Dissertation By Publication

Once your thesis, dissertation, or manuscript has been accepted by the Graduate Division, it is submitted for publication to the UCSF Library and to ProQuest/UMI where it will become available to other academic institutions and to the general public.

The following information was taken from the Proquest/UMI Guide F2009.

Publishing with UMI® Dissertation Publishing: Effects on Publishing your Content Elsewhere

The first thing to remember is that YOU own your copyright; unlike most scholarly publishers, ProQuest/UMI does NOT acquire copyright when we publish your dissertation or thesis. You are free to re-publish your work in whole or in part, with whomever you choose without asking our permission.

Some authors are concerned that journals and other publishers will not accept content that has been published in or as a dissertation or thesis. This concern is less valid in the case of peer-reviewed journals, and potentially more valid in the case of commercial book publishers. While every case is unique, here are some general rules of thumb in examining this issue with regard to your own work:

  • In most cases, you will not be submitting your dissertation or thesis as is to a peer-reviewed journal (unless it is a journal that publishes a monograph series). Most often, the content submitted for journal publication is an excerpt, chapter, or section of your dissertation or thesis. At the very least, it would be a significantly shorter distillation of your graduate work. The content is likely to be rearranged and reformatted to fit the style of the journal to which you submit. Finally, the content is likely to be revised and updated through the peer-review process and finally the editorial process if it is accepted. All of these processes mean that the material as finally published by a journal is substantively and substantially refined and therefore different from the content that is published as your dissertation or thesis. For this reason, journals are not historically concerned about your content having appeared and been distributed as a published graduate work. This is particularly true in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
  • Academic presses, monograph publishers, and commercial presses are more likely to consider your dissertation or thesis as a book. This is more often the case with the humanities, social sciences, and arts. Still, even if not peer-reviewed, the editorial process that turns your graduate work into a book is likely to change it substantially. The key in this consideration is whether the content changes substantively; i.e., is there a real difference in the content that makes the press comfortable with investing its resources in producing a book from your dissertation/thesis. Historically, presses have not been terribly concerned that distribution of your graduate work would harm potential sales as a book. However, as dissertations and theses have become widely available over the internet through libraries, consortia and institutional repositories as well as from our subscription database, more presses may look more carefully at the question of marketability.

Requests for Delayed Publishing

Classified or Confidential Material

Occasionally there are special circumstances when a student does not want all or part of the dissertation to be published. Such circumstances may involve disclosure of patent rights before a patent is granted, disclosures of facts about persons or institutions that violate professional ethics regarding protection of confidentiality or other circumstances that would be detrimental to the rights of the author. In such cases, the dean of the Graduate Division may permit the entire thesis, dissertation, manuscript or an appendix to be held for a specified period of time, usually not longer than one year. This is called a "publishing embargo."

All requests for a publishing embargo must be made to the dean of the Graduate Division. This request should come in the form of a letter from your graduate advisor, PI, or the chair of your thesis, dissertation, or manuscript committee. Unless there are extreme circumstances, the maximum length of the embargo request should not exceed one year. Please email these requests to Ellen Levitan, together with the letter from your advisor or PI. The graduate dean will review your request and the Graduate Division will let you know if your request has been approved or not.

A publishing embargo is usually granted for reasons involving intellectual property or patent filing issues. If this is the reason for requesting the embargo, you should provide as much detail as possible about what is involved, what stage you are at in the patent process, and what needs to be accomplished to complete the patent application or process.

The Graduate Division does not automatically approve embargoes strictly for the purpose of providing additional time to prepare published works, but if there are extenuating circumstances involved (i.e. you are in the patent application process) then this will be taken into consideration.

Time/Deadline Considerations

All requests for embargoes add some time to the dissertation filing process. This is especially important to consider if you are near the end of the term deadline for filing your dissertation. Your request will take at least some time to be reviewed and approved, and the time required to gather additional details from you or others, may bring the actual acceptance date of the dissertation past the end of the deadline for that term. This, in turn, would delay your degree conferral date until the end of the following term, which would require that you be re-registered in that following term in order for the dissertation to be accepted.

To retain the exclusive right to reproduce, publish, or sell your work you must copyright the material. To copyright your work, you must include in your thesis, dissertation, or manuscript, a copyright page, which directly follows the title page, and bears the following notice at the center of the page just above the bottom margin:

Copyright (year)
(Your name as it appears on the title page)

However, in order to protect your rights in a dispute or to be compensated for damages caused by infringement, you should register your copyright with the Library of Congress. Students may designate UMI to act as their agent in registering the copyright. UMI will file the appropriate forms, submit the fee, and provide a copy to the Library of Congress. If you wish to have UMI register your copyright you may elect to do so during the submission process. You may also register the copyright yourself by paying the registration fee and following the directions provided by the Library of Congress.

Using Previously Published Materials

With the approval of the thesis, dissertation, or manuscript committee and your graduate program, published materials may be accepted as part of the master's thesis, doctoral dissertation, or DPTSc manuscript when:

  • The publication(s) represents research or scholarship comparable in scope and contribution to the portion of the standard thesis or dissertation it replaces.
  • The published material is substantially the product of the student's period of study at UCSF and was primarily conducted and written by the student.


  • An introduction showing the historical development, methods used, and result is required. This may be summarized if already part of the published material.
  • The usual preliminary pages are required for a thesis, dissertation, or manuscript that includes previously published material. The acknowledgment page of your preliminary pages should include a reference to the publication in which the material originally appeared.
  • The published material and preliminary pages must meet all other formatting requirements for the thesis, dissertation, or manuscript.

