Our symposium was also interested in the differences between writing a journal article and writing an extended monograph of up to 100,000 words. The sheer challenge of constructing a sustained argument over this many words clearly prepared the PhD for the book in ways that writing journal articles might not. So was there also something here, we wondered, about the PhD by journal publication being a way of preparing the audit ready scholar, already primed to turn out articles for high status journals, as opposed to what might appear as the increasingly less audit valued process of producing a monograph?
It is important to put on record that our symposium wasn’t suggesting that the solution to this increasing diversity should be some kind of monolithic pan-European doctorate, an extension of the Bologna process that would involve massive amounts of moderation, record keeping and audit. This would be the simple knee jerk bureaucratic response to emergent diversity. We did think that there might be a set of questions to discuss about the criteria used to evaluate/examine doctorates, and some work at the edges of what were reasonable expectations and what were not. We were very clear that there ought to be a conversation among the scholarly community at large about diversity and equity – it wasn’t something just for national policy-makers to think about.
The changes we were addressing are of course not the only changes in the doctorate. There are also increasing pressures on narrow nineteenth century definitions of the thesis by monograph brought about via digital and arts informed scholarship, and these too need to be taken into account in any discussions.
Anecdotally, I can personally say that each type of writing a scholar engages in will be different. A manuscript is different from an article, which are both different from a report, review, book chapter, or submission to government. And each is independently valuable insofar as each teaches discrete writing skills.
I know that there is a shift away from manuscripts, and towards PhD by publishing in the social sciences. I can certainly appreciate how this publication approach enhances CVs for postdoctoral fellowships (e.g. demonstrates a track record of publishing) but it also seems to take away from learning a key skill: book writing. While many people who receive a PhD won’t continue on into the academy there is a certain discipline associated with building, and sustaining, and argument over 80-100 thousand words.