Should I only show the the published paper in the dissertation papers only option?

Date: September 2017


Hello Deans,

I am in the process of writing my dissertation. My field permits the use of paper options, and I have a paper where I am the first author that I am using for one of my dissertation chapters. This paper contains all original data; however, the student before me that started the project wrote a very nice introduction that was included in one of his dissertation chapters, and we use part of it in the paper (he is co-author).

I was planning to re-write the introduction since it was published in someone else’s dissertation, but I had a meeting with my committee and they suggest I ask. Since I am using the papers option, should I only show the published paper, including the introduction written by someone else and cited? The data, results, and almost all of the discussion have not been used in anyone’s dissertation.

Thank you,

Dissertation-writing Graduate Student


Hi, Dissertation-writing Graduate Student,

My answer to your question will overlap a bit with a prior “Ask a Dean” question from earlier this year. A thesis or dissertation is generally expected to be the original work of the sole author, but a “papers option” thesis or dissertation does allow for certain works with contributions from multiple authors. The policy is described in the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty. Here’s the exact language of the policy, as described on page 33:

Papers Option

In fields that have so authorized, the special committee may permit a student to submit a thesis or dissertation consisting of publishable papers that are not necessarily related. In such cases, it is important that the special committee and the student determine, early in the student’s program, if the papers option is acceptable to the committee. Papers may include multiple authors, but the work of the student must be substantive. A special committee decision to allow this option must be unanimous.

If the introduction that your colleague wrote was included in one of the publishable papers it would likely be appropriate to use the article as written, noting his contribution. If the introduction was not included in one of the papers but is instead intended to frame the publishable papers in the context of his own dissertation it would be more appropriate to rework the section. As I said in my response to Dissertation Writer, “Because authorship issues can be complex, I encourage you to discuss your plans with your full committee and DGS. I’d suggest you to contact Jan Allen, associate dean for academic and student affairs, for more specific information.” 

Jan is willing to look over your paper(s) and introduction if it would help you and your committee reach a decision on how to proceed. Thanks, Jan!



Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration and Student Services