Self-plagiarism Webcast »


This page includes the Q&A portion of the webcast titled, "What's Mine is Mine: Self-plagiarism, Ownership and Author Responsiblity," which featured Rachael Lammey from CrossRef, Kelly McBride from Poynter and Jonathan Bailey from Plagiarism Today. Bob Creutz, Executive Director of iThenticate, joins the panel in providing responses to questions that were asked during the webcast.

Question about self-plagiarism? Ask the experts!

20 Q&A's about Self-plagiarism

Q1: "I asked about the difference between duplicate publication and self-plagiarism. I think the moderator kind of addressed that with asking the speakers to define self-plagiarism, but they didn't answer with respect to duplicate publication. They seem similar, but self-plagiarism is a somewhat expanded definition that isn't really addressed by ICMJE and GPP2."

A: (Rachael) Here’s a really good link to an article in Biochemica Medica called ‘Plagiarism and self-plagiarism: what every author should know’. It goes into detail on the different types of self-plagiarism, duplicate publication being one of them:

Q2: "Under what conditions an author can use some part of his/her previously published research article in his/her next research article?"

A: (Rachael) I think the key thing is making sure that you reference the previous work that you’re using correctly. Make it clear to anyone reading your paper which parts of your work have been published previously and where. Also, check with the particular publication you’re submitting to in case they have a specific policy to this effect. Here’s an example from the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) that reflects the policy for their titles: If you look at the second paragraph you’ll see that the text does not need to be quoted, but does need to be cited. Many publishers have policies such as this so it’s always worth checking those to see how best to reference your previously published work.

Q3: "Let’s say I am working on the same topic and write three papers. When writing the literature review of the second and third paper I am reusing some parts of the previous literature reviews and citing my previous work. Is this self-plagiarism?"

A: (Rachael) Again, I’d say check the publisher policy (or, if it’s not clear email them) but as long as you ensure that you’re citing your previous work and making it clear to anyone reading it that the material isn’t ‘new’ then you would avoid being accused of passing material off as new when it has already been used.

Q4: "What is the difference between duplicate publication and self-plagiarism?"

A: (Rachael) See link in answer to Q1: duplicate publication is a type of self-plagiarism.

Q5: "As an author, where do I access policy and guidelines around what constitutes self-plagiarism?"

A: (Rachael) Most publishers have their own policies on self-plagiarism - I’d look to the author resources for the publisher you want to submit your research to for information. So here are some examples, you’ve seen the ACM one above, and there’s a policy from Nature here: In fact, there are a series of really useful links on this page: that will provide guidelines on self-plagiarism and how to think about citing your work so you can provide clarity for readers.

Q6: "If a scientist is describing a method that is used in different papers, can they use that same description?"

A:  (Bob)  Anecdotal feedback from CrossCheck members indicates that editors are largely unconcerned with plagiarism in method sections.  In fact, it has been requested that iThenticate includes a feature that excludes methods from originality check.

(Rachael) I’d agree with Bob. An Editor reading the paper as a subject specialist will understand that there will necessarily be a degree of overlap/the same methods section if the same method has been used.

Q7: "What if someone do self-plagiarism few years ago but he wants to remove it?"

A:  (Bob)  Authors can request that publishers retract articles.

(Rachael) Yes, they can contact the publisher to request that the article be retracted or ask the publisher for advice.

Q8: "Is it right to considered different forms of self-plagiarism? Which might they be?"

A: (Rachael) See answer to Q1 and also the resource mentioned in Q5 for descriptions of different forms of self-plagiarism.

Q9: "Let’s say I am working on the same topic and write three papers. When writing the literature review of the second and third paper I am reusing some parts of the previous literature review papers and citing my previous work. Is this self-plagiarism?"

A: (Rachael) Same as Q3.

Q10: "When is it too much? What is the threshold of reusing info? 80% new ration to 20% reused? Or the other way around? How does the editor work with the author? Is it just a matter of reworking the references OR are there sanctions for the author? How do you determine intent?"

