I am working on my master thesis in software engineering. I am going to present the idea of my thesis in a hackathon (startup competition), so most probably, we will make a team and develop a minimum viable product based on my thesis.

The question is:

Can I mention to this minimum viable product as the validation of my thesis? Or it would be considering as plagiarism since i have not developed it alone, but in a team.

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    How about mentioning the work and explaining clearly which part came from you and which from others? Why would that not be viable? And why not ask your adviser? They can tell you what's acceptable in an assessment-relevant work. – Captain Emacs Mar 3 '17 at 10:53
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    It would be plagiarism if, and only if, you do not disclose in detail the process that led to the creation of the MVP, including the fact that it was created in a hackathon, the names of the participants, and details regarding which part of it was your personal contribution. And if you do in fact make such a disclosure, then it won't be plagiarism or cheating, but I'm guessing it would not be even remotely acceptable as sufficient work for a Master's thesis. As @CaptainEmacs said, check with your adviser. – Dan Romik Mar 3 '17 at 20:05
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    @Dan can you please post this answer as an answer? – ff524 Aug 28 '17 at 7:34
  • Simple answer: Ask your professor. He decides if he accepts your thesis and he should know (or direct you to someone who knows) the examination rules of the university about such things. If he told you something, you're on the safe side. For your thesis you should not act like "I don't ask, so I can't get a no", because you can get the no later then. – allo Nov 24 '17 at 16:18

I believe it would be fine and acceptable as long as in your thesis writing you name who helped you and how they helped you.

I doubt anyone will think less of your thesis for having people help you. As long as it is still clear that you did a lot of work yourself... this team isn't completely doing your project and thesis for you!

You could ask your thesis advisor to be certain.

Many PhD students hire research assistants to help them code software engineering projects.

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Strictly speaking it is not plagiarism to mention this minimum viable product in your thesis. That said, however, there are two considerations that require further attention; first, though, a point of clarification concerning "plagiarism": Per Oxford University Plagiarism Guidelines, "Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else's work or ideas as your own.[...]by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement" There are many forms of plagiarism, some intentional, and some unintentional, but while varied, plagiarism refers to a practice of attribution concerning some intellectual work; plagiarism is not however automatically conferred by a mode of authorship. Simply because a project, as your hackathon represents, involved a group does not preclude your ability to cite that project, properly attributing and crediting the efforts and works of each contributing group member. Such an instance of a group project, one that is directly instigated by a lecture presentation that you made would be permissible to cite as a project with discrete elements and scope. Similarly it would be irregular to cite the entire group in reference to the lecture you made. Any work that is relevant in scope, or impact, to an intellectual endeavor or to an academic end arguably must be cited, regardless of whether it is convenient; the point is that it could be argued that leaving out the group project, as in not mentioning it at all, would constitute an instance of plagiarism. Given the scope of your thesis and your stated acknowledgment that the lecture presentation you made and the group project are relevant to that end, you should acknowledge both, including contributors/collaborators.

Per internationally recognized ISO7144 standard, to varying extents, a thesis generally is a theoretical, research-based, or clinical work that is prepared with the aim of demonstrating its creators qualifications. While your project is important and relates to your theoretical work and research (and as such should be cited with credit to all participants), your project represents an instance of a theory you've developed, relating thus to your presentation in turn; in the same way that it would be difficult to submit a project that was merely practical, lacking research, as the thesis itself, it would follow that the project, which acts a supporting instance of your theory, would not undermine the research you conducted or the theory you promote.

Simply because there are collaborators on a project inspired by your research is insufficient by any count to be considered unfair or unoriginal work to the whole thesis. Ultimately only you can know the extent to which any of this applies, but keep in mind many academic works are the fruit of collaborations that may or may not be part of a much larger researcher's canon or research field without rendering the whole of his research a group activity.

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I think that if you are able at your level in your career to convince others to work on your own projects, be them academics or practitioners, you definitively deserve recognition. Let me elaborate my view:

  • a MS degree is NOT supposed to be research-intensive. That's PhD work.
  • MS dissertations typically either summarize other's people work, or provide limited original work on top of other's people work.
  • in case there is original work being developed, it is guided by the student's supervisor, and mostly executed by supervisor's team composed by research scientists/postdocs/PhDs.

A MS thesis is NOT an individual's homework. Even research at the highest levels is almost never done individual - I find it surprising that us faculty perpetrate the fictitious nineteenth century lone-genius narrative. I authored hundreds of papers, and the only work that bears my only name are my MD and my PhD thesis. And that's only because of the dissertation rules that were imposes to me - in a dissertation, the student is forced to relegate other's people contribution in the "acknowledgments", when they really are co-authors.

So if a MS student picks his own topic, and he/she self-assembles his own team to develop it and complete it rather than following semi-blindly the supervisor's (or her/his assistant's) direction, he/she should be highly praised. That's not plagiarism, that is leadership/entrepeneurial attitude at a very early stage.

Of course, just as in any academic work, you should refer to other people's contribution. In this case, you should make it clear you brought up the idea and encouraged others to collaborate with you, and try to assess in the most objective manner what is your own contribution, and what is not.

EDIT: thanks for the first upvote. I believe the downvotes were due to my first, short, in-your-face version of the answer. Hope my point is clear now.

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    Wow, here rain the downvotes. Wonder if anybody would comment on why this answer is not satisfactory? As a teacher, I always praise students who work in groups. As a MS and PhD supervisor, I praise students who think outside close academic circles and are able to fin external resources to solve their problems. What are your values as a faculty? – famargar Mar 3 '17 at 19:52
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    The notion that working in groups is desirable is fine. The notion that this alone is sufficient for a degree is not fine. – Nate Eldredge Mar 3 '17 at 19:54
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    So if I am able to "convince" someone else to write a complete Master's thesis in software engineering for me, I deserve not only a Master's degree in software engineering but also another Master's degree in business? Do you seriously not see why such a claim would be downvoted? – Dan Romik Mar 3 '17 at 20:09
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    Not downvoted, but here's the catch: there is group work for assessing the ability to work in groups. If it is individual work (and a MSc is usually individual), you want to assess the individual ability of the student. Business ability is one pair of shoes and not measured by a degree; but technical and research ability in conjunction with critical discourse and analysis is what people get the MSc degree for. And that's not measured if they use the jointly developed tool from the hackaton without making clear what their contribution is. Plus: perhaps the idea comes from the others? – Captain Emacs Mar 3 '17 at 20:09
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    I hope I clarified I was being provocative. @CaptainEmacs (I dropped emacs but still love your nickname :) of course he/she should still make clear what part of his thesis are his/her own work. This should happen in any thesis, regardless whether you got help from an academic, or else. I just realized I need to expand my answer further. – famargar Mar 3 '17 at 20:53

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