When I was reading prior works for my master's thesis, I found a conference paper whose proposed architecture to solve the problem really caught my eye. So I decided to base my work around that architecture.

Of course over time I ended up changing a lot of details and even added a new block to the suggested block diagram in that paper, and completely changed the implementation of one of the blocks. Now my advisor has asked me to turn my master's thesis into a publishable paper.

Here's why I'm afraid, if you zoom out enough my architecture is 90% similar to what was suggested in that paper, and I would have to cite the original paper in order to not be a plagiarizer, but I think seeing a ton of repetitive [5]s will make the readers and the review team think that I basically have copied the paper. Since the difference is in the details, the shorter my paper would be, the more similar to the original work it would look like.

How can I deal with this situation? I want to publish my results without making it look like a copy of the work that heavily influenced me.

3 Answers 3


You avoid plagiarism with citation, indicating clearly what you used and how. Adapting work isn't an issue about plagiarism (assuming you cite properly), but it can be a copyright issue. But even there, using and adapting the work of others isn't a copyright issue. Republishing their work is.

But copyright is a serious issue. One of the rights of copyright holders (most jurisdictions) is the right to make (and control) derivative works. You need to explore that issue. To avoid the problem, contact the copyright holder with and ask for permission, describing what you have done.

If your work is a clear extension of theirs it is (probably) less of an issue. And a copyright holder has to care enough about it to want to file a lawsuit. They will care if your work lessens the value of the earlier work. I don't think that is likely, though, but IANAL.

At least, say how you adapted the work with enough detail to make it clear what your contribution is and what theirs is.


It's normal that some work is strongly based on some other work, so just attribute honestly to the other paper what was done there. As long as you make clear what your own contribution is (assuming that there is some that is worthwhile) I don't see any problem. It may not be seen as original enough at a very high journal level, but if you don't aim too high, it should not be a problem.


You avoid plagiarism by citation. This is a straightforward answer with no real wiggle room. I would not be too concerned with copyright, most academic papers are published under reasonably flexible licenses in terms of non-commercial use.

I am a little confused about why you feel you need to cite this paper so frequently - didn't you write an entire original thesis? I'm worried you are expecting to just reproduce this paper with some tweaks. This really isn't ideal and is likely not publishable regardless of citation (unless you intend to frame your work as a direct reproduction). That being said, citing an important paper 2 or 3 times is not a problem.

I think you avoid excessive similarity by writing your own paper. Your introduction/background, results, discussion, and conclusion should all be unique, even if your results support the original work. All you are really using is their architecture - it's totally normal to build off of others' work in this way. In fact if you write and frame the paper correctly, it would likely be sufficient to mention in the methods something to the tune of "the architecture was based on paper X with the following modifications...". I don't see what else would need to be cited, unless you copy everything from the paper in which case, your paper needs to be rewritten. This might be a concern if you followed their validation exactly and it was somehow non-standard i.e., unique to the source paper or if you found nothing new or interesting.

  • Publishing is often commercial use. Jul 10, 2023 at 18:32
  • True but I've never heard of a publisher's license prohibiting citation (even excessive citation).
    – sErISaNo
    Jul 11, 2023 at 0:36
  • Citation is not the issue. Publishers can't stop that, and it doesn't have much to do with their generosity concerning flexible licensing for non commercial use. Commercial users essentially have the same rights in this area. Jul 11, 2023 at 0:42
  • I'm not sure what you're getting at. Another answer mentioned copyright issues, and for normal academic use there should not be a concern about that. Maybe I didn't express that clearly enough
    – sErISaNo
    Jul 11, 2023 at 1:10

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