margy thomas phd scholarshape durham nc about

Hello! I’m Margy Thomas, Ph.D.

I founded ScholarShape in 2013 as a support service for researchers developing manuscripts for publication. Over time, the business has become my way of pursuing answers to four questions:

Who builds knowledge?

—What is knowledge?

—Why do we build knowledge?

—How do we build knowledge?

These questions define my life and the work I’m here to do — and each one is written on my body in the form of a tattoo.


Who builds knowledge?

In the nineteen stars of the Sagittarius constellation, humans have long imagined an archer in search of truth, shooting arrows into the future. The invention of astrology as not only a collection of stories in the stars, but an entire life guidance system, points to humans’ determination and capability at making meaning wherever we are, with whatever we have on hand and whatever we can see from our position in the galaxy. Knowledge is a story we each tell from our own perspectives. And yet, it also references something outside ourselves and positions us in the universe — giving us something to navigate by.

golden spiral tattoo margy thomas scholarshape

What is knowledge?

The sacred geometry of the golden spiral is reflected in the shells of snails and the arms of galaxies, echoed in the art and architecture of humans across millennia, signifying the inextricability of form and function. Knowledge is both discovered and designed according to patterns and structures that are inherent in the universe. When a structure is sound, usefulness meets beauty in a way that has a sense of inevitability to it. Well-built knowledge is functional in the sense of being accurate, logical, and persuasive, and it is also beautiful in that it’s symmetrical, unified, and harmonious. My golden spiral tattoo represents how knowledge, when well built, has a form that’s both functional and beautiful.

infinity tattoo margy thomas scholarshape

Why do we build knowledge?

The infinity symbol, or lemniscate, refers to the ever-unfolding nature of life and the mysteries of the universe. Building knowledge is how we make sense of our existence, moment by moment. We are always aware of some way that our lives could be fuller, larger, happier, richer — and each new improvement we attain points beyond itself to the next question, the next vision of what we can do, what the world can be. To build new knowledge is to lean into the discomfort of being alive and discover that the work of making our lives matter is both harder and more beautiful than we’d imagined.

moby dick whale tattoo margy thomas scholarshape

How is knowledge built?

Throughout Moby-Dick, the crew of the Pequod seeks the elusive white whale. As they zigzag wildly around the globe, the captain continually revises the ship’s route in response to the changing tides and weather and his own instincts. Circuitous as the voyage may be, it always has a focal point: the outline of the whale. The idea of him. Just as the crew is driven by the question of where Moby-Dick might be, what their eventual encounter with him might mean, we are always moving through space and time focused on a Working Thesis that’s elusive and evolving. Only as we go along can we devise and revise our route and gradually discover what knowledge we are building. Knowledge emerges through iteration.

About Me: A More Literal Version

If tattoo vignettes don’t do it for you, here’s a more grounded account of my background, bio, and qualifications.

  • Since founding ScholarShape in 2013, I’ve helped hundreds of scholars around the world develop their manuscripts and have had the satisfaction of seeing them publish beautifully crafted books and articles with top university presses and journals. The quantitative metric I really care about, though, is how many client thank-you emails I receive.

  • From 2014 -2018, I served as North Carolina State University Graduate School's Dissertation Institute Writing Consultant, and since 2018, I have co-taught a doctoral writing course in the NC State College of Engineering. Spending time with hard science-y grad students is the perfect complement to my work with humanities and social science researchers--keeping me rooted in what all researchers have in common in this shared scholarly enterprise.

  • My Ph.D. (Baylor, 2012) is in English Language and Literature, and I wrote my dissertation on Herman Melville's use of genre. My dissertation topic explains both my obsessive interest in how academic writing is constrained and generated by genre, and the sperm whale tattoo philosophized about in the vignette above.

  • While at Baylor, I taught academic writing and research for four years, and then served as the university's first Graduate Writing Consultant. In that role, I developed training materials for future consultants, an experience that planted early seeds of ScholarShape. Also at Baylor, I was a Presidential Doctoral Scholar, was named one of the university’s 2011 Outstanding Professors of the Year, and published peer-reviewed articles on American literature.

  • In my local community of Durham, North Carolina, I serve on the Leadership Board of WE Collective, where I collaborate with fellow women entrepreneurs on building a counterweight to the patriarchy. ScholarShape HQ is the site of so many women entrepreneur events that it has been nicknamed “The Businesswomen’s Headquarters (for Businesswomen).” One of my most cherished long-term visions is to build bridges between the academic and entrepreneurial worlds so that everyone can learn from each other and be best friends forever.



The ScholarShape story is being lived and evolved every day. To join in, check out the Working Thesis blog and newsletter. You can also find me on Twitter and Instagram. I look forward to connecting with you!