I wish to work with my Master's supervisor on an idea. The idea is mine and I do the implementation and write the manuscript. My Ph.D. supervisor is not open minded and will surely deny a collaboration. My question is if it is legal? Can I add it to my thesis?

It is my work, done during my Ph.D., will get published with me as the first author but no other advisor from my current university.

Please note that I do not work on funding given by my supervisor but survive on a university scholarship. So if I am using resources, it belongs to the university.

  • 5
    And when your 'closed minded' supervisor finds out, what then. Being open is a better approach than putting yourself in a bad position.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 19:53
  • I am not scared of my close-minded supervisor. I am only asking if what I am doing is right? Legally and ethically!
    – user58480
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 20:15
  • 2
    why not? After all, your supervisor already has a degree abd a job so he/she would not be well-advised to prevent you from having the same opportunities.
    – user67075
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 20:49
  • 2
    Doing what is 'right' is more nuanced and broader question than whether is considered 'more' 'ethical' or not. @JonCuster has already noted that being open and transparent (rather than trying to finagle it behind people's back) is the ethical procotol. Somehow the OP's comment on his own question makes it sound a bit more like - I want to have an argument in advance to justify some potentially bad behavior - am I more 'right' than my advisor to do so?
    – Carol
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 20:57
  • 2
    Why do you want to add this work to your thesis? It seems to me that the easiest solution is to put into your thesis the work that your Ph.D. adviser wants, and, if you have the time and ability to do additional work, then publish that separately rather than putting it into your thesis. Or were you planning to not do the work that your Ph.D. adviser wants? In that case, you need a new adviser. Commented Jul 24, 2017 at 3:54

1 Answer 1


I wish to work with my Master's supervisor on an idea. The idea is mine and I do the implementation and write the manuscript. My Ph.D. supervisor is not open minded and will surely deny a collaboration.

Since you specifically want to know whether this is ethical and legal, I will answer these aspects first.


Sure, why not? It's your thesis, and an advisor is just an advisor. There is definitely no law or regulation that says that you need to run every contribution you wish to include in your thesis by your advisor.


Here things become a little more nuanced, as your advisor usually has, or at least should have, a vested interest in your academic well-being and success in grad school, and you purposefully doing something decidedly unsmart (more on this below) could be considered unethical towards your advisor. That being said, it's easy to infer from your question that you are not on best terms with your advisor anyway, so I guess doing something that may put your advisor into a bad spot may not be that much of a deterrent to you.

The elephant in the room

So sneaking a surprise research contribution behind your advisor's back is legal and not overly unethical (imho, at least), but it's also decidedly not smart. Keep in mind that your advisor will typically also be the most important person in your thesis committee, so it's hard to imagine that a research contribution that he does not like in the first place (otherwise why would he "not be open to a collaboration", as you say?) and that you have also hidden from him will in his mind improve your dissertation. You should also consider the mindset that finding out that her/his student mistrusted her/him enough to hide work will put your advisor in for the final, crucial phase of your thesis.

I understand that as a student who has troubles with their advisor it is frustrating that they are in such a position of power, but trying to ignore this fact and hack around her/him is most certainly not the way to improve one's situation (changing advisor, while awkward, typically is).

  • I am changing my advisor for sure. But it's a process which due to my circumstances ( a necessary trip overseas) I can initiate only after some months and cannot sit idle till I find the next one. I need to keep working toward my thesis. My supervisor is not open-minded because he thinks he is the best and looks down upon other researchers, even though they are good researchers with proven contributions to the area.
    – user58480
    Commented Jul 23, 2017 at 23:38

You must log in to answer this question.