Guidance for Thesis by Article - Epidemiology


These guidelines refer to article-based graduate theses in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health.

Students are also encouraged to refer to the following sources for other relevant thesis guidelines and procedures;


An article-based thesis is defined as one where the text is composed of one or more discrete published or unpublished articles which are presented exactly as prepared for publication but formatted in the same way as the main text (see Formatting below).

All articles must have been prepared while the student was enrolled in the Epidemiology graduate program for which the thesis is written and must not have been submitted as a requirement for a course or other element of the program. The article(s) should report the findings of the research project for which the thesis proposal was formally approved.

An article-based thesis must meet the minimum standards required for the level of the degree. It must contain sufficient detail for an examiner to make this judgement, and to assess the contribution of the student towards the research.

The thesis must present a ‘narrative whole’, applying theory and research results to address the topic area of the thesis. That is, it must present a cohesive argument to advance the main objective of the thesis.

For each article, the student must be a primary (first or co-first) author.

General Structure

Preface to the Thesis

The preface specifies the approvals obtained to conduct the research, clearly identifies the student’s contribution, and distinguishes it from those of collaborators, co-authors or other researchers, if any. The inclusion of the preface is a university requirement.

An Abstract

The specific word count for a Master’s thesis abstract is <150 words.

The specific word count for a Doctoral thesis abstract is <350 words.


Table of Contents

Introductory Chapter(s)

An article-based thesis must have one or more introductory chapters, which include a clearly stated rationale, the statement of problems or hypotheses that are the focus of the research, key concepts, objectives of the study, review of extant literature, discussion of methodological issues germane to understanding the research which is subsequently reported, and if relevant, conceptual framework guiding the thesis. As well, a description is provided outlining the function of each chapter and how the different parts of the thesis will be presented to make sure chapters flow logically into one another (e.g., linking the chapters).

The literature review may be presented as a published systematic review, at the candidate’s discretion; if so, it should contain sufficient detail to serve as an appropriately comprehensive orientation to the thesis research for the examiner.

To be counted as an eligible article, a systematic review paper must address at least one of the research objectives, and should be presented as indicated in Component Articles below.

Component Articles

The articles should each clearly address one or more of the research objectives articulated in the thesis.

  • For a master’s thesis, a minimum of one article is required (the expectation is 1-2 articles). The article(s) need not be published/submitted for publication at the time of submission of the thesis.
  • For a doctoral thesis, the equivalent of at least three articles as primary author are normally required. This should be guided by the thesis advisory committee (TAC), with a general expectation of the equivalent of 3-5 articles. As a guideline, we typically expect at least one article to be published/accepted for publication, and at least one other submitted for publication at the time of submission of the thesis.

Each article should be presented as a separate chapter, which contains a preface specifying the objective(s) it addresses, details the contributions of co-authors, lists any related appendices, including where they can be found, and indicates any ethics approvals which were secured (even if these are also mentioned in the article). If the article is published, provide its citation details, even if a reprint is included as an appendix (see below). If the article has been submitted but not published, include some form of confirmation (e.g. an email message) in an appendix.


All authors are expected to meet the criteria for authorship as defined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. This includes articles not yet submitted for publication at the time of thesis submission. This requirement implies that, irrespective of publication or submission status, all authors must have reviewed and approved the article text of all articles in the thesis.

Where more than one article is presented, consideration should be given to including one or more brief bridging sections to orientate the examiner and promote the flow of the thesis.

In some cases, because of word limits imposed by journals, all the details about study methods may not be included in the published article/submitted article making it difficult for thesis examiners to thoroughly assess the work. If the student and/or supervisor feel more detail on study methods or other sections of the article (e.g., discussion section) is required there are three options: 1) select a journal that allows a word count that provides adequate space to describe the methods, 2) provide additional information in an appendix (note this in the preface to the article), 3) add additional paragraphs to the methods or other sections of the article chapter. Always strive to provide sufficient detail for examiners.

Articles may be written in French or English.

Discussion Chapter(s)

The thesis must, as a minimum, contain one chapter which discusses the research presented in the article(s), expanding in whatever detail is necessary to provide a coherent and complete interpretation, and presenting an overall conclusion. This chapter is essential to the presentation of the thesis as a ‘narrative whole’ and it should not simply repeat the discussion section(s) of the article(s). Its purpose is to integrate and relate the research to the existing body of knowledge, and discuss implications for further research, practice or policy.

In some cases, it will also be appropriate to include a separately headed synthesis section which draws together the findings of the individual articles. It may be incorporated into the discussion chapter, or, if sufficiently extensive, may precede the final discussion as a separate chapter.


A complete reference list should be included after the final discussion chapter. It should list publications cited as for a monograph thesis but should not include publications which are cited only in the article(s) chapters. All publications cited in the article(s) should be listed at the end of each article.

Tables, Figures, and Charts

Tables, figures and charts are included in each relevant chapter / article. For articles, these may be presented at the end of the article/chapter or integrated into the relevant sections of the article.


The thesis must provide more depth than would normally be allowed in publications. This should be addressed by additional information either in the thesis chapters or in appendices. Relevant additional material to be included as appendices may include, for example, additional results tables, sensitivity analyses, additional details about methodology, copies of ethics approval letters, copyright permissions, etc. The student must ensure that the thesis contains sufficient detail for an examiner to judge whether it meets the standard for the degree, regardless of the publication status of the component article(s). Where a component article itself includes material available as print or web-only appendices, this material should appear after the article in question, in the same chapter. Reprints of articles already published may be included as appendices, providing copyright permission is obtained. Students may also provide the prepublication history of included articles (e.g., reviews and responses) as appendices.


Students should select the font size, line spacing, margin sizes, and other formatting options that optimize the presentation of their thesis.

The text of published articles must be reproduced in the same format as the main text. Reprints may be submitted only as appendices to the main text. Where necessary, the candidate should confirm that all necessary permissions from publishers and/or co-authors have been secured to reproduce copyrighted material.


The supervisor must attest to the accuracy of statements made about the candidate’s contributions to multi-authored articles.

In no case can a co-author of any component of the thesis serve as an examiner of the thesis.

Irrespective of the number of articles actually published, the examiners are the final arbiters as to whether a thesis meets the standards required for a master’s or doctoral thesis in Epidemiology from the University of Ottawa.

Students who will be including published material in a thesis are strongly advised to consult the material on the University of Ottawa Copyright Office Student Page.


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