I recently became the co-author of a working paper an older version of which is online (at which stage I was not a co-author yet).

We added and changed most of the content, however some applications remained virtually unchanged. How do I need to cite/reference the earlier version of this paper to avoid plagiarism concerns? We already added "An earlier version of this paper circulated as old paper name".

I do my PhD in Germany. How do I need to cite/reference the old working paper to avoid any plagiarism concerns?

Based on the comments:

  1. The earlier version of the paper was not pubslished in a book/journal, but posted online on SSRN.
  2. I am not worried about how journals perceive an evantual submission, but merely about the (german) academic regulation(s) regarding plagiarism.
  • If it was a working paper that never appeared a journal or conference proceedings, you are entirely within your rights to submit it anywhere you want. And it doesn't really matter how you reference it the original; just follow the journal's style guide as closely as you can. May 20, 2019 at 12:35

2 Answers 2


What I typically did in such a case was either a footnote at the title in the gist of

A previous version of this paper appeared at XYZ Conference in 1201.

or a mention in the introduction with the citation

This paper is based on our previous work [ABCD+ '01].

Two side notes:

  1. If this is a paper and you submit double-blindly, you'd need to revise the statements accordingly. You might even want to remove them for review and/or inform the editor.
  2. The information on previous versions and an explanation "what's new" belongs into the cover letter of a journal submission.
  • As of now, I am mostly concerned with the german academic regulations. With many people losing their degrees for "academic malpractice" (for lack of a better term), I want to make sure that in the submitted thesis, all referencing is done properly.
    – safex
    May 20, 2019 at 7:03

How do I need to cite/reference the earlier version of this paper to avoid plagiarism concerns?

From what the OP has written, I cannot see reason for plagiarism concerns. Releasing an early draft of a paper (even with different authors and a different title) and subsequently releasing an extended version does not constitute plagiarism. Nonetheless, it is useful to note that an earlier draft exists and that draft can be cited in the usual way. (With arXiv, and probably other such services, you can use a distinct identifier for each earlier version.)

Going beyond what the OP has written, plagiarism concerns exist if: an early draft was published, rather than merely publicly released (e.g., as a technical report). In this case the most recent version can only be published under certain circumstances, e.g., in some disciplines, as a journal article that follows a conference paper. For PhD students, another plagiarism concern might be the inclusion of material from the earlier version in their thesis. This should be addressed in the same way as any work that a student has not produced themselves and should be explained in accordance with institutional guidelines, which may require a section devoted to explaining what the student's contributions are, for instance.

Other plagiarism scenarios may exist, but I cannot identify them from what the OP has written.

  • Second paragraph: this isn't plagiarised work, it's just no longer original work. May 20, 2019 at 8:12
  • @henning Claiming the new version is original when an early version has been published is surely self-plagiarism? (Also, claiming work by a co-author is that of a PhD candidate is clearly plagiarism. But, I presume you're referring to the former aspect.)
    – user2768
    May 20, 2019 at 8:19
  • 1
    Yes, I was referring to the first case. Plagiarism is passing of someone else's work as your own. Hence, "self-plagiarism" is an oxymoron. I know, this IMO nonsensical term is sometimes used, but at least it should be clear that "self-plagiarism" and plagiarism are very different animals. Most researchers work on extensions of their earlier work, and although it's a good idea to reference own preceding work, failing to do so is not a grave misconduct, unlike plagiarism. Also, what counts as "least publishable increment" differs strongly between publishing venues and disciplines. May 20, 2019 at 8:38
  • 1
    @henning I largely agree, but, plagiarism has been defined (by some) to include self-plagiarism, so it seems prudent to mention self-plagiarism to the OP. Regarding "failing to [cite earlier versions] is not a grave misconduct," that depends whether such versions were published, rather than publicly released, duplicate publication (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duplicate_publication) is misconduct, albeit, less so than plagiarism.
    – user2768
    May 20, 2019 at 8:57

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