Guidelines for Multi-Article Dissertations

Guidelines for Multi-Article Dissertations

In addition to the traditional five-chapter dissertation, the University Graduate School allows for dissertations comprised of articles suitable for publication. Students pursuing careers in which publishing articles is important may benefit from this dissertation format. The multi-article format is not easier than the standard format, and a student’s decision about which format to pursue should be made in collaboration with their committee.

The University Graduate School Bulletin says:

Although work published by the student may be incorporated into the dissertation, a collection of unrelated published papers, alone, is not acceptable. There must be a logical connection between all components of the dissertation, and these must be integrated in a rational and coherent fashion. It is the responsibility of the student’s research committee to determine the kind and amount of published materials which may be included in a dissertation.

In response to student and faculty requests for additional guidance about article-based dissertations, the School of Education’s Graduate Studies Committee has developed the following suggested guidelines1.

Contents of an article-based dissertation:

  • Front Matter (e.g., title page, abstract, etc.) See UGS guidelines for more specifics that apply to all dissertations.
  • Introduction or Chapter 1, which explains the importance and coherence of the collection of articles, including conceptual and/or theoretical links across the articles. This may be brief to avoid redundancy with later chapters.
  • Middle chapters, which consist of articles suitable for publication.
  • Concluding chapter, which discusses findings and implications of the collection of articles, making clear the coherence of the work. Again, this may be brief.
  • References and appendices may be included within each article and/or compiled at the end of the dissertation.


While article-based dissertations often include three empirical articles or a literature review followed by two empirical articles for Ph.D. degrees, the committee decides on the acceptable number and format in light of norms in the student’s field, degree program (Ph.D. or Ed.D.), and the student’s goals. For example, article-based dissertation configurations might include:

  1. 1 literature review article (similar to Review of Educational Research articles)
    1-2 empirical, philosophical or methodological articles
  2. 1 literature review article
    1 empirical, philosophical, or methodological article
    1 practitioner article
  3. 1 or 2 empirical, philosophical, or methodological articles
    1 or 2 practitioner articles
  4. Three empirical, philosophical, or methodological articles
  5. Other formats committee members agree is acceptable.

General Notes:

  • The student should obtain committee approval of dissertation structure at the proposal stage. The proposal should include a synthesis of literature to set the stage for the work being proposed, an outline of each proposed article, and details of the proposed methods for each scholarly article.
  • In accordance with UGS requirements, the dissertation must form a coherent body of work, with the introduction and concluding chapters making this coherence clear.
  • The student must be the first author on all articles and must clearly contribute the majority of the original conceptual and intellectual work for each article. Contributions of any co-authors must be delineated in the dissertation proposal and the dissertation.
  • Articles must be of publishable quality, but publication is not required for dissertation approval. The student should seek committee advice on publication outlets, which might include scholarly journals, practitioner journals, edited books, or other venues. Final responsibility for selecting and submitting to outlets lies with the student.
  • Although the literature and methods described in multiple chapters may be similar, students should carefully avoid self-plagiarism so that problems will not occur at the publication stage.
  • The student is responsible for managing copyright permissions with chosen outlets.

1The creation of these guidelines began with discussions of documents from the University of Texas at Austin and The University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Students looking for more extensive guidance may find those documents useful.