I am in second year of my PhD. I have a plan for my second paper, I did a full scale literature review etc. But then I put it on hold to finish my first paper.

A new student started this term and is coincidentally pursuing the idea for my second paper!

I highly doubt we can both have the same paper.

I know that co-authoring is a possibility. But, is there grounds for me to argue that she should find a new topic, instead of me. As it will mean that I wasted a large chunk of my first year on this topic.

We plan to use data for the same country, which means that we will ultimately end up with the same statistical model, because the data available is not the best, so there is not much leeway on what model I use.

From what the student has told me, her statistical plan (is the same as mine), which is also the popular method in the literature field.

  • 27
    What does your supervisor say? Nov 10, 2015 at 15:08
  • 1
    She is yet to give her opinion on it, she said she would think about it.
    – Kelly
    Nov 10, 2015 at 15:11
  • 21
    Plenty of people have the same ideas, but this rarely bring to the same papers. A paper is not only about the idea, it is (mostly) about how the idea is pursued and developed, and this rarely happens to be the same (not even if you purposely work together).
    – gented
    Nov 10, 2015 at 23:51
  • 5
    Research ideas are generally not owned by anyone, so you do not have grounds to ask the student not to work on the idea, unless they obtained the idea through unethical means such as hacking into your email or eavesdropping on a conversation between you and your advisor. With that said, talk to your advisor is clearly the best way to figure out how to proceed.
    – Dan Romik
    Nov 11, 2015 at 20:09
  • 1
    @Kelly has the issue been resolved, if so it would be useful information how it turned out (hopefully well!). Mar 29, 2016 at 12:44

3 Answers 3


You should probably talk to your advisor and possibly arrange a meeting with the other student, her advisor, your advisor and yourself. You need to sit together and discuss how your work and her work are going to differ, because nobody has anything to gain from two competing PhD students undermining each other within the same research group. Once you have fixed boundaries, you will be free to go your own way and collaborate on the common parts, which will benefit both of you.

  • 3
    +1 I really enjoyed reading your good answer. Thank you.
    – enthu
    Nov 10, 2015 at 20:32
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    +1. Handled well (openly and collaboratively) this could be a win for everyone. By bringing extra skills to the project, and having someone to refine each others ideas, you're likely to produce more, better papers.
    – Chris H
    Nov 11, 2015 at 12:53
  • 2
    If possible, co-authoring is a great way to get more publications for less work. So long as you trust the abilities of your coauthor, that is - do consider that as well :) Nov 12, 2015 at 12:05

I have seen that research fields are a vast territory. I am sure that if you arrange a meeting there will be a lot of ideas and aspects of the problem to explore. Maybe it's to soon to say that the other student "has the same idea" as you do.


Your professor is your god on this one.

  1. You come to him with wisdom and patience, and not with wrath.
  2. You tell him:
    1. this is the situation (describe).
    2. you tell him/her that you will do whatever he/she tells you.
    3. you ask him/her what to do.
  3. You do exactly as your professor says. No more and no less.
  • 9
    Professors are not gods. They are humans, usually rational, that can have a friendly conversation and both argument their opinions and listen to your arguments.
    – Davidmh
    Nov 12, 2015 at 9:53
  • 1
    I agree with Davidmh. This is a stupid answer.
    – user42055
    Nov 13, 2015 at 3:22

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