The students of the laboratory in which I worked for follows the below rule:

1) In four to five years, they publish three-four IEEE papers.
2) Merge all those papers into a single document and publish it as the PhD thesis.

For me, the scenario became a bit different. In first three years of my PhD candidature, I wrote three IEEE papers, publish them, and got all the credit scores required by the university to fulfill my PhD.

Now, for past two years, I am working on a project. I wrote three manuscripts: one is basically on an Electronic Device, and another two are on the Software Modules based on that Electronic Device. Our initial plan is to publish them before my thesis submission. But, later my prof. decided to sell it to a company. So, we didn't submit those manuscripts. Since, we are not getting a good amount of money, my prof. asked me to write my thesis based on those three manuscripts.

So, my thesis basically looks like:

PART I: Manuscript One (without Abstract & Conclusion)  
PART II: Manuscript Two (without Abstract & Conclusion) 
PART III: Manuscript Three (without Abstract & Conclusion) 

I submitted my thesis and got my PhD degree. Now, I work in my professor's company (my student life is basically over). But, I don't want to throw away those three manuscripts into garbage can. I want to publish them into some IEEE journals. So, I took a "We Don't Care" certificate from the Dean of my University which basically says: "It is his work. We gave him a degree based on it. But, we don't have any copyright on it. We don't care what he will do with that work."

So, from my university point of view, there is no problem if I publish papers based on my PhD work. Now, when I asked my professors/colleagues about this, they told me: YES, YOU CAN PUBLISH PAPERS OUT OF YOUR PHD THESIS. Then, I asked what does OUT OF means. Different people has different opinions about it. Since they are confused, they made me more confused.

Some of them told me change the figures, some of them told me change some of the texts, some of them told me keep the proposed method same, but change the wordings......... the list goes on and on. Now, as I work as a full-time engineer in a company, I don't have that much time to do all those works. I want to publish those three manuscripts as they are in the thesis (like below).

Manuscript One (PART I of the thesis - only change in Abstract & Conclusion)  
Manuscript Two (PART II of the thesis - only change in Abstract & Conclusion) 
Manuscript Three (PART III of the thesis - only change in Abstract & Conclusion) 

My specific question is that:

This is my OWN WORK. Nobody has any copyright on it. It is published as PhD thesis, but, never distributed online OPENLY. Only the students of my university can access it through their student accounts. I made it private on purpose. However, the university can make it public after two years.

The only problem is if I search in google the exact texts from my manuscripts, it takes me to the university library website (where you have to give user-name and password to view the thesis). That simply means, if I submit those manuscripts to three IEEE journals, all of them will say I HAVE PLAGIARIZED THE WORK (am I correct?). Because, the plagiarism checker of IEEE cannot differentiate between the works which have/don't have any COPYRIGHTS.

Can the learned researchers confirm me:

1) If I submit those three manuscripts into three IEEE journals, is there any chance that they will pass PLAGIARISM CHECKS? Please note that at the time of PhD thesis submission, I have uploaded my manuscripts to turnitin plagiarism checker website to get an "Originality Check" certificate. Is that could be an issue?

2) Should I just submit and tell the editors the above problem (to be legally/ethically correct)?

3) Is there any other solution?

Thank you for your time.

  • You should check the specific journals you are publishing in to see if they have specific rules for this (many do). Most allow it so long as the paper is being published with a year or so of the thesis publication. Some journals even have a special type of article which is basically "thesis published as journal article".
    – Barker
    Jun 1, 2018 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


You are mixing up a bunch of things here:

1. Copyright Since you have the copyright to your text, there is no issue here. (Personal opinion: It is rarely necessary to pay much attention to copyright issues in academia anyway.)

2. Plagiarism Since you wrote that text, there is no plagiarism issue here. Even if the journal should check for coincides in the text, they will see that this text is written by you.

3. "Self-plagiarism" / Double-publication The former is very unfortunately named, since it is no case of plagiarism. The latter points out what the actual issue is. As a rule of thumb, this only applies to the same type of publication - having the same text in journal article and dissertation is fine. In this case, the subsequent publication should clearly mention the preceding one. So the journal articles would say prominently that they are based on Chapter X of your thesis.

4. Writing appropriately for the setting If your dissertation is actually written as a dissertation, then to make good journal articles out of it, probably significant rewriting would be necessary. This is because the style (e.g. level of detail) is different; because chapters of a dissertation can be more tightly coupled than different journal articles, etc.

If you fundamentally wrote three journal articles, did not publish those but stabled them together, this is not an issue. Then updating the references/context description would be enough.

  • 1
    thanks a lot for your answer. Two things. 1) So, 100% "Self-plagiarism" is not even an issue. Right? 2) "So the journal articles would say prominently that they are based on Chapter X of your thesis." - Should I mention this in manuscripts or in cover letter to editor or in both?
    – alessandro
    May 31, 2018 at 23:30

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