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Academic Integrity

Guide to having academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism

Self-Plagiarism: Why It's a Problem

Some types of plagiarism are obvious and clearly considered cheating. What happens when a writer recycles his or her own work? Can we really plagiarize ourselves?

This has long been somewhat of a gray area; in fact, the experts at Turnitin (2016) note how "traditional definitions of plagiarism do not account for self-plagiarism, so writers may be unaware of the ethics and laws involved in reusing or repurposing texts" (para 3). Therefore, it is not surprising that students feel they can reuse their own writing as they see fit, especially since most are not thinking about publication and copyright law. Professional authors cannot simply take a piece of their writing that has previously been published because the venue of publication typically retains the copyright. They may, however, use portions of previous work in their current work by following the same citation guidelines they would use to summarize, quote, or paraphrase other authors.

So why is double-dipping/self-plagiarism problematic for students not seeking recognition of their work beyond an instructor's assessment? What choices do students typically face?

Below are a few scenarios and explanations:

Another important point to remember: an essential part of the writing and research process is using the work of scholars--experts--to help explain and defend your argument.  As a student, especially an undergraduate student--you are not an expert.  So, in most cases, you should not be citing your own work.



Lang, J. M. (2010, October 04). Plagiarizing yourself.

Turnitin. (2016). Is recycling your own work plagiarism?