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Adelaide9216

Submitting your thesis by articles

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Hello,

What are the pros and cons of submitting your thesis in articles instead of the typical 200+ pages format? Is it typical for a master's thesis or only for people who are doing doctorates? I'm asking for the social sciences field.

Thanks to those who will reply.

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I think that this will largely depend on how your school wants your thesis formatted. Every university is different, for instance, at my University they wanted a large document and then the accepted published manuscript at the end of the thesis as an appendix. 

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17 minutes ago, Adelaide9216 said:

Yeah, I tried to look that up online and I haven't found anything for my program :(

Look under the grad school of your university. That's where my school has everything--from formatting, to style, even to the type of paper it must be printed on (thesis paper-25% cotton).

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20 hours ago, cowgirlsdontcry said:

Look under the grad school of your university. That's where my school has everything--from formatting, to style, even to the type of paper it must be printed on (thesis paper-25% cotton).

This is good advice. Also, keep in mind that almost all schools want to index/database/catalogue their students' theses in some way, so for details on how to submit/deposit your thesis, it might be the school's library or other entity that will publish your thesis. They might have requirements for things like getting permission from the publisher to include published materials (e.g.articles) and if you want to include other media (my Masters thesis has some videos). So check there too.

I'm just really grateful that my PhD thesis did not have to be printed at all so I didn't have to worry about the paper type etc. Submission was electronic-only. I did choose to print some copies to get bound (one for my advisor, one for my parents, and one to keep for myself).

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I will do my thesis in form of an article(s). My professor is the one that suggested that I do this, especially since I want to apply to Ph.D. programs. 

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The problem with doing it as articles is that "thesis by publication" usually requires that you get all of the articles that are composing your thesis/dissertation published before you defend. 

Depending on how prolific you are, that can be a tough proposition- so that's definitely something I'd consider. 

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27 minutes ago, Eigen said:

The problem with doing it as articles is that "thesis by publication" usually requires that you get all of the articles that are composing your thesis/dissertation published before you defend. 

Depending on how prolific you are, that can be a tough proposition- so that's definitely something I'd consider. 

Just saying: it does depend on each school's requirements. I've seen many people at my old program defend with 2 articles accepted and published and one still under review (three papers is the norm for a thesis by publications here). Usually between thesis defense and final submission, the last article is accepted. I am sure in these cases, the committee will question the advisor during the deliberation period to ensure that the last paper is going to be accepted. In my field though, papers are accepted at a 85%+ rate, so being rejected is not common (i.e. if there are problems with the work, the committee would surely see it). Also, many students publish way more papers than necessary to put into a thesis, so having the last (couple of) chapters be unpublished is probably going to be okay. 

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On 2017-11-29 at 1:01 AM, TakeruK said:

Just saying: it does depend on each school's requirements. I've seen many people at my old program defend with 2 articles accepted and published and one still under review (three papers is the norm for a thesis by publications here). Usually between thesis defense and final submission, the last article is accepted. I am sure in these cases, the committee will question the advisor during the deliberation period to ensure that the last paper is going to be accepted. In my field though, papers are accepted at a 85%+ rate, so being rejected is not common (i.e. if there are problems with the work, the committee would surely see it). Also, many students publish way more papers than necessary to put into a thesis, so having the last (couple of) chapters be unpublished is probably going to be okay. 

85% acceptance rate! 

Sign me up! Depending on the Journal, tier-1 pubs reject 80-90+% in mine.

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3 hours ago, DataCrusader said:

85% acceptance rate! 

Sign me up! Depending on the Journal, tier-1 pubs reject 80-90+% in mine.

Except for the Tier 1 journals (that aren't solely Astronomy), the main journals in my field would accept all articles that are valid science and communicates results clearly. I think this is the way publications should be done, instead of wasting everyone's time (reviewers and authors) having to "shop around" for a journal that will publish your work. At least, when I review for these journals, I never get asked "is the science impactful enough for our journal", it's always questions about whether or not the science is sound, the interpretations are justified and the results communicated clearly.

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I just got through doing my MA thesis as an article. The rules were that my supervisors had to approve submission to a journal (and it had to be actually submitted) but that's it, it didn't have to be accepted yet. It was definitely the right way to go, primarily because I'd have gone on to re-work it to a paper anyway and just got to lose the intermediate step, but it was also harder. I wasn't expecting it to be harder - write 15 pages instead of 150? Easy! - but as it turned out the level of nitpicking and struggles over every little thing with one of my supervisors were through the roof once it was a paper her name was on rather than a thesis no one else would ever read (she had other issues as well, so hopefully its not representative, but a point), and secondly the writing was just a more intellectually intense process. I realized in retrospect it really would have been easier to put together a lengthy thesis that touched on every single thing I found interesting as I was working through the literature and built up my way through the obvious connections and so on. Boiling that down to essentials, throwing out the obvious, the easy, the ste-by-step and figuring out what was actually novel and worth getting published (as opposed to the job of the thesis, which is to prove what I know) was more challenging and probably more interesting. I'm not sure which would have taken more time, or if having a longer version first and then paring it down would have made it easier.

