Thesis formats

The University permits theses to be submitted in a range of formats, depending on the nature of the research undertaken and to allow inclusion of material in a form suitable for submission for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The student and supervisory team should discuss at an early stage which thesis format would be most beneficial to their learning and career path. Sponsored students are advised to check first with their sponsor whether there are any restrictions on the format of their thesis. Some sponsors may only allow the submission of a monograph format thesis.

The following formats are permitted:

  • Monograph
  • Thesis including published works (or works formatted with the intention or possibility of publication)
  • A practice-based thesis

Irrespective of the format, all doctoral students must be able to satisfy the Faculty that the thesis:

  • is original work undertaken under the supervision of a Sheffield supervisor which forms an addition to knowledge; and
  • shows evidence of systematic study and of the ability to relate the results of such study to the general body of knowledge in the subject; and
  • is worthy of publication either in full or in an abridged form.

In addition, the format of the thesis should be such that it is demonstrably a coherent body of work, i.e. includes a summary, an introduction, a description of the aims of the research, an analytical discussion of the related findings to date, the main results and conclusions, and sets the total work in context.

A thesis submitted for examination must be substantially different from any material that has previously been submitted by the student for any degree or qualification at this or any other institution.

Monograph format thesis

A monograph-style thesis is a thesis comprising a number of chapters. The thesis typically includes the following: a summary, an introduction, chapters describing the aims of the research and a description of the methods used and the theoretical basis underpinning them, and an analysis of the results and conclusions that sets the work in context. The student is the sole author.

Publication format thesis

This format incorporates a collection of papers that are in a format suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. This may include scientific papers, book chapters or other appropriate published formats. The papers may appear alongside traditional thesis chapters, or they may comprise the majority of the thesis as a collection of published works that forms a substantial and coherent whole, supported by a commentary that links the submitted works and outlines their coherence and significance.

Materials included in the publication format thesis may include those that are solely and/or partly authored by the student. The papers or chapters may have already been published, be accepted for publication, or planned for submission for publication where a specific format is expected. Equally, there may be no intention of submitting the papers for publication because of the nature of the results, but the purpose is to familiarise the student with the conventions of academic publishing.

The thesis must remain an original contribution to the field of research. Within the introductory section to the thesis, the student should provide a clear explanation of the nature and extent of their contribution to each of the publications presented, as well as the contribution of any co-authors and other collaborators. The materials contained within the thesis must normally be derived from original research undertaken by the student while supervised by a University of Sheffield supervisor.

The intention to submit a publication-based thesis must be discussed and agreed with the supervisors at an early stage to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the expectations required for thesis submission. A final decision about format should be taken at the point of Submission Review. There is no longer a requirement to request formal permission to submit a non-traditional thesis from the faculty.

Contributions and permissions

The normal expectation is that the student should be the primary contributor to the writing of each of the papers, including the design and conduct of the reported research. It is relatively commonplace in some disciplines for students to co-author publications with their supervisory team or wider research group. In many disciplines, ‘primary contributor’ would be denoted by the student being the first or last author. This is not, however, the case in all disciplines. It is therefore essential that the student clearly states the nature and extent of their contribution, and that of any collaborators, within the thesis.

If there is any doubt as to the specific contribution of the student to material with multiple authors, the University retains the right to contact other authors to seek assurance about the student’s contribution.

If a thesis contains published material the length of which has been determined by a particular publisher’s requirements, students must ensure that additional explanatory text pertaining to methodology or detailed and critical analysis of the work or supplementary statistical data or other aspects are included to ensure the thesis is a coherent whole.

Confirmation that permission has been obtained where appropriate to include material that has been published or accepted for publication in the thesis must be obtained by the student.

Pagination

It is essential that the pagination of the thesis makes sense and is easy for the examiners to navigate. Where possible, the pagination sequence should flow throughout the thesis. This might necessitate including separate versions of the papers, rather than inserting pre-prints. To ease readability, figures, tables and accompanying legends should be included at the appropriate point in the text, and not at the end of the text as would often be typical for a paper submitted for publication. Should this not be possible, the thesis may include published material that already has its own pagination. However, in this instance, the pages of the publications themselves should not be included in the overall pagination sequence of the thesis to avoid confusion. It is recommended that a page should be included before each publication with the publication number, title and page number of the thesis. The pagination sequence of the thesis will then resume at the end of the publication.

Copyright considerations

A paper that has been published or accepted for publication may have involved the student signing a copyright transfer agreement, transferring the copyright to the publisher. Some publishers allow the retention of certain rights, sometimes including reprinting a whole paper or parts of it in a thesis. Students must confirm this with the publisher at the time of publication. If not confirmed at the time of publication, retrospective permission must be sought.

Students should deposit the author accepted manuscript (post peer review) version of journal articles accepted for publication in the University repository, White Rose Research Online, via myPublications at the point of its acceptance by a publisher. The University Library will then offer assistance in managing adherence with any embargo periods. Publishers may permit the inclusion of the author-accepted manuscript in the ethesis under embargo for the relevant period.

Amendments to published work

The examiners may request corrections to a part of the thesis that is already a published paper following the viva examination. It is recommended that where corrections to published papers are requested this should be addressed in the final thesis by the insertion of a page immediately following the paper in question explaining the nature of the corrections required by the examiners. Where these are substantive changes, the student and supervisor may need to consider whether a formal correction also needs to be submitted to the journal as well, although this will be a rare occurrence.

Practice-based thesis

A practice-based thesis allows students to submit a shortened monograph-style thesis supplemented by additional material comprising a practical component, for example, a portfolio of original compositions, portfolio of creative work, a recital or performance. This format is only accepted in specified degree programmes.

The thesis must clearly present the additional material in its relevant context and describing the research methodology and process. A permanent record of the additional material will be bound and submitted with the thesis, where practicable.

Students should follow the regulations for the specific degree programmes where such a submission is allowed. Apart from the inclusion of practical materials, the thesis itself should conform to the same standards expected for a monograph format thesis.

A template statement for acknowledging collaborative work included within the thesis is available to download.