I am a Ph.D. student in mathematics and am currently writing my Ph.D. thesis. One old mathematician (emeritus), very famous for his work in number theory, philanthropically helped me through my Ph.D. journey. Sometimes, it seems to me, he is my real supervisor rather than the actual one. Philantropically, because he hasn't seen me in person yet, he doesn't know my supervisor, even though I work in the flavor of his work right now, but my initial approach was far from his papers, but he helped me in the last 5 years to help my understanding and never felt boaring with my stupid questions.

Now I am done with my research. Instead of my family members, I want to dedicate the thesis to that philanthropist mathematician.

The rule is that, our university will send two international (and two national) referees to verify the thesis. Now the point is, since he knows in detail about my work, if I want to suggest him as one of the international referees as well. For your information, my research papers are published; hence, their scientific quality is already peer-reviewed through the journals. Besides that, there is an independent committee in my department that will give the ultimate decision to pass the thesis

The second international referee whom I (or my supervisor) want to suggest to my university, is a mathematician whom I also acknowledged in the thesis, who also helped me in my research work. So:

Is it ethical to send a thesis to those referees who are acknowledged or dedicated to the thesis?

Edit: Here in the University, in general,the supervisor suggests few referees to the university while the university will choose among them and send the thesis. Let me point out that, in my country India, one have to publish paper in peer-reviewed journals for writing thesis, without publishing paper, one can not write thesis. So in other words, the results of the thesis are already peer-reviewed by journal.

  • 1
    Do you consider the dedication the potential issue or that your actual supervisor will be the referee?
    – Christian
    Aug 11, 2023 at 6:35
  • 2
    Can your referees be people who've helped you with the work? Regardless of an acknowledgement or dedication, this person sounds like they'd be much too close to your work for me to suggest them as an examiner based on our local rules. Aug 11, 2023 at 7:59
  • @Christian, yes I want to dedicate that old mathematician who helped me understanding my thesis area. My question is, should I suggest him as possible referee to my PhD supervisor ? In general, here people do that. But my question is about ethicality.
    – learner
    Aug 11, 2023 at 8:52
  • @StephenMcMahon, in my university, in general, the supervisor suggest few referees to the university to whom University will send the thesis. Let me point out that, in our university, at first one have to publish paper for writing thesis, without publishing paper in journals one can not write thesis
    – learner
    Aug 11, 2023 at 8:54
  • @learner but there are rules about who can be chosen, and often those rules include that you should have not worked with that person. Aug 11, 2023 at 11:05

1 Answer 1


I think suggesting that person as a referee is perfectly fine. They are an expert on the topic of your thesis. Note that you don't make the actual decision about the referees, you are only making a suggestion. Both your department and the professor themselves can refuse them as a referee if they feel there is a conflict of interest.

So make the suggestion, ensure that at least your official supervisor knows you have had plenty of communication with this professor and you should be fine.

  • Thank you for the answer. As I mentioned above comment, the supervisor suggest few referees to the university to whom University will send the thesis. In India , at first one have to publish paper in journal for writing thesis, without publishing paper one can not write thesis. So we write thesis only on the papers already published in journals, i.e., already peer-reviewed.
    – learner
    Aug 11, 2023 at 8:53

You must log in to answer this question.

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