There are still many universities and departments that prefer the conventional dissertation model; however, some others promote and encourage Ph.D. students for the “three papers” dissertation model.
A typical conventional dissertation includes the following sections:
- Introduction and outline of the problem of interest
- Literature review
- Background and detailed problem description
- Results and Discussion
- Conclusions, Policy implications, Future Plans
The final output of a conventional dissertation is hundreds of pages of a comprehensive document. The main disadvantage of this traditional format is this massive document is not publishable directly. Typically each dissertation includes many subproblems and extensions, and the Ph.D. dissertation will end up with multiple publications. However, decomposing the whole thesis into papers is extra work and not very easy. For this reason, publishing dissertation papers take many years, and new Ph.D. graduates are not able to benefit from these publications while searching for an academic position.
Awareness about the disadvantageous of the conventional dissertation approach arises a new dissertation model, which is known as the “three papers” model. This new approach requires special preparation and formatting. The departments who are supporting this model provides detailed guidelines for students about the requirements and new structures. As examples for the guidelines, readers can look at the following links:
A general structure of the three papers dissertation model includes the following sections:
1. Introduction to the overall topic
2. First paper
3. Second paper
4. Third paper
5.Conclusions, Policy implications, Future Plans
This new structure allows students to organize their work as journal publications, which increases the possibility of getting published for some parts of the dissertation before the dissertation defense. This model is very efficient in terms of transforming the dissertation work into articles in a shorter time frame. Additionally, although for any reason, a student needs to switch or end his/her Ph.D. study, the prior efforts will still be rewarded with the publication(s).
Besides the advantage of multiple publications in parallel to the dissertation process, since the first parts (papers) will be reviewed by both advisors and journal reviewers, additional views and feedback will improve the quality of the work and strengthen the student’s dissertation experience.
Finally, this model enables students to divide Ph.D. work into manageable parts and practical targets. Ph.D. students who are following this new model define this experience as “… less stressful, more time-efficient, and enjoyable to write…”.