Guidelines for PhD Integrated Thesis Format


PhD students in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies (RLS) have the option of structuring their dissertation in a traditional, monograph format or in an integrated thesis format.

The monograph format is a sole-authored document that consists of several chapters. The specific structure and substance of various chapters within the monograph can vary and should reflect the student’s philosophical, theoretical, and/or methodological frameworks. Students should consult their supervisor and supervisory committee in determining how to organize this style of dissertation.

The integrated thesis format includes a compilation of chapters that are each structured similarly to a journal article. Dissertations following this format should also include introduction and conclusion chapters that contextualize the articles within the student’s broader PhD research. Students wishing to pursue the integrated thesis format must have the approval of their supervisor and supervisory committee.

Regardless of the format, all dissertations must adhere to the thesis formatting requirements of the University of Waterloo.

Guiding principles for an integrated thesis

The integrated thesis format allows students to present their doctoral research as a series of articles, which are in and of themselves stand-alone pieces of scholarly work, but which cohere to one subject of research conducted as part of the student’s PhD program. Each article is situated within related literature and includes other components associated with scholarly manuscripts. Articles based on empirical investigations may utilize the same dataset or different datasets, while articles based on theoretical or methodological innovations may rely on other sources of scholarly evidence and argumentation.

Students are required to include introduction and conclusion chapters in the integrated thesis to make clear how the papers fit together and contribute to their field of study. In particular, students should use the introduction and conclusion chapters to establish the social and scholarly relevance of the collection of articles; explain the substantive, theoretical, and methodological scope of their research; and discuss the implications and contributions resulting from the entire research project.

The following guiding principles are intended to support students, supervisory committees, and dissertation examination committees with ensuring the academic quality and integrity of an integrated thesis:

  1. The integrated thesis adheres to the same principles and expectations of scholarly work for PhD students. The responsibility for assuring scholarly rigor rests with the student and their supervisory committee. The student’s supervisory and defense committees are responsible for assessing the quality of each of article, as well as the entire integrated thesis itself.
  2. The integrated thesis must present a unified account of the student’s PhD research project. It is not a collection of papers which are only loosely connected. The student is responsible (as supported by their committee) for ensuring the work is situated within relevant substantive, theoretical, and methodological debates in the field and that the scholarly contributions to knowledge, as well as direction for future research, are clearly articulated.
  3. The integrated thesis must represent the student’s original research contributions during the program. Specifically, the integrated thesis must demonstrate the student’s independent, major, and/or leading role in designing and conducting the research (e.g., defining research questions/hypotheses, gathering and analyzing data), and preparing the written documents included in thesis. All articles included in the integrated thesis must represent work undertaken while the student is enrolled in the PhD program.
  4. The supervisory committee is responsible for ensuring the student is the sole or principal author of all articles and chapters included in the dissertation.
  5. In the case where co-authored articles are included, the rules and procedures itemized in “Section D” below must be adhered to.
  6. Typically, an integrated thesis in RLS will include three (3) articles.
  7. Normally, the student, in consultation with members of the supervisory committee, will indicate the choice of the integrated thesis format during the preparation and defence of the dissertation proposal. However, it may be possible to switch from one format to the other provided that the student’s supervisory committee is consulted and approves the switch in advance of the thesis being submitted for review and examination.
  8. The student may include a published journal article in their integrated thesis, if and only if:
    1. all authorship and publisher copyright requirements are adhered to;
    2. the supervisor agrees to the manuscript’s inclusion as an integrated and substantial chapter of the dissertation; and
    3. the article is an outcome of research that is part of the student’s PhD program.
  9. The publication or acceptance for publication of an article included in the integrated thesis does not supersede the authority or responsibility of the Thesis Examination Committee to evaluate the thesis or to recommend or require changes. Thesis examination policies and procedures are not changed to accommodate an integrated thesis. This includes the oral examination, which may focus on assessing the candidate’s knowledge as much as question the written thesis document.
  10. As with any other dissertation, students must submit their integrated thesis in accordance with the guidelines in the Guide for Graduate Research and Supervision at the University of Waterloo.

