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I am mid stage PhD student. I have done qualification exam and course work etc and from last around one year I am working on a one research problem. There is small progress on that problem, but till needs to add more things to make it publishable. I am also aware that in the field I am working research gets their PhD with 1-2 papers and even I have heard they can award me a PhD without even a single publication ( I have seen few online ). Some senior researcher told that TAing etc also a part of work and should be considered as a integral part of PhD.

Question : Is it possible to get a PhD without a single publication? What can stop me from getting a PhD? Other than If I show a bad behaviour etc

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    Obviously, not finishing a satiafactory thesis can easily stop you from getting a PhD. – xuq01 Jul 19 '18 at 15:17
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    dear Old please read your PhD program requirement. – user94263 Jul 19 '18 at 15:40
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    Also note that a PhD diploma is just a piece of paper. It is useless if you have nothing to show for it. – FBolst Jul 19 '18 at 16:21
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    As a general rule there is no connection between a PhD and publications. I have seen many students graduate without publishing. But check your program’s requirements. – Dan Romik Jul 19 '18 at 16:50
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    @Scientist and Massimo interesting. My experience is mainly with mathematics in North America. Yes, I guess it’s clear that what I said isn’t universally true. – Dan Romik Jul 19 '18 at 17:08
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It is pretty rare that one gets a doctorate without publications and/or an acceptable dissertation. What is "common" in your field has little relevance to your particular situation. You need to make your advisor and maybe a committee satisfied that you have done work of sufficient quality. Your requirements are local to a University, or, perhaps, to the regulations of a particular country.

Serving as a TA may get you better recommendations for an academic job after you finish, but have little relevance for the doctorate itself.

Yes, bad behavior would stop you most likely, but you need to focus on the research that leads to acceptance.

Complaining to a supervisor that "others have done it" will likely get you precisely nowhere - if not set back.


In another question here you have indicated you are in your fourth year. This makes me wonder whether you are getting sufficient guidance from your PhD supervisor/advisor. If not, you might try to improve your relationship with him/her in hopes of obtaining the guidance you need. Four years isn't yet excessively long in the current situation, but you should assess your progress and make sure you and your advisor agree on a plan for completion.

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    "It is pretty rare that one gets a doctorate without publications" -- not really, I have seen a few. This is highly dependent on field, institution, country. – Scientist Jul 19 '18 at 16:27
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    @Scientist, without either publications or a dissertation? Also, is "a few" different from "pretty rare"? – Buffy Jul 19 '18 at 16:47
  • I see your point. I meant without publications. More common in social sciences, from what I hear, but a few colleagues got there in Biology. – Scientist Jul 19 '18 at 16:59
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    @Scientist back in my era, mathematicians normally didn't publish before finishing the doctorate. I don't know about other fields. I realize that has changed now. But the dissertation was pretty much guaranteed (by the faculty) to be worthy of publication. Partly the new "expectations" account for the (much) longer time to get the degree. Back then four years was pretty standard - post baccalaureate. Now? Seven, more? I think in some other countries than US you can have a pretty regular position (i.e. not just TA) before the doctorate so time matters less. Less common here. – Buffy Jul 19 '18 at 17:07
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There is no connection between successful Phd. and any number of publications in most of the universities. The evaluation of the Phd. is done independent of the publications. It can be the case that a student fail even with multiple publications if these publications were not sufficient for Phd. and vise versa, many students can pass without publication but their work is sufficient for Phd.

Also there is no connection between tutoring and getting a Phd. but you can get good relations with other professors, get experience, and learn from it. A good behavior is required for every relationship even with strangers in the street as well as in the university. But each university have guides on what constitute an offense and the penalties. Good behavior does not mean you suffer in silence or you see something wrong but accept it not to be viewed as problematic. There are rules and procedures for how/to whom you talk.

What gets you a Phd. is a novel contribution in the field. Not necessarily a breakthrough or an invention, but new results or methodology, etc. By definition, novel mean not known before and new. So the results/study/system should not been something have been known already (replication). This must be discussed with your supervisor and also you should make your own judgement as at the end the examiners are independent of your supervisor.

I have not ever seen publications as requirement for a Phd. in any university. Students can graduate without publications and I know many have done this. They can work on publication afterwords and some have published after the Phd. Most of the times, your supervisor must support your direction if you want to postpone publication.

However, it is highly recommended that you publish at least one paper. Venue/journals/publishers and reviewing committees have different strengths. Try to send your paper for a reasonably good one. Try to benefit from the feedback if your paper got rejected to improve your work before the Phd. exam.

Publishing will give you confidence before the Phd. exam. It will also give the assessors some confidence that others have looked at the work and accept it. But they make their independent judgement.

If you did not publish, that does not mean you do not have novel contribution. But make sure from your supervisor it is acceptable for going to Phd. exam.

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The usual formula is to "add to the knowledge of humanity" or some such thing. It isn't ALWAYS a research publication, this is true. But that's the most frequent thing by far. And most usually reported on in a thesis. Usually there are some other requirements that must also be fulfilled, such as a residency requirement, often but not always 3 years. There can also be requirements to take certain number or types of course work and pass it with some particular level. There can be lots of other requirements, depending on the degree. A psychology degree, for example, probably has clinical work attached.

Some times there are also limits. For example, some schools will have a time limit on how long you can take to do a PhD before they start to ease you to the door. There may be other limits.

Such details are likely to be somewhat different from university to university, even from one department to another in the same university. The requirements for your PhD are quite probably set out in some sort of document at your school. Probably there is some kind of charter or guide or some such that will tell you such details.

If you are concerned, the thing to do is probably ask one of the administrative assistant staff persons for some guidance. Maybe the head of your department's graduate work has a secretary (or it may be that some other job title is used). Or your department may have an admin. Or maybe the department of grad studies at your university.

They are good people to know and be friendly with in any regard. They usually know all the non-academic details and can give you the "inside" information about what you need to do, what you should do, and what you should avoid doing. Often more accurately than the profs, since the admins usually wind up doing the gritty details the profs are too lazy to do.

The admins will also be able to get you lots of other good information like when to apply for various things, what you need as far as documentation, how to fill in forms, etc. etc.

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