I'm an undergraduate and would like to write about certain topics and post the documents online, available to everyone to read and probably indexed by search engines very soon.

However, I think that if I do this, I'm very likely to have written about the topics of my bachelor or master thesis/theses before I write it/them. What I post online is planned to be high-quality but of course not scientifically published.

If I copy parts of these works without stating I wrote and made them publicly available earlier, does it qualify as self-plagiarism? If so, does it still count if I create the documents now, copy parts of them into my thesis, but only upload them after I (hopefully) got my degree?

Are the rules the same around the world or does it depend on things like the country, the academic discipline, the university, the kind of degree or other scientific work, or other things? If it does, please tell me what's relevant in the comments so I can add that information. However, since adding the probably most relevant details isn't hard: I'm a German computer science student studying in Germany.

If I post the documents pseudonymously, do I have to prove they are written by me or does the examination office have to attempt to prove they aren't written by me? Does it make a difference whether I use a pseudonym which is clearly not a person's name? If I do, how would I quote myself if I have to?

This question is about a similar topic but I don't think mine is a duplicate of it because the linked question is about publishing in a journal, not about writing one's bachelor or master thesis.

1 Answer 1


Cite your online reference, just as you would cite some other online reference. In neither case is it plagiarism, because you're citing it. And in the case of your own online work, you can take credit for it as if it were not cited, as long as this work does not appear previously to when you published online.

  • Okay, but what about unpublished work? For example if I write my such a document now, don't quite finish it, use part of it for my thesis I write in a year, and only finish my old document after I submitted my thesis? What if I show the document to friends and a few people at uni but don't make it publicly available and someone proclaims they already read the same thing some time ago? What if someone other than me makes a document of mine publicly or at least widely available (e.g. adds it to the CS students' git repo or puts it into the CS student's Dropbox folder) without my permission?
    – UTF-8
    Dec 16, 2016 at 21:13
  • The thing about unpublished work is that someone else might publish it before you do. But publication takes time and effort. This is why I think "publication" in sites like Stack Exchange of small and intermediate results is useful. It shows the work as your and it puts a time-stamp on it. It doesn't stop someone else from using it or publishing it, but you can write a letter to the journal pointing out that you "published" it on the web before the other author. Meanwhile you can write the rest of your thesis and include this partial result in it later. Dec 16, 2016 at 22:53
  • an example of a small result that i have "published" recently on another Stack Exchange is this question and answer. Now this is not a peer-reviewed publication, but all of the math is there and if someone else later claims the idea is theirs, I can point to this. But perhaps someone else has previously done exactly this math (and I sorta suspect some wavelet and filterbank author might have), then my posting of this question hurts no one. Dec 16, 2016 at 22:57

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