Q: Would publishing an article from my thesis proposal affect the actual thesis, especially in terms of plagiarism?

Detailed Question -

Hi. I am an MPhil Applied Linguistics scholar. I defended my thesis proposal successfully and my proposal has been accepted. If I extract an article from the proposal and it gets published before my thesis is ready and submitted, should I be citing that research paper? Is it even a good idea to publish a paper from the proposal/synopsis before writing the thesis itself? Please respond with any professional suggestions.

1 Answer to this question

There are actually two aspects to your query, professional and ethical. Let me respond to them one by one.


You wish to know if it is permissible or professional to write a journal article before submitting your thesis. This is quite a regular practice and even a recommended one by some people. Writing a journal article based on and before submitting your thesis helps you prepare for writing your thesis and also defending your thesis. This is because peer reviewer comments and your responses to them help sharpen and fine-tune the thinking and development of your thesis. In fact, some universities recommend writing a cumulative thesis, that is, a thesis that is a collection of journal articles. However, the convention may vary by field and university. Therefore, it would be a good idea to check with your supervisor on this and get their guidance. They could also help you on which parts of the thesis to develop into a journal paper.


Again, it is quite ethical too to write journal papers based on your thesis paper. However, you need to be mindful of the following things:

  • Confirm this with your journal publisher, as the published paper becomes the copyright of the journal.
  • Mention at the beginning of your thesis that it is based on one or more journal articles as applicable.
  • Provide references / links to your articles as applicable.
  • As mentioned earlier, check with your supervisor about the university guidelines. The university would typically need you to be the first author on all papers.

Finally, note that there are certain differences between journal papers and thesis papers. So, you will need to alter details and style accordingly. You can find more information about all the points discussed here in the following pieces: