Can You Plagiarize Yourself? Better Yet: Can You Avoid It?

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Self plagiarism is often used by authors and is not considered illegal. This is a reusing of your articles which has been written and published. Sometimes authors use excerpts, citing important fragments of your text. Full text of a paper can often be copied.

Writing copyright articles involves usage of unique material. Plagiarism has never been appreciated by society at any time. Now this topic remains relevant. However, there are some exceptions.

Citing of past works in a new publication will help not mislead readers. It’s not worth presenting an old text as a new one. This may damage your reputation. It's better that you include a reference to an existing work, while maintaining uniqueness of two materials.  

What Is Self-Plagiarism: Definition

When you reuse some material that was previously published, you basically define self plagiarism. In general, it doesn’t cross the line of deliberate theft of other people's works or ideas. However, the scientific world values uniqueness, originality, and relevance of information.

Self-plagiarism refers to a publication of identical articles in multiple periodicals. This is any attempt of creating a new material by adding previously published data to it. We believe that rephrasing or minor changes to a text also applies to self-plagiarism. There's certainly a difference between them. However, it's small, because an essence remains the same, and only some words or terms change. Author must arrange all quoted phrases in one or several parts of your work with a mandatory reference to an original source. Before doing it, make sure you know how to quote a quote right. 

Why Is Self Plagiarism Wrong

There are different cases when self plagiarism is illegal or considered a common practice. Some consider it illegal if you reuse previously published works. Others see nothing wrong that forgotten ideas violate the ethics of self-plagiarism.

Let's explain why this way of presenting a text can be considered incorrect:  

  1. Importance of research work. Each publication should include new information and study's results on an issue.
  2. Data from published articles may no longer be relevant. It may be inappropriate for posting in new works.
  3. Violation of the publisher's copyright. When a paper is given to a publisher, certain phrases no longer belong to the author.
  4. Fact checking. Content of the reprint may not correspond with the current situation. Various checks can prove this.
  5. Students can get lower grades if they use self-plagiarism or plagiarism.
  6. Lack of development. Copying text and not working on a new paper is easy. It doesn't require devoting energy, attention and a lot of time for research.

Self-plagiarism can exist if it doesn’t contradict copyright law. It is made with high quality and without copying 100% of previous materials.

What Are the Consequences of Self Plagiarism?

Given the constant discussion about legality and ethical standards of reusing original sources, many people are interested in what happens if you plagiarize yourself. In general, this won’t bring anything good. And here’s why:

  1. Plagiarized data harms one’s reputation.
  2. Terms of contract with the publisher may be violated.
  3. Copyright is affected too.
  4. Publications on the Internet receive a low search rating or are left without it at all.
  5. Students can be punished or even expelled for non-unique and stolen works.
  6. Plagiarized material is not paid by anyone.

These are pretty sufficient sanctions that may significantly affect the future career of an author. You can post a non-unique article a couple of times and face negative consequences later. Now plagiarism is easy to check with free plagiarism checker by StudyCrumb and using fact-checking methods.

Examples of Self Plagiarism

It is important that you consider at least one example of self plagiarism. This way you can understand in what forms it exists. You will know how teachers can identify non-unique works. It will also help prevent such mistakes on an individual basis. It is worth paying attention to the following indicators:

  1. Copy-paste Copy-and-paste is considered the most obvious indicator of plagiarism. It is enough to check the results of a paper in one of the existing services. This will allow you to discover non-unique fragments.
  2. Statistical indicators Some data may not change over time, but there are only a few of them. Usually, in a new material an author works with the latest information.
  3. Publications on various sources with minimal changes This criterion is determined in a similar way, with special services.

Scientific topic of a dissertation should contain new research data. They should repeat an idea of ​​previous publications only in general terms. In such a case it will not be considered plagiarism.

Can You Plagiarize Yourself if It's Not Published?

Use of excerpts submitted for publication or already posted materials doesn’t allow to make the text unique. But if text does not exist yet, can you plagiarize yourself? This is permissible and completely legal if material isn't published or previously posted. Work is only in the possession of an author who wrote it. Therefore, this person has every right to use words, phrases, fragments or the whole text.

For example, you have conducted a study and didn't publish it. Using some excerpts from it will not be considered plagiarism, as long as nobody had seen them. It is not worth copying information completely. Only an individual offer will help you achieve the desired result.  

How to Avoid Self Plagiarism

Why is question "Can you plagiarize yourself in college?" reasonable? Well, most students are not confident in themselves. They want to create only the best materials to get the highest grades. In order to create great academic texts, you should use only the latest data. Almost all universities prohibit submitting non-unique work.

Our tips for students on how to avoid self-plagiarism:  

  1. Don’t use old papers, especially if the topic of a new assignment is the same.
  2. Cite sources using a correct citation format: APA, MLA format, Chicago style, AMA citationsHarvard referencing style, etc.
  3. Even if professors are different, it is better not to submit non-unique materials with the same content.
  4. It is better to write a new paper from scratch without using old templates.
  5. Use plagiarism checkers.

For the faculty, professors and other researchers, recommendations are similar. If you want to use same data from already published works, you should always inform your readers about it.

Self-Plagiarism: Bottom Line

Self-plagiarism is allowed. After all, many authors of scientific works always comply with different standards. You shouldn't overuse self-plagiarism, though. You also need to always refer to previous works. It is prohibited to fully copy already posted publications.

There are many situations where reusing certain pieces of text is acceptable. However, if material doesn’t comply with an agreement with the requirements of your supervisor, it is better to create a new unique work. Only in this case will it be appreciated at its true worth and at the highest level.  


It is easy to check materials for uniqueness using our high-quality anti-plagiarism service.

Frequently Asked Questions About Self-Plagiarism

1. Can you copy your own work without plagiarizing?

If the author wants to include a certain passage or citation from published articles, they must definitely notify the reader of this. Can you plagiarize from yourself without problems and do damage to your reputation? Sometimes you can't work without certain data. There are situations when the information hasn’t changed. Therefore, it is unreasonable to include such information in a new paper. This is considered self-plagiarism. It is better to give a link to the previous work.

2. Is reusing sources self plagiarism?

Reusing sources is not prohibited. Why? Because you probably didn’t use all the data and ideas presented in the source in your previous work. Self-plagiarism occurs when you follow the template of an already published paper using nearly identical information. It is better not to take an old work as an example,. This helps to avoid similar thoughts about the topic in question. You can also cite your sources, which is another option to reuse information.

3. What is an acceptable percentage of self plagiarism?

5-15% matches with other sources or original texts are allowed. Some employers, teachers, and publishers allow even more. Don’t use more than 1% from one source. If you can’t achieve the best indicators, it’s worth paraphrasing some fragments. Sometimes you must add official definitions that cannot be changed. That's why you can plagiarize yourself in this case.

4. Do teachers check for self plagiarism?

Modern technology, both paid and free, allows us to check submitted texts. These tools that help to see whether you have plagiarized yourself. To do this, it’s enough to copy the text and follow tips to check it. The result of self-plagiarism for academic, technical or entertainment publications is not final. It can be changed by making edits in non-unique fragments.

Article posted on:May 10, 2022
Article updated on:May 13, 2024


Leave your comment here:
6/28/2022 6:43 AM
Is reuse of the same sources in an academic paper considered self-plagiarism? I'm writing a research paper on the basis of my argumentative essay and would like to use a few sources from previous work. Is it ok?
6/28/2022 7:14 AM
Hi Sandra,

You can use the same sources in your writing provided that you want to offer a unique argument or develop your idea further. However, the use of the same excerpts without reference will be considered self-plagiarism.