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3 Article Dissertation Proposal

Three Article format (Handbook Home)

The Graduate Office policy states students who use the “publishable articles format” for their dissertation are required to have three fully developed parts.

  1. An overall introduction explaining why the previously published or publishable papers were used including a substantive discussion of the theme or themes that tie together the articles.
  2. The previously published or publishable papers.
  3. And overall conclusion comparing/contrasting the previously published or publishable papers and the significance of the research completed in the articles, what additional aspects of the topic still need to be explored, and so on.

If the dissertation contains articles that have been published previously, the student should note the copyright requirements and documentation required elsewhere in the Dissertation Guidelines.

DPA Program Policy

It is acceptable to submit a doctoral dissertation composed of some number of previously published or publishable papers. A student who wishes to use this format should seek the approval of his/her dissertation chair before beginning the project, at the dissertation proposal stage, and should notify the Graduate Office when submitting the dissertation. The use of the publishable article format is entirely at the discretion of the student’s dissertation chair and committee. Your dissertation committee, not journal editors or reviewers, will determine whether the chapter substantially meets the content and submission guidelines for a credible submission for publication as well as the meeting the program’s dissertation goals.

Articles published previous to the defense of the dissertation proposal are not eligible for use in the dissertation.

In the multiple article format, it is important that the introduction and conclusion be very substantive, that the three articles be integrated by a theme and include a strong literature review, and that these opening and closing chapters integrate the whole dissertation while providing a meaningful context for the article chapters. The articles included must be such that it is possible to see a real unity in the content of the dissertation. While there is no requirement that the articles used in the dissertation be published, there is the real expectation that the introduction and conclusion be very strong and that the articles contained in the dissertation be publishable.

When using tables or materials from collaborators, footnotes must acknowledge the contribution of the collaborators, including any figures, tables, or data that were not created by the author alone.

DPA Suggestions/Guidance for Publishable Article Format

This section contains helpful guidance and suggestions for students and committees and should be seen as advising and orientation rather than formal policy.

Don’t force what should be a more “traditional” dissertation into the publishable chapter format. For instance, describing the methodology and approach for your research will not produce a “publishable article.” Journals want original research that contributes new knowledge or tests existing theory. Often you will spend more time on the research work and analysis in order to successfully produce multiple publishable articles than if you used a more traditional approach to your dissertation.

Publishable article chapters need to look and feel like articles that have been published in scholarly journals. A specific publishable chapter should conform (as much as dissertation formatting guidelines allow) to the submission guidelines for the targeted journal.

Students are strongly encouraged to use electronic citation software for their dissertations. In the case of the publishable article format the use of such software is highly recommended. With differing requirements for formatting and the possibility of submissions to multiple journals if not accepted upon the first submission, electronic citation software is very useful.

Advantages of Multiple Article Dissertation Format

1. Multiple Articles foster identity as a reflective practitioner by learning and experience in publishing process and provide an opportunity for publishing for students interested in an academic career. The format accelerates publishing for competitive job markets.

2. Recommendations and comments from reviewer can improve quality, but this can take a lot of time.

3. It is easier to disseminate knowledge.

4. Facilitates a variety of methodologies (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, etc.).

5. Helps monitor progress for advisor.

6. Assists in building a research program.

Disadvantages of Multiple Article Dissertation Format

1. May be unfamiliar to some advisors and committees.

2. Sometimes difficult to determine how to break up projects, danger of dissertation that struggles for coherence.

3. Not always applicable; some studies are too big or don’t divide easily.

4. Managing time between dissertation and publishing “revise and resubmit” cycle.

5. Risk of more work or longer time (many small projects).

(The lists above are modified from a presentation by Hector German Rodriquez, Ph.D.)

Copyright Issues

Copyright issues may get complicated in the publishable article format for DPA dissertations.

For students who wish to publish the chapter articles after the dissertation has been submitted, ProQuest allows any work submitted to them to be reused by the author without permission from ProQuest. In some cases a student might choose to “embargo” her/his dissertation. This will allow submitted manuscripts from the dissertation to be published first in a journal. Working closely with the journal editor on these issues is very important in this process. See the Office of Graduate Education Dissertation Guidelines for more on the embargo process.

Inclusion of work in the dissertation that has been previously published by the degree candidate is a common practice in research institutions across the country. Students who wish to publish articles before completion of the dissertation should carefully review the Dissertation Guidelines section on “Using Your Own Previously Published Material in Your Dissertation.” This section details the contacts and agreements a student will need to make with journal editors in order to use articles published in these journals in a dissertation. Permission letters from journals will be required at the time of the submission of the dissertation.

Students with questions regarding copyright should review the Graduate Office guidelines for dissertations and/or contact the Graduate Office.

Note: Some of the text above has been used or modified from the policies of the University of Arkansas, UIC and other sources.

(Much of that described below is taken with permission from the School of Social Work at the University of Texas1)

Dissertation Structure

Under the ‘three papers’ model, a PhD thesis consists of three separate papers of “publishable quality".  The papers may not merely represent minor tweaks of a work that would be more appropriately reported in just one or two papers. The papers should be of normal journal article length (say, between 5,000 and 10,000 words). The papers are each free standing (in the sense that each can be read and understood independently) but should form a cohesive body of work that supports a theme that is expressed clearly in the introduction of the dissertation (Chapter 1). In addition, Chapter 1 may contain essential background information. There may also be a general literature review, but this is not necessary. Therefore, the ‘three papers’ PhD thesis looks like this:

