I successfully defended my master's thesis last December. I had 18/20 and it went well. However, my adviser invited me to carry out research in the area, which I accepted.

When I was writing the first paper, I noticed a big error in the data analysis. This does not affect the conclusions and the values of the estimates are very similar (with and without the error) the question is what do I do now? I'm afraid to tell my advisor and they cancel my master's degree. What do you think? My ethics does not allow me to write the paper again with the error, but if correct my advisor will find ..

Any suggestions? I'm sure no one will notice the error, but I do not know. I´m very afraid of this Thank You

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    Mistakes happen, we are all human. This sounds like a very minor one, particularly since it doesn't affect the thesis' conclusion. So, be honest about it - it may be difficult to acknowledge your mistakes to others, but it will cause them to respect your integrity. – Ian Kemp Mar 19 '19 at 9:34
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    If it does not affect the conclusions and the values are very similar it's not a big error. It might be a flawed approach, but it's fine- most of us have some of that in our theses. – Džuris Mar 19 '19 at 10:11
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    Reframe: This is awesome! You are reveling in the joy of scientific learning. It's not about being right, it's not about answering a question so that you never have to ask and answer more questions. You know you are alive because you are learning things. – Alexis Mar 19 '19 at 15:20
  • "My ethics does not allow me to write the paper again with the error, but if correct my advisor will find .." What does that mean? – Cedric H. Mar 20 '19 at 12:21

Revoking an earned degree is exceedingly rare and would probably be appropriate only for serious and intentional errors such as fraud. I think you can rest easy on that.

Talk to your advisor and lay it all out. It is better that you find and reveal the errors than if someone else does. Going forward you can still publish, but it will need to be based on correct data, analysis, and interpretations.

It is common in research for errors to appear in old work. It is certainly not a unique occurrence. Attempting to conceal it would be the worst path of all.

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    thank you I already sent an email to ask for a meeting. ´The error is very simple to explain, in the regression, I used industrial variables and made the mistake of 50 companies belonging to two industries (ie = 1 in two different industries) and this slightly changes my results (but not the conclusions). What I'm going to do is publish the paper with the corrected estimates. – alexz123456 Mar 18 '19 at 19:59
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    That sounds exactly right. Making an error is not fatal. Hiding an error, so you mislead others and know you are doing so would be more of a problem. Fixing it is a good idea :) – Stilez Mar 18 '19 at 23:58
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    If that was the error. .... Buffy's answer would apply to something even much severe and important. @alexz123456 – Alchimista Mar 19 '19 at 13:26
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    Be able to acknowledge a mistake is the mark of a (good) researcher. – CronosNull Mar 19 '19 at 13:35

You already stated that you do not plan to continue using the erroneous solution. I think this is the right decision, since using a wrong method knowingly is worse than using it by mistake. Additionally, a Master's thesis has less impact than a paper.

Can it have consequences? If the thesis already has been defended and graded, I cannot see any coming. We all make mistakes, that is no academic misconduct.

Oops I was too slow. Buffys answer says it all.


Even if your error invalidated your thesis (not the case as you stated), you still worked and researched, so nonetheless you reached some results, either false or true. This is an accomplishment by itself, even if you found your thesis to be wrong and it is still assumed that you learned valuable experience from your master's thesis.

Moreover the fact that you found and corrected a calculation error is a good sign you learned to review your work, even if it slipped out at first (and it slipped out from the people supposed to read and review it too, so don't be hard on yourself).


It is not all on you. You defended your thesis -- presumably in front of experts who know the subject matter and an advisor who read the thesis. It is unlikely that the mistake is as egregious as you fear. Otherwise, those in charge would likely have noticed. They gave an endorsement of the fundamental quality of your research efforts, and no subsequent rethinking of that research can negate that endorsement (unless you are guilty of some blatant dishonesty, which doesn't seem to be the case).

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    Yup. Once they've signed on the dotted line, it's on them that they gave out a degree to someone with invalid results, not on the student. – Valorum Mar 20 '19 at 8:47

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