Stolen Student Work?


As a current M.Arch student in my final semester, I am anxiously beginning the job application process for post grad life. Last semester I completed a five person group project that I did 90% of the work for, including several renderings that I am quite proud of. Our group won the competition with our presentation and graphics which were put together by myself and one other group member. The other three people did not contribute to the project's success. While at the time this was frustrating, I felt confident in my work to get an "A" and looked forward to having this project for my portfolio. This past week I discovered three of my past groupmate's portfolios. The publicly published documents have the entire project and descriptive text that I created/wrote verbatim in their work without any credit to me or that it was a "group effort." As an architectural intern with two years experience working at a firm I realize the importance and relevance of giving credit where credit is due. I would never submit the firm's work as solely my own. However, the academic setting seems to be a gray area. So my question: Is it acceptable to use a teammates work in your portfolio without credit? And should I call these people out? I appreciate any blunt advice from the crowd. Thanks!

Jan 12, 13 12:12 am

No, it's absolutely not ok. It's bullshit. Everybody should be credited. The same in the professional sphere too imo.

So far in my career it's been customary to list the partners, lead designer, and all team members. I think that's good practice regardless of where you sit in the office heiarchy. ie. lead designers should also credit those people responsible for doing the CAD/render/etc. work. Others might disagree, but including an uncredited rendering (even if it's of your project),which someone else in the office created is no different than including a photograph in your portfolio without crediting the photographer.


In your specific case though, you don't really have any recourse. Pretty much just try to level with them. Ask kindly and hope they see your point of view. Otherwise just move on. 

Jan 12, 13 12:44 am

i'll be succinct; call them out, then beat their ass.

Jan 12, 13 3:21 am

So, Arch7777 - since you seem to claim almost total responsibility for the success of the project in question - I'm just a bit curious about your own plans for insertion of that project in your own portfolio. Do YOU plan to acknowledge the 'parasites' on 'your' team?

Team dynamics - especially school team dynamics - often are a bit dicey. It's always interesting to observe how such teams organize themselves to get the work done and how various individuals later apportion relative contribution to the results. From the way you describe the situation, it's perhaps not all that surprising the others declined to acknowledge your existence.

Arrogance does have its sharp edges.

Jan 12, 13 11:19 am

Thank you all for your thoughtful advice. In response to distant's question, yes I have noted it as a group project and listed all members names in my own portfolio. This is why I asked the question initially, for it seems that the other group members felt it was not appropriate to cite it as a group project at all. I'm not expecting my name to be blasted across the project, as you presupposed my motives might be, but I want clarification on where I stand in this type of "dicey" scenario.

Jan 12, 13 1:25 pm

"Last semester I completed a five person group project that I did 90% of the work for, including several renderings that I am quite proud of. Our group won the competition with our presentation and graphics which were put together by myself and one other group member. The other three people did not contribute to the project's success."

Now why would anyone think that you would want your name blasted across the project?  What exactly are you worried about then?  That your group partners will get a better job because of your work?  A job that you may have wanted?  How will them not attributing your (and their) work have an affect on you?  How do you know that even if they don't write your name in their portfolio that they won't mention it is a group project in interviews?  I think how you handled it is appropriate and that that's all you should worry about.

Jan 12, 13 1:53 pm

Also..what exactly was stolen?  The topic title itself is kinda over the top aggressive.

Jan 12, 13 2:01 pm

One definition of stolen: dishonestly pass off another person's ideas as one's own. My post comes off as arrogant and I appreciate the reality check folks. It was an honest account of the situation. I am simply bothered by the fact that late nights were spent producing work that another person has touted as solely their own, when it was a "group" effort. Should it not be noted in everyone's display of the project the teammates names? Or is it acceptable to leave them off and simply mention it in an interview as larslarson mentioned? Thanks for the advice!

Jan 12, 13 2:43 pm
won and done williams

I agree with distant and larslarson on this. Throughout your career you will find yourself doing "group work" both as a member of a firm and as a member of a larger consultant team. Feeling self-righteous or indignant about your own contribution or the contributions of others will not serve you well. Sure, you can say something to your former classmates, but what do you really hope to accomplish? Best to move on and assess what lessons you can learn from the experience.

