Stack of red theses

Thesis as Series of Papers

The PhD and MPhil course rules allow you to format your thesis as a series of papers.

Thesis Format

While some universities have a separate set or rules and guidelines for theses formatted as a series of papers (also known as a thesis by publication), this is not the case at UWA. The GRS course rules and examination criteria at UWA are the same for all theses, so care must be taken to ensure that these rules are followed and the criteria are met.

You can format your thesis as a monograph, a series of papers, or a combination of chapters and papers. Any number of papers can be included in the thesis, and they can be at any stage of publication - from manuscript to published. As you can include manuscripts in your thesis, you should not delay thesis submission for peer review and publication. Many students use the period of thesis examination to finish publishing papers.

If you format your thesis as a series of papers, you will need to write a general introduction and a general conclusion for your thesis. The concluding chapter needs to draw together the main findings of the thesis and synthesise the significance of the results.

Care should be taken to ensure the thesis is coherent, and that any papers included in the thesis fit with the remainder of the thesis. Examiners can be critical of theses that consist of a series of disconnected papers or chapters. To improve coherence, students often include linking text or chapters.

You can include published papers in your thesis as they appear in the journal or the text version formatted for consistency with the remainder of your thesis. If the thesis research is mostly published, it may be more efficient to include the published papers. In many cases however, the published papers only form a small component of the thesis, or additional text is added to the paper for examination, or the manuscript of a paper is included rather than the final version of the paper that was edited to pass peer review. In these cases, published papers are often reformatted to match the remainder of the thesis.

Co-authored papers

It is expected that you will be the major contributor to any papers that you include within your thesis, and this commonly means you will be the first author. If you are considering including papers in your thesis where you are not the main contributor, we suggest you discuss this first with a Graduate Education Officer. Examiners often express concerns when a student is not the first author of a paper included within their thesis, and when a student includes multiple papers where they are not the main contributor, concerns can be raised about whether the work of the student is substantial enough to warrant the award.

If you include co-authored papers in your thesis, it is critical that your contribution to the paper is made clear to the examiner. As they are examining your work and not the work of your co-authors there needs to be clear delineation of the work that needs to be examined.

An authorship declaration for the front pages of your thesis is provided for you to declare your contribution to a co-authored papers or manuscripts. All co-authors must sign this declaration, for two reasons: (1) to endorse your declaration of contribution and (2) to authorise inclusion of the work in your thesis. If signatures from all the co-authors cannot be obtained for the work, your Coordinating Supervisor must provide the reasons for this in the Thesis Submission form.

If you are co-authoring a paper with another student and the paper will be included in both of your theses, particular care needs to be taken with the authorship declaration to ensure there is no overlap in your declarations of contribution.

Further information

More information about formatting a thesis as a series of papers is available at the Thesis Writing workshop. You can download the workshop booklet at any time and register to attend from the GRS Events Calendar.

If you have very specific questions, you can book an appointment to meet with a Graduate Education Officer.