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I'm interested in publishing parts of my PhD thesis in advance and I'm wondering wether or not this will result in problems later on. One of the problems I'm thinking of is that usually the copyright is transferred to the journal/publisher but at our university you are required to publish your thesis online via the library website, which means you have to give them the right to publicize the thesis (which I'm not sure you still can do, even when a slightly modified version of the journal paper is only part of the thesis).

So I guess my question is this:

Is it common practice to publish parts of a PhD thesis in advance and if so does this result in legal problems? What are your experiences?

Somehow related

Publishing journals articles without transferring copyright.

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closed as off topic by Felipe Voloch, Bill Johnson, Fernando Muro, Igor Rivin, Mark Meckes Sep 25 '12 at 14:24

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It is certainly quite common to publish papers during your PhD. Then your PhD thesis consists of your papers with some re-writing, an introduction to the state-of-the-art, some concluding words... and it can be considered a fairly different document from your articles. Lots of people have done this (myself included) and I'm not aware of any subsequent issues. This doesn't mean that it's 100% legal though. –  Pierre Sep 25 '12 at 12:24
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I think this question is more appropriately asked at academia.stackexchange.com –  Joel Reyes Noche Sep 25 '12 at 12:57
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The style of Ph.D. theses and research papers is different, so I think it's perfectly normal (and even encouraged) to submit papers first, and rewrite/expand them for the thesis. A thesis should contain lots of extra background and trivial details which you don't put in a paper, and it's far easier and more interesting to write papers first and then convert/expand them into thesis chapters than the other way round; and, once converted into thesis format, they will be sufficiently different that copyright could not be an issue. But be sure to acknowledge all this in the papers and the thesis. –  Zen Harper Sep 25 '12 at 13:44
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But, being cynical, I believe that, with rare exceptions, almost no-one reads Ph.D. theses apart from the examiners if you're lucky ; published papers are much more important because that's what far more people will actually read and cite if you're lucky . But choose your journals with care! –  Zen Harper Sep 25 '12 at 13:47

1 Answer 1

up vote 12 down vote accepted

I think a lot of journals will expressly allow this in their copyright policy. I just poked around, and I see for example that the AMS allows this:

AMS copyright policies

and even Elsevier allows this in its journals:

Elsevier copyright policies

So you can probably even do this completely legally. I would just check the web site of the particular journal(s) where you are considering submitting articles. And journals will even allow you to modify the copyright agreement in many cases, so you could still ask about this if a journal doesn't specifically address the issue already.

Added later: my last comment was inspired by having read the article ``Do Mathematicians Get the Author Rights They Want?'' by Kristine K. Fowler in:

March 2012 issue of the AMS Notices (appearing in the left column of the issue web page)

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You might also look into your own university's policies. When I was making these decisions, I noticed that my university (U. Minnesota) required me to have written permission from the publisher of the journal article to include the article in the thesis. I suspect that if I had ignored this requirement, nothing bad would have happened. But one would hate to have an over-zealous administrator tell you at the last minute that your thesis cannot be accepted. –  Nathan Reading Sep 25 '12 at 13:23
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The publisher Springer also allows this (i.e. publishing results from a paper in one's dissertation), which I found by googling "springer copyright policy". So it sounds like this is a fairly standard and well-established copyright policy. –  Patricia Hersh Sep 25 '12 at 13:24
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But definitely publish papers that you will later include in your thesis. Just pay attention both to the journal's policies, as Hersh points out, and also to your university's requirements. None of this should be a problem, as long as you pay attention, because publishing a paper that later goes into your thesis is a very standard practice. –  Nathan Reading Sep 25 '12 at 13:27

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