Self-Plagiarism – Does It Count As Cheating?

19.03.23 Types of plagiarism Time to read: 4min

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Plagiarism can be branched into a facet of lesser-known counterparts, such as self-plagiarism. Self-plagiarism refers to the act of reusing your own work without citing it properly, whereas plagiarism generally refers to reusing the work of someone else without accurate citation. Committing self-plagiarism can confuse readers and go against the standards of publication. It damages academic integrity, which is crucial in the realm of academic writing.

Self-Plagiarism – In a Nutshell

  • Self-plagiarism is a serious issue, as it damages academic integrity and misleads readers.
  • Using previous research is legitimate, particularly for context or supporting new arguments.
  • Citing your own work properly is crucial to avoid self-plagiarism.
  • Publishing the same work in multiple journals can bring legal/copyright issues.
  • Check with your professor whether previous work is relevant to a new assignment.
  • Plagiarism is detected by comparing content similarity in external and internal databases.

Definition: Self-plagiarism

Plagiarism is the theft of someone else’s work without citation, and can range from stolen ideas to clear-cut copy-pasting of text. Self-plagiarism, by contrast, is the copying of your own work.

This can occur in the following ways:

  • Resubmitting an essay or paper for a class.
  • Copy-pasting passages from a previously submitted work.
  • Reusing data and research findings.
  • Publishing the same work in multiple articles.

This is an issue because it is misleading. It presents old work as new and, as such, is unethical. That doesn’t mean you can’t either expand on or simply reference your previous work – just cite it correctly.

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Why is self-plagiarism wrong?

Self-plagiarism doesn’t always carry the same ethical weight as plagiarism, which is taking someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. However, it’s still a form of misconduct because it’s academically deceitful. Simply handing in a duplicate paper as a new one is harmful because it shows a lack of interest. It can also be a serious misrepresentation of data that will lead to failing grades or worse when caught.

At a professional level, recycling data and papers can lead to copyright infringement. For instance, publishing a paper in one journal oftentimes prevents the same information from being published elsewhere. This is because there are commercial aspects at play. Always check the copyright form when publishing an article. Repeating information from your own published work within a thesis, for instance, is usually fine, as there are no commercial interests involved.

In scientific disciplines, self-plagiarism is considered an offense to the wider community. It has the potential to erode the public’s trust in scientific research, even if it is not considered a serious research misdemeanor. Scientific credibility depends on standards and principles, which plagiarism erodes.

Examples of self-plagiarism

There are many kinds of self-plagiarism with different degrees of severity.

Repeating ideas unconsciously usually isn’t a major issue, particularly if you advance new arguments, but purposely recycling or repeating ideas to deceive, is. Whether using the same dataset more than once, copy-pasting your own sections, or publishing like-for-like content in two publications, there are many examples.


Examples Explanation
You’re writing a final project for a class. You’ve chosen to write about inflation’s impact on global car manufacturing. However, you already wrote about inflation in another class. You copy-paste elements of your old paper. This shows no new contribution to research and, if you don’t cite yourself, is a form of self-plagiarism.
You’ve written a strong paper on how technology has affected ethics. You submit it to numerous publications at once for review to widen the net of acceptance. If more than one journal decides to publish your work, it is plagiarism with legal and reputational ramifications.
You’re writing a research paper on machine translation. This is building off previous research you have undertaken, so you copy an older dataset into your current dataset for comparison. As you created the dataset legitimately, and it adds value to your new research, you don't see the harm in using it. It is absolutely fine to cite your own data. However, if you repeat this dataset without doing so, it is self-plagiarism.

Avoiding self-plagiarism

It’s perfectly valid to use pieces of older research or writing academically, but you have to cite them correctly. Moreover, you need to ensure that your tutor is fine with you doing so.

Treat your old work like any other source, like so:

Citing yourself in MLA Style

The table below will show you the format, and examples of a Works Cited entry and in-text citation in MLA.


Format: Author last name, First name. Full Title. Year. Institution Name, type of paper.
Works Cited entry: Johnson, Robert. Inflation’s Impact on Global Car Manufacturing. 2022. The University of Chicago, master’s thesis.
In-text citation: (Johnson, 22).

Citing yourself in APA Style

The table below will illustrate the format, and examples of a reference list entry and in-text citation in APA style.


Format: Author last name, Initials. (Year). Full Title [Unpublished + type of paper]. Institution Name. URL or DOI.
Reference list entry: Johnson, R. (2022). Inflation’s Impact on Global Car Manufacturing [Unpublished master’s thesis]. The University of Chicago.
In-text citation: (Johnson, 2022).

Citing yourself in Chicago Style

The table below will show you the format, and examples of a bibliography entry and full/short note in Chicago style.


Bibliography format: Author last name, First name. “Full Title.” Type of paper, Institution Name, Year.
Bibliography entry: Johnson, Robert. “Inflation’s Impact on Global Car Manufacturing”. Master’s thesis, The University of Chicago, 2022.
Full note format: Author first name Last name, “Full Title” (type of paper, University Name, Year), Page number(s).
Full note entry: Robert Johnson, “Inflation’s Impact on Global Car Manufacturing” (master’s thesis, The University of Chicago, 2022), 17.
Short note entry: Johnson, “Inflation’s Impact on Car Manufacturing”, 17.

How is self-plagiarism detected?

Modern university paper submissions undergo software database checks against published works. Many institutions also log all previously submitted, unpublished assignments by students, as well as thesis records from other universities. Submissions are flagged for plagiarism whenever content similarity is discovered.

University plagiarism checks differ from freely available online tools because they have their own internal databases. This means they can check for self-plagiarism, whereas standard tools can only compare published content. This also flags other serious forms of internal copying and academic dishonesty.

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It’s dishonest and damages integrity. When published, it can yield copyright issues.

Yes. Recycling and reusing old work without proper citation is plagiarism.

Yes. Whenever you’re reusing content like data or arguments, cite yourself as a source.