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Basics of writing and publishing a Monograph

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Basics of writing and publishing a Monograph

If you search for a definition of a monograph, you may find conflicting information. There are slightly different definitions according to discipline and depending on which audience a particular definition is targeted at. For example…

In biology, it is a comprehensive review of all the information on a specific taxonomic group of organisms.

In art, it is a focus on (the work of) a single artist.

However, what the definitions broadly agree on is that there are two possible audiences, an academic and a more general audience.

Monograph defined and differentiated

The definitions of an academic monograph agree that it is generally a single-authored, scholarly contribution of professional research on a specific topic or aspect of a topic.

What differentiates it from a journal article is largely length as it is considerably longer. A considerably longer research article could be considered a monograph; it is more likely to take the form of a book. 

Reasons for writing a monograph

  • Primarily, as is also evident from its definition, a monograph offers the opportunity to really explore a particular topic in greater depth.
  • Another reason why you might wish to write and publish a monograph is that it might open up career promotion opportunities, especially in the American academic tradition, where a book is often required for more senior academic positions such as Associate or full Professors. 

Considerations for writing and publishing a monograph

As the scope of writing and publishing a monograph is quite vast (as you have probably grasped by now), here, we will just explore the basics of going about developing a monograph.

a. Understanding the peculiarities of writing a book

Note that, generally, books are less cited than journal articles; ground-breaking work or new contributions to academic knowledge are generally revealed in the article form. Books are more difficult to access, cost considerably more and generally do not claim to make significant new academic contributions as they often draw on material previously published by the author, either from articles published earlier by the same author or from their previous doctoral thesis. So, your reason for turning to the book format should be a strong one!

b. Understanding the time and effort involved

Writing a monograph demands extensive reading around the topic you focus on. Academic monographs usually take years in the making, a PhD taking on average 7-8 years. Even a professional academic who might write a monograph in a year is drawing on years of experience and an existing extensive knowledge around the topic of the monograph.

c. Turning your PhD into a monograph

If you are turning your doctoral thesis into a book, this can still take considerable time depending on the form your PhD took. The more traditional PhD often has an extensive review of the literature as one component. So, this might be the first area to cut or amend as the book needs to adapt to a broader audience who are less interested in an extensive review, and who are more interested in the themes, cases, findings, new perspectives or arguments that the book offers.

d. Finding a suitable publisher

You will almost certainly need a publisher who can publish and promote your monograph. Here’s an overview of what’s typically involved.

  • You need to identify possible publishers who have other books that address similar subjects or that take a similar written or methodological approach, or who has an established collection that you can add to.
  • You then need to write a book proposal that lays out how your book contributes to academia and to the publisher in question.
  • The preliminary research for your monograph should reveal how you might best approach the organisation of the writing.

End note

There is no one way to actually write a monograph. However, if you understand what it is, and if you can find a publisher with a collection that your work would fit with, you’ll have a better idea of how it might be best organised. Publishers will also, of course, be particularly helpful in suggesting ways to present your research. Good luck for your monograph!


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