Can I copy parts of my master thesis directly into my PhD? How to reference copied text?


I'm currently writing my PhD thesis. This research is the continuation of my master thesis which I did in a different institution. In order to introduce the work of my master thesis in my PhD document, I have copied three pages of text directly from an article I wrote (together with three other colleagues) about my master thesis work, as well as some figures.

Is this OK or should I rewrite this somehow?

If it is OK, how should I reference it to the article? Should I reference it at the end of the paragraph or can I just add a sentence in the beginning saying something like "the content of this point has been extracted from"?

If it is not OK, should I rewrite this text with different words? I would like to avoid doing this, because it was already hard for me to write that text once and finding other words may look like a poor copy.

Thanks in advance for the advise.

Avatar for Pjlu

My thoughts would be that you would need to summarise the content of your three pages and condense them, avoiding any lengthy direct quotations and then cite yourself and the other authors in the usual manner-an intertextual reference if using APA or Harvard, or footnote or endnote if using a different citation system.

While your PhD is a continuation of work begun in your Master's thesis, it is a completely new work in itself and you would treat the Masters thesis just as you would any other article or reference that you would be using.


This would be considered plagiarism, which is taken very seriously.

I agree with Pjlu - if it can be summarised. But if on the other hand the content needs to be re-stated in your PhD (e.g., it is the same literature you are reviewing, or the same method you are employing) then this needs to be re-written so that it is not a replication of what you have written before.


Thank you for your reply. I guess then I should rewrite it. And can I use the figures if I reference them properly?


Yes, in my institution this would be considered plagiarism, so you'd need to treat your previous work like any other source. Otherwise, you're effectively being assessed for two different awards for the same piece of work. And yes, treat your own figures in the same way as you'd treat figures from any other source you were using.


Thank you!


Yep, copying from a MSc thesis is not allowed at my uni either - that's taken more seriously than copying from one of your own papers (see my comments on your other post). I think this is because your papers are from your PhD thesis, whereas your MSc thesis is a completely different piece of work.


Absolutely - you can only use gain credit / qualification for a piece of work once.


As others have pointed out, that is considered self-plagiarism. Paraphrase the parts that you borrowed from the MSc thesis and cite your name and colleagues.