Maximizing Research Productivity During Your First Year in Academia

June L. Preast, The University of Alabama

Starting your first year in academia can feel exciting and new, but it can also be overwhelming and intimidating. You now get paid to work on your research and write papers (!!!), but getting started can sometimes be difficult. Building research relationships with schools or partners in the community can take time, and you might not know how to go about establishing such relationships. Or maybe you’re not quite sure what to do next now that you’ve submitted your dissertation to your graduate institution. Below, we provide some tips for how to maximize research and writing productivity during your first year in academia. 

Publish Your Dissertation

If you haven’t submitted your dissertation for publication prior to starting in academia, make plans to revise the dissertation for (at least) one manuscript for publication. You spent a considerable amount of time completing your dissertation, and it is typically a starting point or foundation for your research agenda. Publishing your dissertation is the next step to getting your work out into the field. 

There are a few considerations for converting your dissertation into at least one manuscript. In addition to cutting about one hundred or more pages of a dissertation down to around 30 pages, you’ll need to consider your audience. Instead of dissertation committee members reviewing your work for your skills to conduct research independently, your audience will be reading your manuscript for its scholarly contributions to the field. One of the most difficult parts of publishing your dissertation is turning your literature review into a concise, yet effective introduction. As you read your dissertation, think about what is needed to make an argument for the study and its contribution to the literature, and to provide the appropriate context for your readers. It may feel painful to delete sentences you spent so much time writing, but just remember that you’ve already submitted the dissertation to your graduate institution and those words are not gone forever. In addition to the tips provided, the seventh edition of the APA manual includes a section on converting your dissertation into a publication.

Conduct a Systematic Review or Meta-Analysis

Often when we move to new places and jobs, it can take some time to develop research partnerships with schools and community partners. While building those relationships, consider conducting a systematic review or meta-analysis to move your research forward. Additionally, if you have been assigned a graduate research assistant during your first year and you’re unsure how to work with them, a review or meta-analysis provides great opportunities to work with graduate students and for graduate students to develop new skills. One important caveat regarding conducting reviews and meta-analyses is that they are time consuming and rigorous. Although they are projects that can be completed without IRB approval or research partnerships, be mindful of the time and effort required to do them well. 

Turn Presentations into Publications

Another avenue for research as you get started is turning your presentations into publications. If you consider the work you’ve already done for the presentation proposal and the presentation itself, you are already halfway to a completed manuscript for publication. Take a look at your presentations on your CV and note any that are not already publications. From there, work on developing the content into manuscripts to build your publications. As noted in the blog post linked above, if your presentation was a research study, you can use your slides to build the method and results sections. Your proposal submission includes the skeleton for an introduction that may only need some expansion. And the Q&A from the presentation itself can support the discussion for your manuscript. 

Turn Coursework into Publications

One last tip for maximizing research productivity in your first year is turning classroom assignments into publishable manuscripts. When designing courses, consider creating assignments that have the potential to be quality scholarship, as described in Hitting the Ground Running: Maximizing Your Early Years in Academia. For a variety of courses and instructors, students write detailed papers demonstrating their knowledge and skills. Rew described the steps to turn student papers into publishable manuscripts. For assignments that require data collection and meet the federal regulatory definition of research, make sure that policies and requirements of IRB are met prior to submission for publication. Most importantly, when turning student assignments into publishable manuscripts, authorship should appropriately and adequately represent the effort of the students. It is important that we as faculty recognize the power imbalance between faculty and students and do not take advantage of their work, especially when submitting manuscripts for publication. APA provides tips for determining authorship credit, including an authorship scorecard.


Above are just a few ideas for supporting your research productivity when you start your first year in academia and as you build your research partnerships. For additional ideas and strategies for research productivity as an early career scholar, consider previous blog posts of Transitioning from Graduate School to Academia, Developing Research Partnerships as an Early Career Scholar, and Setting Boundaries to Promote Your Research Productivity

What additional ideas do you have for writing manuscripts during your first year in academia? What advice do you have for early career scholars?

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