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As the title says, I'm writting my thesis and I am looking through many reviews, since they easily collect all the useful information that is general and it would take me too much time to find by my own. They also have a nice structure and "storyline", which makes it easier to read (and I doubt I could improve, despite connecting the different fields that are relevant to me).

My question is, if I follow the structure of a review, many of their citations, but I don't copy their sentences (I reformulate most of them when possible, skip some and add some extra from other reviews), is it considered plagiarism? Should I cite the review(s)? And how? Should I forget about all I've done and start from scratch?

Thank you!

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  • Unless you are collecting the sentences verbatim from the reviews and not citing them, it would not be called plagiarism.
    – Coder
    Jul 9, 2017 at 18:35
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    @Coder: That depends on how much you reformulate the sentence. Minimal changes are not enough. Starting with the general structure and storyline and writing your own prose is fine, but you should mention where you've taken the structure from. Jul 10, 2017 at 11:09

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It's a little bit of a gray area in my opinion. If you just rewrite the sentences but take the structure, statements and references from the review it could technically be plagiarism since it's not your idea or work. If you just take the information and rewrite it is fine. And there's the question: when is it your own "review" and when is it still just the reworded one you've read. You definitely need to cite that review somewhere.

What I would do is combining the key information of all the reviews in your own short review and then add something like:

For more in-depth reviews see ...

What helps is reading all the reviews and then, in the best case some days later, writing your own without looking at the reviews. That way you won't stick to the exact structure or wording.

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    I don't think there is any gray area here. The text simply needs to adequately describe what is taken from other people's work and what not.
    – Arno
    Jul 10, 2017 at 10:51
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It is plagiarism if and only if you present something that is not your work as being your work.

So, if the structure and storyline of a part of your thesis is from someone else, this needs to be clear. Typically, this would be achieved by starting the part with a phrase like: "The following review of XXX follows closely the presentation of [reference]."

If there is any risk that people start reading that part midway and thus miss that warning, you may want to repeat that warning through the text at appropriate places, e.g. "As pointed out in [reference], it is still an open question whether.."

Since this is a thesis, ultimately there will have to be enough stuff in there that is actually your work. But this concern is idenpendent of plagiarism.

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  • I don't see any real need to repeat the warning (except if there are two separate sections where you're following some source). Jul 10, 2017 at 11:05
  • @PeterShor I had a situation in mind where say an entire section is following a source, and there are marked subsections. A reader just caring about a particular aspect could jump to the start of a subsection, and be misled about the attribution.
    – Arno
    Jul 10, 2017 at 11:12

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