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Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing

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Text recycling

Programmatic research often involves publishing papers describing empirical investigations that use nearly identical or identical methodologies. Similarly, the background literature cited for such papers may be similar or exactly the same as that of related papers by the same author's. Therefore, it is possible to have two or more papers describing legitimately different observations, but containing almost identical methodology, literature reviews, discussions, and other similar or identical textual material. Given the enormous pressure to publish felt by many researchers and the ease with which text can be manipulated with word processing software, these situations present unique challenges because of the allure to simply use as templates portions of text written for previously published papers and include them in a new paper. Thus, we define text recycling as a writer’s reuse of portions of text that have appeared previously in other works.

As with the problem of inappropriate paraphrasing, the question of how much a writer may recycle from his/her previous writings has not been generally addressed in the writing literature. In fact, of the concepts reviewed so far, text recycling is perhaps the most problematic because few relevant guidelines exist. Nevertheless, given that the present resource is grounded in the concept of ethical writing, sensible guidelines can be derived.

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