Big blob thesis OR chapter = publication?

I have a PhD student that should be submitting by approximately Christmas time, so the last week has been a lot of reading and editing. Three chapters, which will eventually become articles, are now “thesis ready”, meaning they may need minor polish before submission but they are ready for external thesis evaluation.

As a supervisor, I have a strong preference for a thesis to be made out of a number of publications (or pieces that will turn into publications) over the long document, big blob approach. Some reasons:

  • Once the thesis goes for external review, some of the chapters will have already undergone peer review. It’s hard to fault a chapter that was already published. 😉
  • Once the students finish, they already have some publications under their belt. They have gone through the process, and I insist they do, so it is less mysterious.
  • We don’t have to chase a students after they finished just to write publications. It has happened that they get a job and publications become a distant priority.

There are some drawbacks too:

  • There is some level of repetition, often there are variations of similar introductions (although it depends on the structure of the chapters).
  • There is a need for writing a general introduction and general conclusions (albeit often short).
  • Completing each part requires more work, because students are targeting a higher standard of writing (publication rather than thesis).

I am sure there will be vastly different experiences in this topic.