I am doing a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. I have little experience with CAD programs, and I have to design an assembly in my project for manufacturing. As my supervisor is busy, and also not a specialist in CAD, I am thinking in hiring a CAD consultant of a company. Her tasks are basically to verify my CAD parts and ensure that everything is fine for manufacturing, and, if it is not, to send correction and comments about what to do to fix the parts/assembly and brief tutorial on how to do it.

My question is: if I do the work myself and only get suggestions/corrections from someone else, can I encounter any problems later, like having my PhD degree revoked?? I don't want to ask help from my supervisor, as I don't want him to spend 20 hours or more with my work.

Please tell me if I can do it; and if yes, if I need to inform someone, or put something on the thesis regarding it, or anything else.

  • 6
    You will have to mention external contributions in the thesis. Nov 29, 2015 at 12:41
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    Why don't you ask this very same question to your supervisor?
    – Davidmh
    Nov 29, 2015 at 14:58
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    "I don't want to ask help from my supervisor, as I don't want him to spend 20 hours or more with my work." That's his job!! Let him decide how much time he can devote to helping you, instead of making that decision for him. Nov 29, 2015 at 20:28

2 Answers 2


You need to do two things here:

  1. You should ask your advisor in advance whether this is acceptable. The answer may depend on the details of your situation (exactly what is involved in this CAD verification and how central it is to your research), and your advisor is one of the few people who can give you a definitive answer. I'd bet that it will be OK as long as you do the design yourself, but my opinion is not so relevant: if you end up in a disagreement with your advisor, it won't help if you complain that people on the internet assured you it would be OK.

  2. You must acknowledge this assistance in your dissertation and papers, the same as any other contribution to the work. This is a matter of intellectual honesty. However, acknowledging the assistance afterwards can't substitute for asking your advisor in advance. (In particular, your advisor might say "There's no issue of honesty, since you described exactly what you did. However, you hired someone to complete a substantial part of your thesis, so you have not done enough yourself to graduate.")


CAD could be considered as a means of presentation in the realm of mechanical engineering, not a considerable part of the expected contribution within a Ph.D. dissertation. Therefore, you might be able to benefit from any help to let you depict your work to the audience, vividly.

I know myself a multitude of Ph.D. candidates, who were not noticeably proficient in TikZ (as a powerful tool for professional graphical demonstration) and just were, considerably, supported with helps from the others to provide high quality presentations. You would utilize the acknowledgement section of the document to thank the helper, in an either general or specific manner.

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    I don't think that for a mechanical engineer CAD could be considered means of presentation, only: there's much more in using a CAD than the presentation. The same for an electronic engineer. Nov 29, 2015 at 14:52
  • @MassimoOrtolano: When a mechanism has been designed, the result could be depicted by either CAD, a hand-made sketch or whatever you may assert. I would contend the same claim about the electronics. Why don't you think so?! Would you please expand your "Much More" phrase?!...
    – user41207
    Nov 29, 2015 at 15:03
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    Because CAD programs are not mere drawing programs, but are programs oriented toward manufacturing and that allow calculations on structures, modelling etc. You can't compare a CAD with TikZ, as much you can't compare, e.g., Circuit Macros with Altium designer. The former is a drawing mean, the latter a design mean. Nov 29, 2015 at 15:21

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