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Self Plagiarism

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

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When plagiarism is conceptualized as theft, the notion of self-plagiarism may seem impossible. After all, one might ask: Is it possible to steal from oneself? As Hexam (1999) points out, it is possible to steal from oneself as when one engages in embezzlement or insurance fraud. In writing, self-plagiarism occurs when authors reuse their own previously written work or data in a ‘new’ written product without letting the reader know that this material has appeared elsewhere. According to Hexam, “… the essence of self-plagiarism is [that] the author attempts to deceive the reader”.

Although in scholarly and scientific writing there are some situations in which some forms of text reuse are acceptable, many other instances in which text and/or data are known to have been reused violate the ethical spirit of scholarly research. The concept of ethical writing, about which this instructional resource revolves, entails an implicit contract between reader and writer whereby the reader assumes, unless otherwise noted, that the material was written by the author, is new, is original and is accurate to the best of the author’s abilities. In this section we review some of the most common instances of self-plagiarism and provide guidelines to avoid these pitfalls.

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The available literature on self-plagiarism is concerned with four major problems: The publication of what is essentially the same paper in more than one journal, but without any indication that the paper has been published elsewhere (i.e., redundant and duplicate publication), the partitioning of a large study which should have been reported in a single paper into smaller published studies (i.e., salami-slicing), copyright infringement, and the practice of text recycling.

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