Last spring, I did a research project where I tried to develop code, modelling a physical system using a method developed by a researcher and presented as his PhD. thesis.

Now I have completed my work and am required to present documentation of the theory used and the performance of code. Now, while I was explaining that paper, I did detailed derivations of all the steps taken which had been omitted from papers for brevity. These derivations I have put in the manual as well so that any other undergraduate trying to work with same paper can quickly get started.

However, is it plagiarism to upload such a manual on my homepage and GitHub repository where someone else did the hard work of deriving concepts in the thesis and I just present proof of intermediate steps?

I am unsure if this is a right practice even if I state that I am only explaining his derivation.

What else can be done to mitigate the copyright infringement? One option, I think, is to submit the report to my supervisor and he will personally distribute it to students in his research group who he thinks will benefit from it.

  • 2
    Posting something on the internet is not publication. Plagiarism and copyright infringement are not the same. – Anonymous Physicist Dec 20 '20 at 7:26
  • 12
    @AnonymousPhysicist, I think that the major publishers would disagree that "posting something on the internet is not publication". – Buffy Dec 20 '20 at 13:26
  • 1
    @Buffy I've read those license agreements, and they are quite clear that some posting is allowed and other posting is not, but it's a matter of copyright, not a matter of publication. We're talking about academic culture, not publisher's business models. – Anonymous Physicist Dec 20 '20 at 23:28
  • 1
    @Buffy: Conversely, I think most hiring committees reading a CV would agree that “posting something on the internet is not publication”. “Publication” has several different meanings in academic contexts, sometimes overlapping and sometimes conflicting; posting work online is publication in some senses, not in others. – PLL Dec 20 '20 at 23:41
  • 5
    @Karl: Copyright infringement includes more that just "verbatim copying of other people's work". Creating a derivative work without permission may also be a violation of copyright: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Derivative_work – Flydog57 Dec 21 '20 at 4:30

Properly credited, posting a piece that fills in all the details of a published paper (or thesis) should be fine. Indicate clearly that the ideas are not your own - that you are just hoping to help others read the original work.

You should probably write the person who did the original research, thanking them for their theorems and telling them what you hope to do with your work filling in details. They will probably be delighted that someone has read their thesis.

  • 3
    This is good advice. Note that when you contact the authors you (the OP) might learn that they are planning to publish something themselves. And it might open the door to future collaboration. – Buffy Dec 20 '20 at 15:36
  • 2
    Have had similar experiences. People do indeed like when their work is useful to others. – Mad Physicist Dec 21 '20 at 15:55

If you give the original creator credit with a citation, and direct quotes are indicated with quotation marks, it is not plagiarism.

If you are unsure, ask your supervisor.

  • 3
    True, but copyright is another issue altogether as you note in your comment on the question. It is possible to avoid plagiarism but still infringe copyright. – Buffy Dec 20 '20 at 13:27
  • Copyright is a legal issue not an academic one, so I ignored that part of the question. – Anonymous Physicist Dec 20 '20 at 23:28
  • 2
    The copyright angle appears mitigated by the fact that the thesis documents a physical system. Physics itself is not subject to copyright, so only the specific thesis wording would be subject to copyright. "The hard work of deriving concepts" is not. – MSalters Dec 20 '20 at 23:47

It's certainly allowed, in fact full papers have been published in this way. Example, as the abstract itself makes clear:

In this paper, we provide an essentially self-contained and detailed account of the fundamental works of Hamilton and the recent breakthrough of Perelman on the Ricci flow and their application to the geometrization of three-manifolds. In particular, we give a detailed exposition of a complete proof of the Poincaré conjecture due to Hamilton and Perelman.

You should make clear what exactly your contribution is, however - this particular paper was criticized because the original wording of the abstract made it sound like the authors were claiming that they are the ones to actually prove the conjecture.


It really depends. I take here a different point of view then the other answers. If it is basically an (extensively) annotated copy of the original work then you need to have permission of the copyright holder.

  • THANK YOU. GOD BLESS YOU. for saying 'I find this a bit dodgy. Why not point to the official regulations of the university.' academia.stackexchange.com/posts/144597/revisions academia.stackexchange.com/questions/144597/… LOL – BCLC Jan 26 at 3:15
  • also in re the dodgy thingy, do you think it's also kinda gaslighting? like as if it's the student's responsibility to know about a university policy that is apparently done by asking professors/teachers/instructors individually instead of that the university disseminates the policy via some handbook or something containing official regulations – BCLC Jan 26 at 3:21

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.