My PhD supervisor wanted me to talk about how my research was "validated" by another student in my Viva Voce, despite my results speaking for themselves. This part of my findings had not even been questioned by my examiners.

The student in question had never worked with me in any way. Nor have they published in a work I could cite - conference paper, article or even blog post. Or even private correspondence.

He claims it is common to "have worked with people in this way".

I don't understand why he would ask me to do this.



I am asking this question from the perspective of the exam administration. Isn't it cause for concern to bring up a person who wasn't cited or acknowledged in the thesis during the Viva?

  • 1
    Is this a past thing? I am not sure: "wanted" ie has been done or "wants", and per the last bit " ..he would ask me to do this"...
    – Solar Mike
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 8:00

3 Answers 3


Even if this is about independent confirmation, there should not be any reason for you to (agree to) claim to have worked with them in your research. This would be a lie. I may be wrong but I get the strong feeling that you have to be careful to not let others step over you and 'persuade' you to let them attach strangers' names to your work.

If anyone is not "involved in a project", they are not an author. Listing them as an author is academic dishonesty. – PVAL Aug 19 '14 at 5:26

See this and this and this, which explain (but of course do not justify) why such practices may be rampant in certain places, and also give an outline of what is considered ethical authorship practices. Also see this for some possible motivations behind similar exploitation of some students for the benefit of others.

  • 4
    All the links you provide are quite irrelevant to the matter at hand. The OP is simply being prompted to mention someone orally doing an exposition. Their director is not asking them to claim to have collaborated, but rather to note that their independent work validates their work.
    – Pedro
    Commented Dec 3, 2018 at 21:17
  • @PedroTamaroff: You are free to disagree, but the asker said: He claims it is common to "have worked with people in this way". In my opinion, that's clearly the wrong way to talk about independent confirmation, precisely as I stated in my first sentence.
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 3:03
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    That's fine, saying "worked with" is not really the correct way to phrase it. But you have made a mountain out of a molehill without asking any further questions or recommending the OP to ask their advisor, for example, what they meant by this exactly.
    – Pedro
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 9:55
  • @PedroTamaroff: Such problems continue precisely because people are unwilling to correctly identify them. "Not really the correct way" is not at all the correct way to describe what is clearly the wrong way. The asker should be aware of the things I have mentioned, given the non-negligible likelihood that they are in fact relevant contrary to your opinion. I did not claim the asker's advisor is doing the same things, but that the asker must be careful. This is not a so-called 'mountain out of a molehill', but prudence.
    – user21820
    Commented Dec 5, 2018 at 4:29

I suspect your supervisor was thinking about how that student confirmed your results. A classic way this could happen is, if you solved a problem with one method and then the other student solved the same problem with a different method, and your results agree, then the other student has "validated" your results. Naturally, you don't need to have worked with each other to do this - in fact it's arguably preferable that you don't work with each other, to ensure independence of results. Neither do you need to be able to cite their work (you can just say "unpublished").

It's always good to have someone validate your results, because it increases the chances that your results are robust and not due to, e.g. statistical noise. If someone has validated your results, it's definitely something to mention.

  • 2
    Does the OP have sufficient evidence that the other student has validated their results? If asked, would 'my supervisor told me' be sufficient? (Note that I don't know the answer to these questions as this isn't relevant in my field.)
    – cfr
    Commented Dec 4, 2018 at 0:25

It seems you are worried that this would undermine your work in some way, but the point is that if someone also obtained your same result independently then two things happen: (1) it is a good sign someone else was working on a similar question, since it shows it is relevant to other researchers in the field, (2) the fact that their result matches your confirms your result is correct. I would add that (3) it is also good etiquette to acknowledge the work of others, specially when they were working in the same field as you. These people may be collaborators in the future, and it is not a really good start if you ignore their research.

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