I had an idea for a project and discussed it with my professor. The professor said that it was a new idea and we could try it. We agreed that we would first research more about the feasibility of the idea. The professor would be the project head/guide for it with me and my friends as part of the team.

Now, he has given this project to his senior students. He says that we still don't have much needed technical knowledge, so the senior project members will be of help. This is correct.

However, I feel we, sophomores, will just be sidekicks in the process and will lose out as major contributors to the project, although we will be part of the team that will be involved in modifications and development of the prototype .

The fact that we need help from seniors is very true and necessary

I have just discussed the basic mechanism but design of the individual components with the professor and the design of the whole model itself still has to be worked out.

Do I really lose out on giving away my idea?

Thanks for all the answers and clarity.

  • 2
    Welcome to Academia SE. I find it difficult to understand your exact situation. How exactly are the different persons (including you) involved in the project and what are their tasks? What did you negotiate, agree on, etc. with the professor. Also note that “What should I do?” is rarely a good question for this site. You could fore example ask about the ethics of the situation or how to obtain the deserved scientific credit.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jan 8, 2016 at 12:56
  • 1
    keep in mind that idea!=realization. The development of something is far more relevant, and difficult, than the basic idea that lead to that development, in general. Jan 8, 2016 at 15:10
  • While it's nice to be credited for the work, I think you are missing the big picture of science. There are many people involved in carrying out some research, one has an initial idea, many have ideas that improve it, many carry out the required math, many do the testing and validation etc. You are one person in making that energy generator device, the idea of which you came up with. But it's important to remember that you are still only one person in making this technology happen. You can be proud, feel smart, but please don't expect your name in gold everywhere the technology is mentioned.
    – Shahbaz
    Jan 8, 2016 at 18:39
  • 1
    Ideas are easy; realisation is hard. Unless you feel that you were close to realising the idea yourself (e.g. as a project), your contribution is relevant, but probably limited. Nevertheless, you may want to ask the professor whether there is a possibility to be included appropriately in the project, depending on the amount of gaps you covered, and those that still remain to be covered, in the acknowledgements or as co-author. With experience, you will learn what significance contribution have. Jan 8, 2016 at 21:20

2 Answers 2


EDIT: the original title of this post was "is this plagiarism?? what should i do now??"

To answer the original title question: this is not plagiarism. Plagiarism is presenting another author's ideas, text, etc as your own. Since it seems from your description that you are still involved in the described project, no such thing has happened.

It seems more that your professor has taken the leadership of the project (which is not strange for a project running in his group), and taken decisions that make you feel less comfortable.

Your fear is that you will not receive (enough) credit for suggesting the original idea. I think that it is best to address this in an early stage (i.e., now) to your professor. Most likely he will assure you that you will receive credit for the original idea. Write down any verbal guarantees that he might give to you in an email to the professor. Then during the execution of the project, make sure that any senior project member is aware of any agreement between you and the professor (e.g., by forwarding the email).

Try to do this in a graceful and polite manner, and try to avoid appearing (passive) aggressive.

  • 7
    While I support this answer, depending on the personality of the professor, asking him to confirm in writing what is essentially just good academic practice anyway (giving credit where due) may sound rather distrustful and strange. Better use some good judgement.
    – xLeitix
    Jan 8, 2016 at 13:51
  • @xLeitix: I suggested that the student writes the email, not the professor. Profs tend to be very busy, so generally I think it is better for the student to write the mail. Of course one needs to take the personality of the prof and the local customs into account when discussing this. Jan 8, 2016 at 14:19
  • 1
    In the business world, I would tend to write this email as "Minutes of xxx meeting" and proceed to write down my notes of the conversation. I'll ask for corrections or questions at the end of the email. This is a pretty neutral way to document such a conversation and ensure that the other parties are aware of the documentation.
    – Paul Rowe
    Jan 8, 2016 at 16:22

I feel we, juniors, will just be sidekicks in the process and will lose out as major contributors to the project.

Talk to your supervisor.

I think presenting your concerns with your supervisor is the ideal thing to do. Being said that, I feel you are a bit overthinking things here. Why did you share your idea with the professor in the first place? You could have done all the work by yourself. Even better would be to file a patent.

But that is not always the way ideas evolve.

Did you even start the project? I may not get..., all these suggest your concern seem to be rooted in qualitative speculations rather than solid observations. Collaborations are necessary when a project need multiple dimensions to be analyzed. Your intention is obvious when you discussed the idea with your professor, who ideally be your person of interest as he may have experience in the relevant field. Your professor thinks (Probably rightly so!) that the project need help from others. If you feel that it is redundant since one or two in the present group(that'd be you and your friend) can do all the work, you have every reason to object the collaboration.

  • @explorer Please edit your question with these information. I think the situation is different here. I advise you to talk with your supervisor with evidence that you are indeed capable of doing the work with details of a working plan, further I suggest you to follow Danny in his answer.
    – Sathyam
    Jan 8, 2016 at 16:27

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