Originality and the PhD: what is it and how can it be demonstrated?

Paul Gill, Gina Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AIM: To explore the concept of originality in doctoral research and outline ways in which doctoral candidates can begin to identify, formulate and articulate their individual contributions to knowledge.

BACKGROUND: Originality is a major feature of doctoral research but considerable confusion exists regarding what can and cannot constitute originality in the PhD and how the contribution to knowledge can be demonstrated clearly.

DATA SOURCES: This is a discussion paper.

REVIEW METHODS: A review of relevant, published literature relating to originality in the PhD.

DISCUSSION: Many doctoral candidates merely outline why they believe their work to be original, instead of demonstrating critically how and in what way their research makes a meaningful contribution to the body of knowledge.

CONCLUSION: The concept of originality in the PhD is complex and multi-faceted. Identifying and conveying originality in doctoral research takes considerable time, contemplation and effort. This process is, however, integral to the PhD itself, and the skills acquired are essential for post-doctoral development.

IMPLICATIONS FOR RESEARCH/PRACTICE: A good doctoral thesis should clearly outline the different ways in which the work is original. A succinct, focused, critical appraisal of the specific contribution to knowledge is preferable to an exhaustive list.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-5
Number of pages5
JournalNurse Researcher
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2015


  • Dissertations, Academic as Topic
  • Education, Nursing, Graduate
  • Ethics, Research
  • Humans
  • Nursing Research

Cite this