An Exploration of Changing Dissertation Requirements and Library Services 


The article explores the dissertation requirements for PHD students in different departments
The research on dissertation requirements was conducted in three departments in the Association of American Universities (AAU)
These departments include English, political science and chemistry
The research focused on determining the use of traditional monograph dissertations in the department over modern forms of dissertation (Fong, 2017).

The research involved sending a questionnaire to graduate programs directors via email
The questionnaire was more on forms of dissertations accepted in their department
Questionnaires also investigated on library skills available or trained to doctoral students
Search on departments’ websites for requirements of PHD dissertations was also conducted.


The results demonstrated a poor response.
Only 32 out of 145 sent questionnaires were completed.
This accounted for 22.1% response rate on average.
The poor response rate limited the study from being accepted as a systematic study.
Response rate per subjects included 21.2% for chemistry, 22.4% for political science and 22.7% for English
Despite the low response rate, the outcome was still viable to make reliable deductions (Fong, 2017).

Chemistry Department results

Out of 11 respondents, 3 claimed doctoral dissertation can include accepted or published scholarly articles
Two of them noted that articles must be peer-reviewed while one noted non-referred articles can be accepted at directors discretion
Co-authored articles are accepted while others demand the student to be the primary author
Others accept articles with student as a co-author but with an explanation of student’s specific contribution
Some demand an introduction and overview chapters
Number of required publications not identified in any case
Some universities only accept traditional monograph (Fong, 2017).

Chemistry Results Critical Analysis

There is a high level of inconsistency on what is permitted and what is not permitted in a chemistry PHD dissertation
There seems to be no particular principles to guide PHD programs in chemistry
Although the majority have embraced changed in dissertation writing, others still prefer the traditional format
This brings in the question of the effectiveness of the preparation done to PHD graduates in this field.
There is also no consensus on co-authorship and number of publications to be made
Generally, there are no set standards that chemistry PHD graduates must fulfill
This makes one wonder whether they are all qualified in the same way or whether they can all handle a certain job-related task with the same level of efficiency.

Political science results

Out of 11 respondents, 9 claimed to accept three paper doctoral dissertations
A minimum of three papers, not necessarily published seemed like a dissertation standard adopted by majority in the political science department
The articles need to be related in theme
They also need to be supplemented with an introduction and overview chapter
This format is accepted as a way of boosting students’ career path in contribution to scholarly work
This is also being influenced by the growth of subfields and economics influence in political science
There is however variation in co-authorship policies in different departments (Fong, 2017).

Political science dissertation critique

There is considerably a high level of consistency on the dissertation format in political science
Although the time of adoption of the new format varies, the trend is highly positive towards three paper dissertation
Co-authorship is uncommon in political science and not encouraged by the majority
Publication is encouraged but not compulsory.
This department seems to adopt a standard that is more consistent compared to what was seen in the chemistry department
PHD graduates in this department thus seems to attain a certain standard which can be regarded to be acceptable by the majority

English dissertation results

Out of 10 respondents, 4 have embrace web-based or digital projects as doctoral dissertations
Majority are using digital supplement in their dissertation submission
English dissertations are also allowed in different formats including monograph, translation, creative writing, and related essay collections
Creative writing can also vary further into poetry, short stories, plays, or novel
Publication is encouraged but not a must
Dissertation here are long ranging from 250 to 300 pages
A change in pages requirement is encouraged to reduce the time taken to complete PHD degree in English (Fong, 2017)

English dissertation results critique

English dissertation seems to have embraced modernity in its dissertation format
The departments permits the use of websites or digital though students have not embraced it fully
Unlike other departments, English department accepts varieties of dissertation formats
It is thus highly flexible giving students a chance to explore the English niche that interest the student the most
The department seems consistent in embracing diversity and modern technology across the AAU
However, there is a need to pay attention to page limits as a way of reducing time spent doing PHD program

General Assessment of the results

The results show a lack of consistency on dissertation formats among similar departments in AAU
Majority of institutions depend on their research directors to determine the formats and approaches, and whether to accept or reject co-authorship, and whether articles must be published or not
This demonstrates the possibility of qualification variation among PHD holders in the same field but pursued in different institutions
Some institutions are highly conservative, while others are dynamic, creating great variation on what is covered in their studies and how it is covered

General Assessment of the results con

English department is among the most flexible departments followed by the political science department
The chemistry department seems to be more conservative, with strict rules still governing modern formats of dissertations.
In general, there are changes taking place to replace the traditional monograph dissertation format
Although some may take longer to accept the changes, they will eventually have no choice but to embrace it
This will mostly happen when the market starts preferring PHD holders with modern touch in their scholarly work over those still using traditional format

Library Services Results Analyis

There is disciplinary difference in the on library skills to be attained by doctoral students
Mandatory library skills are required in humanities compared to sciences
English students get library training during their course and in an extensive manner
Political science and chemistry students get library training lightly in a 1 hour or 1-day session
Students needing extra library skills in the two disciplines can source it at a personal level
This means students may have varying library skills based on individual efforts to acquire them (Fong, 2017).

Database training is highly prioritized by all the three departments
This may be due to the need to search for materials needed to support dissertation development
Citation management tools are the second most prioritized skills as it assists in dissertation writing
The three varies on the materials to prioritize on particularly due to different focus and approach in dissertation development per department
Provision of information on different dissertation formats is encouraged, though this can be quite hard based on a high level of variation in accepted modern formats
Libraries are also requested to train on different digital formats especially with regard to dissertation format and in different digital formats.


The research demonstrates in dissertation format for different disciplines by AAU institutions
Single-written monograph is still highly acceptable in sciences as other disciplines embrace modern article-style dissertation
Where modern format is accepted in science, a lot of emphasis is given on publication for peer review and is the main author
Three-paper dissertation is extensively accepted in political science
Co-authorship is not embraced in social sciences
Diversity is highly embraced in English department, with some still accepting monograph
More training on library use is more encouraged especially in sciences and social sciences where this is minimal

Audiences’ Question

A variation is highly noted for dissertation format in the same and different departments and disciplines. This raises a number of questions;
Do you think it is possible for all universities to forget traditional monograph dissertation format for modern formats
Can there be laws to define standards dissertation format for PHD students in each discipline?
Can there be a standard library training curriculum for all PHD students in AAU to meet specific standards for all?


Fong, B. L. (2017). An exploration of changing dissertation requirement and library services to support them. Libraries and the Academy, 17(1), 129-144.

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