When applying for a postdoc, I submitted writing samples from my dissertation. After I was accepted, I added to the institution's library a number of texts that I cited in my research. (This was a small library in the research center that was started by the postdocs, containing no more than a few dozen books.) I developed some of the ideas from my dissertation and workshopped a paper on related matters with faculty members in the research cluster. I published that paper and acknowledged funding and input on earlier drafts. A couple years later a professor who supervised me, who never worked on related matters before, published a book in exactly my area, citing books I added to the library, utilizing original concepts and analytics from the paper I workshopped and published. The book does not acknowledge me or reference my work. I have an email trail showing the sharing of these ideas and documents. What should I do?

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    Does the person still have any authority over you?
    – Buffy
    Oct 7, 2021 at 12:20
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    citing books I added to the library --- I don't understand how this is relevant. When going to the library to look for books on a certain topic, books that I might later decide to cite, it has never occurred to me that I should investigate who was responsible for obtaining the books (if in fact it was a non-library staff who suggested their purchase or donated them) in order to acknowledge them. And even if I tried, I suspect that in over 99.9% of the cases (probably higher), no one on the library staff would know. And what about books obtained by interlibrary loan? Oct 7, 2021 at 12:29
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    @PostdocinFearofRetaliation The size of the library is not really relevant; if someone used those books, they have to cite them. Citing those books is not plagiarism of you. I think the commenters (and this would also apply to me) are hesitant to recommend steps for you to take if it is unclear whether what occurred was actually plagiarism, because the text of your question suggests you may not have a good handle on it. These are serious accusations, and making serious accusations that are not founded can really blow back on you. I'm also unclear why "writing samples" are relevant.
    – Bryan Krause
    Oct 7, 2021 at 16:27
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    While the stuff about books placed in the library definitely doesn't constitute plagiarism, 'a professor... published a book in exactly my area... utilizing original concepts and analytics from the paper I workshopped and published. The book does not acknowledge me or reference my work' does. Unfortunately, textbooks, as a rule, tend to be quite sloppy about citing the original sources of the ideas they set forth. Oct 7, 2021 at 17:13
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    Is there a reason you don't want to speak to the professor directly? Oct 7, 2021 at 18:01

1 Answer 1


The only thing I see here that might be plagiarism is if the resulting work used "analytics" from your paper without citation and that would depend on the author having known of it and not just developed them independently.

There is, of course, the issue that you "workshopped" the ideas at the institution, but don't indicate this author was part of that. I don't have a way to know if your ideas moved somehow to this person or if they were independently developed. Either is possible. It is also possible that they got disassociated from your name on a path, making it hard to claim that they used "your" ideas without attribution.

But, publishing a book in "your area" isn't plagiarism. Using books/papers you put in a library isn't plagiarism.

As stated, I think you have a very weak case, if any at all. Sorry, but independent development happens frequently in scholarly research. If you left breadcrumbs that could be followed but left no way for them to know the source then you really have no recourse.

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