I'm writing my master thesis and found some master and PhD theses with the similar subject. They have lots of useful references at their introduction chapter, and I use those references and create my own text with a similar thought flow, would this be considered plagiarism?

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    Depends on how similar, and what the advisor thinks. If your "similar flow" is something like "theory, discussion, proof, discussion, conclusion" then you are fine. If it is changing "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog" into "The quick red fox jumped over the slow dog." Then it is plagiarism.
    – MikeP
    Nov 1, 2016 at 21:42
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    Whether or not you are permitted to use the theses directly, for your own learning consider doing your own literature review. You can still use those theses as a starting point. Nov 1, 2016 at 23:03
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    @MikeP +1 The quick-witted computer scientist inspired the lazy informatics researcher ;-) Nov 2, 2016 at 0:26
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    Aside from the specific question of plagiarism, you're expected to have read everything that you cite. So you definitely shouldn't just copy the references, unless you also read all the papers.
    – N. Virgo
    Nov 2, 2016 at 5:13

2 Answers 2


You can do this:

"ThesesAuthorA [ref to their work] anaylsed the works of Bob [ref] , Jane [ref] , and Alice [ref] using some_method and found that their_conclusion. However the evidence can also be interpreted to show your_conclusion.

or this

"ThesesAuthorA [ref to their work] states 'direct quote of the thesis' in their analysis of Bob [ref] , Jane [ref] , and Alice [ref]. "

Either way you need to make it obvious that the conclusions are drawn from someone else's work, and that the references are only those required to support the points and arguments that you are making.

As @ff524 said this is your theses for your research project, so you are going to have to find, evaluate, discuss and defend your sources.


There are actually two concerns here:

  1. Is it plagiarism?

    The authors of the theses you are reading have made an intellectual contribution: interpretation, summarization, organization and curation of references.

    If you just paraphrase their work, the reader will assume that you carefully curated that list from the literature and that you came up with that "flow" yourself. If you don't tell the reader otherwise, it is plagiarism.

    However, you can avoid concerns of plagiarism by citing the thesis from which you got got this, and making it clear to the reader what is your original work (the text) and what isn't (the reference list and the "thought flow").

  2. Does it satisfy expectations for a masters thesis in your department?

    Generally, a masters student is supposed to be able to read and curate the literature, and place their work in the context of the literature (the "thought flow") themself.

    If you copy this from someone else, even if you cite them (so it isn't plagiarism), you may not be doing what's expected from you as a masters student.

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