I recently discovered, to my delighted surprise, that my bachelor thesis had been cited in another bachelor thesis - however...

  • my bachelor thesis has been entered in the reference list as an PhD thesis, which it clearly isn't, and
  • I have been attributed a conclusion that I didn't draw, that is indeed counter-indicated by the data I've collected.

Should I care about this? Is there a course of action I should take?

  • 25
    Forget it. At most, write an email to that other guy, tell him where he misunderstood and wish him good luck in the future. A bachelor thesis is not (supposed to be) a scientific work. – Karl Dec 1 at 13:17
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    @Karl, I wouldn't be so hard on bachelor theses. They are first attempts, certainly, but they can be very earnest. Some of them are very good. And, I think that in many, perhaps most, cases the intention is to do real science or whatever. Mine was at the intersection of math and philosophy and pretty marginal. But I was earnest. – Buffy Dec 1 at 15:14
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    @Buffy Oh, of course! A bachelor thesis should be an earnest attempt at science. Its to show that you have understood the concepts, and are able to apply them. But the result is not required to be any kind of scientific progress, not even for a very good grade. My alma mater required that a diploma thesis (after 5 ys) shows work at level of the "state of the art". – Karl Dec 1 at 15:42
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    I'd expect a bachelor's thesis to have at least some kind novel analysis and not just be a review, though it may not have new data. – curiousdannii Dec 1 at 23:59

A bachelor's thesis is only a bachelor's thesis - it may be used as a source by other researchers (or students, as you discovered), but it is commonly agreed on that they are certainly not error-free. At least some universities do not even have a process for allowing the student to submit a corrected version for archival after the review by the examiners. Hence, such errors would still be in the thesis even if found by the reviewers.

The misattribution of your thesis as a PhD thesis should be ignored, as it is likely a simple error. Also, it the author used BibTeX, the author of the other thesis may have had the problem that there is no Bachelor's thesis entry type - and rather than doing the right thing (using entry type "misc"), the author went to use the entry type "PhD thesis".

Misrepresenting your conclusion is a bit more problematic, but may very easily be again a simple error. Either you let it slip, or you write the thesis author an e-mail clarifying your conclusions. Either way, don't accuse, just inform - the misinterpretation is often just accidental, which is not misconduct, but just sloppiness. There is also the possibility that some of the text in your thesis invites misunderstanding it, which led to the present problem. Again, this would not be a case of academic misconduct.

  • 16
    I agree with you here, but would also write a note to the authors, letting them know of the errors. Not a nasty note, but just a friendly update. – Buffy Dec 1 at 13:31
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    I think it is rather the norm even that you cannot submit a corrected version. – Karl Dec 1 at 13:50
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    @Karl, even if it can't be corrected, it would be good for the authors to know of the mistake and learn from it. Mistakes by beginners are pretty normal and very common, but if you don't know about the mistake it is hard to learn. But I would, personally, want to not condemn them for their attempt. – Buffy Dec 1 at 15:23
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    @Buffy I think that`s what I said above. ;) – Karl Dec 1 at 15:55
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    In BibTeX, the right thing would have been to use the entry type "@mastersthesis" and the field "type = {Bachelor thesis}" within that entry. – Uwe Dec 2 at 9:51

As the song says, let it go.

If you're going to stay in academia, get used to it. This happens at all levels of academia. Count it as a citation and move on. It's not worth your time to worry about it.

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