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I'm in a total disaster right now because it feels like I have no chance of being a researcher anymore. Months ago, I submitted my Bachelor's thesis. Days later, I realized that I printed a wrong version of it (the version before the final) so I asked permission from my adviser and the librarian if I can replace the copies because of the mistake. They allowed me.

Weeks later, I realized that there was a term in my abstract that might need to be cited. But for the record, I cited this term in the body of my research. I consulted my adviser whether or not I violated something with that. She said that it was okay because I already cited it in the body of my research. However, I insisted and ask if I can add a citation just to be sure. She said okay. So I had to replace my copies of thesis again.

Lately, it occurred to me again that there was something wrong again. I think that I failed to cite a secondary source in the 'limitations' part of my thesis. Although I already have cited this secondary source as a secondary source 2 sentences before the sentence in question, I still feel that it was not sufficient because we had another similar quotation from an author in the sentence in question. I don't remember exactly why I failed to cite the secondary source in that sentence again. But as far as I can remember, I accessed the primary source. Maybe that is why I did not cite the secondary source.

But it still bothers me because even if that's the case, it might still look like I copied that part of my thesis (although not verbatim, but it totally bothers me still). That's the only problematic part of the whole research. I would like to correct this and give a more sufficient citation for the secondary source, but as I have mentioned, I already corrected my copies twice and they might not allow me anymore. I am so devastated right now, I am afraid that this might bar me from doing research again. Or worst, they might take away my degree which I really worked hard for.

How do you think will my adviser react to this? The last time I amended my thesis, I said that it will be the last time. But this mistake is unbearable and I can't live a day without thinking about it. What if the other faculty members will know? What will be their reaction? I have a perception that academicians are perfectionists and might persecute mistakes like this even when done unintentionally. I don't know what to do, I really don't know what to do.

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    1. The vast majority of published research articles--let alone student theses--contain minor errors. 2. No one cares about a few minor errors. 3. What you describe barely even counts as an error. – user37208 Sep 20 '16 at 6:05
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    @Grimacese: more than you would think. While one should try to get things right before the first submission, these seems to be so minor that what worries me more is your attitude. If you can't stand such honest mistakes, will you stand being proven wrong? It is very rare for a researcher to never be proved wrong, so if you consider a career in research you need not to let your emotions be out of control -- but still care enough that you do things the right way. – Benoît Kloeckner Sep 20 '16 at 9:32
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    No worries. Bachelor's theses are rarely read by anyone, and even then it's usually not in detail enough to notice any errors. Learn from this for next time, when you write your PhD thesis, which might be read more widely (for example, five people instead of two). – Gimelist Sep 20 '16 at 9:36
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    @Grimacese: I just mean that it happens that one's error is pointed out by a referee, or that one's published result is later shown to be an artifact. This is not about persecutions, it is about the normal process by which science progresses, which includes mistakes, some of which take time to be acknowledge. – Benoît Kloeckner Sep 20 '16 at 10:20
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    True story: about a year after I finished my graduate degree, I was reading over the printed and bound copy and noticed that my introduction—you know, the first page of actual text—is only half-written. The last sentence just stops right in the middle and there's no concluding sentence at all. I checked the LaTeX source... no error, I just never wrote the end of my introduction. Whoops. – eykanal Sep 20 '16 at 13:49
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All of the researchers have errors on their writing. If you carefully read the theses or papers, you can see a lot of errors and typos in them.

Also, it's not your problem solely, but it is related to your advisor too for not remarking you the elements of technical writing.

Moreover, if the hard copy of your work won't be allowed to change again, simply add a report paper on the thesis hardcopies devoted to the errors and typos in the thesis. (common approach for published textbook)

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I have a perception that academicians are perfectionists and might persecute mistakes like this even when done unintentionally.

I am pleased to report that your perception is wrong! Academics are human beings who tend to be rather understanding of other human beings who, like themselves, occasionally make mistakes. In fact, if you browse other questions on this site that are tagged , you will find that mistakes happen quite often in academia, just as they do everywhere else.

One slightly ambiguous citation in a thesis is

  • not going to bar you from doing research,
  • not cause for taking away your degree, and
  • not even cause for anyone to think poorly of you, assuming the rest of your work is good.

If it bothers you, put a corrected version of your thesis (and/or an erratum) on your personal website, just to set the record straight. (And realistically, if anyone happens to read your thesis in the future, they are far more likely to read your easily accessible online version than a printed copy in the library.)

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    Hello. Thank you very much for your answer. Somehow I felt reassured. I have another concern about erratum. Should I proceed to that (publishing an erratum online) without the knowledge of my adviser, or should I let her know about my case again. She kind though and has exhibited very deep empathy for students. My problem is I think there was no similar case in our college before, and I do not exactly know if publishing an erratum online is acceptable for them. I am also particularly scared about how other faculty would react to this case if they knew. – user57430 Sep 20 '16 at 5:45
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    @Grimacese I think there was no similar case in our college before - I am sure there have been other minor errors in theses in your college before. Humans make mistakes, and nobody - including other faculty - should expect 100% perfection. I suggest you speak to your advisor, if only because she is going to tell you exactly the same thing, and that may be reassuring to you :) – ff524 Sep 20 '16 at 5:49
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    @ff524 in fact I bet most bachelor theses contain minor errors. – Bitwise Sep 21 '16 at 10:25
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    I think that to a close approximation all bachelor theses contain minor errors. Of course there's a fuzzy line between "minor" and "trivial", but it's rare for a substantial work to get through proofreading to publication without still containing at least one typo, and that's with the aid of professional editors. So it's pretty well certain that a bachelor's thesis contains trivial errors, then it's just a matter of whether you think minor errors are all that much easier to catch. I think not. – Steve Jessop Sep 22 '16 at 9:13
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It's bachelor's thesis. After it is approved, no-one will read it. Ever.

