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On the Internet, I have found that some people have graduated with a PhD by means of a “sandwich thesis”. Could anyone explain what it is?

  • This might be termed "PhD by Published Work" in some UK universities. That is were a body of previously published work is assessed instead of a single new thesis. – TafT Jun 28 '17 at 7:26
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    The Finnish way of saying this is "artikkeliväitöskirja", or "article thesis". – Tommi Brander Dec 30 '17 at 17:20
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I believe that a sandwich thesis (sometimes called an integrated thesis / stapler thesis) consists of a collection of published or in-press articles (some schools also allow submitted articles). These articles are included in the thesis verbatim. The publications are usually preceded by an elaborate introduction that sets the context for the thesis.

EDIT:

As Willie Wong pointed out, there is also usually a final discussion / conclusion after the integrated papers.

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    This is essentially correct. It's sometimes called a "stapler" thesis as well, for obvious reasons. – aeismail Feb 16 '12 at 6:08
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    the collection of published / in-press articles usually makes up the bologne and lettuce, while one is often asked to tack on two slices of bread (introduction/conclusion) on the outside. – Willie Wong Feb 16 '12 at 9:38
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    @GWW: that's just what I've heard used (so don't take it as authoritative in anyway). And "open-faced sandwiches" are not unheard of. And perhaps there is an academic equivalent of the KFC Double Down :-). – Willie Wong Feb 16 '12 at 14:39
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    In some fields these are also called "Portfolio dissertations" or "3-article dissertations". – Kieran Mar 9 '12 at 15:51
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    This is the standard in Scandinavia, at least in the natural sciences. – gerrit Jun 7 '12 at 21:52
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Supplementing GWW's excellent answer somewhat, the "sandwich thesis" or similar concepts, seem to be rising in popularity. For example, in my University, they're afforded equal standing to the more traditional "book"-style thesis, and in my Department, they're the required form of a dissertation.

The reasoning for this is fairly straightforward. In many fields that don't rely on book publishing as the primary means of publication (most of the sciences), the production of a large manuscript-style work is likely a one time event. One can have an extremely successful career without publishing another book, and the mechanisms to publish books on research findings (rather than say methods) may not actually exist.

As such, requiring doctoral students to produce something like that is counter-productive - they gain no experience in the future requirement to publish journal articles, and leave graduate school with a body of work that isn't represented in the journal literature. The idea of the sandwich thesis is to get around this by layering several journal-style publications (either submitted or unsubmitted) as the meat of the sandwich, with an introduction, perhaps a joint high-level methods section and a conclusion section weaving them into a coherent narrative as the bread. This allows the student's work to flow nicely into the literature in a way that's useful to all involved.

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    Also: almost nobody reads a thesis buried in a library archive in an archaic format. Putting the "meat" into the peer-reviewed literature makes it much easier to find. – user244795 Nov 29 '12 at 20:01

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