When we put some images in a thesis, we provide a reference to its source where it’s located. If I have created my own images or pictures, how do I make it clear that they are my images and I did not copy and paste them from somewhere?.

So here is the scenario. I am comparing my application architecture with the existing architecture. Since it was a literature study, my architecture is quite different except for one or two components that share the idea with the other one. I am showing both architectures. I explicitly mention the source of the other. But what about my own?

Is there a need to cite self-created images? If yes then how to cite them?

3 Answers 3


Have a look at the relevant guidelines/rules at your university/department.

Where I am, one typically signs that everything that is not your work or that is not novel is cited. Novelty in the thesis context is defined as "has not been used in any other exam/thesis". Papers published as part of the thesis work do not hamper thesis-relevant novelty at "my" university. But since it is up to the unviersity (or even faculty) to decide their exam rules, you may be subject to different rules.

In addition, copyright plays a role. You may be author without having the copyright. The holder/owner of the copyright can allow you to re-use images but stipulate certain ways of citing.

Anything (images, diagrams, tables, text) you created for the current thesis (so they are novel according to the thesis rules) and where you hold the copyright (so no rules binding to use particular citation forms) are not cited. If there is no citation, you claim it's yours and novel for this thesis - and thus that it should be included in the content based on which your work is judged by the thesis committee.

In my case, I needed to cite my own work only if/when:

  • I wanted to reuse an image/diagram that I used already for an earlier thesis or exam, e.g. had I wanted a diagram from my Master thesis to re-appear in my PhD thesis. In that case, I'd have cited my Master thesis like unrelated work. Unrelated since this is not part of the work the committee should judge.

  • I transfered copyright for several papers I authored to the respective publishers. They typically did allow re-use in theses but prescribed citation sentences like e.g. "This image is reused from [CB3] with kind permission of $publisher." [CB3] would be how I cited e.g. the third paper I wrote as part of PhD current thesis.
    Had I retained copyright (non-exclusive license to the publisher), I wouldn't have need to cite this way. Nevertheless, I'd still think it advisable to tell the reader that this diagram can also be found in that paper - it saves people from trying to find out whether the paper contains anything in addition to what the thesis contains. Similarly, I could have used [3], i.e. there was no requirement to make the citiations of my papers for the thesis immediately distinguishable from other citations, but I thought it a good idea to provide such a distincition - e.g. because it makes it clear to the committee that this is part of what they judge as my thesis.

For your scenario of diagrams illustrating some application architecture described in some paper:

  • if the diagram for the existing one is directly taken from the paper, you apply for a license to re-use that image with the publisher and then do whatever they stipulate in this license.

  • if you draw your own diagram (in your architecture diagram "language"/style) from the description in the paper, you cite the idea/description, e.g. "diagram of architecture described in [27]" but the diagram itself is your own work, and novel and original part of your thesis.

    With "your own diagram" I mean e.g. situations like: They have some diagram in the paper. But their way of illustrating isn't really suitable for your thesis since you need to highlight/contrast aspects that are similar to|differ from the architecture you developed. You therefore make a new graph that describes their architecture in another language/style that allows to depict their architecture as well as your architecture.

  • Your diagram of your architecture is original and novel work that is part of your thesis. No citation here, unless you signed away the copyright for this diagram - in which case you need a license by the new copyright owner (= journal publisher). In which case you do whatever the license says you should do.

  • really helpful. I just wanted to avoid any ambiguity about the components. we are both using the same component because we have to. Its the component provided by the technology to use however we can. I just wanted to avoid that I stole the idea just because the name of the components are the same and function in the same way. but that's their job to provide this functionality
    – Jonny_G
    Aug 19, 2020 at 18:45

There is no need to cite self-created, previously-unpublished images any more than you need to cite self-written, previously unpublished words. By absence of a citation you are claiming the work as your own.

Since this is for a thesis, you should probably check with your advisor / supervisor to be absolutely certain they share that view.

  • 7
    You may be asked to document the sources of figures in your thesis as part of the process of submitting to ProQuest or other repositories. If that happens, just state that you created these images yourself. Aug 19, 2020 at 15:35

Cite your own work just like you'd cite someone else's. Without citation you're suggesting originality.

A reader knows when an author cites their own work. The author of both works are the same (or overlapping). There's no need to be explicit (by stating, for instance, in my earlier work), unless it is useful.

For works derived from a thesis (as opposed to published works), there isn't an explicit need to self-cite, since works derived from a thesis are considered original, they haven't been published before. That said, you might want to mention something along the lines of: My thesis contains a preliminary version of this work, or similar. (You'll need to adapt slightly when you aren't the sole author.)

  • 2
    kindly check my updated question to understand the scenario
    – Jonny_G
    Aug 19, 2020 at 13:36
  • Aren't the first two sentences in direct contradiction? You say to "cite your own work". Then you say "A reader knows when an author cites their own work [...] there's no need to be explicit", which I take to mean, "you don't need to cite your own work."
    – user91988
    Aug 20, 2020 at 14:25
  • @user91988 you don't need to cite your own work isn't my reading, my edit clarifies.
    – user2768
    Aug 20, 2020 at 14:47

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