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I'm writing my final thesis and there's a lot of material I would like to reuse from my proposal -- introductions, motivations, etc. -- and it would be nice to just copy-paste (and update a bit) entire chapters from the proposal.

But then I started to wonder what the technical status of a proposal really is. It's not archived anywhere, it's not "published" in any traditional sense. Is it a sort of first draft of the final thesis? Is it possible/legal/acceptable to reuse portions of it in the final thesis? Or is that plagiarism?

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    I would not call using your own work as plagiarism. In fact, I don't see anything really wrong with this approach. Research paper proposals are really the same way, no? You describe a problem, why it's important, and how you want to solve it. A completed research paper says the same thing, but provides data and conclusions in relation to it. – Compass Sep 19 '14 at 15:26
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    In fact, it is impossible to define this as plagiarism if you wrote it yourself, considering that the definition of plagiarism is: the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own. – Compass Sep 19 '14 at 15:28
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    I fully expect my students to reuse large parts of their prospectus in their dissertation. But there may be disciplinary rules. As always, check with your adviser so that you don't get accused of self-plagiarism. – RoboKaren Sep 19 '14 at 16:09
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    @Compass There is absolutely a concept of "self-plagiarism." If a student of mine writes a paper, fails the module, and has to retake that subject, then submits work from the previous paper, it will fail for plagiarism (their new work would not be original work). However, I would think it completely acceptable to reuse material from the proposal (but not from your other, previous work). – earthling Sep 20 '14 at 12:00
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Your advisor should be able to provide you with the guidance.

In general, it is not plagiarism, and you can reuse the material. As you pointed out the proposal is not published. It is a confidential document outlining what you intended to do and is to be shared only with your committee.

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    If anything, I would think that parts of the proposal should be included in a final document. 50% of my dissertation was copy pasted from my proposal. – Behacad Sep 19 '14 at 23:01

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