Is a Dissertation Peer Reviewed? [2024 Guide]

By Kama Offenberger
Edited by Briana Sukert
Updated on April 24, 2024
Edited by Briana Sukert
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Most prospective doctoral students know they will have to complete a dissertation, but many of them wonder, “Is a dissertation peer reviewed?”

Is a Dissertation Peer Reviewed

A dissertation is a lengthy paper that a PhD student writes after conducting extensive research. It allows you to explore an area of interest in great depth. Before graduating, a doctoral student defends their paper in front of a committee of faculty members.

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Knowing whether a dissertation is a peer reviewed scholarly paper is a point of interest for any student planning to pursue a doctorate.

Is a Dissertation Peer Reviewed?

PhD student working on his dissertation

No, dissertations are not peer reviewed because they do not go through a peer review process.

Most PhD students write a final academic paper in the form of a dissertation before they graduate with their doctoral degree. In doing so, they work with a project supervisor and committee, but they aren’t required to submit their articles for peer review.

The peer review process is designed to prevent the publication of poorly written or poorly researched material. During peer review, a group of experts examine an article and evaluate it in terms of different criteria, such as:

  • Originality
  • Relevance
  • Significance to the field
  • Validity and accuracy

These same factors are important in a doctoral dissertation, but they are measured by a dissertation supervisor and other faculty members rather than a group of peers.

Dissertations are also different from peer reviewed academic sources because they aren’t always published in journals or as books. Unless the dissertation author decides to pursue publication, it may only appear in a library’s database or archive. So, are dissertations peer reviewed? The answer to this question is always “no,” but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t valuable and high-quality documents.

Although dissertations, capstone projects, and theses are not peer reviewed, they are often categorized as scholarly writing alongside peer reviewed articles. This is because they are written for academic audiences, rely on reputable sources, and often include original research.

What Is Peer Review?

PhD student on a peer review with a colleague

Peer review is a process that helps ensure published academic, professional, or scientific writing is high quality.

Effective peer reviews rely on feedback from trustworthy and experienced figures within the same field or closely related fields. For example, when someone submits an article to a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, a group of individuals with expertise in the subject reads the article and determines whether the content is appropriate for publication.

If peer reviewers feel that the writer is making unfounded assertions, misinterpreting evidence, or presenting disproven views, the article generally isn’t published.

Is a Dissertation a Scholarly Source?

doctoral student researching for her dissertation paper

In some cases, a dissertation would qualify as a scholarly source. When completing a dissertation project, a PhD student works under the supervision of advisors and a committee. The writer also conducts in-depth research and explains their results in academic language.

No matter how well-written a dissertation may be, though, it’s still student work and isn’t peer-reviewed. For this reason, some instructors and academics do not consider dissertations to be scholarly sources and discourage students from citing them in their own papers.

Are Dissertations Published?

doctorate student reviewing dissertation printouts

A dissertation isn’t automatically published when a student completes their PhD. Instead, the dissertation committee, supervisor, and university library receive copies of the finished product.

If you feel that your dissertation makes significant contributions to your field, you can independently pursue publication following your defense. Depending on the length and subject matter, you may be able to publish your dissertation in its entirety as a book. Some graduates of PhD programs also publish dissertation chapters as articles in academic journals.

PhD Dissertations

PhD student working on her dissertation

Although there are online doctoral programs in education without dissertation, for most PhD students, a dissertation is an essential requirement for graduation. It requires months or years of research, planning, writing, and revising.

One process that doctoral students don’t have to worry about is peer review. Although dissertations are academic papers that meet very high standards, they are not reviewed by a panel of independent experts. They also aren’t always published in journals.

Despite these differences, dissertations are carefully researched and thoughtfully written. They allow you to graduate from a doctoral program and give you the opportunity to become an expert in the subject you find most engaging.

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