A thesis by compilation (otherwise known as a thesis by publication) is a thesis which includes some of your journal article manuscripts which have been or are in the process of being published. If you are writing a thesis by compilation, its structure may be slightly different to that of a traditional thesis. However, a thesis by compilation still requires you to have a central argument. Even though you may present multiple manuscripts, they each need to develop your argument in response to your main research question(s).
There are several ways to structure a thesis by compilation. Since manuscripts typically only convey a part of your research, and are published as standalone pieces, you will need to explain throughout the thesis how each manuscript develops your main argument. It is also very likely that you will need to include chapters in addition to the manuscripts, so that your argument is fully developed. There are a range of options for how to do this.
One popular option is to provide linking sections between the manuscripts. Linking sections introduce your manuscripts and explain how they contribute to your thesis' research question(s) and argument. These sections are usually a few pages long, but can be longer. You can also provide linking sections at the end of a manuscript. Typically, this format includes:
- A thesis introduction
- A literature review (which may be part of the thesis introduction or a separate chapter)
- The thesis body chapters which include (in an order that logically supports your argument):
- Manuscripts, each preceded by a linking section introducing the manuscript. A summary section further linking the manuscript to the central argument may also follow each manuscript.
- Non-published chapters
- A general discussion chapter and/or conclusion.
In addition to providing linking sections, you might consider expanding on the material in your manuscripts. Since manuscripts fit concise word limits, they can usually only represent part of your research. You might wish to include further data, analysis and discussion relevant to the manuscripts and your argument. Such expanded material could be presented following the relevant manuscripts, or presented as additional body chapters. Another approach is to present revised and extended versions of manuscripts as if they were traditional thesis chapters. This approach enables authors to add material and show the full extent of their data and analysis. In these cases, the manuscript is usually placed either directly before or after its extended version.
Note, however, that if you wish to include any supplementary material that is secondary to your central research question, then it should be placed in appendices rather than in the main thesis.
Whichever options you consider, discuss your approach with your supervisor. Your supervisor will be able to provide guidance about whether you are meeting the requirements for a thesis by compilation. Further, the ANU has policies and procedures which provide important information about the amount of of published work to include in the thesis and arrangements about co-authoring.