The thesis is a monograph, which describes the work done by the Ph.D. candidate during the academic year. It describes the problem that the candidate has worked on, possibly within a larger team, that too, under the guidance of his/her academic advisors/professors. It defines the problem and reviews all the existing approaches to the problem, the so-called hypothesis, which are identified through critical analysis. The thesis always explains in sufficient detail and justifies the work undertaken to decide on the hypothesis. The thesis, typically involves a combination of further literature, a clear gap for a possible novel academic contribution, which is a proposed explanation for the problem or a proposed solution to a problem.
This short guide introduces a ‘three papers’ Ph.D. thesis as an alternative format for writing-up the results of three years’ Ph.D. research. It differentiates the conventional Ph.D. thesis and the ‘three papers’ model. It then suggests a rough timetable for producing a ‘three papers’ thesis in three years.
2. The conventional Ph.D. thesis
The following elements are involved in the Conventional Ph.D. thesis:
1. Introduction and outline of the problem
2. Literature review
3. Background to study population or area
4. Methodological chapters
5-7. Results chapters (usually 2 or 3)
9. Implications for policy and/or further research
The total number of chapters is usually about eight, and the total length approaches 300 pages of A4 (approximately 250 words per page, double spaced, and 75,000 words). But appendices can be of unlimited length.
3. The ‘three papers’ model
Under the ‘three papers’ model, a Ph.D. thesis consists of three separate publishable papers.
The papers should be of normal journal article length (approximately between 5,000 and 10,000 words).
The three papers should be based on related themes including an introduction to the overall topic in the beginning and some essential background information. The literature review is not necessary for the ‘three-papers’ model.
Therefore, the ‘three papers’ Ph.D. thesis looks like this:
1. Introduction and background to the general topic area.
2. First paper.
3. Second paper.
4. Third paper.
6. Implications for policy and/or further research
The total number of chapters is thus usually five, and the total length approaches 150 pages of A4 (a maximum of about 35,000 words). The ‘three papers’ thesis is only about half the length of the conventional thesis.
4. Planning your work under the ‘three papers’ model:
Suppose you are pursuing three years’ full-time study, then you should aim to have:
- Your first paper finished by December of your second year (approx. 15 months),
- Your second paper finished by December of your third year (approx. 12 months), and
- Your third paper finished by September of your third year (approx. 9 months)
For the ‘three papers’ thesis also, the upgrade occurs at the same stage of the Ph.D. process as with the conventional thesis. Following the timetable discussed above, you must upgrade your first paper by December of the second year and should have written a substantial draft of the second paper.
Accordingly, the ‘mini-thesis’ you submit before upgrading should consist of:
- A draft of the introductory chapter,
- The final version of your first paper,
- A draft of the majority of the second paper,
- An outline of what the third paper will be.
- Apart from the format of the ‘mini-thesis’, the upgrading procedure for a ‘three papers’
- The thesis is the same as that of a conventional thesis.
Note: Despite the fact, that whichever format you choose, you must submit a mini-thesis that is without references and therefore is a summary of the research you have done.