Please can anybody reassure me that I am okay. I have been so distracted thesis that I’m behind in my revision for my finals.

Never once in my project did I take credit for something that wasn’t mine and I referenced all my sources of information and ideas.

However, instead of citing the same source over and over again I stated at the start of some chapters something like “the content of this chapter is mostly sourced from chapter X of book Y, but I add some details to proofs for clarity for the reader”.

I then go through my chapter and state the results and proofs I am interested in without further citation (unless I use a different source which I of course cite). I follow the proofs fairly closely and have my own extra details for clarity.

I submitted my project to TurnItIn which has highlighted in red a fairly substantial amount of material in some of the proofs. This is really freaking me out as I’m not trying to claim the proofs as mine or anything - I literally say at the start of the chapter where the material is sourced.

  • Why would you include content mostly sourced from chapter X of book Y?
    – user2768
    Apr 16, 2021 at 7:27
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    Having a whole chapter of a thesis whose content is almost entirely from a single published source seems a bit odd. It may be that your problem is not with the level of citation, but with the order in which you're presenting ideas in the literature-review-ish parts of your thesis. Do your department's marking criteria for theses provide any guidance on this? Or can you ask your supervisor about it? Apr 16, 2021 at 10:45
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    Following from the above: There's no value in replicating material, your grade will surely suffer, but perhaps we're missing something.
    – user2768
    Apr 16, 2021 at 10:59
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    The standard formulation is: This chapter mostly follows [The Big Professor 2019]. This indicates that it does not contain new material, you may want to say that the material becomes relevant for later discussions. Apr 16, 2021 at 11:04
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    @DanielHatton It is not unusual to see this in mathematics theses, especially master's theses. Apr 17, 2021 at 4:59

3 Answers 3


It sounds like the way you did the reference was fine and perfectly standard practice in mathematics. And I doubt Turnitin is remotely useful for mathematics anyway.

The more important question is whether what you did meets the expectations of your committee, and you'll have to ask them that.

  • Thank you for your reply. I was starting to get quite worried when people were saying I was going to get a bad grade. I confirmed with someone that what I did is what is expected of me.
    – Gabi23
    Apr 17, 2021 at 15:08

You are assuming that TurnItIn makes a decision on plagiarism. It just finds sub-strings of a submission in other publications. Their existence might be indicative of plagiarism, but it is subject to human interpretation.

I cannot guarantee that some instructor would not look beyond a TurnItIn score, but I with many other professors would not think such behavior to be reasonable. As usual, the best advise is to talk with your thesis advisor.

  • It highlights some portions of the proofs that I used when writing my project - however I do say at the start of the chapter where the material I present is from.
    – Gabi23
    Apr 16, 2021 at 1:08
  • @Gabi23 The problem is that all mathematics proofs use a lot of the same language. Apr 17, 2021 at 5:02

Is this level of citation acceptable in a dissertation?

the content of this chapter is mostly sourced from chapter X of book Y, but I add some details to proofs for clarity for the reader

No, it is not.

But it seems unlikely that your paraphrase is an accurate reproduction of the type of your citations to which you refer.

If you want to know whether a style of citation is acceptable in a dissertation, then you need to show an exact, specific example of such a citation. To ask whether something is acceptable, and then not reveal the object of your query, is unlikely to lead you to a helpful answer.

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