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The PhD by Publication

Susi Peacock
IJDS , Volume 12 , 2017

The purpose of this work is to develop more nuanced understandings of the PhD by publication, particularly raising awareness of the retrospective PhD by publication. The article aims to contribute to contemporary debates about the differing pathways to the attainment of doctoral study completion and the artifacts submitted for that purpose. It also seeks to support prospective graduate students and supervisors who are embarking upon alternative routes to doctoral accreditation.

The PhD is considered the pinnacle of academic study – highly cherished, and replete with deeply held beliefs. In response to changes in job markets, developments in the disciplines, and more varied student cohorts, diverse pathways to completion of this award have emerged, such as the PhD by publication (PhDP). A PhDP may either be prospective or retrospective. For the former, publications are planned and created with their contributions to the PhDP in mind. The retrospective PhD is assembled after some, or most, of the publications have been completed. The artifact submitted for examination in this case consists of a series of peer-reviewed academic papers, books, chapters, or equivalents that have been published or accepted for publication, accompanied by an over-arching narrative. The retrospective route is particularly attractive for professionals who are research-active but lack formal academic accreditation at the highest level.

This article calls upon a literature review pertaining to the award of PhDP combined with the work of authors who offer their personal experiences of the award. The author also refers to her candidature as a Scottish doctoral student whilst studying for the award of PhD by publication.

This work raises awareness of the PhDP as a credible and comparable pathway for graduate students. The article focuses upon the retrospective PhDP which, as with all routes to doctoral accreditation, has both benefits and issues for the candidate, discipline, and institution.

The literature review identifies a lack of critical research into the PhDP, which mirrors the embryonic stage of the award’s development. Two specific anxieties are noted throughout the literature pertaining to the retrospective PhDP: first, issues for the candidate when creating and presenting an artifact submitted for examination; and, second, the diverse, and sometimes conflicting, advantages and challenges for the candidate, the subject specialism, and the institution of this pathway to doctoral accreditation.

The advantages and challenges of the retrospective PhDP, for candidates, disciplines, and institutions are summarized especially pertaining to the artifact for submission, to guide conversations between supervisors and potential doctoral candidates.

It is hoped that this work will inform on-going conversations about pathways to PhD accreditation.

The article closes by proposing an emergent typology of the PhDP and by posing questions for those working in the area of doctoral study. Both seek to progress conversations about routes to doctoral accreditation.

PhD by publication, doctoral studies, PhD by published works, PhD by pub-lished papers

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