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I am about to submit my MSc thesis which is written in the shape of a paper manuscript plus introduction, extended conclusions and the appendix. My research group encourages this format to streamline the publication of research results. I now have to chose an appropriate title for both the paper manuscript and the thesis itself.

Would it be ill-advised to choose the same titles here? On the one hand both works deal with exactly the same topic and I initially put the same titles, on the other hand it might be weird to end up with two publications of the same name once the paper gets published somewhere (considering search engines etc). This whole format is fairly new to me (and my supervisor) so I am interested in opinions and experiences from the community.

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  • You also need to consider the issue of self plagiarism in as situation like this. – Buffy Sep 16 '19 at 12:20
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    I was assured this is going to be fine. Generally the thesis will not be publicly available until the paper has been published. – heuamoebe Sep 16 '19 at 12:33
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    That doesn't change the issue at all if both are available in the future. – Buffy Sep 16 '19 at 12:34
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    Anything I have to look out for in particular? I thought it was fairly common nowadays to use publications to graduate. I have seen multiple PhD theses consisting of 3 (published or submitted) papers. – heuamoebe Sep 16 '19 at 12:40
  • A thesis is not a paper. Having both with the same name is misleading and will cause difficulties in the future. Unless the paper you publish is the thesis, having both with the same title is highly problematic. – Poidah Sep 16 '19 at 12:44
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I think this is a tricky issue faced by many people today. In the past, a publication with the same name and overlapping content would be fine, since the dissertation wasn't published in any formal sense. Today it is quite different. You need to avoid two things. The first is self plagiarism. This is using your old words/materials without citation. The second is having double publication of the same ideas with the intent of getting two publications for the "price" of one. Even if that isn't the intent, it can be so charged, to your detriment.

One way to avoid the problem, I think, is to consider the paper and the dissertation to be two versions of the same work, not two independent works. This works especially well if the paper is published first and the advisor and committee agree that the dissertation is "an expanded version" of the paper. The two versions reference each other.

If that is acceptable, then the paper notes that an expanded version will appear as the dissertation. And the dissertation notes that it is an expanded version of a previous paper (published or submitted).

To make it easy for people reading the paper to find the dissertation, give a citation. I think that naming it the same is a less important issue than that the two versions point to one another. But if both wind up published, then having similar but not identical names is probably better.

The problem with self plagiarism (and double publications) is that each version contains some context that is missing from the other. A scholar will want to see all of the context, including references and citations made, and so will want to be able to find the other version reasonably easily.


Note, importantly, that I've intentionally used tentative language here. Opinions may even vary by field.

In some fields a cumulative dissertation is pretty standard. A dissertation there is a collection of a few published papers with some introductory material and conclusion. But it is clear to everyone what it is. Make it clear.

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I agree with Buffy that this is a bit tricky. One could argue that using two different titles (or even two different texts sharing the same thoughts) for two documents with practically the same content is an effort to give the impression that you want two "publications" for one. For this aspect, the title or the text themselves are not so important, but the ideas are. In this sense, all thesises with results published in a paper share the problem with you. But I do not recall that this was ever discussed as problematic, so I see no fundamental problem here. But the discussion here already shows that there are different opinions.

In my experience, it is extremely rare that an MSc thesis is good enough for me to publish as it is. I usually have to improve the discussion a lot to be completely happy. So you can be proud of yourself if your advisors will pass your text including the exact same title to peer-review. Have they said that they will do so without major editing?

Self plagiarism might be an issue, if your university has a policy on that, but I have not yet really understood why this term exists at all. However, you should check the copyright situation in general with the journal you select. Many journals allow to use the contents of the paper for thesises and the like, but you might have to ask for permission. Or you could go for open access.

By the way: I know many people who change titles for instance when they present the same results at different conferences, just to make it look better on the publication list. I would not call this good practice. Buffy hits a point when encouraging you to make things transparent.

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  • Thanks! This helped a lot. – heuamoebe Sep 17 '19 at 17:15

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