What is Self Plagiarism: Is Recycling Your Own Work Plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism occurs when an author reuses significant parts of their own previously published work without proper citation. Recycling your own work without acknowledgment is considered a form of plagiarism.

By Stephan Spencer - Published on - 2024-06-20 , Last-Mod: 2024-06-28

Reviwed by Stephan Spencer

Table of Contents

Introduction to self plagiarism

When you reuse your own words and ideas from something you've already submitted without acknowledging it, that's self-plagiarism. It might sound silly since it's your own work, but in academic circles, it's not okay because it's like pretending something's new when it's not.

For students, self-plagiarism could mean using an old essay or large portions from a previous class and turning it in for a different assignment in another class. For researchers, it's when they reuse something they've already published and send it to a different journal without quotes or citation or giving credit to the original work.

“Submitting the same manuscript to multiple journals is widely considered unethical and would also likely constitute copyright infringement and violate the author-publisher contract of most journals” (Moskowitz, 2021).

Examples of self-plagiarism

Examples of self-plagiarism include:

  • Submitting the same paper or assignment for multiple classes without obtaining permission from the instructors.
  • Paraphrasing or rewording significant portions of your own previously submitted work without acknowledging the original source.
  • Recycling data or findings from a previous research project without acknowledging the earlier publication.
  • Publishing multiple articles based on the same research study without disclosing that the material has been previously published.

Many students surveyed believe that “recycling” their writing, as long as it is their original work, is simply an effective use of their time. They also tend to believe that Plagiarism only happens when you don't give credit for other people's words.

Is recycling your own work is called plagiarism?

Recycling your own previously written work is not technically considered plagiarism since you're not stealing from others. However, it can still be unethical or a breach of contract in many copywriting scenarios because clients expect and pay for 100% original, fresh content created specifically for them. 

Reusing your old writing without approval deprives clients of the unique value they hired you for. While there may be exceptions to repurpose parts with disclosure, copywriters should generally provide brand new, customized content for every project unless the client's terms explicitly allow it.

Real-life examples of self plagiarism

How to avoid self-plagiarism

Here are some points explaining how to avoid self-plagiarism:

1. Understand what plagiarism is

The first step to avoid copying is to understand what plagiarism actually is. For example, you may not realize that rephrasing an idea without giving proper credit is a form of copying. Even incorrectly or not fully using a work (whether someone else's or your own) is considered copying. The best way to avoid copying is to be clear on what exactly copying is so next time you be careful not to do it.

2. Organization and planning

Plan your paper and choose your topic early. Waiting until the last minute might make you want to reuse an old paper. Even if you're writing about different things, if they're similar, you could accidentally copy yourself. So, plan carefully to avoid this. Also, keep good notes, use a plagiarism scanner and check your old papers often to make sure you're not accidentally copying them.

3. Refer to your previously published/ submitted articles

There are different ways to handle this situation. For example:

  • Reusing your own text can be okay if you're open about it. Just make sure your readers know that you've used it before by including a note in your writing.
  • You can use quotation marks for text you've taken from your own work. Be sure to mention that you're the author and when it was first used.

How to cite yourself

Citing yourself involves acknowledging your previous work in a new piece of writing. Here's how you can do it:

Self-citation: When referencing your own ideas, data, or findings from a previous publication, use a citation format similar to how you would cite another author's work. Include your name as the author and the publication details (title, date, etc.) of your previous work.

Quotation marks: If you're directly quoting yourself, use quotation marks around the text and provide a citation indicating your authorship and the original publication date.

Reference list: Include your previous work in the reference list of your new paper or manuscript, following the citation style guidelines required for your field (e.g., APA, MLA).

Transparency: Clearly indicate to your readers that you're citing your own work to maintain transparency and academic integrity. You can do this by mentioning it in the text or in a footnote.

APA style

In-text Citation:

  • Example: (Doe, 2019).
  • Explanation: Use your last name followed by the publication year in parentheses.

Reference list:

  • Example: Doe, J. (2019). Title of Your Previous Work. Publisher.

MLA style

In-text citation:

  • Example: (Doe 25).
  • Explanation: Use your last name followed by the page number if applicable.

Works cited:

  • Example: Doe, John. Title of Your Previous Work. Publisher, 2019.


Self-plagiarism might not seem like a big deal, but it's actually pretty serious. It messes with honesty in academics and can make it seem like you're doing more original work than you actually are. To avoid it, make sure you understand what plagiarism is, plan your work ahead of time, and cite yourself properly. By doing that, you'll help keep academic integrity intact and make sure your work is genuinely your own.

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