Bringing the doctoral thesis by published papers to the Social Sciences and the Humanities: A quantitative easing? A small study of doctoral thesis submission rules and practice in two disciplines in the UK

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This paper examines how an alternative to the traditional monograph form of the doctoral thesis is emerging that reflects a new approach to the valuation and designation of scientific outputs. This new approach, based on co-citation as underpinning principle for the measurement of knowledge structures, values knowledge and knowledge producers in increasingly quantitative terms. Such a change aligns with wider institutional market-based approaches that have been transforming higher education sectors world-wide. Under these influences, which prioritize quantification and tangibility of output, with quality equated with citation, the thesis, a key institution of the university, is now subject to pressures to transform and be constituted by a series of publishable papers, referred to by a variety of terms, the most common being ‘Thesis by Published Papers’, although ‘Journal Format Thesis’, ‘Alternative Format Thesis’, and ‘Integrated Thesis’ are also used. While the scientific disciplines have traditionally been closer to this paper-based model, albeit with significant national variations, Social Sciences and Humanities subjects are now being affected. We present evidence from a small study of the UK higher education sector of organisational regulations in 54 departments concerning doctoral degree submission formats in two disciplines in the Humanities and Social Sciences (History and Sociology). We investigate the prevalence of this new practice, investigate some of its key aspects, and identify a number of questions for future research on this emerging and important topic.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Article number124
Pages (from-to)1387-1409
Number of pages22
Early online date15 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020