  1. Introduction and background to the general topic area. This will function as the cord that weaves the various papers together and describes, for the reader, their ‘collective meaning’ and ‘combined contribution’ to the field. It should include:
    1. a definition or statement of the problem,
    2. the importance of the problem, i.e., why it is worth researching, why it matters to the field of MIS, and its potential implications for business and society.
    3. the philosophical and theoretical foundation (s) supporting the problem/issue,
    4.  an overview of the important literature (overview, because each article will have its own unique literature review),
    5. the research questions,
    6. In the case of co-authorship on any individual chapter within the dissertation, the student must indicate the percentage of effort and a description of the role played by each author in the introductory chapter.
  2. First paper.
  3. Second paper.
  4. Third paper.
  5. Conclusion and implications and suggestions for further research, including: The conclusion will briefly summarize the dissertation’s major findings, limitations, discussion, and recommendations. The student will also present and discuss linkages (i.e., similarities and differences) between the separate manuscripts that are included in the dissertation, striving as much as possible to present the document as representative of a coherent body of work. The conclusion chapter ‘ties’ everything together and helps the reader see how the various manuscripts, taken together, make a contribution to the knowledge base regarding the problem. The conclusion chapter should present/discuss research imperatives, or knowledge gaps, not visible when each manuscript is considered individually and should articulate an agenda for future research on the issues addressed in the dissertation

The total number of chapters is thus usually five, and the total length approaches 150 type-written pages (a maximum of about 35,000 words). As with the conventional PhD thesis, appendices of unlimited length may be added, but these appendices are commonly appendices to each paper, rather than appendices to the thesis as a whole.

Quality of Papers

The three papers must be of "publishable" quality, which is defined as that which would be accepted for publication by a journal in at least Tier 2 of the Bauer journal list for the MIS area either extant at the time of the dissertation proposal defense or as amended by the time of the dissertation final defense. This quality will be judged by the dissertation committee. However, papers published or accepted for publication by at least a Tier 2 journal serves as prime facieevidence of publishability.

Published Papers

A maximum of one article published or accepted for publication prior to the proposal defense may be included. This article must represent work undertaken while the student is enrolled in the PhD program and be approved by the committee at the time of the student’s proposal defense. This article must be connected to the theme of the dissertation. If a previously published article is approved by the committee, the student will be responsible for securing necessary permissions from the copyright holder and other authors.

Student's Contribution

Students must be the primary contributor on all papers, as determined by the dissertation committee. As primary contributor, students are responsible for development and articulation of a concept or idea for research, development of a proposal to pursue this idea, development of a research design, conducting research and analysis, writing major portions of a manuscript, designing an intervention or assessment (if relevant), and interpreting results.

At least two of the papers should be based on data that are analyzed by the student. If the third article is conceptual in nature, or based on a synthesis of the literature, it must be connected to the theme of the dissertation without overlapping heavily with the contents of either article. Whether the extent of any overlap is excessive will be determined by the student’s dissertation committee. (A certain amount of overlap is acceptable. For example, portions of the literature review may need to be cited in the various papers because it delineates the entire historical background of the study’s focal topic. Redundancy can be carefully reduced by citing one’s own work. However, self-plagiarism - reusing one’s own previously written work or data in a ‘new’ written product without letting the reader know that this material has appeared elsewhere - is prohibited.)

Co-authors must be identified at the student’s proposal defense. The paper and the role of the co-authors must be presented and approved by all members of the dissertation committee. Any changes in co-authorship must be approved by the student’s committee.

Submission of Papers to Journals

Journals to which articles are being submitted must be approved by the dissertation committee. Serving as an “editorial board” for the student, the committee will help select journals that will challenge the student and offer a reasonable chance of publication success.  If a paper is rejected by a journal during the dissertation process, the student may submit to another journal approved by the dissertation committee. In the case of a revise and resubmit during the dissertation process, any changes to the paper must be approved by the dissertation committee. Co-authorship will not be changed for a revise and resubmit.

If the journal reviewers suggest modifications to any of the 3 submitted manuscripts prior to the dissertation defense, your plan for addressing those suggestions should be shared with your dissertation committee members and approved by all of them before you enact the changes. Changes can be made to any of the 3 manuscripts provided that the dissertation committee members are aware of and agree to the changes being made and their rationale. Students may opt to defer changes requested by a journal to which they have submitted an article until their dissertation has been successfully defended.

If a paper is rejected by a journal after the successful completion and defense of the dissertation, co-authorship decisions that were made during the dissertation process will no longer be in effect. Submission to a new journal will be at the sole discretion of the PhD graduate. Also after the successful dissertation defense, any new submission or resubmission, including changes in the authorship or article content, will be at the discretion of the PhD graduate.

Switch from Traditional to 3 Paper Format & Vice Versa

Students should decide as early as possible, in concert with their dissertation chair, whether to pursue the 3-disseration format. However, they may switch from one format to the other at any time provided that their dissertation committee approves the switch.

Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal must include

  1. Introduction and background to the general topic area. This will function as the cord that weaves the various papers together and describes, for the reader, their ‘collective meaning’ and ‘combined contribution’ to the field. It should include:
    1. definition or statement of the problem,
    2. the importance of the problem, i.e., why it is worth researching, why it matters to the field of MIS.
    3. the theoretical foundation (s) supporting the problem/issue,
    4.  an overview of the important literature (overview, because each article will have its own unique literature review),
    5. the research questions.
  2. Copies of any completed articles, whether published or not.
  3. An outline of any articles in progress.
  4. A list of proposed journals.
  5. A timeline for completion of the work. The defense of the dissertation proposal is expected to parallel the proposal defense for a traditional dissertation. The three article dissertation alters the format, but not the content, expected in the dissertation research.

 

(Approved by MIS Faculty August 26, 2016)

1 Permission given by Allan Cole, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, School of Social Work, The University of Texas, August 3, 2016.


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