My supervisor asked me to write my thesis based upon one paper which I'm co-author on. I was told to take results which were not published and extend the figures. I was also told to include some figures from the paper after I ask the journal for copyright permission, extend the discussion in the paper and insert all of this into my thesis. After all of this, I need to do one more experiment.

Is this usual in science and for a Ph.D.? What precautions should I take in this case?

  • I've attempted to clean up the question some. Please check to make sure it still follows what you originally asked.
    – Ric
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 19:44
  • 1
    I suppose this is not the only published paper that you will include in your thesis. You have also other papers for which you are the main author, right? The other person is also a PhD student? Should not the paper be included in his thesis?
    – Alexandros
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 20:03
  • 3
    Are you asking whether it is ok to include in your thesis a paper on which you are co-author (the answer is yes), or whether it is sufficient to have only this paper (the answer is probably no)?
    – Bitwise
    Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 20:30
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    @FábioDias I would say that depends on the field. (And, sadly, some these have less than 1 paper in them.)
    – Kimball
    Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 2:52
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    @Kimball: That is certainly true, but it is true in part because "one paper's worth of material" varies so much from field to field. Commented Feb 17, 2016 at 4:11

1 Answer 1


"Can I write my PhD thesis based on another student's paper if I'm a co-author?"

I feel a difference between the question title and the question content. It boils down, to me, to "were you a notably active contributor to this paper"?

If the answer is yes, and you take care about rephrasing published text, re-drawing figures, you can reuse the results. A thesis should be personal, and show your personal contributions. A PhD thesis based on only one paper is not uncommon in mathematics, yielding short theses. In other domains, you can expect to write one or two chapters for a published paper, by extending results, adding experiments. Not a whole thesis.

If the other student's contribution is significant enough, he should be acknowledged in the chapter introduction for instance: "this chapter is based on a joint work..."

If the answer is no, I am afraid it could be a case of plagiarism, and loose ethical behavior.

  • I'm active contributor to this paper, and this was of writing my thesis was requested by acceptance and advice of my supervisor and the main author of the paper!!
    – Martin
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 9:09

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