What happens when a topic for a Bachelor's thesis is submitted and while the student writes their thesis, a paper discussing the exact same topic is published by researchers of a different university?

This is merely a scenario. I'm not in this situation. But I feel like it concerns me a lot as I would be, had I written my theses 3 years earlier, as I received an email today informing me that the topic I proposed to a chair would be a good topic but has already been looked into by 5 researchers at a French university and the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation somewhat short of 3 years ago. The topic of their paper exactly matches what I planned to write about, so I think this happening is plausible. However, I can't seem to find information online about how it would be handled.

In such a scenario, is the student allowed to finish their thesis? How would the publication of the paper impact the requirements concerning the thesis?

Had this happened to me (with the topic I proposed), I would've suddenly have access to everything I wanted to find.

Should the field or location matter: I'm a computer science student in Germany.

  • 3
    In all situations I have been aware of, the student was allowed to finish their thesis (even for dissertations!). That said, it might hurt their chances at getting journal papers out of their thesis -- though, if handled carefully, not by much. (The parallel discovery should be cited, with a polite but clear indication of the fact that the author's research was done independently. Of course, things become better if the papers are different in methods.) Sep 5, 2017 at 19:05

1 Answer 1


As far as I know, in Germany, Bachelor's theses do not necessarily have to be "research", so novelty is not mandatory to graduate. Reproducing existing research would be fine, as long as it is noted and no plagiarism occurs (and the effort is commensurate: there will probably be implementation decisions to be made, etc.).

I have seen several bachelor theses on subjects such as "implementing PCIe communication" "writing a linux device driver" "build a softcore processor for the open-license parts of the ARMv4 instruction set" which have no novelty or research value but significant engineering effort. If the B.Sc. student has no ambitions for an academic career, this type of thing is perfectly appropriate and in line with their future professional work.

  • 3
    "If the B.Sc. student has no ambitions for an academic career" - I would actually even drop that restriction. The point of research aspects before starting doing actual research during a PhD candidacy is to become familiar with research methodologies. Whether you do that to produce novel, important results, or by reproducing existing research is largely irrelevant in that respect. Accordingly, BSc/MSc theses typically are not required to produce publication-worthy novel results, but to feature a certain degree of research orientation, e.g. by presenting everything in a structured write-up, ... Sep 6, 2017 at 6:40
  • ... by juxtaposing and justifying the developed (conceptually non-novel) solution with what is found in the literature, by evaluating the solution the same way a novel technique would be evaluated, and so on. Research-wise, the goal is to show that the student has the methodological skills to perform research, not that they have some good luck and happen to find an interesting novel concept just at the right time during the few months while they are writing their final thesis, in a topic that is more or less imposed by their task and that they may have no prior knowledge about. Sep 6, 2017 at 6:41
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    I agree! The last line was only meant for the examples I gave that had no research components whatsoever (although the last one does have some room for the things you mention). It is to say there's a good reason why a larger superset of things that are mandatory for research are not B.Sc requirements. Novelty in particular is probably the least important of those research things!
    – nengel
    Sep 6, 2017 at 6:56
  • In the hard sciences bachelor theses in germany and austria are research in most cases but they are usually part of a project of a PhD/postDoc. But the bachelor thesis doesn't necessarely needs to be published so there wouldn't be a problem if during the time someone publishes the same work.
    – user64845
    Sep 6, 2017 at 8:05
  • It's true that some Bachelor's theses in CS in Germany are just implementation. However, a lot of them aren't. They are a kind of "Figure this out." tasks or "We got this going so far. Can find a way to improve this aspect of it?" tasks. Then the student has to come up with a solution to the problem, sometimes with no implementation whatsoever. The topic I initially wanted would've had implementation in addition to both of the kinds of tasks mentioned above, but the topic I'm probably going to write about now is purely theoretical. Would publication of a solution constitute a problem?
    – UTF-8
    Sep 12, 2017 at 13:26

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