What is a Thesis by Publication?

That’s actually not an easy question to answer. There is no clear definition of the Thesis by Publication (TBP) across countries and fields (and in some cases even across institutions!). The approach in its various forms may also be given a range of names, including:

Thesis by publication
PhD by publication
Thesis as a series of papers
Thesis with papers
Thesis with publications
Hybrid thesis
Compilation thesis
Three-paper thesis

With a lack of consistency, it is important for aspiring and current doctoral researchers to investigate the norms in their own geographic and disciplinary contexts. To guide our own research, we define the TBP as

any approach to doctoral education that sees doctoral researchers “publishing their work throughout their candidature and including their research outputs within their final thesis submission”

(Mason & Merga, 2018, p. 1454).

Thus, we distinguish the TBP from models that allow for the inclusion of outputs developed before the doctoral candidature period (sometimes known as a ‘thesis by prior publication’, or confusingly, a ‘thesis by publication’). We also conceptualise the TBP as more than just a collection of published works.

This paper published in 2022 provides a good overview of the current research on Thesis by Publication:

The doctorate in pieces: a scoping review of research on the PhD thesis by publication
Solli & Nygaard | 2022 | Higher Education Research & Development

The resources on this page may help you to form an understanding of what a TBP might look like in your particular context.

Journal articles
Typical scope of time commitment and research outputs of Thesis by Publication in Australia
Mason et al. | 2020 | Higher Education Research & Development

A current view of the thesis by publication in the humanities and social sciences
Mason & Merga | 2018 | International Journal of Doctoral Studies

Completing a PhD by publication: a review of Australian policy and implications for practice
Jackson | 2013 | Higher Education Research & Development

Deconstructing doctoral dissertations: how many papers does it take to make a PhD?
Hagen | 2010 | Scientometrics

Book chapters
The thesis by publication as an emerging genre
Nygaard & Solli | 2021 | Strategies for Writing a Thesis by Publication in the Social Sciences and Humanities

What is a Thesis by Publication?
Mason | 2020 | TBP YouTube Q&A series