Loughborough Doctoral College

10. Presentation by alternative thesis format

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Guidance for presenting a thesis in one of the alternative formats.

This route can be used when submitting for the award of PhD as defined under section 3.1 of Regulation XXVI.

10.1 Choosing between a standard and alternative thesis format

When considering an alternative format thesis submission the first step is to discuss this with your supervisory team.

A thesis in alternative format includes chapters that are in the format of a scholarly journal article, stand-alone book chapter, or similar scholarly materials prepared for publication (hereafter collectively referred to as ‘papers’). These can be published papers, submitted papers, or drafts that are written as potential papers but have not yet been submitted for publication. Apart from the inclusion of such materials, the alternative format thesis must conform to the same standards expected for a standard thesis.

Any work submitted within the alternative format thesis must be substantially different from any work which may have previously been submitted for any degree at this or any other institution. The thesis must be based on original research undertaken as part of the doctoral research degree which contribute to a Loughborough degree. This will normally mean research undertaken after the registration date on the research degree programme at Loughborough.

The thesis should represent a contribution to knowledge and contain original work worthy of publication. It should also provide evidence of training in and application of research methods appropriate to the particular field of study. The full criteria for a PhD are set out in paragraph 11.2 of Regulation XXVI.

As with standard doctoral theses, examiners should satisfy themselves that the alternative format thesis meets the requirement of the doctoral degree as prescribed in the appropriate regulations and policies. The fact that a thesis contains material that has been published or accepted for publication does not guarantee that the examiner will recommend the award for which the candidate is being examined. The examiners are entitled to examine the doctoral researcher on any part of the thesis, and to specify revisions to any part of the thesis text presented for examination, including those parts already published or accepted for publication.

The alternative format is not normally available for initial submissions for the degree of MPhil. However, a PhD thesis originally submitted in the alternative format should remain in that format if the examiners decide it does not meet the PhD criteria but it may be resubmitted for the award of MPhil. Exceptionally, where a doctoral researcher has been planning to submit in the alternative format but their personal circumstances change and they decide to submit for an MPhil, their submission may be made in the alternative format.

10.2 Approval for submission in alternative format

In order to submit a thesis in alternative format you should have the approval of your supervisors and the Director of Doctoral Programmes.

  • If you wish to adopt this format, the primary supervisor should contact the DDP to ensure the model agreed with doctoral researchers is appropriate.
  • Schools will set out in their own guidance the expected timescales for discussion and agreement of the use of the alternative format and you should check this guidance carefully.
  • The School guidance will indicate when the format must be agreed and this will be no later than the R2 review.
  • The format of the thesis should be discussed at the earliest opportunity and Schools may require such discussions to be before the 6-month review. Intention to use this format should be recorded by the primary supervisor and doctoral researcher in relevant progress reports as stipulated by the School.
  • In rare circumstances – and only with the authorisation of the DDP– a doctoral researcher may switch formats after formal agreement by the School.
    • Format switches are allowed only in truly exceptional circumstances.
    • Doctoral researchers are strongly advised not to use registration time to rewrite material from one format into another. Later decisions to change the thesis format would not be sufficient cause to warrant an extension to registration for rewriting purposes.
  • Doctoral researchers will be asked to indicate the format of their thesis during the examination process when completing their Intention to Submit Form.
    • Supervisors should confirm the format with potential external Examiners, in writing via email, before the latter agree to serve as external Examiners.

10.3 Structure

The supervisors are best placed to advise on how to structure a thesis in alternative format.

  • The work must constitute a body of publications tending towards a coherent and continuous thesis, rather than a series of disconnected publications. The thesis should reflect the quantity, quality and originality of research and analysis expected of a candidate submitting a standard thesis outlined in 9.3. The thesis must satisfy the following criteria:
  • The number of papers included in the alternative format thesis may vary according to discipline, but should reflect the quantity, quality and originality of research and analysis expected of a candidate submitting a standard thesis. It should normally be a minimum of three papers.
  • The supervisor and doctoral researcher need to agree on the number of papers that will be included, and this must be recorded in your progress reports.
  • In addition to the stand-alone papers, the thesis must include:
    • An introductory chapter, which in addition to the standard content of an introductory chapter in the discipline, includes:
      • an account of how the thesis has been constructed, including identification of chapters that are published or in publishable format;
      • an explanation of how all the papers fit together into a coherent and continuous thesis.
    • A detailed and critical analysis of the methods used, which may be in a separate chapter if the papers formatted for publication do not include this level of detail.
    • A concluding chapter, which as well as the standard content of a concluding chapter in the discipline, includes:
      • A summary of the research findings in the preceding papers/chapters and critical analysis of their relation to state-of-the-art research within the subject area.
      • An amalgamation of the discrete conclusions of the individual papers/chapters that explores the overall significance of the work and its contribution to the field.
  • Additional content may include:
    • Preliminary and background data supporting one or more of the papers may be incorporated into the thesis as commentary text accompanying the chapter.
    • Research findings not written into an academic paper may be incorporated into the thesis as a conventional results chapter.
  • If there are co-authors on any of the papers, the introductory chapter must explain and justify in full the nature and extent of the doctoral researcher’s contribution and the contribution of co-authors.
    • As with any co-authored work for any thesis format, the doctoral researcher must certify in writing the extent to which the submission is their own work and in each case in which there has been cooperative effort the nature and extent of that effort must be fully specified.
    • It is expected that the doctoral researcher will have undertaken the major role in ALL aspects of the work (data collection and analysis, writing, etc) as explained in introductory chapter.
  • As each academic paper will have self-contained components that may overlap with other sections of the thesis, there may be some duplication of material.
  • The thesis should reflect the quantity, quality and originality of research and analysis expected of a candidate submitting a standard thesis.
  • The thesis should normally not exceed 80,000 words.

10.4 Formatting

Accepted manuscripts of papers should be stylistically integrated into the thesis, matching typeface, margins, and pagination. The manuscript of any papers intended for future publication and currently in draft form should be treated in the same manner.

Journal-formatted published papers may be included in the thesis if approved by the copyright holder. Where possible, the doctoral researcher should alter the page numbers to align with the main document. Where this is not possible, a sheet of A4 may be placed before each published paper, on which is displayed the publication title and the thesis page numbers that it spans.

10.5 Attribution

You can include co-authored papers in an alternative format thesis submission, including those written alongside another doctoral researcher but the substantial part must be your original work and it is expected that you will be the first author on the submitted/published papers – please check this with your supervisors. In your introductory chapter, you need to clearly outline what major contribution you made to all aspects of the work: data collection and analysis, writing of the paper, etc.

10.6 Copyright

Where a thesis contains third party copyright material the student must obtain permission for its publication, including on the Internet via the University’s Research Repository. If the student is unable to obtain permission for the use of substantial copyright material, then an indefinite moratorium of the thesis can be applied. Where a student is unable to obtain permission for use of a limited range of copyright material, then the electronic copy of the thesis can be submitted in two versions, a full version with a moratorium on publication and a second version without the third-party copyright material (maintaining the original pagination) which will be placed on open access.

10.7 Inclusion of material that has already been published

The guidance below specifically refers to the e-thesis that will be deposited into the University’s Research Repository, rather than the examination version. The examination version is the complete version that is submitted and distributed to Examiners solely for the purpose of examination. The inclusion of copyright protected material for the examination version is covered by ‘illustration for instruction’ section 32 CDPA, which includes copying for examination and is subject to fair dealing. The e-thesis, deposited into the Research Repository, is not necessarily covered by this exception. Please consult the Copyright Advisors if you require more detailed information or see the Copyright Guidance website.

Copyright for published material will usually be held by the publisher or authors. The doctoral researcher is responsible for obtaining the necessary permission from the copyright owners to include the material in the thesis. Please check with the publisher and/or any copyright holders to ascertain which version of an article or book chapter is permitted to be included in the e-thesis; the version is usually either the author-created final version or the journal formatted version. For co-authored papers included, permission should be sought from co-authors, as well as the publisher, if appropriate. Even if the copyright has transferred to the publisher, it is good academic practice to make all contributors aware that the paper is going to be included in a thesis, although it is not necessary in copyright terms.

There is example wording for a publication request below and the doctoral researcher must keep a copy of the response granting this request.

Example wording for letter to a publisher:

Dear X, I am a doctoral researcher at Loughborough University, writing my PhD thesis by alternative format. I am the author of the following article(s) published by you and would like permission to include them in my e-thesis: [Insert full reference for the work/s]. The e-thesis will be made publicly available on the University’s research repository. All works will be appropriately referenced within the thesis. Can you please let me know if it is possible to reproduce these articles in this way and if there are any conditions associated with their reuse?

Some publishers have a policy that specifically states that publishing as part of a PhD is not considered prior publication, but there are some exceptions. Doctoral researchers are advised to carefully consider including any pending publications in their thesis, and to inform the journal/book editor that a draft form of the text is included in the thesis and that the e-thesis will be (or has been) made available on the publicly available University research repository. If the publishers are unwilling to publish work with this condition, it is possible to place restrictions on the availability of the e-thesis or on this section of the e-thesis on the research repository (e.g. a moratorium or embargo).