A perhaps controversial article, posted on the Times Higher Education site, asks whether the whole concept of the doctoral thesis is in need of an update. In fact, it asks whether the doctoral thesis is “obsolete” but maybe that’s an over-statement for headline purposes.

The concept of the traditional doctoral thesis format being past its sell-by date was originally raised, via Twitter, by a director of the Wellcome Trust, which supports many doctorate students. He had examined the thesis of a PhD student from a London university and, although he said it was an ‘honour to examine‘ what he said was ‘a brilliant thesis‘, it seems that he was also struck by the immense amount of time that had gone into the writing of the thesis. The article which followed discusses whether or not the traditional thesis format represents the best use of candidates’ time.

“… time to look at the PhD thesis? What is best for candidate & for research in 21stC?”

The Times Higher Education article compares today’s fast, snappy world of communication with the perhaps ‘old school’ approach taken to PhD theses which, it’s argued, hasn’t really kept pace in terms of format. Some estimates put the writing and fine-tuning of a typical PhD thesis at around 6 months or more. Some also argue that the content delivered often includes way more descriptions of laborious and technical processes and principles than actual research and critical appraisal from the author, although such inclusions rather depend upon the topic of course. According to the article, a professor of physics at a major UK university even describes this type of approach as ‘very often superfluous‘ and providing ‘little or no insight into the student’s work‘.

The article goes on to discuss possible alternative formats for theses, including the possible adoption of the ‘integrated format’ as the UKCGE calls it (or ‘continental model’ as it’s also known) as used in many European countries already. Whatever happens, though, it’s widely accepted that any hypothetical alternative to the current thesis format would need to demonstrate the author’s ‘individual contribution to knowledge‘ and that the research is conducted ‘soundly, securely, ethically and with a robust methodology‘.

The full article, which is a very interesting and detailed read, is available here.

Thesis Printing & Binding

Whatever happens, though, one thing that we’ll probably not see changing is the need for doctoral theses to be beautifully printed and bound, to university specifications. And that’s where we come in — The Document Centre has been at the forefront of printing and bespoke bookbinding in the UK for many decades. In particular, we are known for our fast and professional thesis printing and binding services for university students. Indeed, we were pioneers in bringing online printing and thesis binding to the UK although, of course, we also serve students in person from our SE1 London shop. For more details call us on 020 7928 9738contact us here or simply order and upload your thesis for printing and binding here.