have different objectives. The MA thesis was about convincing your department that you should get the degree. The paper you are now writing is about informing the world of some research results that you think are interesting and important.

First decide on the key points that will make the paper worth publishing. Write, in the new document, the background, lines of reasoning etc. that are essential to those specific points.


"Be concise" is what they'll tell you, when you're writing an article for a scientific journal. Of course this helps you only partially (although the average master thesis I see could lose 50% of the words without losing any information).

Some more cutting has to be done in your case.

You're probably well prepared and you know how your research relates to literature. An article should refer to previous work more than a thesis would. If parts of your introduction / beginning of the argument were already known, cite this, don't explain it again. If something doesn't really have to be mentioned, but you just wanted to be complete in your thesis? Don't include it in the article, this is what reviews are for. The scope of other articles in your field is a good starting point.

Then you have the work itself. The usual master thesis contains way too much of the work the student has done, just to show they did a lot of work. It's highly likely you didn't need all experiments to reach your conclusions, you probably have too many examples to prove your case, or maybe you have a theory that's supported by strong evidence, and some other nice, but circumstantial evidence. Get rid of the experiments, examples and arguments that are not required.

Probably the discussion of the results / conclusion is too long. I usually encourage students to write a bit more about the things that could be done next, to see if they could continue the research on their own. But for an article, most of these things are trivial or wishful thinking, and not in the scope of the article.

If you were writing a decently structured thesis, you can probably cut the useless paragraphs while keeping the core, without starting from scratch. A new structure containing the key points will definitely help you decide which parts to keep.

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