I'm writing on my master's thesis. A specific part causes some troubles and I hadn't any progress here for several weeks.

I'm now considering to describe my problem, my ideas and my accomplished work so far in detail in a community and ask there for help.
Would that be plagiarism, if I got some help from the community? So I would be using someones idea.

The thing is, my problem is very domain-specific, so I can't really generalize it and ask at anonymously.

My adviser already tried to help me, but still I'm not really making progress.

  • 1
    I'm afraid that I'm having a hard time understanding what you are asking: is this a question about plagiarism, or a question about the Academia.SE policy (which should go on meta), or something else entirely?
    – jakebeal
    Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 16:31
  • @jakebeal: No, it's not about Academia.SE. It is a general academic question on how to deal with help from the community. Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 16:34
  • 2
    Being "stuck" for several weeks is typical. Read more, think more, and let things percolate in your head. MS theses and PhD theses are not like homework projects or even term-long projects. Indeed, part of the benefit is the encounter with a new (larger) scale of effort. Commented Mar 4, 2016 at 17:08
  • It is certainly fine to ask for pointers to a solution to your conundrum. If somebody does give a solution to your problem, you should ask them for complete contact details and cite it e.g. as the SE post and personal communication from the author.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Mar 5, 2016 at 1:24

1 Answer 1


Plagiarism is when you use other people's ideas and fail to give them credit. So if you make it clear that an idea came from someone else, and credit them appropriately (with a formal acknowledgement or a citation), you will avoid plagiarism.

Of course, in order to be acceptable for a degree, your thesis will still have to contain a sufficient proportion of ideas that are your own.

Before discussing the details of your work with others online, you should ask your advisor whether it's a good idea to do so. It's possible that your advisor specifically wants you to work out certain parts for yourself. Another concern is that sharing your ideas increases the risk that someone else will carry out your research before you do - in most cases, this risk is outweighed by the benefits of sharing, but your advisor needs to agree.

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