From a thesis to a book: The outcome of overcoming a thousand obstacles!

I had started writing this post as a way to promote my upcoming book: English Language Teacher Education in Chile: A cultural historical activity theory perspective. However, I realised that instead of just promoting the book, I could use this instance to actually reflect on how my PhD thesis ended up in a book published by Routledge.

English Language Teacher Education in Chile

First, I have to say that the idea of making my thesis into a book was in my mind long time before I finished my PhD.  Several academics in the social sciences had followed that path including some of my friends, so Why not me ? It seemed a neat and logical way to put the research outcomes out there. However, as I started asking my academic friends if it was a good idea and about the process of transforming the thesis into a book, I realised that the task was not that ‘neat’. Most academics advised me against writing a book, and instead, encouraged me to write papers to be published in A journals. The conflicting views made me think about the reasons why I wanted to write a book. Was it vanity? commitment? professionalism?a need to tell a story? Self-indulgence? research accountability? was it worth it?

In this case, I decided to transform my thesis into a book as a response to a need to share a valuable story about how a group of pre-service teachers learn to teach English in Chile. Although, I have already disseminated some of the findings in papers, the complete story was not told. Not only important bits were missing, but the story needed to be told grounded in the Chilean and latin American context. This need to report on the experiences of how teachers learn to teach lies in a social and educational  commitment towards improvement. Understanding affordances and constrains using research-based evidence can be the first step to make the necessary changes and start transformations. This is my desire!

So, I decided to write the book proposal and send it to three well recognised publishers in the field. For my surprise, the three publishers liked the proposal. Each of them asked me to modify the proposal to a certain extent, so that the book was a book and not a thesis. But the publishers liked the  core idea! The thesis together with the book proposal were reviewed by three academics. The reviews were very positive and they encouraged me and the editor to go with the book! After that, I signed the contract and I committed to deliver the final manuscript in few months.That day I was very happy.It looked much easier than what I and others had predicted!

Enthusiastically I started working on the manuscript following my book proposal. However, very soon, I realised that further changes had to be made to make my thesis a readable book. Anxiety began! I was working as a casual tutor in two universities, I was collecting data for a research project of my own and was also  a research assistant in another project. It was hard to juggle the every day activities, find time and energy and work on my book. In the beginning I did all the obvious things. Cutting, cutting and cutting!!! Why did my thesis have so much repetition? Then, the fun started! I decided to change complete sections, rewrite a couple of chapters and write a brand new chapter!

Luckily I had a full month to work almost exclusively in the book. I devoted everyday of December 2014 to write the new chapter and rewrite two chapters. Then, I did the editing of the new sections and started putting everything together. It was hard work, but fun. It was like going back to the last period before submission. However, the anxiety and insecurity had disappeared.I made all those changes to the book, because I found the story I wanted to tell. And this is the big difference between my thesis and the book. My thesis was a correct academic work that demonstrated that I could do research in a specific field. Conversely, my book tells a story, uses the research to support an argument. The process of writing the book helped me to understand the role of research further and to see how relevant research can be not only for me. In my book, the evidence shows that pre-service teachers’ proficiency (or lack of proficiency as some argue) is not the key factor for not being an efficient teacher of English in the classroom. Other factors do matter!

A couple of days before I moved back to Chile I submitted the final manuscript to the publisher and from then onwards, the publishing process has moved smoothly. My book will be published on July 13 and I hope it can be useful not only to other researchers, but to second language teacher educators and the ELT community.

Why does the title of this post suggest that the publication of the book was such an ordeal if the story narrated here seems so smooth? Well, the book writing has been a more and less neat process, but the whole PhD experience culminating in the publication of a book is the outcome of a thousand of obstacles.

Two years have passed since I submitted my thesis already. However, with the publication of the book now I see that the PhD is over and other experiences, projects and places are awaiting!

About Malba Barahona

Educational researcher, language educator. PhD from Australian National University. Passionate bushwalker and mountain lover. I procrastinate reading fiction, hiking, doing yoga, riding, having a beer and more recently decolonizing my existence. I write in English and Spanish in different blogs especially with the purpose of encouraging my students to write.


  1. Pingback: The outcome of overcoming a thousand obstacles! | Una chilena en Australia

  2. Pingback: Link Round-Up: Academic Journals and the Publishing Industry

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