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A thesis can be structured in a number of ways. The style you choose should be appropriate for your discipline. Your supervisor can guide you on which of the following formats best suits you:
Not all of these structures are available in all faculties. The table below shows which structures are available in the various faculties at Deakin.
|Faculty of Arts and Education and School of Architecture and Built Environment||All other faculties|
Monolithic text like a book
|Thesis by publication
Series of papers, some or all of which have been published by the time of examination
|Creative work plus exegesis
Visual arts, media arts, performing arts and creative and professional writing
Substantial dissertation together with reports, papers and publications in media appropriate for the professional context
You should discuss the length, composition and format with your supervisor, but you are responsible for its production and for ensuring that it conforms to the specifications. You may find it helpful to look at other theses from your discipline held by the University Library. If there are special reasons for a different format, these should be discussed with your supervisor at an early stage and approval must be obtained from the Research and Research Training Committee.
Examiners object when a thesis is too long. It is written for experts and should be as short as is consistent with the proper development of the subject for such readers.
The upper limits for theses, including the bibliography, appendices and any notes, are:
The final copy of your thesis must be free of errors – typographical and spelling errors in particular are a source of irritation to examiners and suggest a lack of care and attention. Use the spelling checker, but remember that this is no substitute for careful proof-reading of the text.
The conventional thesis is a monolithic text rather like a book. It tends to be structured as follows:
Published work may be incorporated in a conventional thesis. Higher degree by research candidates have always been encouraged to publish during candidature because the comments of reviewers can provide very useful feedback and thesis examiners will in general be impressed by material that has already been peer-reviewed. With a conventional thesis model, it makes sense to base chapters around these publications. The chapter tends to be a more detailed version of the publication. In some disciplines, it has been common practice to turn a thesis into one or more publications after the examination.
An alternative model, sometimes called "thesis by publications", is one in which the thesis comprises a series of papers, some or all of which may have been published by the time of submission. The thesis must include linking sections or chapters to explain how the papers constitute a coherent body of work. It is acceptable to include manuscripts submitted for publication, but not yet published as part or all of the publishable inclusions.
The University does not prescribe a minimum number of publications for this mode of thesis, because publication practices vary widely between disciplines. However, if individual schools or research centres choose to create their own guidelines they may do so, subject to approval by the Thesis Examination Subcommittee. In any case, the quantity and quality of publications assembled into a doctoral thesis must demonstrate that the contribution made by the candidate constitutes a substantial original contribution to knowledge, and a masters thesis must demonstrate a substantial piece of research executed with a high level of autonomy.
The thesis by publication model is perceived to have advantages for some candidates because it minimises the tension between preparing papers for publication and preparing the thesis for examination. It also has the significant advantage that examiners tend to be impressed by work that has already been peer-reviewed, as previously published papers would have been.
It is important that you discuss the proposed structure of your thesis with your supervisor early in candidature. If you decide to structure your thesis as a series of publications rather than a more conventional document, there are a number of important considerations.
Despite these cautions, the thesis by publication format does have the significant advantages stated above, that most examiners will be impressed by a collection of peer-reviewed works, and it may save work by not having to reformat publications into thesis chapters. This is weighed against the extra work in writing additional "glue" sections (the introductory and concluding chapters that describe how the publications constitute a coherent body of work and a substantial contribution to knowledge).
Open Access and Licensing (OPAL) is an online resource designed to help research students and staff understand and manage their rights and responsibilities as users and creators of information and learning resources. OPAL can help you:
The advice in the OPAL website should be accessed as early as possible in candidature, preferably as soon as the option of writing a thesis by publication is considered. That way the advice can be incorporated in the publication strategy, maximising the benefits and hopefully avoiding any pitfalls. To view further information click here.
Theses in the creative arts (visual arts, media arts, performing arts and creative and professional writing) may be presented in one of two forms: a conventional written thesis, or a thesis comprising creative work and a supporting written exegesis. In the creative work plus exegesis model, both components are examined. Together they need to demonstrate a substantial original contribution to knowledge.
The purpose of the exegesis is to elucidate the creative work's themes and/or place it in a disciplinary context and/or explore the creative processes involved. In the latter case, it may provide guidance to the examiner regarding the sequence of development in the creative work.
Additional detailed information is available relating to creative work examinations.
Further information relating to each area of the creative arts is provided in the relevant Advice to Examiners document.
Doctoral candidates in Arts and Education may produce a thesis which takes the form of a folio that includes a substantial dissertation, together with reports, papers and publications in media appropriate for the professional context. Candidates are required in their dissertation to present, develop and argue a position that they support by empirical study and locate in a clearly expressed understanding of the relevant literature and the relevant issues in applicable theory, policy and/or professional practice.
The folio should be a coherent selection of work carried out by the candidate, not simply a collection of unrelated pieces. It will normally include original evidence, a critical account of the methodology, a selective and critical review of relevant published research, and evidence of relevance to professional practice in the field. It may consist of one document or several, consisting of a selection of the products of research that establish the candidate's claim to have carried out research of doctoral standard.
In the field of education, for example, the folio will normally consist of two elements: a dissertation, and a selection of reports, papers and/or publications that constitute scholarly communication to educational professionals and/or workplaces. The different parts of the folio should be integrated through a commentary (either within the dissertation or as a separate document) that explains the relationship between the components. The reports, papers and publications may be papers delivered at conferences or published in academic or professional journals; they may be reports on discrete projects relevant to the thesis; they may be exemplars, evaluation reports or critical policy documents; they may be produced collaboratively with others, providing due acknowledgement of the contributions of others is made.
Further information about this model is provided in the relevant Advice to Examiners document.