Mar 11 2021

Can You Get in Trouble for Plagiarizing Yourself? Here's the Answer.

Adela Belin photo Adela Belin Content strategist and writer
Study Effectively

If there is one aspect of academics that has constantly haunted students and kept faculty on the alert, it’s plagiarism.

Plagiarism usually revolves around someone using other people’s ideas, phrases, and words as their own, without giving a proper citation, whereas self-plagiarism happens when a person reuses their own materials and work that have already been published or submitted to their professors.

Original: SourceIf you’re wondering if you can get in trouble for plagiarizing yourself, read this article to know more.

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What is Self-Plagiarism?

Considered unethical and unacceptable in most educational institutions, plagiarism misleads your readers and professors into thinking the content they are reading is original and new.

You end up taking undue credit for someone else’s ideas and expression.

But what about self-plagiarism? Can you get in trouble for plagiarizing yourself?

It may seem harmless and you might think, “Hey, these are my sentences, why can’t I use them? I haven’t copied anyone else’s words.”

But guess what -- self-plagiarism is unethical too.

You could be re-submitting your previous assignments or papers, heavily paraphrasing sentences from your older materials and using them as new, or even utilizing already used data or facts, and that could be considered as self-plagiarism.

What Are Some Examples of Self-Plagiarism?

But do you know what self-plagiarism looks like?

Let’s take you through a few examples of self-plagiarism to help you spot it better:

  1. Submitting a piece of coursework, assignment, essay, project, or research papers that have already been submitted before (even if it's for a different class or module).
  2. Reusing the same data information, statistics, facts that you used in previous submissions, without making it clear to your readers or acknowledging its usage.
  3. Using details from presentations that you used for conferences and group discussion, in your written submissions without referencing back to it.
  4. Lifting ideas from your bachelor thesis or projects to use them for your master’s thesis or projects without citing them.
  5. Heavily paraphrasing sentences that were used in older coursework, and showing them as original work.
  6. Forgetting to or citing yourself incorrectly.
  7. Using the assignments they submitted in their former school for similar subjects in their present school.

Can You Get In Trouble for Plagiarizing Yourself?

Plagiarism is illegal in most academic institutions and publications, and the individual accused of it is severely penalized.

Make sure you avoid plagiarizing yourself to get that peace of mind of not getting caught and called out for it in your assignments and other academic coursework.

Even if you never intended to copy, never knew about self-plagiarism and its repercussions, or even the plagiarism policy of your institution, it is still considered to be serious misconduct.

Each university or college has its own specific plagiarism policies, and the severity of the punishment can be altered according to these institutions.

Here are some consequences of plagiarism or self-plagiarism:

  1. An immediate failing grade to the student for that particular assignment or sometimes even the entire course.
  2. A disciplinary hearing is brought together to determine the seriousness of the incident and the level of punishment the person should receive.
  3. As reporting plagiarism is a responsibility for all the teachers, there would be no other choice for them to report this situation to the relevant authority figures.
  4. A severe warning is given to the student and is recorded in the books so that they think twice before plagiarising their assignments again.
  5. Expulsion of the student, when the situation is grave.

How to Avoid Plagiarizing Yourself?

Nevermind, if you are still unsure about your assignment being self plagiarised, or confused about how you can get in trouble for plagiarising yourself -- you could still try to avoid falling into serious situations like this.

Take a look at the five best and most effective ways to avoid self-plagiarism.

Avoid reusing your older materials

The first step should be to avoid reusing your previous submissions. If you still require some information from your older materials to add to your new one, write your material from scratch, do all the original research from the beginning to figure out new points from the same topic.

Ask your professors for guidance

Your professors may be lenient about using your own work for different subjects, but it does no harm to ask them for help if you aren't completely sure. Discuss with them in advance and ask them if you could incorporate bits of your older work into your new one.

Don't take the risk of not asking for permissions, because if your professor disallows you to use previous submissions, then you should have enough time to write a completely original essay.

Furthermore, writing an original paper will always impress your professors, and it bodes well on your ability to learn and imply.

Sometimes, you don't get to know when/if you have plagiarised yourself. It doesn’t have to always be deliberate. So, consider talking to your professors about it, so that your work can be reviewed for plagiarism before submitting it.

Cite yourself appropriately

Even if your professors give consent for re-using your own work, make it a point to acknowledge in your citations that you have used this content again for gaining new details about your topic.

This would help avoid any kind of disciplinary actions that may come your way.

Even though you are reusing your own words, always be sure to acknowledge it as a third party and cite them just as you would cite any other source or reference.

Here’s a fun video by Shmoop on using citations effectively

Reframe your ideas

Paraphrasing your words from your older work to submit a new one will not only violate the plagiarism policies but also copyright laws.

Copying words isn't the only thing that will land you in copyright infringement accusations, as using ideas and theories that you paraphrase using different words will too.

Reframe your ideas, research from the beginning, and start anew. Use new materials and information that you have not expanded on in your older submissions.

Use a plagiarism checking tool

Before submitting your work, make it a practice to use tools that check for plagiarism in the content and the amount of plagiarised work that needs to be fixed or removed from the paper.

There are multiple and vastly ranged plagiarism checking tools like Grammarly, Plagscan, and Turnitin.

Final thoughts

Introspection is the key to understand what works and what doesn’t.

What is the basic intent behind recycling your own material? If it is to take a shortcut because you are running short of time, feeling lazy, or just think you will get away with it, we advise you to avoid the pitfall.

If on the other hand, you think you had done a great job and it makes sense here, then you should use it with the right citation but always after finding out what the university’s stance is in this regard.

As we now know what self-plagiarism is, how you can get in trouble for plagiarising yourself, what to avoid, and every consequence it upholds, we also know that it affects study enormously as well as causes a significant tear in the person's academic career.

So, having proper knowledge about self-plagiarism is the only way one can try and avoid facing plagiarism charges or any other kind of gross academic misconduct in their student and professional life.

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last edit at Sep 25 2021