I need to submit an assignment and I need to copy some part of my friends thesis with his consent because I do not have enough time to write in my own words. Another issue is that his thesis is not available online to refer it.

So, it it ethical to copy information with consent?

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    Not even a little bit. I'm kinda shocked you asked. – Dan Bron Nov 15 '18 at 16:00
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    What other answer than "no" do you expect? Maybe "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" ? – Maarten Buis Nov 15 '18 at 16:00
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    @hanugm what’s funny about the Q is you asked whether it’s unethical knowing it’s unethical. Maybe you were just looking for permission to do an unethical thing from us? Otherwise, why ask? As for a “mass of students”: you know the old saying ... “if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too?”. – Dan Bron Nov 15 '18 at 17:53
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    @hanugm In academic terms, it is not just unethical, it's fraud. You claim insights for yourself which are someone else's. Clearly, in the present case, while you do not deprive your friend from credit, as they give you permission, you still attribute to yourself an achievement which you have not attained. You and your friend have a good chance of getting caught for collusion (they will be punished, too, by permitting you to copy stuff). – Captain Emacs Nov 15 '18 at 17:59
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    Concerning "conflict between cultural vs academic etiquette": This is a matter of ethics, not of etiquette. Copying someone else's work as your assignment is morally wrong, not merely impolite. – Andreas Blass Nov 16 '18 at 0:05

Because @Buffy answered, and what they said was 100% true, but in my view could be misconstrued given the background you offered, I am posting a separate answer:


No, you cannot do what you want to do. What you want to do is effectively submit your friend's work as your own. You want this because you don't have time to write it yourself, you say.

Which means: you didn't do the assignment, and now you can't. You want to work around this inconvenient truth by submitting another's work as your own.

You don't have a paper to submit. Full stop. That's the reality, and you have to contend with the consequences of that reality.

Here's a test. If you properly quoted, cited, and attributed the work to your friend, which you are obliged to do¹, what mark would your professor give you on this paper? Would it be the same as the mark you'd get if you didn't mention the words were written by him²?

Doing the arithmetic, the difference in the marks is the precise value of your plagiarism.

¹ Plagiarism isn't about consent, it's about attribution. You can very often quote someone without their explicit consent, but never without their permission.

For example, Lady Marguerite Blessington said "Borrowed thoughts, like borrowed money, only show the poverty of the borrower". Lady Blessington didn't give me her permission to quote her here. I didn't even ask. But it's not plagiarism because I attributed the words she wrote to her, and didn't try to pass them off as my own.

Now copyright is another issue. It may be that one day Lady Blessington's estate may sue me for copyright violations, because I didn't get their consent to use her words in this post. But I'll never be sent up the river for plagiarism for it.

² Addressing a smaller matter in your question: would it surprise you to learn that it's not only possible, but extremely commonplace, to cite material that is not online? It may even be that when your prof got his PhD, not one of his citations was online. But he managed it still.

"It's not online" is not an excuse to avoid citation; it's almost absurd. Though I suppose it makes it easier to get past online plagiarism checkers, if that's something you're considering.


Plagiarism (other than self plagiarism) is representing another's work as your own. It is never permitted. However, you can incorporate ideas and even some quotes from the work of others as long as you cite it properly and don't give the impression that the ideas are yours.

You can cite unpublished work by giving the author's name, title, date, etc and marking the reference as "private communication" or "unpublished work".

Just be clear that the work is that of your friend and not your own.

If you quote too much of it, while it may be ethically allowed, with permission, it would be looked at in a negative light by many.

And don't confuse copyright with plagiarism. Having the right to republish doesn't give you the right to misrepresent the source.


No. It’s most definitely not ethical and not recommended.

You are misunderstanding whose consent matters here.

Plagiarism is an offense that has multiple victims. The person whose work is being used without attribution is one of the victims and may potentially be harmed by the act. So, the fact that he is giving you his consent actually does matter a tiny bit, and it may be reasonable to argue that it makes the offense a tiny bit (a very tiny bit, to be clear) less unethical than it would be otherwise.

But while your friend may be the most visible and obvious victim, there are many other victims who may be harmed by your act as much as, or even more, than your friend. By not attributing the source of your text you are defrauding the university into giving you a grade that you have not earned. Then because of those fraudulently obtained grades you are defrauding all future employers and other people who will use those grades, and the degree that you will (hopefully) attain, as a basis for making decisions about employing you, what salary to pay you, whether to be your friends or date/marry you, etc. You do not have “consent” from all of those people to perpetrate such a lie against them, nor is there any conceivable way to get their consent.

The conclusion is that your friend has no more authority to consent to you committing plagiarism using his work than he has to consent to you robbing his grandmother. If you thought that you found some kind of loophole in the system, well, you were wrong.

Good luck with your studies. Be safe, and ethical.


I need to submit an assignment and I need to copy some part of my friends thesis with his consent because I do not have enough time to write in my own words.

Careful. Even if you did, that would still count as plagiarism. I highly recommend you study the rules of plagiarism as it may affect your credibility in the future.


No. If you don't cite, you're still passing off this work as your own to others, chiefly to whoever grades the assignment. That's pretty much the definition of plagiarism; consent of the author doesn't change this aspect.

If you cite your source clearly (whether it's available online or not) and format what you copy as a quote, it wouldn't be plagiarism, but chances are the instructor expects you to put in the work yourself.



I think that the main reason why we get questions like this one is that people in the anglosphere misuse the word "plagiarism" to refer to "cheating by copying your homework".

This creates the idea that the main problem with this conduct is lack of attribution. It is not; the main problem is you not doing your homework yourself. Even if you have the consent of the authors, or if you correctly attribute what you submit to them, it doesn't fix this main issue.

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