As a part of one of the graduate course I am taking, I need to develop a business plan for a coffee shop startup. I have chosen a office building as the location of the shop.

I want to provide some numeric data about the building. I had a chat with the financial investor of the building and he gave me some numbers giving clues on how profitable the coffee shop will be.

As this data is not from a credible resource I am afraid that the marker may assume I have made it up.

Do you think can I still make use of this data without treated as a plagiarist (or perhaps data fabrication)?

2 Answers 2


The conventional way to attribute such information in your references is to cite your source as "So-and-so" (i.e. the person's name) -- "personal communication". Of course you should get the person's permission to reference them, ideally in an email or some other written format, to be sure that there will be no miscommunication about them having given permission for you to reference them and the numbers they told you. HTH.

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    This is for a class project, not a publication. The level of consent required is probably lower.
    – aeismail
    Nov 27, 2017 at 3:28
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    perhaps (level of consent lower); i would still ask though. it's the right thing to do. perhaps the need for it in writing is less; i would still say something like "this is for a class project; do you mind if i use some of the numbers we spoke about and perhaps attribute them as coming from you?" (Part of the idea of these types of class projects is to prepare you for the real world. What if this was a real business plan being presented for funding?) Nov 27, 2017 at 3:35
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    I think your example is kind of confusing, and think it would be better to just say “... cite your source as “Dr. Steve Professor, personal communications”...” Nov 27, 2017 at 4:06
  • @Stella, I agree. The way you wrote it is more clear. Nov 27, 2017 at 4:09

I don't think you are using the right definition of plagiarism. It generally means to use someone else's ideas, words, or in this case, data, and pass it off as your own.

You can use the data, cite it as a conversation with the financial investor of the building, and then defend or refute the basis of your findings, i.e. what is the equivalent coffee shops at another location compared with yours?

As far as credibility goes. You can find resources that attempt model coffee-shop profitability and see if the numbers your financial investor match up.

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    I usually don't edit others' post because (1) I am not a native English speaker. (2) Sometimes, the edit could introduce even more errors. Did you notice using the correct the definition of plagiarism? This is why I rejected the edit in the first place. Also, I think the original post was fine. Now it has a typo.
    – Nobody
    Nov 27, 2017 at 7:17
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    @scaaahu thanks for bringing this to my attention, I completely missed it. Fixing it now.
    – Bluebird
    Nov 27, 2017 at 8:40

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