I have to submit an original research paper for my Capstone. I was pretty excited about the topic and the method. However, I was gutted after finding a pretty similar paper which employed the same method in a later part of their paper - say, interviewing food delivery executives. They focused on the same city as me, and while their topic is aligned more to gastrogeographies during the pandemic, I feel worried that my topic is too similar.

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    You definitionally can't plagiarize something you weren't aware of. Feb 17 at 17:20
  • A cornerstone of the scientific method involves replicating an experiment to see if you can reproduce the claimed results. This is grade school stuff. What made you possibly think that applying the same methodology would be plagiarism? Do you even know what plagiarism is? Feb 23 at 3:31

3 Answers 3


This is unlikely. You can't plagiarize what is "common knowledge" and in many fields the general structure of the methodology is standard, well known, and common knowledge.

There can be exceptions, however, in which some methodology has unique characteristics. But if you cite such a work and use its ideas then you are protected against plagiarism.

However, you also need to be concerned about copyright infringement. You can't copy long passages from an earlier paper even with citation. It can still be an ethical violation when, strictly speaking, avoiding plagiarism.

In statistical studies, say, the methodology is pretty common. The novelty is in the questions asked and the importance of the answers. Even in math, many theorems use very similar techniques.

When in doubt, cite.

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    +1. Plagiarism would be if you do not reference that other paper. Similar (or even identical) topic does not constitute plagiarism.
    – GEdgar
    Feb 17 at 14:25

By definition, you cannot plagiarise what you were not aware of. A prior study with similar methodology may reduce the novelty of your work, but I doubt that's a real issue for a capstone project (it may be for a paper intended for publication).

Of course, if you copy how they describe their methodology it is plagiarism, but as long as you describe your approach and data in your own way there really should not be an issue. Reference the prior work, and ideally discuss and explain the similarities and differences, and your work will likely end up stronger than it would be if it were just a stand-alone study with no direct connection to the body of research.


Not plagarism. This sort of thing is the foundation of proper science. As long as you do your own work, you're fine. It's a good thing to cite other very similar papers. They can be inspiration for you to take a look at the topic yourself. You could be trying to replicate what are in that other paper or disprove them. Citing other papers is an important means of passing ideas around. This is the essence of "standing on the shoulders of giants".

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