[Air-L] PhD dissertation format

Mathieu ONeil mathieu.oneil at anu.edu.au
Tue Jul 5 10:20:23 PDT 2011

Hi everyone

I am currently writing a report on a PhD dissertation from a European university. The dissertation 

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	-->consists of a general introduction (50 pages), four articles which have
already been published in peer-reviewed journals, and an appendix
consisting of an additional article.
I have to admit that I am little surprised by what is for me a new kind of Dissertation. Whilst the benefits are clear in terms of publications – when candidates obtain their doctorate they already have at least four publications in peer-reviewed journals – it raised some questions in my mind regarding the nature of the work. 

First, since it is the final, published version of the peer-reviewed articles which is presented these articles have (presumably) been peer reviewed. That is to say, candidates are not presenting strictly speaking their own work, with input from a supervisor, but rather work which may have been substantially benefited from a multi-person process of revision, negotiation, revision, etc. Can these articles  be said to represent a candidate's best solo effort? I know people could ask friends and contacts for comments but here articles have been for want of a better word 'professionally' edited and proofread...

Second, despite the introduction which attempts to pull everything together the papers remain heterogenous articles and may suffer both from repetition (the same point can appear in one or several articles as well as in the introduction) and from the lack of a clear overall structure. When you write a traditional Dissertation (say 100,000 words) you really need to go from A to Z, learn to build a point over time and length... Maybe it is a useless skill.

This is not an isolated phenomenon, I received a published version of a really interesting PhD from someone a few months ago who did the same - from a different European country. 

Anyway, I am curious as to how prevalent this practice is, and what people think about it – is a PhD like this the same as a traditional one? Does it matter? 


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