Under the Thesis and examinations higher degrees by research policy (pdf, 199KB), a research thesis is a coherent and cohesive narrative describing a body of scholarly activity that adds to knowledge.
At the University a collection of published papers is not a thesis, neither is a publication on its own sufficient to warrant the award of a research degree.
However, you can, and should, include papers you have published in your thesis. A thesis including publications (also called a thesis with publications) is one where the core chapters of your thesis consist of papers you have submitted for publication, have been accepted for publication, or have already been published. See our information on preparing your thesis for how to indicate that your thesis contains material you have published as part of your candidature.
A thesis including publication is suited to certain disciplines where your study progresses in discrete stages or involves a sequence of related components; for example, a series of lab experiments or several artworks.
One of the benefits of doing a thesis including publications is that you’ll graduate with a number of publications to your credit. This will get your career as a researcher off to a good start.
You need to check with your faculty/school or department to see if a thesis including publications is possible and to find out their specific requirements. For more information see the Thesis and examination of higher degrees by research policy (pdf, 199KB).
The following is a general guide to some common requirements for a thesis including publications.
All chapters of your thesis can contain material previously published by you and need to be in a consistent format. Offprints are not considered chapters. These may be papers already published, submitted or accepted for publication, or not submitted.
Published papers need to be supplemented by an introduction (containing your aims and the context of the thesis) and a conclusion that synthesises the knowledge generated during your candidature. In some cases, thesis chapters are amended versions of published papers. The published papers are then put in the appendix.
Only papers researched and written during your candidature can be included in your thesis. Some faculties or schools allow you to include papers regardless of their stage of publication. In other cases, papers need to have been accepted for publication, not just submitted and awaiting acceptance. You need to check with your faculty/school or department regarding their requirements.
Papers need to be accepted by reputable, high-profile journals which require full peer review of contributions.
If you want your thesis to contain material you’ve published elsewhere, you need to get written permission from your publisher.
The University library has more information on copyright.
You should be the main contributor and/or lead author to the papers you include. This means you have been responsible for the key ideas, the development of the study and the writing of the paper. It’s possible to include papers co-written with other authors, as long as you have their permission (preferably in writing).
Find more information about authorship attribution statements and the format required.
The papers you submit need to form a cohesive whole. They need to be linked thematically, having a consistent focus on a particular topic. They also need a cohesive structure, including an introduction, explanatory material between the chapters and a conclusion.
The introduction and conclusion are particularly important in tying your thesis together. Coherence can be made explicit throughout your thesis. You could link your chapters using:
You don’t need all of these features, but the more links you can establish between the various parts of your thesis the more coherent it will be.
You need to include a list of publications either before or after the table of contents. In this section, you can link the publications to the specific chapter in which they are found. Many theses also record the bibliographical details of the article on the title page of each chapter.
If you need to include a co-author contribution statement, this is usually put with the list of publications or before each chapter.
Find more information about authorship statements and the format required.
There are different ways you can give context for your research when you do the literature review for each paper. For example:
Your final discussion section draws together the main points from the discussion in each chapter into a single discussion. You need to avoid presenting or repeating in detail your ideas in the final discussion chapter by chapter or aim by aim, as this will not meet the requirements of a thesis. A way of doing this is to frame the discussion broadly, always in respect to ‘this thesis/research project’ or ‘this thesis’.
Most theses show both the thesis page number and the journal article page numbers. However, you could omit the thesis page number.
This material was developed by the Learning Hub (Academic Language and Learning), which offers workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.
See our handout on Writing a thesis proposal (pdf, 341KB).