Do I Need A Printed Thesis?

Over the last year a lot of PhD candidates have asked me variations on this question. Any response has to be layered, because there’s lots to think about. Often, the question is being asked because it has been more difficult than usual to obtain a printed copy.

Do you still need a printed thesis in the age of Zoom vivas?

  • The first thing to do is check what your institution and department say. Have regulations or expectations changed? If yes, you could consider having a digital copy, but if not you just might need to get a printed copy produced regardless.
  • If you need a printed copy but your institution print shop is out of action or has greatly reduced capacity, then Google is your friend: there are lots of online printing services that can produce this and ship to your door quickly.
  • If you don’t, according to the rules, need a printed copy, then you have to consider about what you need for the viva.

You need a copy of your thesis, in a format that is easy for you to read, search through and find sections. You need a copy of your thesis that you can annotate, both before and potentially during your viva. Annotation makes your thesis more useful for the viva and helps you to reflect on your thesis as you get ready. A digital copy of your thesis could do this, but you have to be sure that the format, the software and the device you are using is going to be enough for you in the viva.

My personal opinion is that a print copy of a thesis could, in many cases, be the best solution. But that’s my personal opinion, based on my needs, how easy I would find it to use a paper document and so on. I don’t have any needs that wouldn’t be met by a paper thesis. I don’t have any restrictions in terms of getting access to a printed 200-page document if I needed one for that purpose. I’m me, I’m not you.

If you need a digital copy, then it’s worth exploring how you would make that work well for you in the viva.

If you need a paper copy but that might be tricky to find, then it’s worth searching for a way to get one.