Multiple Published Papers
If several papers from the thesis, dissertation, or manuscript have been published they may be used as individual chapters. Conventional thesis, dissertation, or manuscript chapters may be combined with published papers in the thesis, dissertation, or manuscript. Theses, dissertations, or manuscripts at press should be treated as published papers.

If the published material lists a co-author, and the co-author is the person who directed and supervised the research, then only the student's name is listed as the author in the preliminary pages. However, the acknowledgment page should state: “The text of this thesis/dissertation/manuscript is a reprint of the material as it appears in ______________ (name of publication). The co-author listed in this publication directed and supervised the research that forms the basis for the dissertation/thesis.”

If the published material lists co-authors other than the research advisor, a statement from the research advisor clarifying what work the student completed should be included in the acknowledgment page. This statement should also explain how the work is comparable to a standard thesis or dissertation.

See more information on formatting your thesis, dissertation, or manuscript. Or see general information on submitting these documents.

Doing a PhD is a difficult business. Long hours, personal stress, institutional pressure to complete on time – and all this for what?

Increasingly a PhD alone does not guarantee an academic career. We are expected to publish, teach and contribute to professional development. Oh and did I mention you have to publish, publish, publish?

However there is a way to publish and do a PhD - hopefully without perishing.

I recently completed my PhD by publication, which for me was a way of getting a doctorate while keeping my sanity.

What is a PhD by publication?

A PhD by Publication is just what it sounds like, instead of producing one large monograph, you produce a series of articles to be published in peer reviewed journals or as book chapters.

The normal format is four to five research papers bookended by a substantial introductory chapter and a concluding chapter. The thesis must still read as a cohesive whole and therefore despite the articles being stand alone pieces, they must also relate to each other.

The aim is that when they are read together they become more than just the sum of their parts.

It is a relatively new concept within the social sciences and humanities but has been around for a while in the hard sciences here in Australia. It is much more common in European Universities where it is often the standard approach for doctoral studies.

The advantages

There are many advantages to doing a PhD this way. One of the more self-evident ones is that it allows you to publish and finish a PhD – academically hitting two birds with one stone.

There are many pressures of doing a PhD that are taken away from publishing. PhD by publication focused my writing on achieving output and helped to avoid the trap of always pushing the publications to the side.

A PhD by publication also helps you to develop practical skills. Through my own process, I learnt how to write to journal editors, deal with rejection and pitch articles – all skills that are important for professional academic life.

This method also divides the PhD up into more manageable chunks – sometimes the hardest thing about a PhD is the enormity of the task it presents. But dividing it up into five discrete papers allowed me to see a way ahead making the PhD seem more achievable.

Last but not least, you can get both expert feedback and it can provide that “tick” factor. PhD students were usually high achieving undergraduate students used to receiving recognition and reward for their work. Entering the land of doctoral studies, you don’t get the pay off from your work until the end of many years and lack of recognition can be deeply un-motivating.

But each time something is published is a chance to celebrate and take a deep breath before moving on to the next portion.

The expert feedback you get during this process is also very helpful even it’s not always pleasant (see below). By the time your PhD goes to examiners it has already gone through a rigorous peer review process.

In times of PhD panic, it was comforting to think that my work can’t be that bad if someone had already agreed to publish it.

The disadvantages

Of course, though, there are some disadvantages to electing to do a PhD in this way.

Chief among them is the pressure to start publishing immediately. Publishing is hardly a quick process; it can sometimes take up to two years from submission to a journal long periods of fieldwork may not be compatible.

Therefore candidates taking this route need to start straight away. Aim to have your first paper finished within the first 6 months.

It’s also worth recognising that this is not a format for the faint hearted. Rejections from journals can be brutal. You need to be prepared to take this on the chin and send it out again.

That said, this is a skill you need to develop for academia. Being exposed to it early helped me develop a thick skin and be humble about my work.

With the benefit of feedback, there’s also the downside of extra work. You may often need to rewrite work for journal editors.

After all, editors have their own agenda and interests and in some respect you are writing for them and not for you. However this taught me to stand my ground with editors and defend things I wished to keep as well as framing things for different audiences.

Another thing to be wary of when considering a PhD by publication is that you need to understand that it’s not a professional Doctorate. A Professional Doctorate recognises contribution to a profession and usually doesn’t include the same level of original contribution or indeed a thesis.

PhD by publication is still examined to the same standards as a traditional PhD. However countering this assumption that it is not a “real” PhD is sometimes hard.

Finally, because you’re likely to be treading new ground in your institution, there’s not always a clear path before you.

I did my PhD in a department which was still sorting out its policy towards this format. As a consequence I needed the strong support of your supervisor and head of department to make this work (which I was lucky enough to have). You shouldn’t expect a clear set of instructions here; guidelines and policies seem to vary between departments, disciplines and universities.

The up shot

The biggest advantage is that I have come out of my doctoral studies not only with a PhD but with a healthy publication record. This I hope will assist me when taking the next step in my career.

For me, PhD with publication provided a framework, a way forward from which I could see the path to submission. It provided me with a way to get my doctorate without worrying about the process. It allowed me the opportunity to contribute to debates while developing my ideas.

If academia is to expect Australian candidates to now finish their PhD and publish, then it should promote and encourage alternative formats such as this. It can only be good for both PhD candidates and the profession at large.

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