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This is a sentence I read from a previous student's thesis:

Chemical products were measured by loading x μL of reaction A on a gel (3-10% w/v, depending on your need and availability of machine) containing 0.02% (v/v) compound B (Acme corporation), and run for ~45 min at 130 V (~10V/cm) in Buffer B (list of compounds). Results were imaged with tool C and analyzed with software D.

I did the same experiment, but with different quantities of reagents and the sentence in my thesis is:

Chemical products were measured by loading y μL of reaction A on a 3% gel containing 0.02% (v/v) compound C (Beta corporation), and run for ~40 min at 200 V in Buffer B (list of compounds). Results were imaged with tool C and analyzed with software D.

I thought using the sentence structure and condensing it was okay when drafting my thesis because I only ran one type of essay throughout my research and it worked fine. I thought it was not plagiarism because my content was different, but as I'm now about to submit and I look back, I have different thoughts. My professors and assessors didn't flag this when they reviewed my thesis, nor did our school's plagiarism tracker... so I'm not sure what to do.

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I think you misunderstand plagiarism. If you take the work of others, no matter the words, and attribute it to yourself instead of citing it, then you commit plagiarism. It isn't about the words, or their order, it is about the underlying ideas.

If you are describing your own experiment and use similar words to describe your result, then it isn't plagiarism. You aren't claiming that their work is yours.

However, since you are doing the "same" experiment as that of another, it would be proper to cite the earlier work. This is a further protection against any claim of plagiarism.

It is understood that science advances on a web of connections to earlier work. We cite, not just to honor the earlier scientists, but to assure that any result can be examined within the full context of its development.

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    However, the experiment being described in the specific excerpt quoted is so standard, that it would be almost impossible to track down the original citation. Its something that any biology undergrad would do 100 times in practical classes, and may even have done at high-school. Jan 22, 2023 at 17:42
  • @IanSudbery Well, OK, but the student should cite the source used. "I repeated the experiment of [somebody] and [someone-else], (1889) Chemical products were measured by loading x μL of reaction A on a gel (3-10% w/v, ..." and accompany it with the appropriate bibliography entry.
    – Bob Brown
    Jan 22, 2023 at 21:44
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    @BobBrown Theoretically, yes, but citing the first person to run an electrophoretic gel every time you did it would be like citing the first person to use a for loop every time an algorithm included one. Jan 22, 2023 at 21:50
  • @IanSudbery I wasn't clear; I'm sorry. The student is using a prior student's thesis, and should cite that thesis.
    – Bob Brown
    Jan 22, 2023 at 22:08
  • @BobBrown It was the same experiment by name (i.e. analyzing PCR amplicons on a gel), but not the same experiment by protocol (i.e. ran a different percentage of gel for a different time, voltage) and this student was not involved in my work at all. Since the meaning of the sentence changed and I can't credit him for PCR, I thought this was fine. Does this logic flow or am I missing something?
    – cambelot
    Jan 25, 2023 at 7:26

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