Multimedia PhD research and non-text theses

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A selection of case studies discussing the challenges of non-text PhD theses

The nature of PhD theses is changing. While almost all students write a text-based critical analysis of their research and its findings, many research students also produce supplementary files and data or want to describe their results in terms of creative outputs. Computer software and video games, coding, websites, exhibitions, performances and sound files are all valid PhD outputs.

Joanna Hale, UCL Institute for Cognitie Neuroscience, developed avatars to study mimicry

British Library PhD placement student Coral Manton has produced the following case studies in which she talks to researchers undertaking multimedia PhDs. They discuss the artefacts and content they're producing and the challenges they've encountered around long-term archiving, managing rights and permissions, seeking advice from libraries, and ensuring access for future researchers to allow them to build on the research.

  • Kirsten Barnicot's PhD explored psychological treatments for people with personality disorder. She recorded 50 interviews but could not keep the audio data as her research involved vulnerable patients
  • Cécile Chevalier is an artist who creates interactive art installation to communicate her research on collective memory formed through the internet
  • Katrina Foxton will produce an interactive map as part of her PhD in heritage architectural management
  • For Sally Gowers, it was a challenge to describe the biosensors she developed in her biotechnology PhD using words in a written thesis
  • The file sharing repository Figshare was the result of Mark Hahnel's frustrations when he found no existing solution for storing and sharing the video clips and data files which he created during his pharmacology research
  • For Joanna Hale (pictured above) the first task was to develop avatars to study the use of virtual reality to see how people mimic body language
  • In his Harkive project, Craig Hamilton amassed vast datasets which he wants to remain accessible for future researchers to re-use and build on
  • Mary Lavelle's PhD research generated huge files of motion capture data to help understand non-verbal communication in schizophrenia
  • For Imogen Lesser's PhD she produced architectural drawings, plaster models and large maps which visualise Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast landscape – she is looking for methods to archive her material
  • Katherina Manolessou published a children's storybook as part of her PhD, and found challenges in balancing publisher rights and the desire to open up her research
  • For her interdisciplinary PhD, Sam Martin has produced two apps to support children and adults with coeliac disease
  • Rob Sherman has already given careful consideration to the legacy of his PhD which includes digital simulation of storybook characters

The challenge for the British Library is to understand our role in providing access to doctoral research outputs beyond the text-based written theses indexed in EThOS, the UK thesis service.

Search EThOS now to access over 400,000 UK theses.