Over the past two years, I've been collaborating with a PhD student. He did experimental work, and I did modeling and data analysis based on his experiments. Now that my colleague is about to write up his PhD thesis, in which way can he ethically include the modeling and data analysis results in his thesis?

I don't need any of these results for a thesis on my own, and we are currently writing a paper on this together, so there are no worries from my side about misuse of these results.

There is the related question Are overlapping dissertations ethically acceptable?, but I am more explicitly asking about how my colleague can present the results which are more based on my work in a good way.

  • 1
    I think this is indeed a duplicate of Are overlapping dissertations ethically acceptable?, because the answers there, do answer your question very well.
    – 410 gone
    Jan 29, 2013 at 22:11
  • 1
    @EnergyNumbers I'm not sure: the first answer says “it's okay to do it”, the second one is not exactly helpful, the third one is about division of contributions (which is trivial if A did experimental work and B did modeling). So, I think the question is different here (and silvado is aware of the linked question, and asks for explicit writing advice which is not treated in the linked question).
    – F'x
    Jan 29, 2013 at 22:24

2 Answers 2


Don't worry, be happy (and be truthful). There's nothing wrong in including in one's thesis stuff that you didn't do yourself, as long as the delimitation between what the candidate did and what others did is clearly marked. And by that, I mean no lies, but also no half-truths either.

Basically, the presentation will thus depend on the interaction between you two and his part in the analysis (which ranges from “nothing” to “he suggested ideas that I tried” to “he ran my code himself”). In the first case, he could say:

As part of project X, I sent these results to Dr. John Doe at Big U. for him to perform his widely acclaimed topological Bayesian half-filter analysis. This analysis revealed that …

There's nothing wrong with presenting results obtained by others from your work, as long as they shed light into the phenomenon you're studying. I once had a student who published a work, which was built upon by another group during his PhD, and he presented this at some length (and critiqued their extension) in his thesis. That's part of the whole story.

If the collaboration was closer, just make sure the thesis clearly indicates its nature and the contribution of everyone. Then, no fuss!


F'x's answer is good. I would just add that your collaborator should check his institution's thesis guidelines. Mine had specific directions on how joint work should be included in the thesis, such as an extra paragraph explaining who did what part of the work.

Of course, your collaborator's advisor should also be in the loop.

  • +1 It's always good to be clear. In my field, this is simple: our results are theorems, so you can basically with each of them list, who did what. Well, if it's too complicated, the best idea would be IMHO to include an explanatory section in your thesis, stating which part precisely is your work.
    – yo'
    Feb 5, 2014 at 22:46

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