DOCTORAL STUDIES. In writing the main thesis text, doctoral students need to be sure that the text is completely original and that it does not contain parts copied from the composite papers included in the thesis. Otherwise problems can arise if journals want to include some of the unpublished manuscripts.
Theses at Sahlgrenska Academy consist of primary thesis along with component papers, usually three or four or them. The component papers are independent articles that have either already been published in a scholarly journal or are about to be published. The primary thesis is the student’s own description of the research conducted, in which students place the results of the component papers in relation to the research domain and demonstrate that they can identify the strengths and weaknesses of their own contribution to the field.
Use care in formulations
It has become increasingly common for journals to use plagiarism tools to detect if a submitted manuscript has content that has already been published, which in some cases has already led to problems for doctoral students at Sahlgrenska Academy:
“It has come to our attention that manuscripts have been questioned or denied publication because the diagrams or formulations in the submitted manuscripts proved to be identical to the primary thesis text that is e-published in Gupea, the University of Gothenburg’s electronic archive of publications,” says Anna-Karlsson Bengtsson, vice dean for doctoral education at Sahlgrenska Academy. “For that reason we emphasize that it is important for students to be very careful to ensure that the wording of the primary thesis text is completely original and to not use paragraphs or diagrams contained in the component papers.”
Do not repeat
Doctoral students have great freedom in terms of how the primary thesis text is to be formulated. The instructions the faculty provides to students in the manual Defending a Thesis make clear that the text of the primary thesis should be the student’s own and that copying material such as text passages from the component papers may not occur. The text of the primary thesis should be more of a discussion than a repetition of the component papers’ content.
“Write a completely new text and avoid using material from the component papers. And do not include any diagrams or tables from the manuscripts.” This is Karlsson-Bengtsson’s response when I ask for some solid advice for students writing their primary thesis.
Plagiarism review of primary thesis text
In a new project headed by Khalil Helou, Academy-wide director of studies for postgraduate education, a pilot is being conducted this autumn in which theses written by the faculty’s doctoral students are reviewed for plagiarism using a program called Ithenticate. The program compares the text in the thesis with all text available on the internet, including text published in scholarly journals, to prevent the risk of plagiarism. However, the project does not review unpublished manuscripts, either against the Web or the thesis.
“We teach students about this in the mandatory module on academic skills, but supervisors also need to be fully aware that doctoral students who use formulations from the component papers in the primary thesis text risk having problems when journals are to accept their unpublished manuscripts,” says Karlsson-Bengtsson.
TEXT: ELIN LINDSTRÖM
You can read the manual “Defending a Thesis” at Sahlgrenska Academy here: https://medarbetarportalen.gu.se/sahlgrenskaacademy/postgraduatestudies/rules-and-regulations/