Many candidates organise their thesis as a series of papers.
These may be papers that have been published, manuscripts that have been submitted for publication but not yet accepted, manuscripts that could be submitted, or any combination of these.
There are several advantages to organising a thesis in this way:
- It resolves the conflict between preparing the thesis for examination and preparing papers for publication, because they amount to the same thing. You need not feel that when you are spending time on your papers you are running out of time to prepare your thesis.
- It increases the probability that you will publish the work from your thesis. This is not only to your advantage, but also that of your supervisor(s) and the University.
- If you have reviewers' comments on your papers before submitting your thesis, you can use this feedback to improve your thesis. This is not only good for the quality of your thesis but also for your confidence. By the time you submit the thesis for examination, at least part of it will have been subjected to the scrutiny of experts other than you and your supervisor(s).
- Having part of the work published prior to examination establishes it as worthy of publication, which is one of the criteria for thesis examination. The larger the proportion that is published, the easier it is for your examiners and the Board of the Graduate Research School to recognise that your work is substantial and of value.
- General introduction and discussion chapters
- Declaration of authorship of publications
- Common questions
General introduction and discussion chapters
As a thesis is more than a collection of papers, the UWA rules state that a general introduction and general discussion chapter be included in the thesis.
- General introduction sets the context of the thesis and summarises the structure of the thesis;
- General discussion draws together the main findings and establishes the significance of the work.
The papers included in a thesis as a series of papers must be in a logical order and linked together. The connections between papers can be outlined in the general introduction but some students also introduce each new chapter with 'linking text'. This linking text is usually called a chapter foreward, preamble or introduction.
If some or all of the chapters have been published with different fonts and formats, the formatting in the thesis may be made uniform so that the thesis as a whole has a professional appearance. Alternatively the work that has been published may be presented in the format in which it was published.
Declaration of authorship of publications
All students that include work that has been published or planned for publication in their thesis need to clearly indicate this to the examiner. An authorship declaration is included in the front pages of the thesis, where the published work and manuscripts are listed and their location in the thesis is clearly indicated.
Students who include co-authored work in their thesis also need to clearly indicate to the examiner their contribution to the work, so the examiner is able to examine the component that is the student's work. Students are required to obtain the signed approval of the co-authors to include the work in the thesis or the coordinating supervisor can sign on behalf of the co-authors.
For further details of the authorship declaration form, student contribution to co-authored papers, and a proforma for the thesis front pages can be found with the instructions for thesis style and format.
For many students, formatting a thesis as a series of papers raises a number of questions. These include:
- Is formatting a thesis as a series of papers common? Is it common in my discipline?
- How many papers do I need for thesis a series of papers?
- If I am not the lead author on a paper, can I include the paper in my thesis?
- Can I reformat the papers in my thesis to produce a thesis with a consistent style?
- Can I add or delete text from the publications or rearrange the text?
- What do examiners think of thesis as a series of papers?
These questions are considered in more detail in the following presentation: