A journal-style thesis incorporates one or more chapters in a format suitable for publication (but not necessarily published) in a peer-reviewed title, with a supporting commentary. 

Examples of suitable formats include journal papers, book chapters, or any discipline-specific alternatives.

A journal-style thesis must be a coherent body of interrelated work (not a series of disconnected papers or other works) and present research of an equivalent originality, quality and volume as a monograph thesis.

Can I submit a journal-style thesis?

If your school, department or centre permits journal-style theses this will be noted within your departmental PGR handbook. The handbook should also include any additional department-specific requirements or guidance, eg with respect to publication status, the number of papers, choice of journals, and co-authorship. Unless specified by your school, department or centre there is no requirement for papers in a journal-style thesis to be published (or in progress towards publication). 

You should make the decision about whether to submit a journal-style thesis in consultation with your supervisor(s) and Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP). You can change your mind about the nature of your thesis up to the point of submission.   

For you, as a PGR, the potential benefits of submitting a journal-style thesis may include:

  • getting your research into the public domain as early as possible, which can be important when working in a fast-moving and competitive research area
  • having published papers, increasing motivation and enhancing competitiveness within the academic job market 
  • writing your thesis throughout your PGR programme, reducing the need for a long continuation (‘writing up’) period at the end and speeding up submission
  • providing greater opportunities to practise academic writing and learn other skills associated with writing and submitting papers
  • receipt of referee critique on aspects of your work which may help to improve your research and/or academic writing 
  • demonstrating the quality of your work where papers have been through a robust peer-review process (although this cannot predict the outcome of your final examination).

A journal-style thesis will not be appropriate for all disciplines (such as those where a monograph thesis is still the benchmark), nor for all types of research projects (for example where the bulk of publishable results/material is likely to come towards the end of a PGR programme). Currently, journal-style theses are not uncommon in certain sub-disciplines in the sciences and social sciences, but are rare in the majority of the arts and humanities.

You and your supervisor(s) should also be aware of the possible dangers of focusing on published or accepted papers as this could potentially slow down the research and/or writing process if you have to undergo several rounds of revisions and/or focus on a single paper (and associated research) to the exclusion of your wider research project. 

Items to consider

If you are considering a journal-style thesis you should:

  • Check that this option is permitted within your department.
  • Read the University requirements for journal-style theses (this webpage).
  • Note any department-specific requirements (you must adhere to these) or guidance (recommended practice you are encouraged to follow).
  • Check that your funder/sponsor permits the submission of a journal-style thesis.
    • You should also check if your funder/sponsor has an open access policy, which may influence which journals you are able to submit to.
  • Discuss your plans at the earliest opportunity (ideally before the first review of progress if a PhD or MPhil PGR) with your supervisor(s) and Thesis Advisory Panel (TAP).
  • Look at examples of journal-style and monograph theses produced within your department (if available).
  • Read the University's guidance on how to correctly format a journal-style thesis.
  • Explore any training needs (normally as part of your Training Needs Analysis).
  • Consider drafting an outline publication strategy to inform your thinking.
  • Ensure that any discussion about the nature of your thesis is recorded on SkillsForge.
  • Note that you are submitting a journal-style thesis on your intention to submit form.

Additional guidance for journal-style theses