It may seem easier to just submit some papers, than write a whole thesis, but in any case the student still has to bring the work together into one coherent whole, which follow the conventions of a thesis. A conventional thesis already allows published work to be included (as in the ANU's "Guideline: Candidature and Supervision of Higher Degree by Research Students" for example).
The details of what is required differ from university to university. The University of Canberra's "Guidelines for the Submission of a Thesis by Published Works" are reasonably clear (see appended). However, it seems an unnecessary complexity to have different categories of thesis (traditional, by published works, by publication). It would be simpler to have one set of requirements which recognizes that a thesis will contain a mix of newly written material, prior work and published works.
The main content of a PhD thesis may consist of published material (e.g. a series of journal articles), provided it is presented in suitable form for inclusion in the thesis and meets the following requirements. With agreement of the supervisory panel, a candidate enrolled in the Doctor of Philosophy course may elect to submit the thesis in this form.
A PhD thesis consisting of published work must meet the following requirements:
The body of the thesis should comprise:
- The articles or other published material must be prepared during the period of candidature (not prior to admission or used as part of the basis for admission).
- The papers should be of a standard suitable for immediate submission to a peer-reviewed journal. In many cases, it is anticipated that the candidate would have submitted these papers to a journal at the time of submission of the thesis, and that some may be in print, in press or accepted for publication at the time of submission.(Where the papers are not submitted or where they have been submitted but not yet accepted for publication, the examiners of the thesis will consider whether the papers submitted in the thesis are of a standard suitable for immediate submission to a peer-reviewed journal. If a paper has been accepted for publication, or is in press or in print, the examiners should focus only on the quality of the research therein and how the work fits into the broader context of the overall thesis. Structural and editorial issues need not be considered.)
- Peer-reviewed book chapters are acceptable, provided that they have been formally accepted for publication, in press or in print at the time of submission of the thesis.
- Where one or more of the submitted papers are co-authored, they collectively should be preceded by a clear statement of the intellectual contribution of the candidate to the submitted papers. The contribution would need to be very substantial overall. Special attention should be paid to articles where the candidate is not the senior author.
(a) a title page, an abstract of the entire thesis work (including the submitted papers), table of contents, list of figures, list of tables and acknowledgements;
(b) an introduction where the aims, scope and objectives of the work are presented with sufficient background for the examiners to appreciate the significance of the aims and objectives;
(c) a literature review, so that the work can be seen in the broader context of the discipline area to which it contributes and to establish the significance of the
(d) a synopsis, where the individual contributions of the papers presented by the candidate are integrated to demonstrate clearly the original contribution of the
candidate to the discipline; and
(e) literature cited.
Candidates are advised that the synopsis in particular is expected to be of a very high standard, and that its quality will have a special and important influence on the outcome of the examination. It is not meant to be a general discussion, nor should it be a repetition or summary of the discussion sections of the submitted papers.
The synopsis should not normally exceed 15,000 words. No new data or results should be included in this component, though results or data presented in the attached papers may be reworked or integrated with results and data from literature in order to develop argument presented in the synopsis. Whereas the submitted papers may have other contributors as authors, this component of the thesis must be solely the work of the candidate.
Where a PhD thesis is submitted in the form of published work, examiners of the thesis will be provided with the University guidelines above. ...
From: "GOLD BOOK PART 7, Examination of Higher Degree by Research Theses", University of Canberra, 2010