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Integrated article thesis format

Integrated theses in RLS must adhere to the thesis formatting standards of the University of Waterloo. Within these general guidelines, an integrated thesis in RLS will normally include each of the following components:

Front Matter

  1. Title Page
  2. Examining committee membership
  3. Author’s declaration

The thesis must contain one of the two following statements on the Author’s Declaration page:

  • “I hereby declare that I am the sole author of this thesis. This is a true copy of the thesis, including any required final revisions, as accepted by my examiners. I understand that my thesis may be made electronically available to the public.”
  • “This thesis consists of material all of which I authored or co-authored: see Statement of Contributions included in the thesis. This is a true copy of the thesis, including any required final revisions, as accepted by my examiners. I understand that my thesis may be made electronically available to the public.”
  1. Statement of contributions

    For a thesis that is not a sole-authored document, the University requires that the student has made the major contribution to the work, to the satisfaction of the examination committee. The student will include a statement of contributions in the thesis (see procedures for including co-authored material). This statement should include the full citations for any published articles used as chapters within the thesis. 
  2. Abstract

    The thesis should have only one abstract, located within the front matter in the order indicated here. The abstract includes a brief description of the subject matter and summarizes the main themes presented in the thesis.
  3. Table of Contents
  4. Lists of Tables, Figures, Illustrations, Abbreviations, and/or Symbols
    Tables, figures, etc. should be included in appropriate chapters and numbered consecutively using the chapter number (e.g., tables presented in Chapter 2 would be numbered Table 2-1, 2-2 and so on). This practice avoids the table number repetition that may occur when material from separate published articles is used.

Main Body

  1. Introduction (Chapter 1)
    The introductory chapter provides an overview of the student’s PhD research and explains how the articles are integrated, including descriptions of their combined relevance and contribution to the field. It should include, but not be limited to:
    1. a discussion of the relevance of the area under exploration to the broader field of Recreation and Leisure Studies;
    2. a review of the theoretical foundation(s) supporting the research;
    3. an overview of the most relevant background literature (this is an overview because each paper is situated within its own more specific literature);
    4. an outline of the research objectives and/or question(s) addressed in each paper; and
    5. a discussion of the methodological approach(es) used.
  2. Research Chapters (i.e., Chapters 2, 3, and 4 if integrating three articles)
    Normally, at least two of the papers will be based on data analyzed by the student. If one or more paper is conceptual in nature, including a synthesis of the literature or an in-depth discussion of the theoretical or methodological orientation of the thesis research, it must be connected to the theme(s) of the dissertation without overlapping heavily with the contents of the other papers. It must also present a clearly articulated theoretical or methodological innovation or contribution to the field. Whether the extent of any overlap is excessive will be determined by the student’s supervisor and supervisory committee. When published articles are directly reproduced as a chapter, a short preamble or postscript may be added to enhance logical and coherent transitions between chapters.
  3. Conclusion (Chapter 5)
    The concluding chapter summarizes the specific and overall outcomes of the integrated articles and explains the contributions of the thesis to the field. The Conclusion should include:
    1. brief summary of the dissertation’s major findings
    2. limitations
    3. discussion (including implications for the field of Recreation and Leisure Studies)
    4. recommendations for future research and/or practice

In both the Introduction and Conclusion, the student will present and discuss linkages (i.e., similarities and differences) among the separate manuscripts that are included in the dissertation, striving as much as possible to present the document as representative of a coherent body of work.

Back Matter

  1. Letter of copyright permission (if required)
  2. References
    Only one Reference (or Bibliography) section may appear within the thesis and must be located within theback matter. Guidelines for citation and references must adhere to one consistent style (typically APA style is used within RLS). Regardless of whether the body of the thesis contains chapters representing separate pieces of published work, the thesis must contain one full reference list for the entire document.
  3. Appendices
    Appendices are often optional. Normally, appendices are included to provide supplementary information that detracts from the readability of the main body of the text or to present select data, documentation, or information relevant to the development of the thesis research. For example, research ethics approvals and protocols, detailed explanation of research procedures lengthy tables, illustrations, or sample analyses may be included in the appendices. 

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Procedures for including co-authored material

Co-authored publications are a common practice in many disciplines and fields of study. Like any PhD thesis, however, the integrated thesis must represent the intellectual contributions of the student submitting it for credit. A Statement of Contributions is therefore imperative for ensuring that a student submitting an integrated thesis that includes co-authored article(s) can be assessed on their own contribution to the collective publication(s).

As noted in the integrated article thesis format, the front matter of an integrated thesis must include a Statement of Contributions that clearly distinguishes the specific contributions of the student from those of all other collaborators or co-authors.

  • The supervisor must include a signed statement which confirms the information provided by the student in this section.
  • Additionally, each co-author must confirm in a signed statement the extent of her/his contribution to the co-authored article(s) included in the thesis.

These statements must be provided along with the thesis as separate documents. The objective of this requirement is to assure examiners that there has been full disclosure of collaborative activity. In providing these statements, all parties involved must take into consideration the rules and regulations of the University of Waterloo’s Academic Integrity policy.

Additionally, the Statement of Contribution should list the full citations for any published articles used as chapters within the thesis. It should also acknowledge and outline the contributions made by the reviewers of published articles included in the these.

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Approved March 2021