In a follow up to his post on ‘When is enough reading enough for a doctoral thesis’, Ian Brailsford provides some fascinating metrics on the size of doctoral theses. Ian is Postgraduate Learning Adviser in the Libraries and Learning Services at the University of Auckland in New Zealand.
By Ian Brailsford
The digitisation of doctoral theses is a great boon to current doctoral candidates: reviewing recent examples of doctoral work in their institution is only a few clicks away. New candidates can appraise doctoral work done by former scholars in their department to get a feel for aspects such as chapter structure, page length, academic writing style, and referencing conventions: reading a thesis to write a thesis as Cally Guerin recently advised. Moreover, they can readily access doctoral work globally and, with a bit of research savvy, probably locate a PDF copy of their supervisor’s doctoral thesis!
As a postgraduate learning adviser one of my regular weekly routines has been to check our digital repository to see which new doctoral theses have been uploaded. This reconnaissance is a nice way to see who has finished, who has been thanked in the acknowledgements, whether or not the thesis includes publications, and if I’m able to understand the abstract. Although a few new doctoral theses are embargoed, there are usually six or seven new ones to scan through each week.
Just over three years ago I started keeping an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of how many pages there were in each thesis and the number of chapters. Once I got a sample of 100 theses from 2015 I began looking for patterns in the data. Continue reading