Doctoral thesis as a monograph or thesis by publication?


Which format should the PhD-student choose and what are the effects of the choice? This was discussed at a research seminar at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science yesterday. Monograph is a book on one subject and thesis by publication/compilation thesis consists of a summary chapters and usually of four scientific articles published or accepted for pbulication in relevant international scientific journals. Summary chapters is the part where the author has the possibility to discuss methodological and theoretical choises. Also, the main point or the scientific contribution of the thesis is made clear.

The discussions during the seminar were very interesting. The choice bwtween the two formats is among other things dependent of the context, subject and its tradition, method, research project, which supervisors the PhD student happens to have or PhD student’s own will, that it is more legitimate as a PhD thesis to choose one or the other or that the department has bias towards one or the other. Supervisor role was also discussed and what the supervisor might need to learn while supervising one form or the other. The articles in a compilation thesis are peer reviewed (which can be of variying quality) but the author will get an indication that the work that is being done is interesting and has a high enough quality. With monograph the text does not go through the same kind of continuous reviewing from someone on the outside.

From the library’s point of view there is no wishes or thoughts of one form would be better than the other. There are some thoughts from the point of view of publishing strategy. When a PhD student chooses to write a monograph or a thesis by publication he/she is choosing how he/she will be publishing. This leads that they will learn different things and will be stressed for different things. The author of a monograph is taking a risk since the publishing of the whole things is occuring at one time but has the possibility to really deep dive into a subject, opporturnity which he/she might not have again. The one writing a compilation thesis will have to learn the publishing process and how to manage the peer review process and is risking not having enough articles published or submitted/accepted for publication before the thesis should be done. Also, there is a risk that some of the first articles will not be relevant when the thesis is compiled.

There might be some wishes from the university. A part of the resource allocation is based on the number of publications. When a PhD student is writing a compilation thesis he/she is contributing towards the publication statistics right from the start. While a monograph may be turned into articles after the public defence. This requires that time is given to the author and that the author has the interest and motivation to write articles of “old” material instead of starting something new.

What should possibly guide PhD student in choosing one or the other is his/her own interest, supervisor’s & department’s wishes but also the future academic tradition the PhD will be a part of. Which one is prefered?

In conlusion it might be said that there are as many ways to write a thesis as a monograph as a compilation thesis as there are doctoral students and that the form is secondary to quality. What suits you might not work for someone else.

Pieta Eklund

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About Forskningsrelaterat

Bibliotekarie och doktorand som tycker att bibliotekets forskarstöd är intressant, speciellt publiceringsstöd och open access. Skriver en avhandling om samarbete mellan bibliotekarier och forskare. Librarian and a PhD Student working with library research support with main focus on publishing support and open access. Writing a doctoral dissertation on collaboration between librarians and researchers.