Where I live, it's quite common for MSc students to seek help from "professionals" in this field. What they do varies from simple peer-review-like service and in the worst case they provide a full thesis with tuition i.e. spoon feeding.

It's amazing how many people teachers and teaching assistants are (unofficially) accused of getting this type of degrees. But this accusation in most of the time actually holds due to obvious lack of fundamental comprehension of the topics they are specialized in.


  • Peer review is quite common and a prerequisite for papers to get published in a respected journal.
  • It's typical for a professor to have one or more teaching assistant to help him doing some part of the work for example some CS professors delegate the proof of concepts implementation to a teaching assistant.

Besides the two examples above what else is allowed and considered an acceptable academic activity by a peer:

  1. Translation for thesis written in another language to English which is the required thesis language in that university.
  2. Writing a proof of concept off the record i.e. without citing the PoC creator in the thesis officially.
  3. Writing the (Related Work / Literature Review) given the student claims full knowledge of the papers but having no time for writing it.
  4. Does the above changes when it's done as a service i.e. paid, instead free peer assistant?

Note 1: I do have my own view for this but I would like to hear yours. Also I will mention my view later in a answer for this question.

Note 2: I'm concerned with the STEM fields if that makes a difference.

  • Downvoter, could you explain why? If enjoy a perfect academic atmosphere, I don't. Dec 15, 2013 at 12:35

1 Answer 1


In my opinion, none of your numbered items (1-4) is acceptable. As for the two bullet points above, they must be carefully circumscribed:

  • You can of course get comments on your manuscript from your peers. This should not include solving your problems for you or writing parts of the work.
  • Some technical work may be performed by someone else: chemical synthesis of a compound you are using, specialized analysis of some samples etc. Each instance should be clearly specified: in the text, in the legend of the figures obtained this way etc. The reader needs to see clearly the distinction between your effort and that of other parties.

All this is codified in the saying: "Credit where credit is due". However, this principle is applied slightly differently to a thesis and to a journal paper:

  • A thesis demonstrates the ability of its author, who is assumed to have done all the work contained in it. That is why any external contribution should be indicated.
  • A paper's main goal is to present a scientific result. It is therefore less crucial to know "who did what", although some journals (e.g. PNAS, PLOS One) do require it.
  • Thank you. I would love it if you reference a paper that makes such distinction "...see clearly the distinction between your effort and that of other parties". Dec 14, 2013 at 17:51
  • 1
    I added a second part to the answer to address this point. Dec 14, 2013 at 20:23
  • I don't see why an acknowledged translation of a thesis is problematic. Would you care to explain why? Aug 22, 2018 at 11:35
  • @MartinBonner: I can see two problems with an external translation. 1) A formal one: the jury must be assured that the translation does indeed correspond to the original text and is not a more substantial contribution of the external service. 2) A substantial one: mastering scientific English could be one of the requirements for the MSc diploma, in which case an external translation defeats the purpose of the whole exercice. Aug 23, 2018 at 20:19

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