Article Based Phd Dissertation Help


Eva Lantsoght
Assistant Professor, Universidad San Francisco de Quito

Depending on your institution's guidelines, you will either finish your PhD by having a number of papers accepted for publication, or by writing a "big book"-style thesis.

This post is entirely aimed at those of us who spend months on end delivering a thesis of several hundreds of pages. We might be overly proud of having our baby finally sent out into the world, but then it will dawn upon us: the majority of researchers would prefer to read a 10-page paper about a more specific part of this research than plow through our 400 pages of labor. The only one who would ever want to read through it all and spend an entire week making sense of your thesis is a fellow PhD student….

And thus, for most of us "big book"-thesis-writing-and-publishing folks, we'll need to revisit all our material again after publication of the thesis, and turn it into a number of journal papers.

If you are lucky enough to get into a post-doc position that is fully research-oriented, you have all the time (or at least, you might think you have) to write your papers. If you venture out into the industry, you'll have to do it in your evenings and weekends.

Regardless of the time constraints, it's still extremely valuable to take the step of turning your dissertation into journal papers. Two years past my thesis defense, I'm reaching the end of this process (with a number of papers published, a number in review and a few more to write). Below are some of my observations on the process.

1. Plan for it

After you graduate, life is going to take over. You might be changing jobs, moving to a different place/city/country, and these papers might start to slip to the back of your mind. Take some time while your dissertation is still freshly printed, and ask yourself the following questions:

- Which chapters or subchapters would serve as a good journal paper?

- Which journal should I submit my work to?

- How much time do I think I need for writing this paper?

Then, start planning paper by paper. I’m keeping an overview in a Google docs spreadsheet with the papers, the journals I want to submit to, and the tentative self-imposed deadlines. My goal is to produce six new drafts per year, but some months are entirely filled with dealing with reviewers’ comments, delivering research reports with new work, or teaching duties. I typically give my co-authors (maximum) a month to send their feedback. The feedback is usually limited, so I might need just a morning to make a few changes, and then submit. I plan to start writing the next paper (or replying to reviewers’ comments and reworking the manuscript) whenever the draft of the previous one is done, so that I create a constant stream of writing, revising, sending to co-authors and submitting.

2. Enlist some good co-authors

Now that you have -hopefully- worked well with your thesis committee members, and implemented their advice to deliver the final draft of your dissertation, is there any part of your research that particularly benefited from their input? If you are planning to write a paper on this topic, consider inviting this committee member to be a co-author.

Writing with authors other than your supervisor will improve your writing, and is typically well-received in most fields. Publishing with different authors shows that you can work across research groups and universities and that you are ready to reach out into the world.

3. Remember that not all papers are born equal

Some papers will roll out from your dissertation in just a few writing sessions. For other papers you'll be sweating and sighing as you try to force a piece of research into a stand-alone narrative. Don't get mad at yourself or your work - just accept this fact as it is. And if the frustration becomes too much, head to the gym, grab some chocolate or do whatever typically relieves your stress.

Have you published several papers from the work in your dissertation? How did you organize this, and what advice would you like to share with me?

Image Credit/Source:Tatiana Popova/Shutterstock

Guidelines for article-based theses

Guidelines concerning PhD degrees consisting of compilations of several smaller papers were determined in session by the PhD programme board at the Faculty September 21, 2006. These guidelines were revised by the programme board September 20, 2012. The guidelines also include provisions on the introductory section for these compilations, as well as on co-authorship.

1. General requirements for PhD theses consisting of several smaller works

§ 10.1 in the Regulations for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor (PhD) at the University of Oslo states:

"The thesis shall be an independent, scientific work that fulfils international standards with regard to ethical requirements, academic standards and methodology.
The thesis shall contribute to the development of new scientific knowledge and must be of sufficiently high quality to merit publication as part of the scientific literature in the field. A compilation of several shorter papers may be approved as a thesis provided that the papers are related and the relationship between them is clearly explained."

The academic quality of the thesis is the same whether it is a monograph or a compilation of several smaller papers (hereafter called articles). The articles should display a academic level sufficient for publishing in recognized peer-review academic journals.

Requirements and guidelines for the introductory section (the account of the unifying elements of the thesis articles) are specified below.

2. Scope of the articles

The thesis, excluding the introductory section, should typically be equivalent of three journal articles of normal length, with the candidate as sole author. If there are co-authors for one or more articles, the candidate should consider an increase in the number of articles so that the independent contribution and comprehensive effort of the PhD candidate is evident. To be considered for evaluation, it is assumed that the PhD candidate is the main author of the articles, with a comprehensive academic responsibility for the majority of articles included in the thesis.

3. The introductory section

The introductory section of the thesis shall not only summarize but also compare the research questions and conclusions that are presented in the articles in a holistic perspective, and through this demonstrate the coherence of the thesis. This also includes a summary of the thesis' contribution to the research field.

If the thesis includes previously published articles, the introductory section should also include eventual new information so that the thesis as a whole is academically up to date. If not previously published, these updates are made to each article.

The introductory section should be written in English if all the articles are written in English, and can be written in Norwegian if one or more articles are written and published in Norwegian.

The PhD candidate must be the sole author of the introductory part.

4. Guidelines for the declaration of co-authorship

Declarations on co-authorship are intended to help identify and evaluate the PhD candidate's academic effort compared to the requirements of a PhD degree.

All publications included in a doctoral thesis should comply to conventional ethical standards and guidelines concerning quality assurance of research. This requirement applies to all contributors to a thesis. In the case of co-authorship the Vancouver Protocol is used as a basis, with some minor changes. The short version in English:

Authorship should entirely be based upon:

a) Substantial contributions to the conception and design, or development and analysis of the theoretical model, or data collection, or analysis and interpretation of data
b) Drafting of the manuscript itself or critical revision of the intellectual content of the article
c) Approval of the article version to be published

All of the criteria's above (a, b and c) must be fulfilled to justify co-authorship.

If co-authorship with the supervisor is considered, this should be clarified as early as possible with the PhD candidate, and for each article separately.

Upon completion of each article the PhD candidate must electronically distribute the form on co-authorship to all co-authors. These forms must also be filled out by the PhD candidate. The candidate is him/herself responsible for obtaining all necessary signatures. The completed forms with confirmations and signatures is submitted, along with the thesis and the application for its evaluation, to the relevant unit/department. The forms then follows the administrative procedure, and is sent to the evaluation committee along with the thesis itself. The form can be downloaded here

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PublishedJune 11, 2015 2:41 PM - Last modifiedJan. 6, 2016 3:43 PM

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