10 Reasons NOT to Do a PhD by Publication

After I wrote about the 10 Reasons to Do a PhD by Publication, I decided to write about the 10 reasons why not do it. This is because if you are doing a PhD by publication or by thesis, it actually may not matter. Never forget that there is no better way of doing a PhD. Only doing a PhD is what matters.

1 You Can't

Well, that has been the most obvious reason. The U.S. system, for instance, doesn't allow for a PhD by publication. Its highly structured PhD program of 10 semesters focuses on writing a thesis at the end. In other countries, such as Great Britain or Germany, it depends from faculty to faculty if you are able to do a PhD by publication. 


2 You Dislike High Uncertainty

Doing a PhD by publication means not knowing when you get published. It confronts you with the uncertainty of not being able to fully control the success of your thesis. As a rule of thumb, imagine being in control of half of what determines your success. If you rather feel uncomfortable in such a situation, which may hinder your productivity, I recommend to not do a PHD by publication. For those that look for a thrill, here are some tips how to deal with this uncertainty.


3 You Feel Uncomfortable with Cherry Picking

When doing a PhD by publication you should focus your attention on the most relevant topics and data that you discover during your PhD time. Although the publication may not ultimately fit your thesis topic, it could help you getting your needed number of publications. As a result, this sort of cherry picking may decrease the coherence of your papers. In fact, the topic may get broader than you first thought. 


4 Early Outing Stresses You

Publishing early during your research career may make you uncomfortable because you feel that you would benefit more from taking more time than rushing things. Indeed, you should ask yourself if you are ready for the fact that your thinking hasn't been top notch. Such early outings could also bear the potential to close some doors for you that you may have been able to enter on a later point of time. But always remember that closed doors may open again.


5 You Prefer to Strive for Perfection

It makes no sense when doing a PhD by publication to head for the best journals out there, because most of the time good journals will also get you your PhD. As a publishing strategy, therefore, it makes sense to write more good quality papers, instead of focusing on a single excellent paper. Focusing on a single excellent paper, however, has actually a higher value in research.


6 You Want to Specialize

Becoming a specialist or a so-called expert of a topic is a strong skill that you acquire by doing a PhD. A PhD by publication, however, may make you rather dive into various topics than letting you deeply explore one topic. As a result, you may find yourself less specialized, but with a broader skill set.


7 Novelty is Key for You

The thesis that is your own work and striving, allows you to think without reviewers and co-authors. It gives you the freedom to develop your own ideas free from compromises and conventions. As such the classic thesis can be a fountain of novelty, if it's well done. When doing a PhD by publication agreeing on compromises may hinder the development of novel ideas for the reason that you have to satisfy various stakeholders of your work.


8 You Do a Practitioner PhD

In case your PhD is part of a bigger company project, you may have not the freedom, time or mind to write several papers from the data that you gathered within the company. Although it is possible, it's perhaps much harder to accomplish a PhD by publication when having to focus your entire PhD on one single company. Keep in mind though that indeed such a situation can bear a huge potential to access sensible data.


9 Your Supervisor is Against It

That's a show-stopper. As you may know that your supervisor is your first gate keeper to the holy halls of research, you should try to address the wishes of your supervisor always if possible. Sometimes it helps to talk through it and find a compromise. But keep in mind that you should try to make your point clear and involve your supervisor early on to avoid any misunderstandings at a later point of time.


10 You Want to Finish with a Boom

When doing a PhD by thesis, you keep your writing to yourself until the end and then finish with huge fireworks, trumpets and a rabbit out of the hat including all-nighters and definitely some strong emotions after submission in the aftermath of your PhD. A PhD by publication would take that away from you leaving you with a rather calm finish and some smaller thrills and incentives along the PhD way with each publication that gets passed. Think about that fact and prepare yourself for what you have signed up for.


Now, what is better? PhD by publication or PhD by thesis? For what did you decide? And why? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section. Tell me what you think.

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Related articles: 

 How to Get Out of the PhD Prison

Publish & Perish? Better Publish & Party! 

6 Tips to Improve Your PhD Outcome