I am in the fourth year of my PhD studies in General Linguistics at a university in Spain, and I was working on my thesis in the form of monograph, until the beginning of this year when I managed to publish an article in a well-positioned journal. Because of this, my director has suggested I consider an article-based thesis (thesis by compendium of publications). I have consulted the Academic Committee of my programme and the general requirements are as follows:

  1. a minimum of three articles
  2. already published or accepted
  3. at least two of them published in journals indexed in an international index such as JCR (WoS) and/or SJR (Scopus) in the case of Social Sciences
  4. the doctoral candidate must be the first signatory of all the publications

Although I think there are many advantages to choosing the article-based approach (for example, I would have at least three articles published by the time of defending my thesis), I have two major concerns:

  1. Is a thesis in the traditional form of monograph more appreciated than an article-based one to some extent?
  2. In my case, I have to submit my doctoral thesis by January of 2025, and I just finished writing my second article and haven't submitted it to any journal, so I'm really worried if I can get two more articles published before that date.

I'm a little lost right now. Should I just opt for the safer monograph approach? Or should I work on the articles and the monograph simultaneously? Thanks to everyone for your advice in advance.

1 Answer 1


It's possible there is something here unique to Spain (I'm only familiar with the US), but from my perspective, a good thesis is a finished thesis, and the rest doesn't matter much. If it's accepted by the institution and your thesis advisor/committee, it's good.

For everything else: job applications, grants/fellowships, general value and perception as a researcher, the thesis doesn't matter at all. Only published journal papers (and conference papers if your field/subfield uses conferences as a primary publishing venue) matter. If there is content in the thesis worth reading by others, it should be published in a format that other people will read.

From those factors, the benefit of the article-based thesis is clear: the product involves working on the things that actually matter in every subsequent step, versus a product that only matters for your degree and after that will not matter. The drawback seems to be simply that if you do not have papers that fill the requirements, it is not possible. Personally I find requirements for a specific number of published/accepted articles to be extremely counterproductive; these requirements push students towards predatory publishers and may even encourage fraud. It shifts responsibility away from a thesis committee of professors at the institution onto typically for-profit publishers and anonymous reviewers who have no reason to respect a student's graduation timeline. However, you're likely not the person to change the rules.

Generally I'd suggest to follow whatever advice on thesis format your advisor gives. However, know that they may not know all the rules, either. Be explicit with your advisor about the advice you need: you have only one article, and you are concerned you will not have three accepted papers by the time you defend. Given that information, do they still think article-based is the way to go?

I'd also consider, though, that the overall format should be only a minor portion of the total work. The important work is the research work that makes the foundation of your PhD. Formatting in articles or a monograph is just the dressing around the edges.

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