Scholarship is important for growth of a profession and for clinical care. For these reasons, the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC) endorses scholarly activities through Practice Based Competency IV.5 (American Board of Genetic Counseling 2009
). Boyer (1990
) describes four types of scholarship (Scholarship of Discovery, Scholarship of Integration, Scholarship of Application, and Scholarship of Teaching), all of which are endorsed by ABGC and required of accredited genetic counseling training programs. The first three types of scholarship, which involve generating new knowledge or applying existing knowledge to an important problem, are the basis of the ABGC’s requirement that students in accredited programs engage in scholarship and complete a scholarly product. The ABGC defines a scholarly product to include: a master’s thesis, an independent research project, a literature review/case report, a formal needs assessment, design and implementation of an innovative patient, professional, or community educational program, and/or preparation of a grant proposal.
The purpose of this article is to encourage students to disseminate their scholarly work (except grant proposals) through a journal publication. This article was developed from an Educational Breakout Session (EBS) at the 2008 National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) Annual Education Conference and draws upon the experiences of a past editor and current assistant editor of the Journal of Genetic Counseling (JOGC), a student mentor, and recent genetic counseling graduates who successfully turned their student thesis projects into peer-reviewed publications.
Engaging in scholarship is important for increasing genetic counselors’ self-knowledge, but dissemination
of scholarship is essential for the growth of the genetic counseling field. McGaghie and Webster (2009
) identify a wide range of types of scholarly products that promote broad dissemination of information, including peer-reviewed journal articles (e.g., original research, case reports, review articles), book chapters, books or monographs, edited books, essays, editorials, book reviews, letters, conference reports, educational materials, reports of teaching practices, curriculum description, videos, simulations, simulators, and web-based tutorials. As evidence of the importance of disseminating scholarship to the field of genetic counseling, dissemination of scholarly products is actively promoted by the NSGC, the major professional organization for the genetic counseling profession. A prominent example of NSGC’s commitment to dissemination is the JOGC
, a professional journal devoted to disseminating peer-reviewed information relevant to the practice of genetic counseling. The success of this journal over nearly two decades is a strong indicator of the value genetic counselors place on publishing journal articles as an essential product of scholarship.
Individuals who have completed a master’s thesis or equivalent should consider publication. This “call to publish” student work is based on evidence that a large proportion of students engage in a scholarly activity with publication potential. A recent survey of 531 genetic counselors suggests that 75% of respondents fulfilled their scholarly activity requirement via a master’s thesis (Clark et al. 2006
). Among this group, 21% classified their thesis as “hypothesis driven” and 20% classified it as a “descriptive study.” Although the research may be relatively small scale given the time and resource constraints of short training programs (≤2 years), it nonetheless offers a rich and varied source of information about the practice of genetic counseling that could be shared with the broader community through publication. Yet Clark et al. (2006
) found that only 21.6% of respondents who completed a master’s thesis had submitted a manuscript for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. It appears that many students do not submit their research for professional publication, perhaps due to a combination of time constraints, lack of mentoring and support, unfamiliarity with the publication process, lack of professional confidence, and fear of rejection (Clark et al. 2006
; Cohen et al. 2008
; Driscoll and Driscoll 2002
; Keen 2006
). Because this is one aspect of scholarship that has received limited attention, guidance regarding the details and vicissitudes of the publication process, and acknowledgement that master’s theses can be successfully published, are needed.
Of course, one might question why students should or would publish the results of their graduate work. The answer is complex, without a “one size fits all,” because scholarship can be intrinsically and/or extrinsically motivated. McGaghie and Webster (2009
) describe intrinsic motives as including sharing knowledge, career advancement, status improvement, collegial approval, personal pleasure, and response to challenge; extrinsic motives include academic pressure, commitment to patient care, practice improvement, and promoting the use of new technologies. Although the reasons genetic counselors publish articles have not been empirically evaluated, Clark et al. (2006
) (i) concluded that a substantial number of genetic counselors consider active involvement in research (a form of scholarship and precursor to publication) to be a core role, and (ii) found that respondents endorsed a range of intrinsic and extrinsic motives for their involvement in research. These reasons included interest in the subject, contributing to the field, personal development/satisfaction, diversifying job responsibilities, job requirements, lack of existing research on a particular topic, and career advancement. It is reasonable to infer that these reasons would extend to publication as well.
The work that culminates in a master’s thesis provides the basis for a professional journal article. However, writing a professional journal article differs from writing a master’s thesis. This article, therefore, provides practical ideas and considerations about the process for developing a master’s thesis into a peer-reviewed journal article and describes successful case examples. Research and publication occur in stages and include many important topics. Previous genetic counseling professional development articles have partially or comprehensively addressed the topics of developing and conducting a research project (Beeson 1997
), writing a manuscript (Bowen 2003
), and the peer-review process (Weil 2004
). This paper expands on previous articles by describing the publication process and discussing publication ethics, with emphasis on aspects pertinent to publishing a master’s thesis. It is hoped that this article will encourage genetic counselors to publish their research.
The primary audience for this article is genetic counselors who are conducting a master’s thesis or equivalent or who completed a thesis in the last few years which remains unpublished. The secondary audience is other novice authors and affiliated faculty of genetic counseling training programs. Although the focus of this paper is on journal publications which are subject to a peer-review process (e.g., original research, clinical reports, and reviews), some of the basic information applies to a variety of publishing forms.