I am well aware of the ethic guidelines in the academic publishing world regarding submission for publication of the same article to multiple journals: I know this is broadly considered unethical and creates a bad reputation for the author in question among the academic community (this eventually giving way to negative repercussions –presumably and informal, tacit type of ‘black listing’).

I have a slightly different problem here:

I am wondering what happens if I submit a series of articles, one different article to one different publisher, but all of them more or less at the same time: each of these articles would consist of a theoretical premise (a formula of principles according to which a text’s analysis will be conducted in the article), which is common to all the articles in object, and then the main body, different in every article: that would be the analysis itself (on the basis of the formula) of the works of an author –a different author in every article.

The field of research is humanities (literature). I am attempting to determine, on the basis of existing definitions of a literary trend (the aforementioned formula, which itself is a sum up of existing definitions of the literary trend, by other researchers), which authors and which works of theirs may be plausibly associable to the trend.

So, to sum it up, the formula of analysis (the definition of the trend) is the introductory part of each article. Conceptually speaking it is the same for all of them. I could change the exposition from one article to the other for the sake of not using the same exact text in all articles. The concept(the theoretic formula), however would remain the same: it would mostly not be my own original contribution, give or take a few corrections or specifications I am adding. The main body of the text –the original contribution to knowledge- is the analysis of the author’s text: this is the greatest part of the text and it is different for each article (one author for every article).

Much of this research has already been done in a draft form. Hopefully at some point in the future, and if these texts are published as articles, I’d be able to organize them (along with a few necessary additions) into a broader text to be submitted for publishing as a book.

So the question is: would this strategy be viewed by any reviewer/publisher/editor as a breach of ethic guidelines in the academic publishing sector? Would it cause me problems of reputation in it?

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    I'm in a different field and may be completely wrong about this, but it sounds to me like you may be better off writing a book than a series of articles. One of your concerns is that you would be repeating the same conceptual background in each article, which suggests that they would be better gathered in one place. As isolated articles they may seem repetitive and unoriginal (or look like "least publishable units"), even if you write them in a way that presents no ethical difficulties, while the book would come across more as an in-depth study. Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 15:21
  • possible duplicate of Attitudes towards self-plagiarism
    – 410 gone
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 16:15
  • Thanks Mathematician. You sure have a point there and in fact, my initial idea was to work on a book. It just so happens in Humanities that everyone (from fellow researchers to supervisors) will suggest you write articles first and then eventually get to publishing them as a book, because this adds up in your cv. I was ready to ignore this rule until recently, when I was given another reason for going for articles first, which is, as a young researcher with yet a slim cv, my chances to have a book published at this stage would be very poor. So I adapted to the humanities' custom.
    – acadquest
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 19:04
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    You say "The concept ... would mostly not be my own original contribution, give or take a few corrections or specifications I am adding." If the concept has been established elsewhere, can you not get away with simply citing that and having a very brief elucidation of your changes? That way, you minimise the text that is being repeated. If the changes are substantial, you could try to publish them on their own, maybe applying them to one author as an example of how it works, and once that paper is published, you can attack the other authors by simply referencing your first paper's methodology
    – ThomasH
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 11:10
  • Thanks Thomas. That's the plan essentially. Not sure how clearly it came through in my previous posts but this early chunk regarding the analysis scheme (or formula) which would be the only concept that's being repeated somehow in all articles, would be, quantitatively speaking, a small portion at the beginning of the text.
    – acadquest
    Commented Sep 10, 2013 at 12:04

5 Answers 5

  1. You should avoid self-plagiarism. Having an identical section in both papers would be ethically questionable. They could have the same overall meaning, but I would try to rephrase them differently as you might already have done.

  2. Also have your papers cite each other as being submitted, and possibly update the final manuscript with full citations.

  3. It may be a good idea to let the journal editor know that this is happening. They may be able to provide you with specific guidelines.

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    I fully agree on points 2 and 3, but not on 1. Rephrasing my own text time and again is precisely no contribution. It merely obfuscates the fact. I copy/paste sections and preface them with a short sentence explaining that I am reusing it as common basis for multiple analysis (here is good place to put the self-citations). Self-plagiarism is only bad when one is secretive about it and if it concerns major contributions of a publication. Science based on previous results is a good thing and frankly, it's obscene to think badly because I'm basing my work on my (previously published) work. Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 9:17
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    @user1129682 but why do you need to quote text from the earlier work? Just summarize it, or even say “We provide here an analysis similar to that of our earlier work [ref]”.
    – F'x
    Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 9:21
  • @F'x: Once, I used the same example for three completely different aspects, which became three independent publications. Another time I did write a summary with reference for one analysis/result and used that summary with reference in many publications. For the problem at hand (OP) the point is they are not providing an analysis similar to [ref], they are providing a completely different analysis, but use the same input as in [ref1,ref2,ref3]. Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 9:28
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    Then “For details regarding the input, we refer the reader to…” — My point is: do not copy more than two sentences from one paper to another, summarize it shortly and let the interested reader find your earlier work if they want to know more
    – F'x
    Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 10:18
  • @F'x: Definetly not. An academic publication needs to show the reader that it yields a contribution. Input is crucial to any analysis, otherwise it's incomplete, which is a methodological flaw that makes the contribution incomprehensible. This is not the road that leads to good publications. Commented Nov 29, 2013 at 14:32

This practice is usually termed Salami Slicing or Least publishable unit. This is conducted by many researchers for whom having a series of N small and terribly overlapped papers is more convenient than having just one substantial paper.

