So my bachelor's thesis and master's topics bear some similarity. Now I am doing literature review for my master's thesis under same supervisor. Can I copy some relevant parts (about 10 pages long) from my old bachelor's? It's just the literature review, not the findings.

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    I suggest that your understanding of the material and your writing should both have evolved during a master's, and at the very least, some rework will be needed. Where such a tidying up exercise falls on the spectrum between copying (which may be regarded as self-plagiarism) and new work, depends both on the work and the rules - see the answer from Ian_Fin
    – Chris H
    Sep 13, 2016 at 16:27

2 Answers 2


Obviously you should check the regulations at the institution that you are attending to see exactly what they say about this matter.

With that said...

Submission of a thesis often includes signing a declaration that the material contained within the thesis has not previously been submitted for consideration for another degree (or words to that effect).

By doing what you suggest, copying and pasting a sizeable chunk of a previous thesis, you would be violating this declaration.

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    Good answer and I think that at most universities the declaration includes the point you made. Apart form that legal issue I am not sure if 10 pages on literature review should be part of a master's thesis if it has been already done in a bachelor's thesis. Maybe a reference to the thesis and a short summary will do far better, even if it would be legal (depending on what your declarations state).
    – N0va
    Sep 13, 2016 at 14:54
  • @M.J.Steil In general, it's perfectly reasonable to refer back to existing discussions of a literature if the intricacies of the discussion, and the details of each paper, aren't relevant to the current paper. With that said, 10 pages is a sizeable chunk of any thesis literature review and if the topics overlap sufficiently that duplicating material is being contemplated then I'd suspect it wouldn't make sense in this case to just reference the previous discussion, and the OP probably needs to write a new version of the 10 pages from the previous thesis.
    – Ian_Fin
    Sep 13, 2016 at 15:02

Firstly: it is not plagiarism as long as you clearly state which parts are repeated from your earlier bachelor thesis. Of course, you would clearly state this, wouldn't you?

I did my PhD in Sweden, which includes a licentiate thesis, which is somewhat of a mid-PhD thesis. Large parts were verbatim identical. I included a preface in the PhD thesis to explain this, and there was no issue. I specified this down to the chapter level but no further.

However, your school may still have non-plagiarism reasons to prohibit repeating parts, such as indicated by Ian_Fins answer. Personally I would understand material contained within the thesis to be new research, not the literature review or other purely textual parts. Therefore, I believe that you will be able to reuse the material, provided you clearly indicate which parts are reused and which parts are new.

But: the only definite answer can be given by your advisor and others within your institution.

  • "as you clearly state that some parts are repeated" I guess you mean "clearly state WHICH parts are repeated"
    – FooBar
    Sep 13, 2016 at 18:35
  • @FooBar Right, one should specify which parts of repeated. If you just vaguely specify some parts are repeated I'd argue it's still not plagiarism, though. Someone reading both documents will recognise which parts those are.
    – gerrit
    Sep 14, 2016 at 0:05
  • If you found a way to write something once, why can't you find a new way to do it again? Lots of authors and academics recycle their ideas. They just don't recycle their words. Sep 14, 2016 at 0:34
  • " it's still not plagiarism, though." Yes it is. You cannot expect a reader to read all references papers to find the duplicates himself.
    – FooBar
    Sep 14, 2016 at 7:59
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    @FooBar I don't agree. Plagiarism is to claim as new what has been previously published. With such a preface, there is no claim that it is new. It's still bad form to not be specific, but I don't agree that it is specifically plagiarism.
    – gerrit
    Sep 14, 2016 at 10:02

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