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My undergraduate thesis was completed almost a decade ago and is not available online, nor was any publication made from the findings. I would like to share it online, but looking back on it I notice many grammatical errors and conclusions that make less sense to me after gaining research experience. Is it unethical to make considerable changes to the text, or should I produce the document as it is to provide an honest representation of my early work?

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    Another alternative: Correct only form, not substance (grammar and style fixes) of the original text, noting so at the start. Then, add an appendix or something clearly marked as a later addition, commenting on inaccurate conclusions. – muru Apr 13 '16 at 5:58
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    It's unethical to misrepresent it. Change your views 180 degrees if you like but don't misrepresent. The safest alternative is to provide both your revised and your original versions. Do that and you can ethically do what you damn well please. – candied_orange Apr 13 '16 at 23:53
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    Why not simply putting both original and revised version online? (With clearly stating which is which.) – Martin Apr 14 '16 at 4:25
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    Related: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/51277/… – JoErNanO Apr 14 '16 at 9:08
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    If you were posting it somewhere like Github (not sure what field you're in, but it's standard in CS for instance) you could easily post the original, edit the next and explain the edits in your commit message. It allows people to see the full history with a changelog at no extra work for you (apart from running these commands: git init git add git commit git push git add git commit) – Crisfole Apr 15 '16 at 11:45
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IMHO it depends on why you want to make it available.

If your primary reason is that you want to make information available more publicly, you could produce a "revised edition" of the thesis and add a preface stating that this is a substantially revised and edited version of your thesis - just like other books do. If you just correct typos and grammar, just say that.
There is also the possibility to comment on the conclusions you don't see like that any more in a way (formatting, footnote) that makes clear that this is a point where your opinion now differs. (like a commented edition of some work).

If your primary reason is to give the text your online CV refers to, then leave it unchanged.

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    The same advice, almost simultaneously! :-) – Massimo Ortolano Apr 12 '16 at 20:03
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    Another potential reason to post it as-is would be to provide current undergrads with a reasonable example of a bachelor's thesis. – user37208 Apr 12 '16 at 21:38
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    The OP could post both versions, so readers could even diff them if they wanted to. You'd probably want to direct readers to the version you think is better / easier to read. You should still write a short summary of why you updated it and what the changes were, but that section can link to the original. – Peter Cordes Apr 13 '16 at 11:05
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Is it unethical to make considerable changes to the text

No, it's not unethical, but if you make changes it would be useful to include a note or a preface disclosing that that is an amended version of your original thesis, and if your conclusions have changed considerably after further experience, you can explain why.

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The important thing in such matters is to be honest.

Releasing a revised version clearly marked as such is perfectly ethical.

Releasing a revised version while leading people to belive it's the original thesis that you submitted to the university years ago would IMO be unethical.

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If you don't assert that the item posted is your thesis, I see no problem. If you want its connection with your thesis to be known, you could just state that it is based on your thesis or is a later revision of your thesis.

  • How would you refer to it other than by calling it your thesis? It doesn't sound possible in practice... – Mehrdad Apr 13 '16 at 5:37
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    I might just say it's a later edition of a work whose first edition was your thesis. – Michael Hardy Apr 13 '16 at 5:38
  • Oh sorry, I meant without making the connection to your thesis at all, which was the basis for your second sentence. – Mehrdad Apr 13 '16 at 5:39
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    If you don't want to mention the connection to your thesis, I think you could just say it's something that you wrote. – Michael Hardy Apr 13 '16 at 5:45
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If the subject matter merits publication, but a good publication would require a lot of change, just write up something else and publish that instead; say it's mostly based on your undergraduate thesis. I wouldn't try to rewrite my thesis in retrospect (except for fixing typos etc.)

  • This would be the preferred action to take and IMO it does merit publication. However, I no longer have the data set - broken hard drive. – Quizzical Creature Apr 13 '16 at 14:07
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You could publish both versions, so readers can even diff them if they wanted to.

You'd probably want to direct readers to the version you think is better / easier to read (i.e. the revised one). You should still write a short summary of why you updated it and what the changes were, but that section can link to the original.

It's probably fine to correct grammatical mistakes in the original, but any changes to how the ideas are presented should only go into the revised version.

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If you want this to be an accurate representation of your undergraduate work, then you should leave the suspect conclusions intact. There's something to be said for the logic of inexperience.

If I were doing this, I would edit the text for grammar (including spelling, typos, etc.) and possibly form (section headings, page layout, etc). I would also add a preface discussing the changes, pointing out that they are for readability and do not affect the content of the work. I would also comment on the content in the preface, discussing how I would amend the old conclusions based on new experience.

It might also be of interest to address why this is a worthwhile endeavor at all in the preface. Was there some new finding that sheds light on this old work? Is the old work a step in the direction of a recent technique?

  • This came to mind for several reasons: 1) After posting the title of the work online I received several requests for a copy of the text 2) The work is in line with my current focus so will add to examples of my experience in the field 3) I no longer have the data set, otherwise I would attempt to publish the findings instead. – Quizzical Creature Apr 13 '16 at 18:04
  • I meant that statement as a recommendation to include the worthwhileness (?) discussion in the suggested preface. I'll clarify. – Paul T. Apr 13 '16 at 21:33

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