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8 hours ago, TK2 said:

I just got through doing my MA thesis as an article. The rules were that my supervisors had to approve submission to a journal (and it had to be actually submitted) but that's it, it didn't have to be accepted yet. It was definitely the right way to go, primarily because I'd have gone on to re-work it to a paper anyway and just got to lose the intermediate step, but it was also harder. I wasn't expecting it to be harder - write 15 pages instead of 150? Easy! - but as it turned out the level of nitpicking and struggles over every little thing with one of my supervisors were through the roof once it was a paper her name was on rather than a thesis no one else would ever read (she had other issues as well, so hopefully its not representative, but a point), and secondly the writing was just a more intellectually intense process. I realized in retrospect it really would have been easier to put together a lengthy thesis that touched on every single thing I found interesting as I was working through the literature and built up my way through the obvious connections and so on. Boiling that down to essentials, throwing out the obvious, the easy, the ste-by-step and figuring out what was actually novel and worth getting published (as opposed to the job of the thesis, which is to prove what I know) was more challenging and probably more interesting. I'm not sure which would have taken more time, or if having a longer version first and then paring it down would have made it easier.

This is a good point---I had come to this from a different perspective. In my field, you write the journal articles along the way so you have them already submitted, accepted and probably even published (except maybe the last one) by the time you get to your dissertation. So it was just a matter of reworking the articles into thesis format. My school didn't have any specific rules about doing a thesis as articles: it's all up to the committee to approve or not. Instead, the rules were just documentation: we had to give the full citation to the article in which we are including at the beginning so that it's clear that this chapter was reproduced, we had to write a statement of our contribution to this article (usually no big deal if you're first author but if you're not then you need to justify why your contribution to the article was significant enough to count in your thesis) and finally you needed to submit some evidence that you have copyright permission to use the chapter to the school (in my field, the form where we sign over copyright to the journal states that the author also maintains the right to use their own articles in their own dissertations). Ultimately, since it's down to your committee's approval, it's really down to your supervisor.

Anyways, since I already had my articles completed (the last one was accepted 6 weeks before my defense!) it was pretty easy to put together my dissertation as articles. My advisor told me to spend no more than 2 weeks on my dissertation. I spent 2 weeks writing an intro and conclusion/future work and another 1-2 weeks on formatting. However, the three articles in total took over 3 years to go through the writing process (the first one took especially long since it was my first time). 

On the other hand, for my MSc thesis, I didn't have any articles published so I wrote it all from the start. It took me 5 months, where most of the writing took place in the last 3 months. I didn't have to deal with all of the issues mentioned here by TK2! 

However, since we are expected to publish articles during our time in grad school anyways, in practice, it's easier to just submit a thesis as articles instead of taking valuable time away from research in your final year of grad school to put together a dissertation. That time could be so much better spent getting postdoc/post-PhD research projects started so you have a running start in the next position.

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25 minutes ago, TakeruK said:

On the other hand, for my MSc thesis, I didn't have any articles published so I wrote it all from the start. It took me 5 months, where most of the writing took place in the last 3 months. I didn't have to deal with all of the issues mentioned here by TK2!

This was basically the case for me as well, where the expectation is that the thesis scope is roughly equal to one decent paper, in terms of actual research conducted. I mean, for an MA, pretty much everyone comes at it from scratch, right? The challenge, and advantage, of doing it in paper form rather than lengthy thesis form is - in my opinion, and I like to write lengthily (obviously), and possibly in the social sciences/humanities, ie, wordy fields - is that writing an academic paper is a more punctilious, frustrating, highly scrutinized and all around difficult format.

As someone put it to me - I was going to work harder for a good final grade, because there's something to the heft of 100 pages that automatically gives you a bit of credit. The purpose of a thesis, as I understood it, was basically to show your work - here's everything I did, here's everything I found out, here's everything I theorize about it, here's all the literature to back that up. For the paper, all that everything turned out to go straight in the trash. All my reading! My brilliant insight into the connection between this and that! That super interesting thing I found out that had also been found out somewhere else! All the fancy mid-century French philosophy! Anything well established, or not directly relevant to the research question and argument, or not novel has no room in a paper, and figuring that out and figuring out the distinction was the really tricky bit, but also the one I learned something from. (A kind of academic serenity prayer.)

