My school policy for PhDs does not require any publications, but it's good to publish anyway. Recently my advisor asked me to write a journal paper, but I have more experiments to focus on.

Should I refuse him or just put my work on hold for a while? Personally I want to publish, but this time I am really not in position to write quality paper as I need focus on my work to finish my PhD on time.

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    You won't have a good experiment until you try and write it up.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 16:33
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    Until you start writing it up you don't realize everything you should have done. This based on 30+ years of publishing papers...
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 16:39
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    Respect to your seniority, noted your advice. I better make changes in my schedule and hopefully write one. Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 16:43
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    It's probably good to mention which discipline you're in. Different disciplines have different publication "styles". Perhaps not so much Biology vs. Chemistry, but Biology vs. Anthropology vs. Philosophy. In the physical sciences, at least, your publication record is what really measures how "good" your Ph.D. was (the dissertation content proper is practically ignored), whereas I believe other fields sometimes practically ignore intermediate publications and focus more on the dissertation proper.
    – R.M.
    Commented Aug 27, 2016 at 21:05
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    'Can I ...' - surely you can. You can also pee on his door or spit in his cup. Your abilities are almost infinite. 'Should I refuse' - it is up to you. No one knows your full situation and your advisor. So the question is very subjective. Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 6:43

6 Answers 6


I suspect that the time you invest in writing any papers now will be mostly paid back because it will make it much easier to write your dissertation.

I published several papers during my PhD research, and am currently writing my dissertation. My first step was to copy the introduction from each paper into my literature review chapter, and put the body of each paper into a separate chapter of my thesis. Of course, I have to write segues and reorganise the information a bit, but that gave me a big head start on the dissertation. Of course, you'll need to check that the copyright agreement you sign with the publisher allows you to include content from your paper in your PhD dissertation (most do), and also verify that your institution allows this as well.

Another tip: If you write a paper, hang onto any material that you cut out to meet space requirements. You may want to include that material in your thesis.

  • The second tip is a good one - I used to keep incremental drafts of papers and used the cut parts of those when writing up my Masters Dissertation. Huge time saver for the cut and paste but also as it added an immediate direction or topic that I could expand when stuck. Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 2:10
  • This is especially helpful considering your thesis involves work done 3/4/5 years prior to actually writing the dissertation. Writing up something you've done within the last few months will be drastically more efficient than going back years. And since reviewers' comments are often quite helpful at improving the quality of the work, I'd say any effort put into writing paper now gets paid back with interest.
    – PGnome
    Commented Aug 29, 2016 at 17:46

Publishing journals is an important part of being a PhD student and researcher. A PhD without publication would be detrimental for your career even is it is considered to be optional by your institution.

You can't be to sure when your ongoing project will come to completion. Research results are better published as soon as they are obtained. Your advisor knows this fact. Your ought to follow your advisor's induction in this aspect. In fact, it would be even better to discuss this issue with your advisor to come to a consensus.

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    If you leave academics after the PhD, which many people do, people don't care that much about papers.
    – Bernhard
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 5:08
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    @Bernhard: Any field that requires PhD as a qualification whether academia, R&D, or research industries require publications. In most cases, recruiters who don't care much about papers care less about the PhD degree itself.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 5:59
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    @ÉbeIsaac, your sentiment regarding publishing being a good idea is fine, but saying publications are a requirement for any job asking for PhDs is patently false. You probably don't mean to be misleading, but this indicates you are only familiar with a small subset of industry jobs. Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 13:11
  • @user1717828 Really? True; I've never heard of a PhD-based job that doesn't require publications. I'm interested to know of some examples.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 13:38
  • @ÉbeIsaac, as a fresh PhD on the job market, I too was surprised, but almost no postings, recruiters or interviewers outside academia have even mentioned publications. I just Googled this posting, but you can find dozens like it with a quick search: indeed.com/m/viewjob?jk=83b3fef8382404c4&from=serp Commented Aug 28, 2016 at 14:54

You should sit down and have a talk with your adviser about this. It's your responsibility to ensure you're going to graduate on time. It's also important for you to publish your work. Publishing is an important part of research and getting a PhD is learning how to do research.

How a frank discussion with your adviser about the time restrictions you have and how to balance both commitments.


You should also ask yourself whether your advisor might know better than you on this one.

Assuming they're an experienced researcher, someone you're looking to as you learn to be a researcher yourself, and someone who is familiar with your abilities and what you're doing, they've probably suggested this to you for a good reason.

If any of the above assumptions about your advisor aren't true, you might have broader issues than just this publication.


Investing that time now will pay off in the long run. When you eventually come to write your thesis, and indeed defend your thesis, you will know that a considerable portion of this has already undergone the peer review process and has been scrutinised in detail.


If you're absolutely sure the extra experiments are necessary for a good paper, write a sketch of that good paper and pitch it to your advisor. If you can see it, surely s/he can as well. Or s/he might change your view of things.

However... even if the PhD program does not require publications, as other answers suggest they're pretty important, so may be you should have written the paper even earlier, and your reservation is more appropriate for your second paper.

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