In academia, salami slicing refers to the practice of creating several short publications out of material that could have, perhaps more validly, been published as a single article in a journal or review.

This often happens when someone finds a result that applies to a certain family of logical concepts and prefer to "study" one member of such family at a time. For instance, you find that a certain result applies to any colour and, instead of publishing this result, you publish a paper saying that result X applies to red colour, another one for the green colour, another one for the black colour ...

It is not considered unethical in general (although Elsevier says it is unethical http://www.ethics.elsevier.com/pdf/ETHICS_SS01a.pdf in some cases such as slicing data sets), just ask yourself if you want to be classified as a Salami Slicer.

  • Thanks Balckpudding, that's very interesting info indeed. The peculiarities in my case though are: 1) Though there certainly is some slicing up involved, it does not consist of slicing a paper but a book. 2) Each article contains text analysis of more works from one author so frankly I don't think these articles could ever look overlapped; 3) using your own metaphor scheme, in my case I haven't discovered a principle (or set of principles), somebody else has and I do quote him for it.
    – acadquest
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 15:46
  • The principle does not apply to all 'colours', there's an assumption that it applies to a number of them (no one has ever produced such evidence though) and I am verifying if it actually does with each colour. As I already said, there's a lot to explain and write about each "colour" in this case. 4) above, as I already mentioned in another post, in the arts and social sciences one is generally compelled (as I have been) to first write articles, then eventually publish them into books. Again, it isn't as if I could right a bigger article here, I could write a whole book.
    – acadquest
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 15:56
  • What is your field of research if I may ask? If you have any more thoughts on the subject I'd love to hear them. Your information and link have been very useful.
    – acadquest
    Commented Sep 8, 2013 at 15:58
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    Here are a couple of thoughts from the Family Inequality blog (Sociology) and en editorial in the Criminologist related to the subject.
    – Andy W
    Commented Sep 9, 2013 at 12:18
  • Of course, they took it away, but this might be the copy: engine.um.edu.my/docs/librariesprovider17/… Commented Oct 11, 2017 at 14:42

There is nothing unethical about simultaneously submitting different articles to different publishers. The slight problem is that you probably need to quote the other articles in each one (where needed of course). This is more of a technical problem, though. As long as the articles you submit are significantly different so that none is duplicating the other, you should be fine. It is not uncommon to submit at least two articles more or less simultaneously, to the same or different journals. Having three or more is just more unusual but certainly not wrong.

I have not heard that submitting papers the way you suggest would lead to any negative effects. That said, there is a tendency to split research that could be a longer paper into several shorter contributions, mostly to get more publications. Although this is not wrong, sometimes the papers may become too fragmented ("cooking soup on a nail" as the proverb goes in my part of the world). It is therefore a careful balance when dividing up (packaging) papers from a research project.

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    In English, "koka soppa på en spik" is known as the tale of Stone Soup.
    – gerrit
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 15:39
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    I see nothing wrong with it either. Self-plagiarism is an invention of publishers and their crooks, so while you should be aware of them like you should be aware of robbers on the street, there is no moral or ethical problem here, only a legal one. It is well known that you use the same "thought patterns" and "tricks" when you do the work over and over again and since they are the same in your head, there is no common sense reason why they should not be the same on paper. Of course, when you try to sell the same idea for the 10th time, people will start frown at you, but not for moral reasons.
    – fedja
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 16:23
  • The fact is the "thought pattern" is an introductory part and is not even part of the original contribution in the article. It is a formula according to which the analysis of the works of an author takes place afterwards. As a formula it comes from the summing up of other people's contributions and I am quoting them. The original part of the work is the analysis that takes place afterwards, and occupies the biggest part of the articles. The formula of principles answers the question 'how do we define the 'X literary branch?' Others have answered that, hence the formula (the thought pattern).
    – acadquest
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 19:12
  • My original contribution (the text analyses) concerns the question, 'which author/s may we consider as associated to the X literary branch now that we have some definition for it?'
    – acadquest
    Commented Sep 7, 2013 at 19:13

In some fields, if you are referring in a manuscript to other unpublished material you must submit it together with the manuscript. I suggest that if you plan to submit each of these manuscripts to a different journal, also submit the other papers as supporting material and notify the editor that they are submitted for review elsewhere. That way you are not hiding anything and the editor has all the information to reach a decision.


What you suggest somewhat sounds like a series of applications of some concept. If that is the case, and assuming you're not salami slicing but present a well thought out selection of applications of the concept, why not talk to a journal editor about this? A series of papers exploring a particular topic from different application perspectives isn't unheard of.
So if your idea is as good as you think, you should be able to find an editor. And if the selection isn't that concise (i.e. each new paper doesn't provide enough new stuff), your book wouldn't be worth its money anyways.

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