The department allows two thesis formats (monograph or thesis by articles), both of which are subject to the same procedure for approval by the Academic Committee and quality assessment by the panel. These formats are accepted whether the thesis is empirical (i.e., it employs empirical evidence to answer the research question) or theoretical (i.e., it proposes or develops a logical solution to a logical problem).

These are general guidelines to writing your PhD thesis. They are meant to be just that – a few short guidelines about the formats accepted by the Department of Political and Social Sciences of Pompeu Fabra University. These formats refer to the structure and contents of the thesis, not to its physical aspect, which is common to all theses submitted at the University.

Each thesis is “unique” and may require slightly different organization according to subject matter, method and discipline. This is just a description of good practices. The final format will emerge on the basis of constant/systematic dialogue with the supervisor(s).



The first format is the traditional monograph, with chapters that are built upon each other so as to develop the main arguments of the thesis.

A thesis organized as a monograph should typically have an introductory chapter laying out the main research question(s) investigated in the thesis and providing some basic background or contextual information useful to understand it. Theses in political theory tend to have more elaborate introductions that: lay out and justify the research questions, the cases under study, the structure/logic of the chapters, justify the method, etc.

One or more theoretical chapters shall typically follow the introduction. In this section of the thesis the author is expected to justify the research question and ground it within an existing theoretical debate, and to develop the main theoretical problems, propositions and/or hypotheses of the thesis. In more inductive/exploratory theses, the hypotheses might be tentative, or be replaced by a thorough discussion of the theoretical underpinnings of the argument to be developed in the main body of the thesis. A third section consisting of one or more methodological chapters shall typically follow the theoretical part. In empirical theses, this section should include information on case selection, data, and techniques of data collection and data analysis. In theoretical theses, this part might not exist at all or be reserved for presenting the notation or logical tools used for developing the solution to the problem stated in the theoretical section, when this is done more formally.

The third section of the thesis shall typically consist of one or more results chapters where the findings of the thesis are presented. The chapters or subsections typically follow a sequential order, where previous results lead to subsequent ones. In theoretical theses, this is the section where the solution to the problem raised in the theoretical chapters is developed, or where the main case or argument of the thesis is carefully argued.

A monograph should end with a concluding chapter, where the main research question/problem explored in the thesis is restated and its main results are briefly summarized. The conclusion typically highlights the contribution of the research to the scientific literature, but also its methodological or substantive limitations. This often leads to a discussion about possible future lines of research.

The length of a monograph varies. Theses employing qualitative methods or developing theoretical arguments tend to be longer than theses that employ quantitative methods. In any case, nowadays most publishers would not accept monographs longer than 250 pages (about 62,500 words) or than 300 pages, in the case of political theory monographs (about 75,000 words). We expect most monographs to be between 175 (45,000 words) and 300 pages (about 75,000 words) long (A4, double spaced, typical margins and 12 pct font).

Because a monograph is a “whole”, it must be written in one language. We accept theses written in English, Spanish, or Catalan, but we strongly recommend students to write in English. In all cases, it must be well written, and hence it might be a good idea to send the thesis to a language editor before submitting it.

Monographs should normally be single-authored, given their holistic nature. If a chapter is co-authored it will require the explicit authorization of the Academic Committee. In addition, the author of the thesis monograph should be the first and leading author of the chapter. 


Thesis by articles

The second format is that of a thesis containing at least three articles that display a clear potential for publishing in peer-reviewed academic journals.

While the three (or more) articles should be stand-alone pieces of research and therefore may not need to build upon each other’s results, there should be a thread linking them. This thread may be substantive. For example, the articles could analyse the same dependent variable but focus on different independent variables. Or each article might focus on a different manifestation of a single, multi-faceted phenomenon or concept. The link may also be methodological. For example, the same phenomenon, concept, or analytical case may be analysed from different perspectives or with different methodologies. A mix is also acceptable. For example, the first and second chapters could be linked substantively, and the second and third, methodologically. In case of doubts the PhD candidate and the tutor are recommended to consult the Academic Committee.

A thesis by articles must additionally include an introduction and a conclusion where the main thread linking the articles must be made explicit.

The introduction should briefly state the main research questions explored in the thesis, what they have in common and how they are answered in each article. The introduction may also include any contextual information that may contribute to a better understanding of the research carried out in the different articles. Introductions should be brief, between 2000 and 4000 words.

The conclusion should restate the main research questions/problems explored in the thesis, and specify the thread that links the articles. Furthermore, it should briefly summarize the main findings of the articles, elaborate on their relevance and contribution to the scientific literature, and discuss their methodological or substantive limitations. An effort shall be made not just to repeat the conclusions to each article but to cut across them to identify the overall strengths and limitations of the thesis. This will often lead to a discussion about possible future lines of research. As in the case of the introduction, the conclusions shall be short, between 2000 and 4000 words long.

As noted, each of the three or more articles of the thesis must have the format of an article for publication in a scientific journal. Hence, it should include an abstract. The length of each article should be between 6,000 and 10,000 words, the typical lengths admitted in scientific journals. This means that a thesis by articles shall generally be shorter than a monograph. It may also contain some repetitions across articles, although these should be restricted to a minimum and, to arguments that are required to develop the novel arguments that must form the core of each article.



Any or all of the three articles may be already published by the time the thesis is defended but the research reported in each must be the result of work conducted, to a substantial degree, during the time the student was registered in the PhD program of the Department of Political and Social Sciences at Pompeu Fabra University. Hence, any published articles included in the thesis should have been published at least a year after the student first registered for the programme.

Because articles may be intended for journals in different countries, they might be written in any of the three official languages accepted at the University (English, Spanish, and Catalan). Exceptionally, the Academic Committee might authorize that an article may be written in another language (e.g., as when published in a journal that publishes articles in this language other than the official ones). In any case, we strongly recommend that the thesis be written in English/just one language (English). The introduction and the conclusion must be written in the same language. The thesis must be well written, and hence it might be a good idea/it is recommendable to send it to a language editor before submitting it, especially if the author is a non-native speaker of that language.