Self-Plagiarism in Research: What it is and How to Avoid It

by Elizabeth Oommen George
Self-plagiarism in research: What it is and how to avoid it

Self-plagiarism in research should be strictly avoided. Yet, it’s quite common to find early career researchers, and sometimes even experienced scholars, who do not know what this constitutes. Simply put, self-plagiarism, also known as text recycling or duplicate publication, is when a researcher reuses parts of their previously published work without providing proper citations.

Some researchers see no wrong in reusing their own work, given that they are the original authors. On the other hand, early career researchers struggling with the pressure to publish may be tempted to take short-cuts by recycling their own work rather than developing original new ideas. Whatever the reason, self-plagiarism in research is viewed as a form of academic misconduct that can delay publication, invite legal action, impact academic credibility, and sometimes even lead to loss of funding. It’s critical to remember that when reusing anything in your academic writing that has already been published, you need to seek permission from the original publishers.

Self-plagiarism in research: What it is and how to avoid it

This article seeks to explain what self-plagiarism in research means, examines some self-plagiarism examples, and offers some practical advice on how to avoid self-plagiarism.

Table of Contents

What is self-plagiarism in research?

Self-plagiarism refers to reusing parts of your own previously published articles and papers without properly citing it in your new work. Like plagiarism in research, self-plagiarism misleads the audience by presenting previously published work as new and original. This academic dishonesty undermines your credibility as a researcher as it indicates that you are not interested in your work and are not actively contributing to your chosen field of research.

It is critical to cite your own work, just as you would anyone else’s. Some self-plagiarism examples include publishing multiple papers about the same research in different journals, passing off scientific data from older studies without indicating it has been used before, or even reusing pieces of text or information from previously published work without the proper citations. Any lapses, even if unintentional, can have serious negative consequences on your academic career.

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Types of self-plagiarism

Self-plagiarism can occur in different ways, some of the most common types of self-plagiarism in research are explained below.

Salami slicing: This happens when researchers break up their original research into smaller themes and articles to boost their publication record, instead of submitting their work as a single study. While this can increase the number of articles published by an author, it proves detrimental in the long run. Breaking up your original research can lead to misinterpretation of results and consequently, can reflect poorly on your work.

Copyright infringement: On publishing an article in a scholarly journal, the copyright for the work passes on to the publisher not the author who conducted the research or wrote the paper. Hence, reusing any section, data, text or figure in any form without appropriate citation or permission from the publisher is seen as copyright infringement and treated as an unethical research practice.

Duplicate submission: Some authors submit the same or similar articles based on the same research study to multiple journals at the same time to improve their chances of publication. This constitutes duplicate submission and is seen a form of self-plagiarism. This ethical misstep weighs on journal resources and wastes editors’ time, which can invite severe repercussions.

Lack of proper citation: The most common type of self-plagiarism in research is when an author uses his or her own published work, or a part of it, without properly citing the original article. This misleads readers into believing that the work being presented is new and original, which impacts academic integrity.

How to avoid self-plagiarism?

Trust and integrity are pre-requisites of scientific research and, therefore, it is important that researchers understand what plagiarism and especially self-plagiarism mean. Being aware of and avoiding plagiarism is crucial for those looking at building a credible career in academia.

The following are some basic strategies that will help you avoid unintentional self-plagiarism.

  • It is important to closely follow each journal’s specific guidelines regarding publishing of work and be aware of the rules on listing citations and presenting work correctly.
  • Make sure to cite the original published work while quoting, paraphrasing, or reusing any part of your earlier works. Check and follow the proper citation style for your target journal.
  • Refrain from sending the same or similar articles on a particular topic or study to different journals at a time. The publication process may take longer than you’d like, but it’s worth it in the long run.
  • Avoid breaking up your study into smaller fragments for publication. Where it is justifiable to present your study in separate articles, be sure to inform the journal editors in advance.
  • Always ensure that your paper presents original content, information, and data. Keep in mind that the use of any of your prior work must be done only to complement your arguments – and always with the correct citations.
  • Use a trusted plagiarism checker, like the one provided by Paperpal, to identify any accidental plagiarism. The Paperpal plagiarism checker scans your work against billions of webpages and delivers a detailed report, with a similarity score, side-by-side comparisons, and color-coded results to help you identify and address any instances of accidental or self-plagiarism.  

Researchers must take care to check and ensure they are not self-plagiarizing their content. Even when you are writing on a novel original topic, there may be instances of similarity with earlier published text, which is why a plagiarism check is recommended before you submit. We hope the advice and information provided above helps you understand and avoid any instances of self-plagiarism in research work. 

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