So, I mean, I obviously support writing a paper and am grateful to have had the experience at this stage (not to mention, you know, a paper). At the same time, it's not necessarily the quicker path just because its shorter, and if there's time pressure, and you've never done it before, and you just want to move the hell on - I might well go for churning out the old 100 pages. In some ways its more straightforward. You can always come back and rework to a paper later.

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1 hour ago, TK2 said:

The purpose of a thesis, as I understood it, was basically to show your work - here's everything I did, here's everything I found out, here's everything I theorize about it, here's all the literature to back that up.

I haven't thought about the thesis that way but that does make sense. I approached my dissertation/thesis not as a way to show my work, but a way to prove that I had done enough to earn the degree. I think all of them say something like "submitted in partial fulfillment for the degree of XYZ", right? So that became the purpose for my thesis, to fulfill said requirements. My goal was to do the minimum amount of work necessary to fulfill that requirement. Ultimately, only 60% of my efforts during my PhD went into my PhD thesis. A small chunk of it were things I tried in the first few years that didn't go anywhere interesting so I left it out. Much of the work I did in the last 1.5 years didn't go into my thesis at all, it's going in a paper I'm now working on as a postdoc researcher.

I found that from talking to my colleagues in other areas of the world, European theses are meant to be incredibly comprehensive tomes. People spend a ton of time in the introduction to do a super comprehensive literature review that summarizes all modern knowledge on their thesis topic. I just feel like it's not the greatest use of time, as every other PhD student has compiled something similar and frankly, the student gets almost no benefit from doing this work. There are also invited review papers and chapters in book compilations and such that also review the topics in question. But I suppose that your interpretation of the purpose of the thesis here makes more sense with this approach to thesis writing.

On the other hand, my introduction was about 12 pages in thesis format. Because the "meat" chapters were my articles copied into thesis form, those chapters were written for the expert audience and while they do have their own small introduction/reviews, they are very narrowly focussed on one research question in each chapter. So I wrote my introduction for the more general audience (the audience in my mind was a 2nd or 3rd year undergraduate student interested in planetary astronomy) and the purpose is to introduce and motivate the big picture question that connects the following "meat" chapters. The conclusion chapter was only 8 or so pages tying everything up and hinting at what I am doing next. The reason to mention future work was to show that the results of the previous "meat" chapters lead to new questions, which these new studies could address.

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Really interesting perspectives! 

I think writing my thesis in articles will be harder - I don't want to do it because I think it'll be easy - but I do believe that it will be more useful for me in the long run especially since I want to apply to Ph.D. programs. And I think it will be good for my resume also that I published something during my time in grad school because there is an expectation for that. 

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53 minutes ago, Adelaide9216 said:

I do believe that it will be more useful for me in the long run especially since I want to apply to Ph.D. programs. And I think it will be good for my resume also that I published something during my time in grad school because there is an expectation for that. 

A related piece of advice on doing things that are more useful to you is choosing the topics of your class projects that line up with work you need to do anyways. I'm not sure about your field but almost all grad classes in my field have a term project where you either do a lit review or a mini analysis. If you choose these projects to be things you need to do for the next paper or thesis chapter, then you can reuse it :)

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I'll offer another perspective.  I did a 3-paper format for my dissertation, but it tends to take longer than those who do the more traditional format.  Part of the reason is because of what TK2 mentions, you end up having to write and rewrite your articles so that you have a very tightly written argument in each of your papers, and you throw out a lot of the work that you did that doesn't end up fitting in with this narrative.  It is a more marketable product in the end assuming you are in a field that emphasizes articles, but it takes much longer. 

I wouldn't suggest a 3-paper format for a master's thesis!  Unless you can get away with doing one publishable article or you can co-author some of the articles because trying to write three publishable articles as the solo author in a master's program sounds like a recipe for being 4 years in and still not done. Don't do that to yourself.

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On 2018-02-21 at 5:58 AM, ZeChocMoose said:

I'll offer another perspective.  I did a 3-paper format for my dissertation, but it tends to take longer than those who do the more traditional format.  Part of the reason is because of what TK2 mentions, you end up having to write and rewrite your articles so that you have a very tightly written argument in each of your papers, and you throw out a lot of the work that you did that doesn't end up fitting in with this narrative.  It is a more marketable product in the end assuming you are in a field that emphasizes articles, but it takes much longer. 

I wouldn't suggest a 3-paper format for a master's thesis!  Unless you can get away with doing one publishable article or you can co-author some of the articles because trying to write three publishable articles as the solo author in a master's program sounds like a recipe for being 4 years in and still not done. Don't do that to yourself.

Thanks, I'll discuss it further with my supervisor. It's a good point.

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