I often discuss with my Ph.D. students how to structure their work and publish the results. There are many pitfalls. It gets more difficult, if we bring in other professors, who may have a different opinion on how to structure the work. Over time, I have found there are really only two main dimensions, though:
- Separate work into theory building and theory validation, and publish one or more papers on each topic
- Merge work on theory building and validation for an important aspect (hypothesis) into one and publish that
The following figure illustrates these two dimensions by way of an overlay. Ultimately, the same work needs to be done, but one can slice it more or less smartly.
The smart way, in my opinion, is to first perform theory building broadly (paper 1), followed by an explanation of the theory behind one or more specific hypotheses and their validation (papers 2..n-1). At the end, one can possibly write a broad theory validation paper (paper n) that summarizes the theory and its validation.