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Notes on Publication-Based (Cumulative) Dissertation

Due to possible incompatibility of a publication-based dissertation with the common practices in Physics and resulting current disadvantages and imponderables we strongly commend Ph.D. candidates to hand in a classical monograph.

As an alternative to the classic monograph the TUM regulations for the award of doctoral degrees (PromO) in §6 (2) in principal allow a second form of dissertation the "publication based dissertation". This is an extended version of a "cumulative dissertation". Inspite of the extension of the pure cumulative dissertation (merely stapling together articles already published otherwise) to a publication based dissertation where articles already published otherwise need to embedded into a comprehensive part, many problems of the cumulative dissertation stay. Appendix 6 of PromO unfortunately specifies requirements for this based on terms that are insufficiently defined and hard to check – especially for independent examiners – (first author, leading author, …) or include requirements (page counts, number of publications, …) unusual in the Physics community. In case of a publication based dissertation the department deems the explicitely required equivalence to a dissertation according to §6 (1) PromO (monograph) as essential. This especially requires that "the dissertation is to demonstrate the candidate’s ability to do independent research work and provide a clear description of the results" (§6 (1) S. 1 PromO). The faculty will check for this especially during the acceptance of the dissertation ("Rundlauf"). Due to the introductory and methodology section, discussion section across dissertation topics, and review of relevant literature explicitely required (on the same level as in a monograph) a publication-based dissertation is expected to have a part before th cumulatively embedded articles essentially identical to a dissertation according to §6 (1) PromO. Hence a publication-based dissertation has no advantages over a classic monograph – only additional time and effort for the candidate.

Obviously a monograph does not exclude the publication of parts of the scientific results in journals as is common practice in Physics (refer to recommendations of the Conference of Physics Faculties (KFP) "Good scientific practice for scientific qualification reports and theses in physics" for an outline of this). Accordingly PromO requires the notification of prior publications irrespective of the form of dissertation. The recommendations of KFP mentioned above confirm the department’s view that cumulative dissertations are against common practice in Physics. They state explicitely: "As a rule, though, the main results obtained during the qualifying phase must be written up again in the qualifying thesis or report, even if they have already been published." As exceptions from this rule only "Habilitation" theses are mentioned.

We henceforth do not recommend Ph.D. candidates to hand in a publication-based dissertation.

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