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    In this Internet age, it's hard to say nobody reads anything ever. For instance, I just came across somebody 's LinkedIn profile. The person received MSc between 1991 - 1998. and then received B.Sc between 2006-2011. I was wondering what happened. Did that person study masters degree before he/she studied bachelors? – scaaahu Sep 21 '16 at 6:01
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    Actually, some people do read other people’s bachelors’ theses. Mainly other researchers at all levels in the same lab (but only the experimentals). Occasionally other bachelor’s students who want to get inspiration on how one is written. – Jan Sep 21 '16 at 11:46
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    Somebody might, just might, page through, but really read, with so much attention to detail that the person would find a citation error, no. That will never happen. As said in other answers Grimacese can stop worrying. – Tero Lahtinen Sep 21 '16 at 14:37
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    |'ve occasionally come across rather useful BSc theses online while researching computer vision problems. – Mark K Cowan Sep 21 '16 at 15:54
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    @Jan An all the people are reading it to a) find out how the experiments were held (how to make the *** stuf working), b) how they should write their own bachelor's thesis. None of them have power to bump the author off, unless the thesis is ultimate fake. and such people usually did that for "the letters on visitcard" and leave the academia the very same day, they entered it. Appropriate scale: minutes. – Crowley Sep 22 '16 at 12:33
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You're worrying too much. :)
It is uncommon not to have a minor mistake in a work of dozens of pages. It is very likely that you yourself will always be your worst critic. What will happen is:

  • Most likely nobody beside yourself would notice the error
  • If someone noticed, they would recognize it for the minor issue that it is

You've submitted your Bachelor's thesis and it was accepted. While it is fine to provide an updated version on your website as ff524 suggests, or even to have a look at previous projects sometimes, continually obsessing about past work will drain you. Do everything as good as you can, but once you've delivered it, it's time to shelve it and move on to new projects. ;)

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Well, You are defending Bachelor thesis now. In two years you will write your masters thesis. In six years, or later, you will write your PhD thesis. Around this time you will start to publish papers and participate conferences... In analogy, you are 5 years old and learning how to ride a bike. This was your first fall. Do you think it prevents you from winning Tour de France some day?

I cannot read my bachelor thesis, it is awful and there are mistakes. But it was accepted and I defended it. I fear reading my masters, because there are mistakes, weak spots, etc. But it was accepted and I defended it. Maybe you tolerate others' mistakes but overestimate your own mistakes.

You made a mistake(s). Nobody is perfect. If you realize the mistake and do try to replace it (new copy, ask for reject, ask for update), it is totally acceptable and even welcome. If you do not realize the mistake, but try to replace it, when been informed about it, it is totally acceptable. If you realize the mistake and resist to replace, defend your flawed results, humble your "opponents", then you shall be expelled.


I have found that the best way how to defend a thesis is to read it many times before printing. Let some people to read it as well, your schoolmate, your friend from different field. They will find errors and typos for sure. Correct it. Then read it through once more. When you get it printed, add there your signature, enclose the CD, if needed, submit it and never ever think about reading a single line before the defense. In the very first line you will read, you will find total flaw or demeaning typo.

There is rumour, that in one masters thesis there is "Transistor will be made of oak wood, because nobody reads it anyway." This statement was false, obviously. The one who read this was the author who read it day after his successfull defense. He had written it as a desperate joke while writing the manuscript and forgot to delete it...

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    @scaahu Thanks for the edit, but the typo in the last paragraph was intended pun. – Crowley Sep 21 '16 at 13:37
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A bachelor's thesis is, by definition, a "first effort." It would not be surprising for you to make mistakes on it. In fact, it would be surprising if you didn't make mistakes.

Every full fledged researcher, even the best ones, will make occasional mistakes. That just goes with the territory. In your case, what you most need to do is to learn to deal with the inevitable, and yes, I mean inevitable, mistakes, you will make in this or any other career. Then you'll be fine.

Many of the most accomplished people on the site can tell of more serious setbacks than yours. No one's career is going to be derailed by an early setback that isn't even particularly serious.

The one thing you want to avoid is something like "plagiarism." An incomplete citation doesn't count as such. That would be a "retail" error that many people make. You do want to avoid "wholesale" errors, like copying multiple paragraphs or even pages without attribution.

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Your problem will not be one of failing to live up to the standards of all us perfectionists—with that extreme level of conscientiousness and attention to detail, you'll be a very good researcher in one sense. No, your problem is going to be that you'll never allow yourself to finish your graduate thesis/-ses. Or you'll burn out. Or both.

So: chill. And remember (sadly I don't know who said it first, but I've never forgotten my bachelor thesis adviser saying it to me): a thesis can never be finished—only abandoned.

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Don't overthink, you seem to be a good researcher, just try to work on the proof-reading side. Read your thesis, article or whatever 100 times before submitting.
It is human to err, and the thing you are worried about is not worth noting even. Same thing happens with good researchers even, and the academic people are not that rude that they might put a full-stop on you, they do know that such small mistakes happen and is not an issue.
Cheer up, focus on work but do a good proof-reading next time.

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    You might also benefit from proof-reading before submitting. ;) – Murch Sep 20 '16 at 21:23
  • @Murch hahaha using mobile plus non-native english – Shahensha Khan Sep 21 '16 at 9:29

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