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Durham University

Learning and Teaching Handbook

8.6.7: Including Published Works within Research Degree Theses

Statements of Principle

1. The overarching principle for the University’s current approach to including published works within thesis is that this is permissible on the understanding that a research degree including published work is not a distinct qualification, and that it will be assessed against the same criteria as a conventional thesis.

2. The University’s approach is deliberately flexible. Published works might take the form of individual discrete papers, or publications woven directly into the main body of the text. Given the variation in disciplinary approaches to publications, there are no rules on the number or length of published works which might be included.

Key Principles:

3. The following key principles provide guidance for departments, students and examiners when including published works within theses:

a. publication during a candidature is a positive, and should be encouraged;

b. a PhD, Professional Doctorate or Master’s degree including work published during candidature is not a separate category of degree;

c. work to be included within the thesis must have been completed during the candidate’s period of study at the University, and will not have been submitted for a qualification previously, at this University or elsewhere;

d. work to be included must be the student's own. If any jointly authored work is incorporated into the thesis, the candidate's individual responsibility for that work should be clearly indicated, and co-authors must confirm that they are happy for the work to be included. If it is not possible to indicate clearly the individual responsibility, or the co-author(s) do not grant permission, then the work should not be included;

e. it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that any necessary copyright permissions are sought prior to submission;

f. while there may be subject conventions on the typical number and length of publications which one might include within a thesis, there are no specific rules defining these requirements;

g. the thesis should form a coherent whole, with a consistent argument or series of arguments running through it, and consistent formatting used throughout. Published material must be incorporated into the thesis. Published material may be adapted, edited and amended, or may be included in as published, depending on context and the individual thesis;

h. the thesis will not consist of publications alone: every thesis will include an introduction and conclusion; included publications will most likely need to be supported by additional support text (e.g. on methodology);

i. the thesis will be subject to the relevant Research Degree Core Regulations, and to the Rules for the Forms of Compositions and the Submission of Work for Higher Degrees;

j. the thesis will be examined under the same conditions as any other thesis, and will be subject to the same assessment requirements[1];

k. the full range of examination options are available to examiners, and examiners may recommend changes to theses which include published works as they fit. In some cases, this could include amendments to the published text directly (as it appears within the thesis), or the drafting of additional text to support the published text;

l. the fact that a thesis incorporates work which has been published may be taken as evidence in support of the statement that a thesis ‘should include substantial matter worthy of publication’ (or equivalent); however, the fact that a thesis incorporates some work which has been published does not guarantee that a student will meet this criterion. The inclusion of published work within a thesis does not guarantee that a thesis will pass, and any doctoral or higher master’s degree candidates will in addition need to perform satisfactorily in their oral examination (viva);

m. any further guidance provided by departments for students (e.g. on typical layout and formatting) must be approved by the relevant Chair of FEC (PG).


[1] For the award of PhD, a candidate would need to demonstrate: the ability to conduct original investigations; the ability to test or explore ideas / hypotheses (whether their own or those of others); the ability to understand the relationship of the theme of their investigations to a wider field of knowledge.

The thesis would need to include: an original and significant contribution to knowledge, for example through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of new theory, or a new analysis of older views; substantial matter worthy of publication; The style, presentation and general arrangement of the thesis would need to be satisfactory.