Can I use paragraphs from an already published article in a new article? I want to repeat some ideas as an introduction and there is no point in re-writing them when I already reached my desired precise expression. I have the copyright of the original article (but I guess the journal that published it has rights on its distribution).


No. That's self-plagiarism and most venues will not accept it. It is flagged by plagiarism-detecting software, and is likely to lead to desk rejection.

  • 1
    Then how come some famous authors used and reused their texts? Mario Bunge is an example. Apr 9 '20 at 12:49
  • 1
    Unless you properly cite the quote like you would from any other paper.
    – Kathy
    Apr 9 '20 at 14:04
  • @Kathy But it would look really strange to write an introduction using direct quotations from your own prior work… Apr 9 '20 at 16:49
  • @JukkaSuomela You cite any quote. Doesn't matter if it's from you or not. I see papers all the time where authors are building on their prior work and they cite that work. It's only strange if you're self conscious about it.
    – Kathy
    Apr 9 '20 at 20:45
  • The only literature where you can self-plagiarize is your own thesis/dissertation
    – tallharish
    Apr 9 '20 at 22:28

Actually, Yes, under certain conditions. There are two concerns. The first is self plagiarism, which you can avoid by citing the older work in the new where you use such paragraphs. You avoid self-plagiarism in general by citation. But generally it needs to be clear you are quoting the earlier work.

The second concern is with copyright. If you don't still hold copyright for the original because you've yielded it to a publisher, then you have to limit yourself, even in self quoting, to rather short passages and clear quotation. This isn't a problem if you hold the copyright yourself.

Some publishers will give authors a relatively free license to self quote, however. Not every publisher, but you can ask. This would be easier if you are going to try to publish with the same publisher as previously.

But, if you look at the situation of new editions of books, you will find that such copy paste is acceptable in some situations and is condoned by (some) publishers.

An added concern, however, is that you don't avoid the self plagiarism trap by just paraphrasing your earlier work without citation. It isn't the literal words that are the issue, but specifying the original source of the ideas behind the words. The same concern is there for ordinary plagiarism, of course.

  • Thanks, Buffy. So I just give the reference, of which I own the copyright, and that would be it? Apr 9 '20 at 13:51
  • As long as you do it in such a way that it is clear you are quoting. The reason that self plagiarism is an issue at all is that researchers need to know the original source of things, which includes the complete original context - i.e. all refs in the older work, etc. It is a question of how to trace ideas back to the first use.
    – Buffy
    Apr 9 '20 at 13:55
  • Ok, so I can write a footnote saying something like "The previous three paragraphs were taken from Surname, A. (2020), Title, Journal, Vol., Number, page numbers." Any better idea? Apr 9 '20 at 13:58
  • That might work. It is honest and clear. But a publisher may have the last word on how you do it.
    – Buffy
    Apr 9 '20 at 14:52

What do you mean by "use", simply repeat without attribution?

If you treat your own works the same as you would anyone else's, there won't be any problem.

If you quoted a paragraph from some other person's paper, you'd provide an appropriate citation for it. Do exactly the same thing, regardless of who wrote the original.

Many papers are already written in a formal style in which the author(s) refer to themselves in the third person, so treating your own work as if it were someone else's should flow naturally, without your having to mention explicitly in the text that it is your own.


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