How to prepare your dissertation for publication

At the risk of writing a post for the sake of writing a post, I figured that I would go ahead and fire it up. Why, you ask? Well, I am supposed to be writing posts about writing, so I had better get back to it. My wife and I have been in South Florida for about three weeks now, and we’re relatively settled in. Actually, we’re pretty much totally settled in. We’d better be, since almost nothing came down here with us. While the apartment is decidedly and intentionally barren, it does lend itself quite nicely to productivity.

My task of late has been to transmogrify my dissertation into a pithy, publishable document. At the outset, my thinking was that this task would be simple: slash and burn. Trim the fat, leave the meat. The wall I hit was the wall of destroying a labour of love (semi-obscure, if not decidedly tangential reference). Naturally, I value my dissertation at a level above and beyond the basest levels of what is reasonable or rational, so every word I consider cutting MUST be evaluated according to the following process:

1. Comments about the word’s merit are requested by Howard.

2. Word can be assigned to a subcommittee by Howard.

3. Hearings may be held.

4. Subcommittees report their findings to the full committee, which was created by Howard.

5. Finally there is a vote by Howard – the word is “ordered to be reported.”

6. Howard will hold a “mark-up” session during which his brain will try, and probably fail, to make revisions and additions. If substantial amendments are made, Howard can order the introduction of a “clean word” which will include the proposed amendments. This new word will have a new, arbitrarily assigned value, and will be sent to the floor while the old word is discarded. Howard must approve, and change or reject all of his other amendments before conducting a final passage vote.

After the word is reported, Howard prepares a written report explaining why he favors the word, and why he wishes to see his own amendments, if any, adopted. If he opposes a word, he sometimes writes a dissenting opinion in a report to himself, which is sent back to the whole chamber (read: my inbox) and is placed on his calendar.

Most words go to the Rules committee before reaching the floor of consciousness. This other committee, which is largely the same as all the others, adopts rules that will govern the procedures under which the word will be considered. A “closed rule” sets strict time limits on debate and forbids the introduction of amendments that might alter the aforementioned arbitrary value(s) by assigning “real” values, because at this point, I still haven’t eaten anything or showered. These rules can have a major impact on whether the new word passes. The rules committee can be bypassed in three ways:

(1) Howard can move rules to be suspended (requires 2/3 vote)

(2) Howard can file a discharge petition, or

(3) I can just hit the f*@^ing “delete” key.

So, anyway, it’s almost ready to be submitted. Wish me luck.


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