A: (Rachael) Every journal is a little different as it is often up to the Editor’s discretion as to what they’re looking for in a paper. If you are re-using a lot of text, then it’s always best to make it clear in your paper what is new about this version or why/how it differs from your previous work. Again, it’s always important to reference your previous work clearly in the paper. If you reference/cite as per the journal or publisher instructions then they will be able to see that your intent is not to mislead. Intent is almost impossible to prove, so many editors may un-submit the paper and ask for it to be properly referenced if they think that it is not or let the author provide additional information to clarify how the work has been used previously. It is unlikely that sanctions would be taken against an author in a case such as this, especially if the author co-operated with the Editor in providing the additional information requested.

Q11: "If someone else got published a part of your research with his own name, what can you do?"

A: (Rachael) I would contact the publisher who has published the work and provide the information you can on how your research has been appropriated by the other author. They should have a procedure that they can follow in order to follow-up on your concerns.

Q12: "Does the medium matter? If one has written a book, and later draws from that work for a newspaper column, for example,  does this equate to self-plagiarism?"

A: (Rachael) I’d check with the newspaper what their policy is, but if you reference the book correctly then that will help provide clarity for readers.

Q13: "Is it self-plag. if there are some common data in a full paper and letter and conference paper?"

A: (Rachael) A lot of publishers will have their own policies on this and on re-using information from conference papers, so I would always check with them. Most are fine with authors re-using their own work in this way, but it’s best to check with them how to present it first.

Q14: "Is it legitimate to publish journal publications and re-use the information for the PhD thesis with a reference to the publication?"

A: (Rachael) This is normally fine - it falls a little under copyright. So if you publish in a journal, you will have to sign a copyright form. Check this form and the publisher’s copyright policy. Most will be fine with you re-using the information in a PhD thesis as it is not for commercial use, but it is always best to double check. And yes, you will need to make reference to the publication.

Q15: "Are there certain content pieces where self-plagiarism is more acceptable?  ie Turning a PhD dissertation into a book, review article, annual update?"

A: (Rachael) Normally self-plagiarism refers to work that has already been published. If your PhD dissertation has been published then the policies described by the publisher would apply in terms of referencing etc. I’d always check with the publisher to be sure as depending on the subject area different approaches may apply to different content pieces.

Q16: "What happened with me is that I sent my research article for publication based on my PhD work, similarity report showed that someone has copied my work and got it published with his own name. What should I do in such situation?"

A: (Rachael) See answer to Q11.

Q17: "We upset terribly an author when we asked him to rewrite two self-plagiarised paragraphs in a manuscripts. He was so angry he was so angry he withdrew the manuscript immediately. Any hints on how to negate that situation?"

A: (Rachael) I agree that this is tricky. Many publishers/journals have standard letters that they use in cases where they want the author to either reference or re-write pieces of their work. Some authors will be pleased for the help, some might never resubmit and some might come back angrily and sadly I think that’s the case no matter how carefully you phrase the letter to them. I would ask your publisher if they do have any text you can use (and adapt to make specific to your publication) and if you treat each author who you need to contact in the same fashion then I think that’s all you can do.

Q18: What is exactly "black list"? Can plagiarism in a publisher cause black list in all the publishers? Or it is just related to each publisher?

A: (Rachael) There is a lot of discussion around follow-up actions with authors and it’s something that I would urge caution in doing. The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) has a case regarding this: and they would always advise against black-listing authors as such an approach can lead to legal difficulties. If a journal or number of journals have had issues with an author then you will tend to remember them when they next come to submit, but realistically black-listing is difficult to enforce (i.e. the author could just come and resubmit under a different email address) and it can risk legal action against the publisher.

Q19: "Is it self-plagiarism if there are some common data in different works?"

A: (Kelly) From my point of view, self-plagiarism is limited to just the actual words and not the ideas, making it acceptable to reuse such content as long as nothing was copied verbatim.

Q20: "What should someone do if they want to correct an instance of self-plagiarism in their past?"

A: (Kelly) noted that, if it’s online, it’s trivial to edit the work or add a note to it for a correction. However, with printed works, it’s a much more difficult situation. This was echoed by Jonathan who noted nothing is set in stone on the Web but that with print, while there is a correction or a retraction policy, it often feels inappropriate to really address the issue as it may either be inadequate or too extreme depending upon the nature of the self-plagiarism.


Self-plagiarism webcast highlights (PDF)

The Ethics of Self-plagiarism (PDF)