Should I Do a PhD Thesis by Publication?

The best thesis is a submitted thesis. This by publication could make this faster or slower. Be aware of the pros and cons. If you’d like to know more, comment, DM or shoot me an email. I’ll send you some content.


Increasingly, students have the opportunity to do their thesis by publication rather than the traditional thesis style. So, the question is if you’re given the option to do it by publication should you do it? I guess there are good, and bad points. I would say if you had the opportunity to do thesis by publication, definitely take it up. Some of the bad points however of this approach.

One, PhDs don’t need to produce publishable results just new knowledge. So, if your research results in something that isn’t publishable, then you’ll need to reconsider this in terms of your approach and doing thesis by publication. Unpublishable results could be all sorts of things. It could be perhaps getting scooped. So, when you started out your thesis this information was unknown but then by the time you come to complete it’s already done. Or you might have new information that hasn’t been published before but it’s not necessarily useful information. It’s not publishable. So, an example might be that protein A doesn’t change when protein B interacts with it or doesn’t change the function of protein B or vice versa. So, that’s a common thing.

Another bad point of doing thesis by publication is that your supervisor decides the threshold for publication. So, they although universities might say something like, and this is coming from Australian universities. Although universities might say to a publication is for example, a draft manuscript ready for submission, your supervisor might not sign off on that. So, that can make getting your thesis complete difficult. Particularly, if your supervisor’s idea of publication is a submitted, accepted peer-reviewed publication rather than even just something that has been submitted for review, and yet to come back. There are some good points.

So, like I said, the university’s threshold for publication in many cases is your supervisor signing off that the manuscript has been submitted or will be submitted very shortly. The other good point is that early publications in your PhD set you up for a better academic career. We know from the data for example, that PhD students who publish early have a more successful academic career. So, that’s a good thing.

The other good thing is that if you do go down the route of publications and your supervisor wants you to have them accepted before they go into your thesis, that means the publication or your thesis itself has already been partially peer reviewed. So, that could be an argument for perhaps, a more easy process of thesis review. Certainly, it could be an argument why your thesis reviewers might be more likely to accept your thesis as being of appropriate standard equality.

Hope that helps everyone out there!