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I am about to submit a PhD thesis by published work. The university guidelines states that "the content of the papers should be the result of original observations". I would like to include a review article I wrote last year.

This review article does not report novel experimental data, but as a regular review article, it reports "observations" of the current state of research.

Is this view correct? Can I include it in my thesis?

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    Presumably, this is a question that only members of your faculty can answer. However, I think it is more common to not consider a review article an original contribution (or observation, which I assume ends up the same). – xLeitix Aug 19 '14 at 15:13
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    Elaborating on xLeitix's second sentence, I'd recommend not including the review article in your thesis, even if your university allows it. Review articles are valuable contributions to the literature, but they aren't original research. In particular, you don't want it to look like you are padding your thesis to make it look longer or to shore up an otherwise marginal dissertation. (This isn't fair, but some readers would jump to uncharitable conclusions, and it's not worth giving even a small number of people a bad impression.) – Anonymous Mathematician Aug 19 '14 at 15:35
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    Review papers are typically not considered to have 'content resulting from original observations'. Now, can you include it in your thesis? That depends of what your committee thinks. But that could make a very good introduction chapter. – Cape Code Aug 19 '14 at 15:36
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    Isn't such an article likely to feed your literature review section? – Bill Barth Aug 19 '14 at 16:39
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I think that review articles can of course be original work, provided that they offer something like an analysis of the current literature. A mere list of positions and the people who take them isn't going to count as a contribution to the literature. However, showing people that certain pieces of literature form families that have resemblences to one another, or that a certain piece has been cited a lot, although people have overlooked another important, but unknown piece that calls its thesis into question, etc. . . those are all important, and indeed original contributions.

I'm guessing that your article probably is analytical in this way, otherwise it wouldn't have been accepted for publication in the first place. I'd say that if it is a high-quality article, published somewhere respectable, then go on and include it in the thesis. Although obviously the usual caveats ("Check with your advisor!") apply.

  • Thanks! A follow-up - the review article was indeed included and the thesis accepted this way. – marsei Sep 2 '15 at 21:39

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