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Three Article Model Dissertation

Three Article format (Handbook Home)

The Graduate Office policy states students who use the “publishable articles format” for their dissertation are required to have three fully developed parts.

  1. An overall introduction explaining why the previously published or publishable papers were used including a substantive discussion of the theme or themes that tie together the articles.
  2. The previously published or publishable papers.
  3. And overall conclusion comparing/contrasting the previously published or publishable papers and the significance of the research completed in the articles, what additional aspects of the topic still need to be explored, and so on.

If the dissertation contains articles that have been published previously, the student should note the copyright requirements and documentation required elsewhere in the Dissertation Guidelines.

DPA Program Policy

It is acceptable to submit a doctoral dissertation composed of some number of previously published or publishable papers. A student who wishes to use this format should seek the approval of his/her dissertation chair before beginning the project, at the dissertation proposal stage, and should notify the Graduate Office when submitting the dissertation. The use of the publishable article format is entirely at the discretion of the student’s dissertation chair and committee. Your dissertation committee, not journal editors or reviewers, will determine whether the chapter substantially meets the content and submission guidelines for a credible submission for publication as well as the meeting the program’s dissertation goals.

Articles published previous to the defense of the dissertation proposal are not eligible for use in the dissertation.

In the multiple article format, it is important that the introduction and conclusion be very substantive, that the three articles be integrated by a theme and include a strong literature review, and that these opening and closing chapters integrate the whole dissertation while providing a meaningful context for the article chapters. The articles included must be such that it is possible to see a real unity in the content of the dissertation. While there is no requirement that the articles used in the dissertation be published, there is the real expectation that the introduction and conclusion be very strong and that the articles contained in the dissertation be publishable.

When using tables or materials from collaborators, footnotes must acknowledge the contribution of the collaborators, including any figures, tables, or data that were not created by the author alone.

DPA Suggestions/Guidance for Publishable Article Format

This section contains helpful guidance and suggestions for students and committees and should be seen as advising and orientation rather than formal policy.

Don’t force what should be a more “traditional” dissertation into the publishable chapter format. For instance, describing the methodology and approach for your research will not produce a “publishable article.” Journals want original research that contributes new knowledge or tests existing theory. Often you will spend more time on the research work and analysis in order to successfully produce multiple publishable articles than if you used a more traditional approach to your dissertation.

Publishable article chapters need to look and feel like articles that have been published in scholarly journals. A specific publishable chapter should conform (as much as dissertation formatting guidelines allow) to the submission guidelines for the targeted journal.

Students are strongly encouraged to use electronic citation software for their dissertations. In the case of the publishable article format the use of such software is highly recommended. With differing requirements for formatting and the possibility of submissions to multiple journals if not accepted upon the first submission, electronic citation software is very useful.

Advantages of Multiple Article Dissertation Format

1. Multiple Articles foster identity as a reflective practitioner by learning and experience in publishing process and provide an opportunity for publishing for students interested in an academic career. The format accelerates publishing for competitive job markets.

2. Recommendations and comments from reviewer can improve quality, but this can take a lot of time.

3. It is easier to disseminate knowledge.

4. Facilitates a variety of methodologies (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, etc.).

5. Helps monitor progress for advisor.

6. Assists in building a research program.

Disadvantages of Multiple Article Dissertation Format

1. May be unfamiliar to some advisors and committees.

2. Sometimes difficult to determine how to break up projects, danger of dissertation that struggles for coherence.

3. Not always applicable; some studies are too big or don’t divide easily.

4. Managing time between dissertation and publishing “revise and resubmit” cycle.

5. Risk of more work or longer time (many small projects).

(The lists above are modified from a presentation by Hector German Rodriquez, Ph.D.)

Copyright Issues

Copyright issues may get complicated in the publishable article format for DPA dissertations.

For students who wish to publish the chapter articles after the dissertation has been submitted, ProQuest allows any work submitted to them to be reused by the author without permission from ProQuest. In some cases a student might choose to “embargo” her/his dissertation. This will allow submitted manuscripts from the dissertation to be published first in a journal. Working closely with the journal editor on these issues is very important in this process. See the Office of Graduate Education Dissertation Guidelines for more on the embargo process.

Inclusion of work in the dissertation that has been previously published by the degree candidate is a common practice in research institutions across the country. Students who wish to publish articles before completion of the dissertation should carefully review the Dissertation Guidelines section on “Using Your Own Previously Published Material in Your Dissertation.” This section details the contacts and agreements a student will need to make with journal editors in order to use articles published in these journals in a dissertation. Permission letters from journals will be required at the time of the submission of the dissertation.

Students with questions regarding copyright should review the Graduate Office guidelines for dissertations and/or contact the Graduate Office.

Note: Some of the text above has been used or modified from the policies of the University of Arkansas, UIC and other sources.

A PhD manuscript does not need to resemble a ‘door stop’. The traditional format — divided into introduction, literature review, methods, results and discussion — is not the only option for presenting your research. In some fields of study (and at some universities) students can opt for the three (or triple) article dissertation (TAD) format, also known as the journal article format. This involves organizing your thesis into three (or more) publishable full-length articles, and joining them with an introduction that presents the general theme of the research project, as well as summarizing the main findings in the conclusion chapter.

Should I choose the TAD, journal article format?

Students should discuss format options with their advisor and Dissertation Committee to make sure it is acceptable at their place of study, as well as being appropriate for their topic. The journal article format might be difficult to execute if you have a single focal question that cannot be easily divided into three (or more) logical manuscripts. The approach is more suitable for projects that involve multiple experiments and various data sets, or for mixed methods studies where the author wishes to separate the qualitative part from the quantitative part.

This approach might be particularly pertinent to part-time students. For example, if a PhD takes six years to complete, there is a possibility that early research becomes outdated by the time the student gets ready to graduate. However, if there is a series of papers that get submitted and critiqued as the research progresses, this drawback can be managed.

TAD format strengths

Knowledge dissemination is very important in the academic world. By organizing your work into journal publications, you are learning the important skill of communicating your findings. You also increase the possibilities of getting published and cited prior to defending your thesis. Students who chose the traditional format often do not get a chance to transform their manuscripts into articles once their PhD is completed. Another benefit of the TAD format is if for any reason you do not get to finish your PhD, you still have published work from you academic efforts.

Students who opt for the TAD format also purport that this approach enables them to split their thesis into manageable chunks and set realistic goals. Moreover, these students experience more structure as their work gets continuously monitored both formally and informally by different parties – e.g. by their advisor and journal reviewers.

TAD formatweaknesses

There is a realistic possibility that the papers you submit to journals get rejected. Also, the acceptance process can often be lengthy. Nonetheless, receiving timely feedback can also be very beneficial, as it helps you improve and adjust your work sooner rather than later. You also need to consider the possibility that after the review, the framing of your papers will change, which might affect the overall alignment of your articles and your project as a whole. Some authors might struggle to write a coherent introduction that connects all the articles, especially if they become disjointed as they pass the review process.

Journals also impose word or page limitations, so it might be difficult to include all the study’s details and its full background. However, this can be overcome by including appendices to your dissertation text. One last thing to consider with the journal article format is the authorship. You usually need to be able to show that you are the sole or primary author on at least two of the published (or publishable) articles.

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