Jan 12, 13 2:46 pm

Arch7777: my earlier post was, perhaps, more pointed than I intended - for that I apologize. I suppose I was thinking back to my own college days and group projects in which I was involved. Looking back on those episodes, I now realize the intent of those projects had very little to do with design and everything to do with group dynamics.

Every team contains individuals with varying strengths and weaknesses. Every leaderless team will produce a leader - either by one member seizing the role or through consensus of the members. In the best of all worlds, the team members (or the appointed leader) will decide on an appropriate distribution of responsibilities and the ground rules governing how the work product will be handled. More importantly, the team will ensure that the workload assignments are reasonably balanced and that everyone carries his/her fair share of the burden.

I suspect you have just learned some of the most valuable lessons of your young career - and you probably don't even realize it yet. Sincere best wishes as you enter the workforce.

Jan 12, 13 3:10 pm

I'd go after them if they clearly tried to deceive by giving themselves credit to your work while leaving your name out in the credits. They can't be so stupid as to forget including your name.  Its not the idea of having you name plastered in it too but the fact that they went out of their way to deliberately leave you out while taking credit for work you did

Jan 12, 13 11:26 pm

My thoughts on this are basically what distant said as well.  School creates this kind of dynamic of a more competitive rather than collaborative environment.  The rest of your life/ career will be one of collaboration and creating positive group dynamics and not worrying about who did more... (although this may not be completely true in some firms.)

Jan 12, 13 11:53 pm

This surprises me. You guys are basically saying it's okay for these other students to not list the project as a group project and take complete credit for something they did not do. That is called plagiarism and students are often expelled for this kind of action. It is not acceptable! 


There is a difference in arrogance in your contributions for a team project and being left out of the credits completely. If the situation was that the other students listed the project as a group project but didn't give "enough" credit to Arch7777, then I would agree with what you guys have said: don't feel indignant about how much credit is given, move on, etc. But the situation at hand is that these students are passing off a group project as solo work without acknowledgement of others who worked on the same project!! How can you guys say this is OKAY?

Jan 27, 13 9:50 am

After my father died the number of people taking credit for his work mushroomed like you wouldn't believe. Some dipshit named Charles Schwartzapfel, who was briefly an intern in my father's office, claims to have practically designed and built several of his major projects including The Gates of the Grove Synagogue and a $10m residential project for teddy bear magnate Russ Berrie in Englewood, NJ. Schwartzapfel seems to have finally removed the Synagogue from his website but a picture of Berrie's house is still there. In other words, get used to it. There is no shortage of people who seek to advance themselves on the work of others. And there is little you can do about it except hope that they fail miserably when they can't live up to the expectations they have created.

Jan 27, 13 12:43 pm

Passive acceptance of unacceptable behavior leads to a culture where it becomes acceptable. We need to make a clear stance that plagiarism is not okay... Just because it's become normal for people to do a certain behavior doesn't make that behavior right, and as individuals whose work is deeply invested in this culture, we are obligated to correct these wrongs, not turn away because "it happens all the time and we should get used to it".

Jan 29, 13 10:02 am

Correct these wrongs? Examine the possible actions one can take as well as there probable outcomes and keep in mind we are not talking about reproduction of a copyrighted work. But before you go that far examine the specifics presented here.

While with any group project a part of the group generally does the majority of the work there is no way in hell that Arch7777 did "90% of the work" for his 5 person project. Think about it. If he put in 90 hours, each of his four partners put in 2-1/2 hours each.

Bullshit. Arch7777 is claiming disproportionate credit for the work while simultaneously complaining that someone else is doing exactly the same thing. He's a liar and a whiny bitch. In other words, deal with it.

Jan 29, 13 10:58 am

You completely missed the point.

I will repeat what I said for your benefit:


IF the situation was that the other group members put the project in their portfolios and stated that it was a group project (without specifying how much work they put into it), then I agree with you. Arch7777 has to deal with the fact that he will not get "credit" for how much work he claims to have done in comparison to his peers. 


