A lot of people write long research papers for masters or doctorate programs. They come to me with the same question: “Can my research paper be turned into a nonfiction book?”
I don’t have a pat answer; it depends upon their paper. However, in general, a major difference exists between a research paper and a nonfiction book: A research paper uses research to defend a point or position. A book offers information to benefit the reader.
If you want to turn your research paper into a book, do the following:
- Write with a voice. Write using “I,” “you” or “we.”
- Allow yourself–not your research–to be the authority on the topic. Use your research as the foundation of your book but not as the only information provided; allow your opinion and what you know to come through.
- Lose the academic tone. Address the reader in a friendly manner (unless you intend to write for academics) and assume they might not have a college education.
- Illustrate your information. Use stories to make your writing come alive, not long quotations from books or studies.
- Offer a benefit, solve a problem or add value. Stop defending your point and offer the information as if you were not being graded; remember most readers purchase a book to fill a need or desire of some sort.
- Don’t be attached to the research paper. Start from scratch; use the paper as background research and a rough draft for some sections only.
- Start with an outline. Create chapter titles and subheadings within chapters. You might try initially setting these up as questions you will answer since these will help you place some of your research into the book.
It’s a good idea to work with a book coach or developmental editor on a project like this. The eye of someone less attached to the project can be quite helpful in seeing the big picture and offering perspective. You need to be able to take your main points and make them applicable to the broader market. A developmental editor is skilled at knowing how a subject fits into the market and how to package your subject as a book rather than a research paper.