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At my institution, I am required to publish four papers in addition to my PhD thesis. Of course my planned papers are related to my dissertation project, but I'm not sure if it could be considered academic dishonesty / plagiarism to use these works to form part of my dissertation. I'm not thinking about copying them word for word, but I was hoping that I can include summarized versions of those works as chapters in my dissertation. Is this a common practice or would this be considered self-plagiarism? Should my dissertation work be completely separate from those other publications?

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Supplementing the answer from abatkai: The rules likely vary by field also. In chemistry, converting previously published papers into a Sandwich Thesis is generally accepted and commonplace. My thesis contained a chapter that was prefaced "Portions of this chapter were previously published as (citation), and have been reproduced with permission. Copyright is held by (publisher of the journal)." This was followed by further copyright information and the statement required by the publisher. My institution also required that I submit paperwork in support of my use of published and copyrighted material.

In addition to consulting your adviser and your institution, you should consult the journals in which you publish. Many have policies in place for this. For example, from the American Chemical Society's copyright faq:

The current ACS Journal Publishing Agreement covers several permitted uses by authors... Permitted uses of all versions include:

  • Use in theses and collections of your own work
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    If there is a journal that doesn't permit papers to be included in authors' theses, I'll be shocked. – Nate Eldredge Jun 16 '12 at 15:56
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    If there is a journal that doesn't permit papers to be included in a thesis, I wouldn't publish in it. – Ben Norris Jun 16 '12 at 21:31
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Depends probably on the rules at your institution. At many places actually this is the usual custom. Ask your adviser.

If you write out the correct references so that everybody who reads knows that this part can be found in that paper, then it is never plagiarism. See also the "Sandwich thesis" question mentioned in the comment by Andy W.

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