‘three papers’ PhD


During my PhD I wrote 4 papers (2 journal papers and 2 conferences). I'm now writing my PhD thesis and I'm directly copying the content of these papers in my PhD. Is this a normal practice or can it be considered auto plagiarism?

I've seen that this is a normal practice in previous PhD of my chair. My Professor doesn't seem to care about this. Furthermore I also heard that it exists the concept of ‘three papers’ PhD, which I guess it would be my case.

Thanks in advance for your comments.


I think if you are doing a PhD by publication, you would normally have to be registered as such with your institution (not all institutions offer this route) and slightly different regulations and criteria would apply. For instance, you'd include the whole of each paper (not just sections) and then you'd write a long introduction and conclusion discussing how these represented a coherent body of work over time.

I think if you were to just copy and paste your publications into your thesis, that would be considered auto plagiarism, or at least it would in my institution, where PhD by publication is not an option. Of course you can reference yourself, but not directly copy and paste. I'd check the regs!


I think this depends on your uni. I'm assuming you're not doing a PhD by publication from what you've said.

At my uni, people tend to rewrite the papers because a PhD chapter generally needs more detail or preamble than a paper allows. I expect there are still some paragraphs that are very similar to text in the papers though. I have some identical figures, for example. Whilst this is technically plagiarism, in reality I don't think you would be penalised for it because it's obvious it's your work and this isn't the sort of plagiarism that universities are trying to prevent.

I think it can be a bit more problematic if you are not the first author on the paper though. Then people could argue that it is not your work. In my case, I am first author for the three papers that make up my three data chapters in my thesis, so it's fine, plus there's way more stuff in my thesis than in my published papers.


I'm doing the alternative format also. As far as I understand:
- you must have notified "them" that you are submitting in this way instead of the traditional format
- the paper format is introduced and explained at the start of the thesis
- you literally insert the papers (print them in whatever form they are in - accepted, under consideration etc)
- you write an introduction, methods chapter, and discussion around them (since 1) the papers will be too short to have included all the relevant information, 2) the thesis needs to be wrapped together as a coherent whole)

So plagiarism isn't an issue here - it is known and stated that the papers are published or going to be published elsewhere.