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Is publishing papers before the evaluation of thesis is a good idea? Isn't there a risk of making the idea public?

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Risk? The whole point of publishing is to make your ideas public! – JeffE Dec 1 '12 at 18:49
Publishing is usually required to be competitive on the academic job market. – Paul Dec 2 '12 at 0:05
up vote 23 down vote accepted

You should try to publish before you finish your thesis. An idea in a published paper will be recognized as yours, there are more chances of an idea getting stolen from a thesis.

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Thanks. A journal article or conference article? – Vinit Dec 1 '12 at 10:44
That depends on your field. – user4050 Dec 1 '12 at 11:08
No disrespect intended but in this thread it's funny that people forget that he would publish on his name so what would be stolen? – j riv Dec 27 '12 at 13:42
@LelaDax : Publishing a thesis goes to, maybe, 5 people. That doesn't get the student's name associated with the idea. Publishing to a journal goes to MANY MORE people in the field. – Peter K. Jan 11 '13 at 19:31
A very smart friend of mine essentially stapled together a bunch of his published papers to form his thesis. – Dan Halbert Jan 28 '13 at 20:09

Four reasons why it's generally a very good idea to publish papers before you submit your thesis:

  1. The earlier you publish, the less likely it is that your idea will be scooped [1], i.e. that someone working in the same area actually publishes the same idea/result before you.
  2. Once ideas are published, they are not stolen: they are used, built upon, with proper attribution (usually in the form of citation). This is not theft.
  3. The goal of an academic is actually to disseminate new knowledge, not to lock it into your desk drawers.
  4. Having papers published (or at least accepted for publication) is very very important for your CV. It may also be a requirement (formal or unspoken) for defending your PhD.
  5. If said publication includes peer review, the peer review is likely to improve your work, both by vetting it thoroughly and giving you new points of view on your arguments. (I edited this in after reading gerrit’s answer; it is an important point.)

In some specific cases, good arguments can be made against publication before thesis submission. Most are actually not specific to the thesis itself, but generally apply to delaying publication of a research:

  1. If research is performed as part of a contract that requires an embargo on publication (say, imposed by one industrial partner). This is a very awkward situation, but it does happen in some fields.
  2. Sometimes, a delay in publication is necessary to protect intellectual property, e.g. in the case of delaying publication until a related patent submission is complete.

Ref. 1:
enter image description here

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+1 for comic. (This actually happened to me within the last month!) – JeffE Dec 3 '12 at 7:27

I'd like to add one important point that hasn't been raised yet: if the research that lies at the basis of your PhD has already passed through peer review, that makes it easier to defend against an opponent. You've already replied to two or more reviewers and improved the manuscript and possibly the underlying work. This makes it much less likely that awkward things turn up during the actual discussion with the opponent or the examination committee.

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+1. For me, this is the main point. – Beetroot-Beetroot Dec 1 '12 at 18:02
+1 - it's also helpful for problematic committee members. – Fomite Dec 3 '12 at 23:40

Actually, publishing paper(s) is a requirement for defending your thesis in some universities.
The best thing you can do for your thesis and the field is to make your ideas public through publications.

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By publicizing an original idea at earliest possible moment, you increase your chances of being the first one to publish it, and thus make it known that this is your idea. So, in fact, this prevents it from being

Also, I don't think published ideas can be stolen. The worst that can happen is they can be used without attribution but that is always a possibility wherever you publish them.

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