Can You Plagiarize Yourself When Writing an Essay?

Everyone knows that stealing ideas of others is risky since it might result in expulsion or tedious and stressful committee hearing. No one wants to be accused of plagiarism, but the irony is, even despite the best efforts, you could still get into trouble. But can you plagiarize yourself an is a plagiarism a crime? This thought rarely occurs to anyone, and it is unfortunate because stealing from yourself is both possible and dangerous. Professors treat it as badly as they would an instance of student taking someone else’s thought without citing it for one simple reason: they think you’re trying to pass information already utilized in other papers for a new one to deceive them and avoid applying new efforts. That’s why students should know the tips on how to prevent such situations from occurring.

In What Ways Can You Plagiarize Your Own Work?

Students might find it weird that something like reusing their personal thoughts and ideas is considered stealing and that they are going to be punished for it if caught. There is nothing surprising here, confusion is validated to a degree: if you developed an analysis and worked on gathering evidence, you should have every right to rely on it again in other essays. But the problem is, a verge between using an idea for strengthening an argument and blatant uncited copying is extremely thin. Let’s regard several possible scenarios that will demonstrate how you might copy yourself.

Imagine that you wrote an essay where you conducted research proving the existence of aliens. Now you are working on another paper connected to this topic. To freshen your audience’s memory, you copy or paraphrase parts of your previous analysis before proceeding to explore other nuances of this subject. That’d be wrong. Your professors are going to think you are deliberately filling up space to write less than what’s required, engaging in self-plagiarism. They expect new info, not recycled ones. Other readers not familiar with your first essay could feel skeptical since just reading a recap of extensive analysis without references or stage-by-stage exploration isn’t convincing. The second option might entail you refusing to waste time on repetitions and just assume others have read your first paper. The result will be the same: professors won’t view your arguments as reliable and they’ll label them as “unsupported claims”, which also falls into a sub-kind of plagiarism.

Tips to Avoid This Plag Type

Don’t be discouraged if you feel unsure about how to prevent self-plag from happening. There are several useful tips that could save you from it. Check them out and make sure you remember them when facing problems with essay citations.

  • If it looks like you’ll have to use your earlier papers substantially, discuss it with teacher in advance. Ask if you could incorporate some bits from them. Explain your reasoning and promise to cite everything properly. An experienced professor is going to help you out with any questions in this regard, giving more valuable advice and clarifying the existing uni rules in this sphere.
  • Whether you consulted supervisor or not, cite all claims without plagiarizing yourself. Refrain from overusing quotes, include your name in parenthesis, and type it along with paper title in work cited list at the end. Basically, treat it as you would a work by some scholar.
  • Do not reuse material for the sake of it. If you’re turning to some bits from old papers, provide them but explain them anew. Draw direct connections between past and current analyses, add new information, expand previous findings and offer a more detailed discussion.
  • Use heavy paraphrasing supported by credible and relevant sources. Present an analysis that professors have already seen from a new perspective, replacing words with synonyms, changing sentence parts, word order, etc.

An Expanded View Into How to Cite Yourself Correctly

In case you understand you’re in danger of plagiarizing yourself, apart from following the above tips, use correct citation system. Being a student, you are likely aware of various academic formatting styles. Most colleges & universities apply MLA, APA, Harvard, or Chicago. Each has its own rules that cover what information must be provided in parenthesis (name, date, title, page range) as well as in a reference list.

For instance, within the MLA framework, whenever using data from outside sources, people are required to mention the author’s last name together with page number, nothing else. It’ll look like this: (Summers 45). Apply this same method for self-citations, just replace another person’s name with your own. Point out on what page the facts are located. Remember about the final literature list — you must indicate details about the essay you used there, too. That’ll be enough for helping you do it correctly and not plagiarize yourself by accident. Keep in mind that only 10% of direct quotes are allowed.

More info: What is Turnitin and how to use it?

The Harm of Self Plag Occurrences

As we described above, when teachers realize they’ve already read this or that text part in a student’s older assignments, they tend to give them a bad grade for submitting twice something that reads like the same work. When a prompt is given, it informs people about a specific number of words that should be written. Let’s say there are 1800 of them required, which equals 6 academic pages. If 200 or 300 words repeat what a person has said once, it means they wrote 1600 or 1500 words respectively. Every professor expects to see new refreshing research, not a repetition of analysis they’ve seen and graded before. So, the harm lies in students producing less value and professors having to look through this person’s earlier works to ensure that they’re right and information presented isn’t new.

Possible Consequences: What Are They?

Now, on to the repercussions. As with all other plagiarism cases, self-one is equally severe and presupposes similar punishment. It doesn’t matter whether you aren’t certain and still curious, “Can you plagiarize your own work?” Bottom line is, if students do, it’ll be treated as serious misconduct.

  • A person caught in using plag, self-focused or not, receives an automatic failing grade for an assignment and sometimes for the entire course. No previous merits are going to count here.
  • The incident is reported to the main office. No matter how much a teacher likes someone, they won’t have any other choice in this matter. Reporting plagiarism is their direct responsibility, meaning that all relevant authority figures would know about what the guilty party has done.
  • A disciplinary hearing is arranged, where the decision about the appropriate form of punishment is made. It is rather humiliating and it distracts young people from other important subjects.
  • Students are expelled for particularly grave plag incidents.
  • A warning is given and recorded, so people find themselves in a shaky position because of another similar mistake and they’ll lose a chance of completing their education.
  • A long essay might be assigned to someone who made such a mistake, asking them to analyze the situation and show that they acknowledge their guilt, understanding how to avoid such mistakes now.
  • Reputation is ruined. Rumors travel quickly, so all professors would know and treat this person accordingly.

Multiple Authors of One Essay: More Dangers of Plagiarizing Oneself

Students who spent some time in unis know about group projects. It’s a common task where several people contribute to writing a paper and bring their personal input into it. Multiple authorship makes plag of self an even more complex issue because a logical question emerges, is it possible to plagiarize yourself when you aren’t the sole author? Yes. In fact, it is even worse because your group-mates are unlikely to feel happy about you using the results of common work. If graduates do it, they risk getting into legal trouble and losing a chance of ever becoming true experts.

Services That Could Help Avoid Described Situations

For eliminating plagiarism, use services that help detect it. After analyzing your text, they’ll underline faulty places in various colors, letting you know what’s copied. Some could also offer you a list of synonyms or manual services of writing professionals for removing it, allowing you to browse through options. Among many others, plagiarism detector is a powerful tool that could address this issue to the highest standards. It combines the latest software and is built on modern and plag-efficient technologies.

If you keep asking yourself, “Can I plagiarize myself?”, the answer is yes. But there are ways to counter it. Use tips offered above, but note that even if you do, you should still check the complete text through special software. Stay safe when writing and remember that using your work too much, too often, or failing to cite it properly could be dangerous.