Following on from What is a "Sandwich thesis"? , is there an easy way to find out which departments at which universities will allow a sandwich thesis (aka a stapler thesis, portfolio thesis, three-paper thesis, thesis by portfolio of publications, thesis by publication, article thesis or compilation thesis)?

That is to say, universities that explicitly allow PhDs theses that consist of a collection of published or in-press articles, possibly topped and tailed by an introduction and summary? It is, to my knowledge, quite rare in the UK - does it perhaps tend to be a country-specific thing?

I accept that it will depend on the supervisor's approval too, but that's a secondary issue: the supervisor can't allow a stapler thesis if the university/department does not. My question is about identifying eligible departments.

  • 1
    Of course you don't need to explain if you don't want, but I'm curious why you're asking. I think it's a bit unusual to actively seek out an institution with the plan of doing a "sandwich thesis" (or indeed, with any so specific ideas about the ultimate nature of a thesis).
    – Henry
    Feb 16, 2012 at 13:15

4 Answers 4


The department where you are going to submit the thesis probably has a document of PhD/thesis regulations that specify if such a thesis is allowed. For example, my department's regulations have the following statement:

[...] Scientific publications may form a part of a doctoral thesis. If the doctoral thesis consists of several scientific papers, a presentation of the guidelines of the papers submitted has to be added in an appropriate extent. [...]

i.e. a sandwich thesis is possible here. So you should find out if your favored departments have similar regulations and have a look in there.


I know it's a "personal" answer, but I don't think it depends only on the university, but also on the department. For instance, I did my PhD in Computer Science at Paris 6, in France, and the thesis had to be an original document (although it's clearly possible to use content from published papers, but not in a copy/paste way). But I knew someone who did his PhD in Physics at Paris 6, and his PhD was a sandwich/stapler thesis. So there doesn't seem to be a global rule across the University, at least not for Paris 6.

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    I'd add that even within a department, it probably ultimately depends on your advisor and your thesis committee.
    – Henry
    Feb 16, 2012 at 12:40

It's essentially impossible to know if you'll be able to do a stapler thesis or not, because the decision also lies with the thesis supervisor, who may not allow you to do that, even if it is allowed by the rules of your university or department. I was co-advised, and one thought a stapler thesis was an inherently logical way to write the thesis, while the other thought it was a really bad way to write a thesis, and didn't allow his students to do it.

  • This is true: I've examined a sandwich dissertation as an internal examiner at my own institution, then I found out a different student had been denied this option because his supervisor didn't believe our university allowed it. May 18, 2012 at 15:41

I don't think there is an easy way to determine this. I don't think it is often set out in the University regulations. For example, where I did my PhD different departments would have different approaches and within each department different supervisors would have different approaches (that fits to what the department 'allows'). Moreover, by 'approach', I do not mean anything written down. Rather, there were/are unwritten, sometimes spoken, conventions.

You could infer these by looking at what theses have been written at the university, in each department under specific supervisors. N.b., if you have more than one supervisor, the power-relation may determine who's conventions are followed.

All of this is a lot of work. I would like to address what I imagine your original intention is - will I be made to do extra work that could be detrimental to my academic career (by reducing publications, for example)? If this is your motivation, perhaps a more effective tool is to simply see for each potential supervisor where their students ended up afterwards. You would not be able to infer what type of thesis must be written from this, but you would be able to get the bigger picture.

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