Do it like Albert Einstein did in 1905... The cumulative dissertation is not new. Albert Einstein wrote it in the same way in 1905. He was in the Bernese Patent Office when he wrote 4 articles and published them. And there he was, a doctor... If he can do it, we can do it, right?

What is a normal, typical dissertation?

The normal variant of the dissertation is the so-called monograph, a text of 150 to 500 pages or even more. There is one big lead question that must be answered exhaustively.

In any case, writing such a monograph is exhaustive... It takes a long time, isn’t always fun and the results are often hidden in many long text passages. So reading the text is not really fun. To make matters worse, you have to publish an article or two on the topic so the science community will take notice of this convolute at all...

What is a cumulative dissertation?

A cumulative dissertation is a doctoral degree awarded after a doctoral student has published one or more articles in peer-reviewed academic journals and has thus proven his or her competence. An article (or paper or study) is a scientifically sound text. The volume is about 30 pages.

The following features are typical:

  • The article has a strictly standardized outline.
  • ONE research gap is defined and researched.
  • As a rule, empirical data is collected and evaluated with certain methods (meta-studies are an exception because these evaluate the findings of dozens of studies and generates new insights)
  • An article is anonymously peer-reviewed and critically commented on by experts. This revision may take longer.
  • Real academic journals are very picky. But there are also magazines that publish articles for a fee. Do not quote these so-called predatory journals! The professional audience is already familiar with them.

The cumulative dissertation is practically an abbreviation of the normal PhD monograph. The paper is written and published. The ideal model is to write a breakthrough article that makes it into a so-called A-journal (there is even A+). This is roughly the Einstein way. However, three papers in a normal journal (C ranked) are fine.

The cumulative dissertation has many advantages.

  • You can finish much faster than a monograph. These are the reasons for this:You have to write much less, only about 30 pages instead of 300 so obviously you can finish faster.
  • The outline of your article is already determined. You don't have to structure so much.
  • The previous papers will give you orientation.
  • You have a steep learning curve, since you follow the research process three times.
  • Maybe you can actually create an A-paper. Then you will be finished even faster. Each of Einstein’s papers would have been enough on its own...
  • You have much quicker interim successes. This increases your motivation and thus your speed.
  • It’s attractive to supervisors who can act as co-authors.
  • By the way, papers can also be written and submitted without a supervisor. To do so,  ask them for the promotion. However, you have to study the regulations carefully.
  • Papers are much more focused and in-depth on a topic.
  • Writing a paper is more predictable. The work scope is lower.

However, the cumulative dissertation also has disadvantages:

  • You have to be really brief. You only have 30 pages.
  • Writing in English is a MUST.
  • There’s no transparency so you don’t have the opportunity to hide any weaknesses.
  • The "placement" in journals can be an ordeal.
  • The peer review process can take a long time, up to 2 years.
  • All interested parties will see your paper IMMEDIATELY. You might even read it. So be prepared for criticism!

The stages of the cumulative dissertation

The short version (Einstein’s version) looks like this: research, write, publish.

But nowadays, it probably takes a little longer. These are the normal stages:

  1. Find topic
  2. Create Proposal
  3. State of research
  4. Research design
  5. Models
  6. Gather data
  7. Analyze data
  8. Submit

Tips for the beginning of the cumulative dissertation:

  • Start with WHY! Why write a thesis?
  • Create a keyword collection (a keyword cloud)
  • Find three super papers for your keywords.
  • Study the 3 papers as examples.
  • Create the matrix for the three super papers.
  • Study the research design template.
  • Study the paper template.
  • Your personal check: Did I want that outcome? Can I do it myself?

Think carefully about what kind of dissertation you want to write...

We wish you success with your dissertation!

Silvio and the Team Aristolo

PS: Check out the PhD Guide for writing a PhD in 200 days.

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