What Is Self-Plagiarism? And How Can You Avoid It?

Yelena Skosyrskih

Self-plagiarism occurs when you reuse your own published work for a different project. While you aren’t plagiarizing another person when you do it, you are still engaging in misconduct.

Understanding the ethics of self-plagiarism and defining it for yourself can help you avoid issues in the academic and professional worlds. Many students in graduate programs find it tempting to recycle their work. This can be frowned upon considerably and hurt your chances of advancing your career.

Let’s take a closer look at self-plagiarism and explore ways to avoid it.

What Is Self-Plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is the act of repurposing your own published or submitted work without proper acknowledgment. This can involve presenting the same content, ideas, or findings in multiple publications. Doing this without references and citations is bad practice because it means you are presenting old work as new ideas.

When you practice self-plagiarism, you mislead leaders into making wrong conclusions, Meanwhile, you violate academic and professional integrity standards.

While self-plagiarism does not involve stealing someone else’s work, it still undermines the principles of academic honesty and intellectual creativity. It also goes against respected transparency practices.

Self-plagiarism isn’t always intentional. When you are creating a new piece of work, you naturally rely on previous experience and existing knowledge. To make sure this doesn’t turn into a plagiarised work, you have to learn how to avoid self-plagiarism.

Examples of Self-Plagiarism

Self-plagiarism is an issue in different settings. Sometimes, writers are unaware of the problem and make the mistake several times. The examples of self-plagiarism include:

Academic Publications

Self-plagiarism in research undermines the integrity of scholarly work and violates academic standards. One common example is when a researcher submits the same manuscript to multiple journals without disclosing this. By attempting to publish the same work as original research in different outlets, the author misleads readers. This eventually leads to redundancy issues and duplicate publications.

Another example involves an author repurposing significant portions of their previously published work in a new article. This is acceptable only if done with proper citation or acknowledgment. If not, this practice is called duplicate publication. It can misrepresent the originality of the new research because readers may believe that the content is entirely fresh.

Professional Writing

In professional writing, self-plagiarism can be a serious issue for both the writer and the reader.  An example is a content creator who recycles blog posts or articles from one website to another without admitting to it.

This practice deceives readers by presenting reused content as unique. This usually results in undermined credibility and lost trust.

Journalists are also susceptible to self-plagiarism. It can occur when a reporter repurposes their own published articles or parts of them for different news outlets. This can be acceptable if the reporter openly admits to doing so and inserts proper citations. Without disclosure, these actions add up to self-plagiarism. By doing this, the reporter compromises journalistic ethics and risks misleading readers.

Creative Writing

In creative writing, self-plagiarism can happen when an author incorporates passages or ideas from their previous works into a new book. This practice can diminish the originality and creativity of the new work. Readers can easily recognize recycled content and lose confidence and trust in their favorite author.

A real-world example of self-plagiarism in creative writing is Rudyard Kipling. He willingly admitted to engaging in this practice when writing The Jungle Book.

Many legal and ethical considerations surround the practice of self-plagiarism. While it may not always be illegal, this practice raises significant concerns.

From a legal perspective, self-plagiarism doesn’t usually violate copyright laws since the author owns the rights to their work. However, contractual agreements with other parties (e.g. publishers) may include clauses that forbid authors from reusing their work without citations or permissions

If an author violates such an agreement, they become subject to legal consequences. They may include breach of contract or even copyright infringement.

In some cases, self-plagiarism may also be viewed as fraud. It can happen if the author states that the recycled content is actually an original work. This is a serious issue in grant applications and research proposals.

Wherever novelty and originality are key factors, self-plagiarism could be illegal. If this occurs the author could be accused of misrepresentation with the purpose of achieving financial gain through deception.

The Ethics of Self-Plagiarism

Ethically, self-plagiarism undermines the principles of academic honesty, intellectual integrity, and transparency. When you present old content as new work, you deceive everybody who has access to it. This creates a distortion of knowledge and leads to a breach of trust. Eventually, self-plagiarism could become the basis for removing you from the academic or professional community.

Self-plagiarism also violates the core values of intellectual creativity. Instead of producing new insights, you just recycle previous work and present it as something original. This hinders the advancement of knowledge in the industry.

How to Avoid Self-Plagiarism

Being aware of the dangers of self-plagiarism is the first step to prevention. These tips can help you make sure this issue never comes up in your professional and academic work.

Properly Cite Your Work

When incorporating content from your previous publications, always cite yourself just as you would any other source. Even if it seems unnecessary and the piece you are reusing is small, make sure to mention your previous work anyway.


Instead of copying verbatim text from your earlier works, paraphrase the content in a new manner. This will add novelty to the piece. However, if you are in a research setting, it’s still good practice to cite it.

Seek Permission for Reuse

If you plan to reuse substantial portions of your own work, especially in a different context, ask the original publisher or copyright holder for permission to do so. This can help prevent the legal consequences of self-plagiarism.

Add New Insights or Updates

When revisiting your previous work, aim to add new insight or updates. This can enhance the content and make it original. By building upon your earlier research, you demonstrate progress in your field.

Clearly Differentiate Reused Content

When writing a new piece, distinguish between the content that is newly created and the portions that appear in your previous works. Use formatting, labels, or annotations to indicate recycled sections.

Inform Editors or Reviewers

If you are submitting a manuscript or article that contains recycled content, inform the relevant parties about the overlap. Transparency is key to maintaining academic integrity.

Create Original Work

Whenever possible, try to create original work that offers fresh perspectives. You can source ideas from your previous writing to create new original pieces. This minimizes the risk of unintentional self-plagiarism.

Keep Detailed Records

Maintain detailed records of your publications, research data, and writing projects. This documentation can help you track the reuse of your own work. It can come in handy when identifying potential instances of self-plagiarism.

Stay Informed

Stay informed about your field’s ethical guidelines, publication policies, and copyright regulations related to self-plagiarism. Also, regularly review the policies renewed by publishers and academic institutions to ensure compliance.

Collaborate with Peers

While collaborating with colleagues or co-authors, you can find fresh perspectives and new ideas. When you are stuck on something, they can help you create original writing. You can also source their help for double-checking your new work to ensure the lack of self-plagiarism.

Preventing Self-Plagiarism in Your Work

Self-plagiarism can have ethical and legal consequences for the author. While it’s not always intentional this practice could cause serious issues for everyone involved, including the readers and the industry. If you are worried about the possibility of plagiarizing your own work, you have to implement preventive practices.

By understanding the concept of self-plagiarism, you can avoid the accompanying problems and ensure your good standing as a credible author.

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