An Absence Of Publications

An infrequent-but-troubling question at viva help seminars is “What will my examiners think if I don’t have any publications by the time I have my viva?”

Or worse, “Can my examiners fail me if I don’t have any publications?”

Examiners might ask or might know if you don’t have any publications. They could ask you why not, and there could be many reasons you could offer:

  • I’ve been focussed first on finishing my thesis, but have plans to publish…
  • I’m exploring publishing a monograph after I’ve completed my PhD…
  • I don’t want to publish papers based on my PhD because…

An examiner can have opinions and expectations on what is the right way to do things. Everyone’s allowed an opinion, but in the viva an absence of publications cannot count against a candidate. The thesis and the work done to produce that is being evaluated.

Other publications could be seen as a good thing, but the absence of them can’t be taken as a negative.

More than anything, prior publications are a confidence boost for a candidate. If you have some then you have a little more support for feeling that things will go well because others have accepted your work.

But if you don’t have publications, it’s likely that you’ve invested your time in other ways – not bad, just different – and have taken other steps to show yourself (and your examiners) that you are a capable researcher.

You don’t need publication to pass your viva.