I've been working on a case study paper with a colleague, who is the first name on the paper. He is writing his PhD thesis and I am writing my MSc. thesis under the supervision of the same advisor.

Is it okay both of us to use the same results/findings of this paper in our theses?

Advisor told me that this is not okay and added that even if the other guy would be okay with that, he didn't accept this.

At the time that I will be defending my thesis, the paper wouldn't be published yet. The PhD guy will be defending after me in the future.

What is wrong with that? People cite other people's work and use them in their theses. Why is it not accepted for me to use the results of the paper that I am contributing?

  • I think this falls under "individual preferences." I am aware of several cases where it has been done, but I imagine many faculty or institutions would not allow it. In any case, it should be made very clear who did which work. Dec 28, 2016 at 11:20

5 Answers 5


This depends on your country and university regulations, etc. In general you can use the results of your papers in your thesis but e.g. in my case (Europe) if I would use a paper that I only co-authored I would have to indicate what I did myself and what was done by the other author(s).

On one hand it would not be understandable to me if you could not cite a paper in your thesis (and you should be able to also indicate that you are one of the authors and that you did this and that in the paper). Citing papers in other papers/books/thesis is something you should do to clearly state where the results you are using come from (unless it is a textbook stuff).

If you are about to copy-paste parts of the paper or the whole paper then yes, this may be different and could strongly depend on your university regulations and I expect you would be at least required to clearly state what you did yourself.

On the other hand it is probably never a good idea to go against your advisor directly. Ask him/her about this, say what would you like to do with the paper, hear them out in detail what is the problem with that and propose a solution. If this is a case of regulations then there is no going against it as you would only harm yourself. If this is the case of ethics then your advisor should and hopefully will explain the situation - that is also what advisors are for, or at least should be.

I would like to give you a better answer but at this point I really miss the background and big picture to do so.


The answer is: It depends. The norms around whether the results from a single study can be written up in more than one thesis or dissertation vary by university, field, lab, country, advisor, and thesis committee. There are some places where it is explicitly forbidden. In other places, it is common in at least some form. At my graduate school (MIT), collaborative PhDs are rare but possible.

It cases where it is possible, however, it is up to the thesis supervisor, the thesis committee, the department committee, and the university to ensure that each thesis reflects the work of each thesis author — in both quality and quantity of work done by that individual — to justify the degree being conferred. Sometimes, this means that each thesis must describe a sub-part of the work that each author was the intellectual lead of. Sometimes, this means that each thesis describe a separate extension of the shared work. Sometimes, it means a single thesis with two degrees. Sometimes, it means that it's simply not possible. Figuring this out is subjective.

The only things that always true is (a) that it must be both explicitly documented and well explained both that the thesis contains joint work and what each author contributed, and (b) that everyone involved must be supportive of going forward with multiple degrees reflecting a single body of work.

In your situation, it sounds like your supervisor believes that this is not the case. Why does your supervisor think it's not appropriate in your case? You'll just have to ask them.


What is wrong with that? People cite other people's work and use them in their theses. Why it is not accepted me to use the results of the paper that I am contributing?

You have answered your own question. You can of course cite this paper and use it in your thesis as you would do with other people's work. What is unacceptable is, to use the paper as it were your work (and make verbatim copies of text and graphs into your thesis), though you have contributed to it.

You are the second author. First author has a higher potential of using this in their PhD thesis - whether it comes before or after your defence is irrelevant.

You can of course use your contributions to the paper (such as the text that you wrote representing the components that you built by yourself) into your thesis.

In summary, pls follow your adviser's suggestion in this. If you are unclear of what you can exactly borrow from this paper into your thesis, consult your adviser further. It is highly unlikely that your adviser will tell you not to borrow even a single sentence from this paper (unless you contributed nothing to the paper - which is unlikely, given that you are the second author).

Of course, feel free to cite and highlight this paper in your thesis!


in my knowledge in case Indonesia, it's okay to cite your collaborative research finding or result but to use same data of your collaborative research in case put in your Paper it not okay, a collaborative research counted as one research, I think if you use the same data and put in your paper without citing, you can be a plagiary, so you can't use the same data without citing the authors but overall you should clarify to your advisor "why it happen", it seems your supervisor have a reason for your problem, or ask your second advisor


If I understand the issue correctly, the problem that the advisor has with your using the results is that both of you and the PhD student would be claiming them as "primary contributions" to your respective theses. This is typically problematic since you would both be saying "I added this work to the realm of knowledge in my discipline," which typically defeats the purpose of what a M.Sc. thesis or Ph.D. thesis is supposed to do: namely, document that an individual is capable of doing research at an appropriate level (and in the case of the Ph.D., advance the state of knowledge in the field to a certain minimum degree).

You should be able to at least cite the work that the two of you have done jointly—to not be able to do so would be unfair—but the advisor may not want you trying to base your entire thesis off the joint work.

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