Most people are familiar with the word plagiarism: simply put, it is copying someone’s work and passing it as your own. Self-plagiarism is, however, new to most. What is self-plagiarism? Is it unethical? Is it illegal? how do I avoid self-plagiarism?
Self-plagiarism is the act of using the content you had published before, or chunks of it, for the second time and passing it off as an original and new paper. Unlike other types of plagiarism, self-plagiarism is not illegal, but it is unprofessional and unethical to republish content without properly acknowledging what you have done.
Next time you are writing an academic paper, how do you ensure that you haven’t self-plagiarized? Read on and find out how:
If you are writing from a topic that is similar to what you had done before, be sure to undertake original scratch right from scratch. Even if you are well-versed with the work through previous exposure, make a point to hit the books again.
This serves two purposes: first, you are exposed to new material that might not have been previously available to you. Secondly, it ensures that the ideas and thoughts used in the previous paper are not recycled due to familiarity.
By starting from scratch, you not only avoid self-plagiarism but also improve the quality of your work by including more sources than previously encountered.
Where it is absolutely necessary to use work that you had done previously, or chunks of it, be sure to do the citation. Similar to standard plagiarism, acknowledging the true author of the work and the published work absolves you of plagiarism. Be sure to mention the date that you published the first work, together with the name of the paper to make verification possible.
Where you are unsure of how to go about citing your old work, consult your professor as different institutions have different policies with regards to self-plagiarism. He or she can also guide you on how to do the citation.
It could be that you have been presented an opportunity to write up on a topic you had done before, but for a different audience. In this case, you can reframe the ideas previously used to suit the new audience, without necessarily self-plagiarizing.
To do this effectively, consult the notes you used when researching the previous work, add more notes taken from new research, then write your paper from them. Avoid using your old already-published work to write a similar paper, as this makes it easier to plagiarize.
Reframe the ideas from your previous work, expand your notes and then write your new paper.
Writing different papers on topics that are almost similar can lead to self-plagiarism. In this case, you can prevent unoriginality by carefully planning your writing and research schedules so that you don’t write on the same topics consecutively. Therefore, ensure that your writing should be spaced out enough to allow your mind to reset and change the mode to the other similar topic.
Further, ensure that you keep separate notes for the different works that you are writing. This way, you don’t accidentally self-plagiarize by using the wrong notes for your writing.
Even though you might have written the paper or book which you are referencing, your publisher may be the one who holds the rights to it. Before reusing your work, be sure to get permission from the publisher who holds the copyright. Furthermore, ensure that you mention how you intend to use this previously published work in your new text.
Even though it might not be illegal, self-plagiarizing is unethical and unprofessional. It could also affect your standing in the academic world as your work stops being viable because old ideas are presented as new discoveries.
Self-plagiarism is easily prevented through different ways, including by doing new and original research, getting permission from the copyright holder where necessary, spacing out your writing where several papers have almost similar topics, and reframing your ideas for your new audience.