A PhD thesis for the digital age?

For many years I’ve been impressed by the doctoral theses produced by many of the European universities in which a sequence of research papers are bound together in a small paperback volume along with the brief introduction and summary. They make the traditional hard bound tomes that most British and Australian universities still insist upon look like something from the middle ages.

I liked them so much that when we ran the Centre for Clinical Research Excellence in Clinical Gait analysis and Gait Rehabilitation down in Melbourne we paid  to have doctoral level theses bound and printed in a similar way (even though the Universities insisted on them being submitted in conventional format). I’ve still got a series of them on my shelves today which I show off with pride.

Given this background I was particularly pleased to receive a link to her thesis from Dutch PhD student Lizeth Sloot. She’s taken things one stage further and used a blogging platform to develop a web-site around her PhD thesis (click here to view it). I must admit that I haven’t had a great deal of time to look in detail at the contents but I think the presentation is superb.


My understanding is the she’s develop this approach on her own rather than under instruction from the VU Amsterdam where she has been studying, but wouldn’t it be great if all theses could be published like this. As an examiner, I always feel a sense of foreboding when  a traditional thesis is passed to me and a sinking feeling that here are 200 pages of text that I’ve got to wade through. This style, by contrast, has me wanting to click on the links immediately and start exploring the science.

Well done Lizeth – I hope you’ve provided us with a vision of how all theses will be presented at some time in the future. Perhaps even more importantly, I hope that your defence goes well on 1st April (details here  for anyone in Amsterdam on that day).





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