Doctoral Disseratation – Three paper format

Dear friends,

I enjoyed your company at OCIS and AMCIS doctoral consortium. It was a pleasant and learning experience. It was reassuring that all of us are in the same boat and have quite similar issues facing us.

I am wondering if you are following three paper format for your thesis (or for that matter any one in your department) and do you have specific guidelines for three paper format (like when to defend your proposal e.g. after second paper is completed or at the time of formulating third study etc).

As nobody in my area group has yet defended three paper format proposal we do not have very clear guidelines and it is very difficult to arrive at consensus regarding appropirate time to defend the proposal. It will be a great help if you could share those guidelines/ documents/ information.

Wish you all the best in your quest for thesis completion and job search

Best regards,


6 Responses

  1. Cheers Israr,

    I was talking to people who are doing dissertation in this sense… Here in Europe, this is particularly popular in scandinavian countries, i.e. Norway and Sweden. Their model is: 3-5 paper-dissertation with a clear »introduction« and »conclusion« sections. The trick is that the papers need to be interrelated and be part of the same broad (dissertation) research question, that is looked at in 3-5 parts (=papers).

    Defense happens when complete dissertation is done, nicely rounded up, and written up, not earlier. I hope this is not too scary. It kinda is, i know. 🙂 Sorry… well, it’s only north european model I guess there are differences with your school/commiittee expectatitons. Let’s wait for people to answer, I know there were couple of others who are working on this in this same manner, well at least I know Yukika Awazu, our student representative, is.

    Best regards from me, to everyone, too. I know we will keep bumping into each other, so looking forward to the next opportunity. And don’t forget. PhD is just a project. One of them in your life.


  2. Israr, good question. One individual, who is entering his fourth year in our program, started a three paper dissertation but then went back to the traditional “single big paper” model. I don’t know the details of his experience, but it doesn’t look like his three-paper model worked out.

    My advisor, Varun Grover, is open to a three-paper model but has never done one. I’m trying to finish my program in four years, so I’m reducing my risk by going with the traditional model.

    One final note. Clemson intends to hire a tenure-track assistant professor in IS. In doing so, I have been fortunate to glance at some of the incoming applications and CVs. There are a number of very good applicants and, interestingly enough, a substantial number of them are doing a three-paper dissertation.

  3. We’ve had several recent graduates who did multi-essay dissertations. At least one that I can remember proposed 3 essays and had their committe scale it back to 2 essays.

    Of the last half dozen students or so student who defended I’m guessing it’s been about half-and-half between the multi-essay and single essay formats for Smith School IS students.

    I was originally planning on doing a multi-essay format but then honed in on just a single essay. There are certainly pros and cons with each one approach but in the end the deciding factor for me is that I can only present one piece of research in a job talk!

    Also, as I grew comfortable that the research model I was developing for my “primary essay” would produce multiple significant research insights (either during the dissertation or in follow-on data gathering / analysis), it became much easier to push the other essays to “future efforts”.

  4. This reply is quite some time after the original quesiton but thought I would post anyhow. The main cited adv of the 3 paper format is that you have 3 papers ready to submit or to have already submitted prior to examination. This certainly helps in the job hunt.

    Publishing your work in refereed publications also means that it is refereed prior to marking. This adds to the quality control of the work.

    I also favour the 3 paper format becuase it clarifies your contributions and also breaks the work up so it not just one rather large piece of work but a series of managable pieces of work (i.e. you feel like your making progress).

    A final advantage is that if your thesis contains work that could be undertaken by someone else while your doing your PhD, eg if it is a hot topic at the moment, (with the result that your work is no longer original) then publsihing during your PhD is your best risk mitigation; even in a refereed conference.

    The disadv is that it is three pieces of work, but I dont buy this argument. My understanding is that a PhD thesis should be 3 contributions anyhow so we are just talking presentation of the thesis rather than content.

  5. Hi Mark,

    Totally agree with you…

    Just a word of caution though… one needs to manage the process well so that he/she do not end up doing work of three thesis instead of one…

  6. […] writing three smaller papers rather than one large monography of comparable size. Today I found a great comment on the AOM OCIS Student Blog which describes some great benefits of the three paper […]

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