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Is it possible to publish a paper when the research was done a number of years ago?

For example, can I write a paper from my Masters thesis which was done in 2011 and try to publish it in 2017?

  • what is the domain? what does your thesis talking about? does it deal with the timely manners issue? ... – Krebto Jun 19 '17 at 11:06
  • Hi @Asmat, welcome to Academia.SE. We prefer questions that could be useful to a range of people, rather than dealing very specifically with your circumstances. Therefore, I have edited your question to emphasise the more general question. However, if you don't like my edits you can "rollback" to your original version by using the "edit" button. – user2390246 Jun 19 '17 at 11:14
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    At a minimum, you will need to update the related work section to take into account relevant papers published in the intervening years. After doing that, you should be able to tell whether the paper still advances published knowledge enough to be publishable. – Patricia Shanahan Jun 19 '17 at 11:37
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Yes, IF the research is still relevant and novel.

When you publish a research paper you never write when was the research performed, you merely describe the research and explain why it is relevant. If the research is still a new/different method, then it doesn't matter when you did it. No one is going to ask. If the method was novel then, but now several people have published about it and you can not add anything to the current literature, then it is not worth publishing.

Just follow the same criteria that you would use if the research was done last night to consider if its worth of publication.

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    "you never write when the research was performed" - this is field dependent. In my field (ecology) it is very common to mention when data were collected since temporal fluctuations are often found in wild populations. – user2390246 Jun 19 '17 at 12:27
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    @user2390246 but then the research may no longer be relevant. – Walter Jun 19 '17 at 12:28
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    @AnderBiguri Yes, that is true, we would give the year(s) of data collection but not when the data were analysed. To be clear, I completely agree with your general recommendation, just wanted to point out that in some cases the reader does get some information on when the research was carried out. – user2390246 Jun 19 '17 at 13:41
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    @Walter Not necessarily, as in ecology having historical data about an issue is worthwhile. Heck, there is an effort to transcribe and annotate old 19th century ships logs, as that gives a record of what the climate was back then. What the historical record of weather/ecology was like back in 2011 hasn't been invalidated since, and provides a valuable resource for people attempting to compare it to what's happening in 2017, 2035, etc. – R.M. Jun 19 '17 at 14:37
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    astro.ic.ac.uk/bmay/home Dr. Brian May is a great example of old research being published later. Dr. May completed most of his research in the 1970s, but was distracted by other employment (the rock band Queen) and finished his doctorate in 2007. – Jim MacKenzie Jun 20 '17 at 18:19
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In addition to Ander Biguri's answer: Yes, check the relevance of your intended publication against the current literature, as you would do for a publication about "contemporary research" performed recently. Equally check to which extent you may / have to cite your master thesis as literature reference, for example if it deposited on a open-access repository.

Such a delays happened in the past, for example because the results were judged of military importance. H. C. Browns publications eventually leading to a widespread use of boranes as reducing agents in organic chemistry are one example, as some precursors were suitable high-density materials foreseen for rocket engines:

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(source, J. Am. Chem. Soc., 1953, 75, 186–190; doi: 10.1021/ja01097a049).

Or an other (doi 10.1021/ja01097a055) in the same journal, citing a thesis at the University of Chicago submitted in 1946, expressing his hopes that (in 1953) "It is anticipated that this article will soon be published in a more accessible form."

Instead of an embargo, a considerable delay between recording the research data and publication may occur even today. Imagine, for example, you want to publish your results in a journal after successfully filing for a patent application. Hence, in agreement with your patent attorney, you may send the compuscript to the publisher to gain "academic priority", but with the request to delay the publication intentionally up to a date that is convenient for the patent.

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