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Deconstructing Self-Plagiarism: Is It Still Plagiarism?


Plagiarism means copying someone else’s content and claiming it as our own for a different purpose – or at least that’s what we have drilled in our heads. You can see now why so many people are confused by the word “self-plagiarism.” Technically, you are the one who wrote that paper – so shouldn’t you be able to use it for more than one purpose?


Here’s a simple answer to that: No. Plagiarism of your own work also goes under the names of “recycling fraud,” “reuse” “or duplicate publication,” and it means that you are repurposing your own content for something that it wasn’t originally intended for. It raises many ethical dilemmas, and for a good reason.

Think of it this way: If you were a professor and asked a student to turn in a paper on a certain topic, wouldn’t it annoy you if you received a paper they previously turned to another professor? Basically, they put zero work into your course. Now, where’s the advantage in both circumstances? None, whatsoever.

Ethical Issues of Duplicate Publications

It is true that plagiarising yourself isn’t as black and white as regular plagiarism – since, in a way, it’s still your own work there. A lot of debate is going on here around this topic: some believe it should be okay while others find it unethical and unfair.

Here’s an idea. Suppose you agreed for the student to hand in the paper he or she wrote for their previous professor. Technically, it should be ok, since the subject is the same. But no teacher ever gives the same information during classes, which means that you may have taught something that the other professor didn’t. However, since your student knew they could turn in their other paper, they wouldn’t review your material.

So how fair would that be for your other students who would have to go through every piece of information while the other one is just chilling with no actual assignment to do? If I were one of those “other students,” I’d surely be annoyed by this – as annoyed as I’d be if someone plagiarized my work.

Each student is required to put in an equal amount of work, so copying your paper should not be an option. Different professor means a different teaching style. And a different teaching style means the need for a different paper.

Software Detects Self-Plagiarism

If you are asking the question “can you plagiarise yourself,” here’s another idea for you: the moment you turn in a paper, it is generally checked with plagiarism software. If the paper is original, then it’s all great; you passed with flying colors. But even if professors might forget the papers that they’ve seen or read, plagiarism software won’t forget.

And if the anti-plagiarism software remembers that once upon a time, a paper with the same content has been turned in, how do you think that’s going to show on the screen? DING DIIING! 100% plagiarized. The software won’t care that the same string of letters was still yours. All that it will care about is that you were too lazy to write your assignment, so you turned an old paper in instead.

The Verdict

Plagiarizing your own work may not be 100% typical plagiarism, but it’s still plagiarism. You may not be copy-pasting someone else’s work, but you are copying something that already exists in a database with the purpose of using it for something else.

It’s frowned upon, it’s unfair, and you have nothing to gain by plagiarizing your own work – so you may as well write it from scratch.

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