Publishing & PhD - Query


I'm hoping someone can help with the following ...

I know someone who is doing a PhD (in Creative Writing) and is planning on *self-publishing* their creative work (a novel) *before* submission (the creative work is supported by a contextual piece but is the larger bulk of the thesis).

Is this ok to do? I thought if they published their work before submission/the viva it has implications regarding it's copyright/'originality'? Also, if it is published don't they have to declare this to the examiners? I'm assuming their supervisors are not aware of what they are intending to do, and fear they are going down a very slippery path which may lead to trouble!

If anyone can shed light on this matter it would be appreciated.


I can't comment on the particulars of a 'Creative Writing' Phd and the effect of publishment, however I would assume that for a large majority of PhDs the publishment of work is a good thing as it means the work will have gernally been peer reviewed before hand, it assures the examiners of the 'possible' quality of the work given it has already been read by someone else and deemed publishable.

I would imagine most Phd'rs look to publish there lit review in some way before submission, with also a look to getting some methodology type papers out. With regards to originality or as some call it self plagarism, that normally depends on the University as far as i'am aware.

Regards Wolfe


I'm with you Wolfe. I've always been led to believe that publishing during the PhD process is a good thing. If you are the author of the work I don't see how there could be issues of originality or copyright. However, like Wolfe, I have no specific knowledge of the creative writing field. I realise that in writing papers it is considered very bad form to submit the same paper to two different publications, so perhaps you're thinking of something along those lines, BB. But if one of those 'publications' is the thesis then I don't think it counts.

I know other authors have published literary work that formed part of a thesis (can't remember any names though, sorry!) but whether that was before or after they submitted the thesis, I don't know.



I agree, in part, with what the others have said - in that publication prior to submission shouldn't be too much of a problem, provided the thesis is more than just the novel. However.... the *self-publishing* route is generally not a peer-reviewed process and whilst this is done more and more and it is notoriously difficult to get creative work published... I would say it is better to wait until the thesis is submitted and the viva over. If the creative work is worthy of publication, examiners may be able to help find a publisher, if the thesis is publishable, it may help to extend the audience for the book. There is no hurry with self-publishing. It rarely garners a large audience for your work (although there are, of course, exceptions... like "The Shack" by William P. Young, for example). You have to do all the hard publicity and selling work yourself... and so on, and so forth. On the other questions... publishing the work beforehand wouldn't affect copyright... that exists as soon as a work is written - although if research is funded, often the written work will belong to the funder... so that needs to be checked. A creative work may be original but the question is... will is it sufficient, in combination with the thesis, to offer an original contribution to the field... that's the difference... research is about a contribution to 'the body of knowledge' and not necessarily about the originality of creative content.

That said, if the novel is only a support for the research into the creative writing process and self-publishing is an element your friend wishes to bring into the thesis... then that could legitimise the process, I guess. I'd discuss something like this with the supervisor before going ahead - not for permission, but for some friendly advice as to whether it is a worthwhile path to take, now, or at any time.


This issue concerning publishing work and then using that published work (word-for-word) in one's thesis, crops up an awful lot here.

While I agree publishing beforehand is a good thing, publishing a large bulk of a thesis before submission seems a bit illogical to me. First, the person runs the very real risk of self-plagarism. Second, if submission is looming near, is it not worth waiting until after submission to benefit from the examiners' comments before publishing? Then thirdly, as mentioned below, 'self-publishing' is often not peered reviewed and ultimately runs the risk of falling under the radar.

It seems a bit of a school boy error to me, but then things may work differently in the field of creative writing.


coming from a science background, i know nothing about the world of creative writing, but if the work is published and then they use it again in their thesis, then this is almost certainly self-plagiarising, unless they declare that the work has been published and submit it as a published piece of work within their thesis. it seems to me they are shooting themselves in the foot a little by self-publishing before submission, as i'm sure it would be more worthwhile to get feedback from the examiners before going down the publishing route.

the best thing to do would be to discuss this with their supervisor who will know all the rules regarding self-plagiarism, and they may well advise against publishing until after submission. i definitely wouldn't recommend publishing without the supervisors knowing about it, as this could cause a lot of problems further down the line!


I recently asked my supervisor (who is the head of my department) about the issue of self plagerism i.e. if I publish an article which is basically copied and pasted from a chapter of my thesis is this self plagerism? And he laughed at me like i was insane!
He said that he had never heard of such a thing and that it is fine to publish as it is my work. So I am taking that green light and am publishing a paper that is taken from one of my findings chapters.
If it all goes horribly wrong I will blame him!


Hmm some interesting views :)

To be honest I don't even take the view of self-plagarising as even exisitng but thats for another time. Surely one of the first things an examiner will do when reading your thesis is check to see if you have published any work related to it. Therefore I would wholly encourage anyone to get work published in a peer reviewed journal, of course though this means most of the work will be 'In Press' no doubt even by the time you come to your viva.

Still i can't think of any specific problem with publishing your work, as long as it is written / shortened for an appropriate article size / style etc.

Regards Wolfe


I too am confused by this issue of self-plagiarising. How is this even possible? People publish from their theses all the time. OK, if you sent the same paper (or almost the same paper) to two different publications, then that is very strongly frowned upon. Is that what you guys mean by self-plagiarising?

I think some of the comments made above regarding the specifics of the creative writing field seem very sensible. But otherwise, I can't see how publishing from your thesis (either before or after your submission) can be anything but good.


Aussiechick, self-plagarism is a real issue that does exist (though to some extent unjust). From what I can gather it involves two issues:

First, if you publish a piece of work, eg. in a journal, some universities will not let you carbon-copy that publication into your thesis without it being referenced/acknowledged as being published elsewhere. (Linked to this situation is the bigger issue of copyright, but this would involve you and the publisher, not the university).

Second, self-plagarism concerns submitting a piece of work for assessment that has already been assessed. This, to me, seems to be a more justifiable reason for self-plagarism rules. For example, if you write a 60,000 word MPhil thesis, you cannot re-use that material into a PhD i.e., you cannot get academic credit for the same piece of work twice.

Some uni's have no rules about self-plagarism, others have compromise rules (e.g. no more than 10% of previous work can be used), and others have v. strict rules.