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Is it plagiarism to use my own work?

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frigidfire86 posted 11/2/2013 14:14 PM

A couple years ago I wrote a paper for a class I was taking in college. I'm now attending a different college and have to write a similar one and I would like to reuse the paper for a class I'm taking now. It wouldn't be an exact duplicate...there are numerous things I want to change/add/delete. It would go from an typical MLA essay to a fake blog post. Quite a bit of rewriting will be required. Can I do this? Is it plagiarism to use my own work? It's a topic I feel passionate about and I would like to stick with it. Otherwise, I'll stick to my other, although far more difficult, idea.

[This message edited by frigidfire86 at 2:28 PM, November 2nd (Saturday)]

Lucky2HaveMe posted 11/2/2013 14:23 PM

No. It plagerism to pass someone else's work off as your own.

You are safe reusing your own work.

Bobbi_sue posted 11/2/2013 14:36 PM

It is not plagiarism but I am a college professor and a lot of professors that I work with are confused about this issue and do accuse students of plagiarising their own work!

Even though it is not technically plagiarizing, it can still be a sticky issue if your professor or the college thinks you are reusing work you have presented before.

Do you know if they put the work through a service such as Turnitin? It may come up as a match and even though it is your own work, in my experience many professors get very confused about this.

I advise you to actually ask your professor if it is okay with him/her if you tailor this previous work to meet your new requirement. At the university I work for, we are allowed to make our own decision whether students can reuse their own work in that way but the students are supposed to lets us know of the situation in advance. I, personally would always allow students to use their previous work if it fits with my course requirement.

DeadMumWalking posted 11/2/2013 16:30 PM

I advise you to actually ask your professor if it is okay with him/her if you tailor this previous work to meet your new requirement.


Lionne posted 11/2/2013 20:11 PM

The short answer is yes, but check with your professor...

carnelian posted 11/2/2013 21:50 PM

At my university it is definitely considered plagiarism - unless the student gets permission from or consults with a professor beforehand. One of the issues is that, for previous work done at the same school, we'd essentially be giving multiple grades to the same assignment. That is to say that students can't get credit for something they already got credit for.

[This message edited by carnelian at 9:51 PM, November 2nd (Saturday)]

circe posted 11/3/2013 07:59 AM

I always specify that if students modify their previous work, they indicate it in the citations and attach a copy of the previous paper. If they don't cite their previous work and it pings the Turnitin algorithm, then they're docked for it. If they do cite their previous work and I have a copy of it, and it pings the Turnitin algorithm, I can easily read the two and judge for myself how much they modified the past work.

So my advice is to check to make sure your professor is ok with it, cite the past paper in your current project, & provide your professor with a copy of it.

solus sto posted 11/3/2013 12:03 PM

If you make significant changes, there are no ethical issues at all. (You can even cite your own work among your references.)

If you are reusing without significant change, there may be issues; reusing work previously submitted is usually not favorably viewed.

It sounds like you're using something you've previously researched as a jumping-off point, though--and that's okay.

sisoon posted 11/3/2013 12:18 PM

What will you learn if you do this? (I'm not asking that as a moral question - it's practical.) If the old paper is just your jumping off point, it could be a very good exercise. If you're using it to save time, it might be a different matter.

Bobbi_sue posted 11/3/2013 14:40 PM

According to the article you linked, the short answer is not yes, but is clearly NO, using your own work is NOT plagiarism because according to the information in this arcticle:

You can't plagiarize yourself. Plagiarism is about passing off someone else's work as your own. Reusing work is not the same thing at all, but is a separate issue
But the article does say reusing the work is a separate issue, and may very well be unethical. I fully agree with what is stated there. But calling it Plagiarism is just not correct.

Fireball72 posted 11/3/2013 19:27 PM

We just went through this with my university. The answer, for them, is yes.

This is an example straight out of my current course's syllabus.

5. Plagiarizing yourself.

Student: I really like this course on ethics in technical communication. Good stuff. I know Iíll be able to use this in my career. Itís similar to philosophy, and it has a lot of logic and psychology and sociology in it. Anyway, Iím sure my teachers wonít mind if I double-dip a little. The topic of the paper I just wrote for my philosophy class is pretty close to what I have to write for tomorrowís technical communication class. Iíll change the introduction to refocus a little, copy/paste these few pages, put in another paragraph, and then voila. Done. Same stuff, really, anyway.

