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The university is asking me whether or not my PhD thesis is a “cumulative dissertation”. I’m wondering what the difference would be for the university. By cumulative, do they mean stacking the published/submitted papers?

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Cumulative dissertation is probably a literal translation of the German Kumulative Dissertation, which denotes a thesis by publication, compilation thesis or article thesis, i.e., a thesis which typically consists of some peer-reviewed publications, an introduction, and a conclusion. The alternative to this is a monograph thesis, which is written separately as a coherent monolithic work and whose individual chapters are not intended for being read on their own.

The requirements on such a cumulative dissertation differ between universities and even faculties, so you have to look into their rules for those.

  • Thanks for the useful information but here is the question: what is the other possible form of dissertation? because to me it seems all phd dissertations include summary of the published/submitted papers. – Ehsan Feb 17 '16 at 14:45
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    The alternative is to write a book, a single manuscript with chapters that together form one cohesive argument. So there is something more than the staple that holds the individual chapters together. In that case the chapters are not individually publishable as articles. This is popular in discipines that favor writing books over writing articles. – Maarten Buis Feb 17 '16 at 15:02
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    @MaartenBuis: It is also still quite common in some countries and universities. For example, the vast majority of theses at my faculty (science and mathematics) are still monographs, despite the fact that the involved disciplines being focussed on papers. – Wrzlprmft Feb 17 '16 at 16:13

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