HOWEVER, the situation at hand is that the other group members put the project in their portfolios and stated it was a SOLO project without naming any of the other members; they basically are claiming the entire project as their own work without acknowledgment that it was in fact a group effort. It has nothing to do with "disproportionate credit", it has to do with having NO CREDIT given at all.

It is unfortunate that the work produced isn't copyrighted and therefore legal action cannot take place, but if I were in his position I would not feel very happy that someone is using a group project as solo work, especially if you are to be applying to similar firms and both portfolios will be in consideration. I don't care how much work Arch7777 actually did vs. how much work he claims to have done, but the point is that he wasn't given ANY credit, not that he wasn't given ALL/MOST of the credit.

What don't you understand about this? 

Jan 29, 13 2:59 pm

I think the point that you're missing AC is that the OP claimed that he knows exactly what kind of credit he is being given simply because the other group team members are not listed in their STUDENT PORTFOLIOS... He's making a massive leap to think that none of them will ever mention that it was a group project at any point in their interviews.. He and you assume this. 

Also...what laws are in place to list team members of group projects even in professional settings?  Would it be enough to list it as a group effort or would each member have to list every person involved?  This doesn't happen in real life...usually a firm name or lead designer is given and it's known/acknowledged that it was a team effort.

I'm not completely accepting the premise that the others have actually done anything wrong.  Their portfolios are theirs and won't be published anywhere (and if it were THEN it would def. be wrong an actionable).. (BTW where does it say that they listed it as a solo project? It's just said that the team members aren't listed correct?) if they don't choose to mention it's a group project and some of the work is not their own then I could agree that they should be on the spot...but in that situation (assuming the work is great and they can't replicate it) they're only hurting themselves claiming skills that they don't have since that kind of thing is usually discovered in a professional environment.

Jan 29, 13 4:05 pm

Whether or not they state it's a group project in an interview is irrelevant. The portfolio will be viewed by interviewers before/during/after interviews and it should be a stand alone display of their work. 


This is why I assumed it was listed as a solo project: 

"The publicly published documents have the entire project and descriptive text that I created/wrote verbatim in their work without any credit to me or that it was a "group effort." "

So Arch7777 said they did not mention it was a group project in the portfolio. That means any interview/employers looking at the portfolio will assume the entire project was a solo piece of work by that student when in fact it was a group project. If they do not want to list every person who worked on the project, that's fine, but it should at the very least state "Group Project" under the title of the project in the portfolio.

Just because the portfolios are theirs doesn't mean they can put whatever they want into it without giving credit where it's due. They HAVE done wrong by not listing "Group project" under the title which is misleading for employers who will assume it's their own work. Sure they are hurting themselves in the grand scheme of things, but they will potentially get that job because of a pretty project that they didn't really do or just took a part in, and the consequences come after the fact.

 It is common knowledge that firms don't include everyone's names but it's understood by the public that the project was not done by one person. This isn't the same as it isn't a professional portfolio, these are student portfolios, which means that the work in the portfolio should be of that student exclusively, and if collaborations/group projects are included, it should be stated as such.

I don't see how anyone can defend this. This is ridiculous that I'm even having this conversation.

Jan 30, 13 7:06 am

There always seems to be this ridiculous fear that students believe it is better to leave off the mention of other people who have contributed to the project. At my school there are a lot of group projects, on my website and in my portfolio I credit everyone on the project, I think it is a benefit to me, showing the ability to work with people, to learn from fellow students. 

Jan 30, 13 8:29 pm

Thank you for continuing the discussion. My initial post was written shortly after discovering the publically posted portfolios online so it came off as rash. To clarify, my question is not in regards to getting direct name recognition for a project. The proportion of work completed by each member is irrelevant. I am just asking what the protocol is for showing group projects in a student portfolio. To give credit or not? And if so, do I say something to my classmates who do not clarify it's a group project? Thanks!

Feb 1, 13 1:38 pm

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