Publishing Papers as a PhD Student - Self-Plagiarism?

I plan to submit my doctoral thesis in about 6 months and have already gathered all the relevant data for it. Now my professor says that I should submit partial results as a publication to a journal beforehand, because we were able to gain really exciting new ideas from this data. I have doubts: can I still use the data and findings for my thesis? If so, do I have to wait for the whole peer review process to finish my thesis? Can I tell my professor that I don't want to wait and that I do need the data for my thesis?


Hello Mr. Y.

You are addressing an important topic here. Publishing knowledge from a doctoral project as a journal article repeatedly leads to questions and uncertainty.

Fortunately there is a clear answer to this question: Yes, you can use data and knowledge that you have previously published in your doctoral thesis if you indicate that it has already been published. You quote yourself, so to speak. This is completely uncritical. If you do not refer to the publication (regardless of whether it is quoted literally or analogously), then it is a so-called self-plagiarism. Science agrees that self-plagiarism is not in the sense of good scientific practice.

It probably is a good idea as it strengthens your scientific reputation if you (with correct citation) publish your results in a peer-reviewed journal. Discuss with your supervisor exactly what progress of the publication she expects before you hand in your thesis (submitted? Accepted?). Make it clear to your supervisor what effects submitting the paper has on the progress of your doctorate in terms of time and which possible delay is acceptable for you and which is not.

I wish you success for both the publication and the dissertation!

Alex Guericke-Sommer

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