Thesis by Publication or Monograph: A Case for Publication

The Discussion

Alessa and I are going to tag team this topic. My thesis was by publication, while Alessa’s was a monograph. For each of us, the decision came for different reasons. In the end, we each chose the most appropriate format for our specific projects. This week and next we wanted to share our reasons for choosing the format we chose. Perhaps it will help you think about your own format. One thing we had in common, though, was that we were both going to publish our work.

Studies had clear boundaries as what were going to be published together

I had a very complex roadmap for my PhD. If study A produced X finding then I would do study B, but if I found Y finding then I would do study C, and so on. Despite the complexity I also had every study mapped to specific papers. I knew which studies were going together and, generally, which journal they were going to be published in. With such a clear insight into what the publications of my PhD would look like, it made a lot of sense to write my thesis as publications.

Training for post-PhD life

I knew very early on that I did not want a post-doc position. I wanted to jump right into the life of an academic, and I knew that was a hard goal to meet. I still remember receiving the harsh but well-intended employment advice “teaching kind of sorts itself out, if you’re a bad teacher we can fix that. But if you’re a bad researcher, that’s a different story”. So I knew my research game had to be as onpoint as possible. So writing my thesis by publication offered the opportunity for me to fine tune my writing abilities and to continue to secure new publications under my belt. With each new publication I was being asked to peer review more and more. So not only was I publishing, but I was getting my name out into the world and people were noticing (to some extent).

Speed up the time between thesis and publication

By completing my thesis by publication, I was able to publish as I went along with my thesis. In the end, copies of the published journal articles were included in my manuscript, rather than having two versions of every document. This had the added bonus of suggesting to my thesis markers that the work had already undergone rigorous peer review.

The publishing headspace

The last reason for going down the thesis by publication track was that it got me into the headspace of seeing research as a means to publish. Every study was crafted with the intent of publishing. Every word was written with the same intent in mind. This is a headspace I still have now that I am doing research for a living.

What about you?

Did you complete or are you completing your PhD by publication? What drove you toward that decision?

~ Chris

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