Instructor: She really is a great student. Iíve been reviewing her work in other classes and speaking with her other teachers about putting her up for a university award. Unfortunately, I came across something that really surprised me. She wrote a paper earlier in the semester that she used again for my class last week. I asked her other instructor about it and he was shocked, too. Our courses are similar but not that similar. She basically plagiarized herself. She should have asked our permission and we could have showed her the differences between the two topics on a more theoretical level. I wanted new information and new thinking and new work. The purpose of writing isnít only a product; the purpose includes the process of creating the product. I canít put her up for the award, clearly. She will get a zero on this paper, too. When in doubt about anything to do with plagiarism, she should know that she should ask her teachers. I really hate having to confront students about plagiarism cases, intentional or not. Thereís nothing more disheartening.

So....yeah, I wouldn't do it, myself.

[This message edited by Fireball72 at 7:28 PM, November 3rd (Sunday)]

circe posted 11/4/2013 06:01 AM

Iíll change the introduction to refocus a little, copy/paste these few pages, put in another paragraph, and then voila. Done.

In this case it's clearly whatever you want to call self-plagiarism, because the student is saying they will cut and paste full pages of the report, with the addition of only a new paragraph. I don't think there's any doubt that this specific case is cheating.

There's a difference IMO between self-citation (which is normal in most fields) and self-plagiarism. In the first case you build on a project you've done in the past, referring back to information from it and citing it in your references. In the second you pretend that this writing is original.

I feel like the OP was saying she wanted to rewrite an assignment using the same topic she had in the past, changing the format from a formal paper to a fictional blog post. I guess the real answer is in how it is handled. If it's just the topic that's the same, with some references to the formal paper versus a cut & paste of verbiage.

StillGoing posted 11/4/2013 06:39 AM

I don't understand how it could be plagiarism since they were your thoughts and ideas to begin with. I understand why universities and colleges wouldn't want you to reuse prior work, especially if it was published anywhere, but it can't be plagiarism if it's your own work. I'm sure they have rules for it, I am just thinking that it's really stupid to call it that.

Bobbi_sue posted 11/4/2013 08:53 AM

My issue is the misuse of the word plagiarism. It means using somebody else's work (not your own work), and basically taking credit for the ideas yourself rather than crediting your source.

A lot of professors don't understand the difference and many of you heard this term of "self-plagiarism" from your professors or your university. It's an oxymoron and you can't "self-plagiarize."

I understand the real question Frigidafire is asking at the beginning of this thread is: "Is it okay to re-use my own work?" And I think we have consistently answered that: No, or at least not without discussing and okaying it with your professor first.

But I will continue to state the term plagiarism does not apply to this even when it could be a blatant form of cheating, just as plagiarism is.

[This message edited by Bobbi_sue at 8:55 AM, November 4th (Monday)]

StrongerOne posted 11/4/2013 11:19 AM




Asking your friends, looking it up, asking on a discussion board like SI -- not enough. Not ever enough. Not just regarding plagiarism -- regarding ANY questions you have about work for your class.


I work with college students, have been a college professor. If you do not ask the instructor for whom you want to turn in the work, then you do not have accurate information.

I can't express just how sad you will be if you make your decision without asking the instructor. Because the consequences can be dire. Been through this as a student, instructor, and administrator.

DeadMumWalking posted 11/4/2013 13:05 PM

My issue is the misuse of the word plagiarism.

Doesn't matter what you call it though, what ff really wants to know is if what she wants to do is ok or not.

I am a university prof, I would expect the student to let me know of any possible issue like this. Because if they don't ask ahead of time and they get CAUGHT by any means (software, word of mouth, whatever), I would automatically apply the most severe possible sanction available to me - usually that means FAILING the class and I report them to the dean, at which time the process for possible expulsion from the uni begins.

As has been repeated over and over on this post, check with the prof.

Slight t/j: in one of the classes I teach, I assign a project for which a written scientific report is required. I once got a report from a student that I could tell sounded 'too professional' for them to have written it. So I googled some of the 'fishy' sounding phrases that I thought seemed particularly good, and found........ they were copied WORD FOR WORD from one of MY papers!!

Needless to say, I considered that to be plagiarism.....

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