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I wrote my master’s thesis which looked at something through two different lenses using two different datasets. I want to use one of those angles to submit a paper to a conference, and potentially the other in the future. So my questions are:

  1. Is this okay to do?
  2. Do I need to cite my master’s thesis, even if it is unpublished?
  3. Can I just copy parts that would apply, or do I need to paraphrase and cite different parts of the paper? For example, the analysis section of the paper, I give the background of the interviews I conducted. Can I just use this same language for the paper I want to submit to the conference?
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It sounds like you're rewriting your previous research into a publishable form. That's completely above board and very common. You wouldn't have to cite your masters thesis because the thesis is effectively an earlier draft of this paper.

See this related question, except the OP wants to turn a published paper into a thesis.

See also this related question, where I asked about self-plagiarism in conference talks.

  • Thank you very much for the feedback on this. I'm just getting into academia in a sense, and it is all a bit confusing sometimes. – academiahelpnow Feb 27 '18 at 9:22
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In my discipline (chemistry) and my time almost every good thesis at master level results in a following publication, as a full paper or as a proceeding, or at least contribute in part to them.

Although a master thesis probably is to be considered a publication, I can't believe it is indexed except at local and perhaps country levels.

Indexed or not, there will be practically no way except for those in contact with you and/or your master thesis supervisor to know your results.

I doubt you can easily and heavily cut and paste as the result won't be a (good) paper. You must rewrite a different publication within the limits of the article in mind.

As for self plagiarism, in the very wrong case it will be noticed after you will have win a Nobel, so is really up to you. But for the reason above, it is unlikely you will indulge in formal self plagiarism

(Unless the thesis is already few pages in length, but I do not think so).

Most important you must write and submit in concertation with, if any, coworkers, and surely your supervisor.

He/she surely will have the most appropriate answer to your Q.

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  1. Yes if you make sure you don't self-plagiarize. For the exact definition of self-plagiarism, see the guidelines of the conferences and of the institution where your Master's thesis has been submitted.

  2. Typically, yes. Difficult to tell without knowing the exact guidelines.

  3. Typically, no. Again, difficult to tell without knowing the exact guidelines. Copying large parts is usually considered an act of plagiarism. Copying small parts would work, but only if you quote them.

In general, I'd be careful when submitting parts of your thesis elsewhere even if you reformulate it completely in your own words. Some reviewers are o.k. with it, and some might say "Oh, this is simply a recompilation of the author's thesis. Reject." I've seen both situations. You might wish to look at the guidelines of the venue first. To avoid such issues, make an improvement wrt. your thesis.

  • So-called "self-plagiarism" is not plagiarism. – Uwe Jan 13 '18 at 13:22
  • Thank you for this feedback. I really appreciate it, and it helps clarify my issue. – academiahelpnow Feb 27 '18 at 9:22

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