I'm a PhD student in physics in a European country. I'm about to have my PhD defence in about 6 weeks. I have 3 published papers and one manuscript ready for submission. My thesis is also finished (more or less). About 6 months ago I found several errors in one of my published papers. I should have spotted these errors much earlier because they were pretty obvious, but it took around one year after the article was published until I spotted the errors. Luckily, I was able to fix these errors and we submitted a corrigendum to the article which has now been published. I also included the correct data in my thesis.

I'm very worried that this will affect the outcome of my defence. My committee and my opponent will read my thesis, but also my publications. They will probably spot all the errors in the original article and ask me why I didn't spot these mistakes earlier. Even though we have published a corrigendum, it still took a long time after publication before I found these errors. I'm very worried that they will not give me my degree because of this. That would be a nightmare for me. My supervisor said that it should be fine, but I'm still very worried.

  • 4
    No one can say but those who will be judging your work. But, I think that your advisor is giving good advice and will support you if there is any difficulty. People make mistakes. It is good that you corrected them yourself.
    – Buffy
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 12:53
  • 1
    Welcome to Academia SE. Please have a look at these questions as to whether any answers your question. If not, please edit your question to briefly explain why and particularly share some details about your errors: 1) How severe were they? 2) Were they different incarnations of the same problem or completely distinct?
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 12:53
  • In your country, can publications influence the outcome of your defence? Sure, your committee and opponent might read them, but can they influence the outcome?
    – user2768
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 14:26
  • Yes, in my country you need to publish at least 3 articles. The articles will be appended at the end of the printed thesis. So the opponent and the committee will most definitely read them
    – Martensite
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 16:12
  • 1
    I think you have overestimated how closely they will have read your work. Just have a “sound bite” response for if it happens to come up. Practice answering this question to a friend and see if your answer comes off as smart/thoughtful/genuine.
    – Dawn
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 18:46

1 Answer 1


Speaking as a mathematician, I have come to realize that mistakes are inevitable in the published literature. In many cases, authors don't find them or do find them and don't issue an erratum/corrigendum. So, when I see an author put in the extra effort to do so, I respect them much more for that. It's not easy to admit publicly to making a mistake, but fixing mistakes really helps make the literature more trustworthy and user-friendly. If anything, I think this would demonstrate maturity to your committee (rather than trying to hide the mistake or hoping no one will notice), and would probably help you rather than hurt you. That is: if they are of the same opinion that mistakes are bound to happen from time to time, and that this is the right way to handle them when they do.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .