I'm writing a Bachelor's Thesis.

I found a seemingly convenient way of making my research paper successful, but I'm not sure if it counts as plagiarism.

This is mainly concerned with the methods section.

I have gathered many research papers that use the same methodology but discuss different topics (it is not about the literature review). I read the method section and take notes of how the author presented the information, the discussion raised, the sections included.

If it is relevant to my research paper, I follow the same ideas. I take the information cited by the researcher; I mean good information from experts. I do further research on good quotes that are in the research papers I read, use them in my research paper, and cite the original source of the quote, which I also read, but I do not cite the research paper where I was first introduced to the information.

Is this plagiarism?

I don't cite the research paper where I found the quote because it is irrelevant to my topic. It only uses the same methodology. Moreover, I do further research on the information and usually cite the original source or a source on research methodology.

  • 1
    Are you reading the papers that are the original sources of the quotes you are using? Or are you only reading those quotes where they appear as cited quotes?
    – 410 gone
    Mar 14, 2014 at 17:03
  • 3
    Consider the following situation: I have found a relevant quote in a journal article. I search for the original source and read the quote in its context and learn more about the general idea. I do not cite the journal article but rather the original source of the quote. Mar 14, 2014 at 17:18
  • 5
    Plagiarism is to make someone else's work as your own. Research is constantly building on other people's ideas, exactly as you describe. As long as it is clear what is yours and what is theirs, you are fine.
    – Davidmh
    Mar 14, 2014 at 20:55
  • 1
    @Davidmh, Wouldn't the curation of references considered someone else's work which you take?
    – Pacerier
    Dec 8, 2014 at 10:58
  • 2
    @Pacerier no, the same way you don't cite Google Scholar because you found the papers there (does a much larger curation of sources).
    – Davidmh
    Dec 8, 2014 at 11:52

4 Answers 4


You are correctly citing the original source of the idea/quote (which you looked up and read in context, as you should).

You don't (usually) have to cite the paper that exposed you to that original source. The purpose of a citation is to

  • give credit to the originator of an idea/quote
  • tell readers where to look to verify your claims about that idea/quote

In this case, citing the original source satisfies both purposes and is sufficient.

An exception is a review paper, which doesn't add new research, but collects and comments on relevant sources on a subject. In this case, the curation of materials is the novel idea contributed by the review paper. If you then go on to use the collection of sources you found via that paper, it's often appropriate to cite the review paper also.

Similarly, if you use the interpretation of the original source found in the secondary source, you should also cite the secondary source.

  • 1
    Regarding "If you then go on to use the collection of sources you found via that paper, it's often appropriate to cite the review paper also.", so you are saying that we should cite wikipedia since it is a review paper which curates the materials needed?
    – Pacerier
    Dec 8, 2014 at 9:53
  • Your first two paragraphs is utterly at odds with google.com/search?q=plagiarism+of+secondary+sources
    – Pacerier
    May 6, 2017 at 18:19

Following @ff524 's suggestion, prompted by my answer to a question about whether Wiki should ever be cited ... :

It is my opinion, based first on a principle of honesty and open-ness, that one should acknowledge sources one has used. Thus, if you use Wiki or a survey paper or an expository paper to understand a primary source, and/or to locate a primary source, cite Wiki/survey/exposition and the primary source.

Note that I do not advocate citing Wiki/survey/exposition alone, and this is for more than one reason. First, one should mostly refer to primary sources... although in mathematics a primary source may be long ago, obscure, and inaccessible, so difficult to locate and not usable by many of your readers. Second, it is hard to gauge the authoritativeness (in reality, not in status) of Wiki/surveys/exposition, so corroboration is invariably necessary. In fact, the same need for corroboration applies to almost any source, refereed or not, despite various mythologies.

Nevertheless, "at this point in time", any bibliography that includes Wiki, URLs, or unrefereed material will often be stigmatized by referees and by many readers. This is not completely insane, as a hold-over from a time when a bibliography that included anything other than well-known, refereed journals was truly the sign of a crank. To my mind, the reality is much changed, and will continue to change, but, for those who find themselves in a situation demanding conformity to that old standard... well, maybe you have to do it.

This enforced dishonesty about "how one found things out" is very disturbing to me, as, in fact, Wiki and surveys and exposition are often very useful to give pointers to primary sources, to bring up keywords and people and old sources that more standard sources omit. I acknowledge Wiki and the other sources in bibliographies.

The "solution" to the problem of being both honest and conforming to an old standard would seem to dictate never looking at Wiki, or any unrefereed source. Crazy. But one might find oneself effectively pretending to do so?


You should note that it was "cited by" if you didn't go back and read the original source. You have no idea if the person citing the source did so correctly or took it out of context. "Cited by" tells the reader that you have not read the original source, and that is important information in nearly all cases.


Plagiarism is lack of attribution. You always need to cite your sources, period. If you are only paraphrasing or summarizing what someone else said, you only need to cite the relevant book/article/thesis/whatever. If you are citing someone verbatim, you also need to indicate the page numbers. If you do not do this, you are going to get in trouble.

That said, you are not obliged to cite everybody who has said something relevant, especially when working on popular topics where everybody and their mother have said something. You can always write something like "see Smith 2000 and Thompson 2001, among others", or if you prefer the original source, "see Smith 2000 et seq".

  • 5
    I don't think this answers the OPs question
    – ff524
    Mar 14, 2014 at 18:43

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .