General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

When someone uses your idea.

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LadyL:
I am taking a graduate seminar in which we need to plan and write up a research proposal as our final project. The project can be based on any of the topics we covered all semester. During the class where we covered "Topic ABC" I asked whether anyone had ever done a study where they looked at x, y, and z variables (my question was very specific). My professor said that to their knowledge, no one had ever done so, but that it was a very good idea. At that point I started thinking about using that idea for my final project.

The next week after class I was talking to a classmate about what we were going to do our final projects on. She said she was a little worried because the course topic is somewhat out of her area of expertise, but that she " was thinking of doing it on Topic ABC looking at variables like x and y." It sounded a LOT like the idea I'd pitched in class, pretty much the same thing actually, which took me aback and I wasn't sure what to say, so I didn't really say anything. I ended up scrapping my original idea and finding another topic because I didn't want to risk presenting the same project as her (it's a very small class, 6 people, and we would be presenting the projects orally in front of everyone for about 30 minutes each - pretty boring if 2 people pick the same thing). Also I figured since the class topic is closer to my area of expertise than hers it would be pretty easy for me to come up with a different topic anyhow (it was).

We had our presentations this week, and my classmate did indeed present the exact project I'd proposed. She hadn't thought through some of the required logistics though, and the professors were a bit critical of her presentation as a result. My proposal went well and I got positive feedback.

My classmate is a nice person and I don't think she knowingly "stole" my idea, I think she heard it in class and maybe forgot the source. Or maybe she wanted to go with an idea that it sounded like the professors already liked because she was concerned that her own ideas weren't as good, or something, and didn't think about the fact that I might want to use my idea as my proposal. All of this made me wonder, at the point when she told me she was thinking about using that topic, what would have been a polite way to say "Oh, you mean like the idea I was talking about in class?" without it seeming like I was trying to lay claim in a "mine, not yours!" kind of way? And if I had actually been really invested in the topic, is there any way I could have told her that I was already thinking of using the idea without it being awkward? At the time I mostly couldn't come up with any sort of phrasing that didn't sound in my head like "You're coooppying meee!" (thanks social awkwardness).

TurtleDove:

--- Quote from: LadyL on December 13, 2012, 04:31:18 PM --- All of this made me wonder, at the point when she told me she was thinking about using that topic, what would have been a polite way to say "Oh, you mean like the idea I was talking about in class?" without it seeming like I was trying to lay claim in a "mine, not yours!" kind of way? And if I had actually been really invested in the topic, is there any way I could have told her that I was already thinking of using the idea without it being awkward? At the time I mostly couldn't come up with any sort of phrasing that didn't sound in my head like "You're coooppying meee!" (thanks social awkwardness).

--- End quote ---

I don't think you can point out it was your idea without it seeming like you are laying a claim to the idea.....and I don't think it's a bad thing to point out it was your idea.  I think the moment has passed for this particular situation, and it seems like it worked out well anyway.  Should something similar happen again, I would just be factual and non- accusatory and honest if you want to lay claim to what is your idea: "I am also doing my project on x and y aspects of A, B, C - don't you remember when I talked about that in class last Tuesday?"  And if it would make you feel less anxious, ask the professor how he would prefer you handle both of you doing the same project.

Kaypeep:
I don't think there's anything you can say.  Unless the teacher has a process to vet topics where they are submitted and honor first come-first served for topic subjects, there's no way to prove which one of you came up with the topic first.  And unless the teacher had a no-duplicating topics rule, I don't see why you couldn't have stayed with the topic and done your own presentation anyway.   Perhaps consult with the teacher and ask for suggestions.  "Both Classmate and I are both doing final projects on ABC topic.  Can you suggest additional factors that I could focus on in this area to make my project slightly different?"  Or better yet, tell classmate you have the same topic and ask her if you can both meet with the teacher to discuss to ensure you avoid duplication.

onyonryngs:
How well she did on the project really has no bearing on the question.  Was there a reason you both couldn't have done the same project? 

CaptainObvious:
I don't see the issue? Unless there was a rule that forbade 2 people from covering the same topic, why couldn't you both do it?

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