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Dr Anne-Marie Boylan spoke to Anna-Marie Madeley, a Lecturer in Midwifery at the University of Bedfordshire about publishing her MSc thesis.

In the next instalment in our series of blogs on publishing your MSc thesis, Dr Anne-Marie Boylan spoke to Anna-Marie Madeley, a Lecturer in Midwifery at the University of Bedfordshire. Anna was awarded a fellowship to study the MSc in Evidence Based Healthcare from the Oxford Academic Health Science Network and HEE.

What challenges did you face in getting your thesis published?

I knew that the subject matter for the thesis explored a potentially controversial phenomenon that many Midwives and Obstetricians encounter, but are reluctant to discuss in a positive light given the nature of birth outside of medical advice and those supporting women making those choices not wanting to be seen as supporting ’normal birth at all costs’. I was not only anxious but felt duty bound to ensure it was made clear that research participants not only had their voices and experiences heard but that they were portrayed in a positive light, supporting women in their choices, regardless their own feelings and fears. I was also acutely aware that other researchers were in the process of exploring similar themes, so I felt under pressure to get on with publishing.

I am a peer reviewer for journals (and would wholeheartedly recommend this role) which became a double-edged sword. On one hand, I was familiar with the type of feedback I was likely to get but on another I was aware of how rigorous I strive to be when undertaking a review. I realised I was hesitant to submit for publication for fear of being rejected. I decided to get on with it anyway.

I had to negotiate directly with the journal to increase my accepted word count which thankfully, they agreed to therefore in the end I had to be ruthless in deciding what was fundamental in answering my research question in 5000 words. I already knew where I wanted to publish given that I had no access to funding to support an open access article. I targeted an industry-specific, relatively high impact publication for my work. In the end, the process has not only helped consolidate my publication skills but also my peer reviewing skills, an unanticipated side effect!

What did you think about the reviewers’ feedback?

It was really very helpful. I had some fantastic comments regarding my methodology, the research itself and application which is testament to the rigour of the teaching and guidance I received throughout the MSc in Evidence Based Health Care. I was expecting to have to robustly defend my research and methodology. However, most of the comments were around structure of the article, typos and grammatical issues which were easily remedied. The reviewers suggested some additions of tables and figures to support my findings that I gladly provided. Overall, the peer review process was not as painful and punitive as I had been expecting, but conversely was rather supportive. I definitely won’t shy away from publishing again. From submission to final notification of acceptance to the journal was a little over 4 weeks.

How did you feel when your article was rejected?

It wasn’t! Accepted with minor revisions first time.

What are the key things that helped when it came to getting your thesis published?

Deciding what is important. Whilst the thesis was a work of love you have to be clear about the distilled message you are trying to convey. I would also advise others to read the journal’s guidelines for authors thoroughly and stick to them like glue – it helped to pick up the phone and have a conversation with the editor, although I know this isn’t always possible for every journal. But this conversation was fundamental in almost doubling the word count I was permitted to submit.

How did you feel when your article was accepted?

A mixture of joy and fear. I wrote the thesis with the full intention of publishing however there is a realisation that my work is not only going to be open to the scrutiny of examiners and supervisors but to my peers and colleagues in my field.

What would you say to other students who are preparing their thesis for publication?

Feel the fear and do it anyway. Procrastination and self-doubt are always your enemy, don’t fall foul of this.

Read Anna’s paper using this reference:

Madeley, A. Williams, V. McNiven, A. (2019). An interpretative phenomenological study of midwives supporting home birth for women with complex needs. British Journal of Midwifery. 27 (10), 625-632.