I'm brushing up the related work section of my master's dissertation, and it would be very useful to include some diagrams and code snippets from other articles on that section (and that section alone), to better help explain them. I go into some detail about what some articles propose and how it would relate to my own work, but I find it rather bland and quite hard to just explain them using words alone, since they all center around source code manipulation.

As you'd expect, they are all properly cited, but I am wondering if this is still unadvisable? Should I redraw these diagrams and rewrite this source code myself? Or should I just abstain from including them at all?

  • 1
    Ask your advisor.
    – Buffy
    May 15, 2020 at 23:36
  • 3
    A separate issue to consider is copyright. Even if you, your advisor, and the original author agree, you may still need to get permission from the publisher of the articles from where you intend to take the figures from.
    – GoodDeeds
    May 16, 2020 at 1:41
  • A bit different, but related: academia.stackexchange.com/q/16107/68109
    – GoodDeeds
    May 16, 2020 at 1:42

1 Answer 1


As far as plagiarism is concerned, proper citation is an absolute defence. Note that for figures, there needs to be a citation in the label - merely citing the source in the running text is insufficient.

If you care about copyright law, or if someone forces you to care about it, you'd need to check the licences for the original figures. Unless it is licenced in a way that allows you to use it, it would not be legal to include it. Copyright law pertains to the particular expression, not the concepts conveyed by the figure. Thus redrawing the figures puts you on the safe side here (you'd still need to cite the original to avoid plagiarising). For small code snippets, fair use exceptions or similar should suffice.

Including well-chosen diagrams (and potentially code snippets, but they are often less useful) can definitely be a huge improvement. In some cases, the figures from the literature will not actually be the best suited for inclusion in your thesis. For example, you may be interested in discussing only one aspect of the related work, but the figure shows several and thus more complex than needed. In such a situation, recreating the relevant aspects will be the best choice overall.

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