TLDR: Can a researcher include an entire paragraph from another article for which they were a co-author on a new, single-author article?

Copy-editor for an academic journal here with an issue I've never come across before. We work with Chicago-style footnotes.

I have a solo-authored article by someone (let's call them Alex) that includes an entire paragraph from another article in which Alex was a co-author. I only found out that the entire paragraph was lifted from another article through my own background research. Giving Alex the benefit of the doubt, I asked how they would like to address this paragraph: Would they like to rewrite it? Cite the paragraph in a footnote? They would like to cite it in a footnote; however, I am now unsure of whether this is an appropriate fix given that it's an entire paragraph from another article in which Alex was listed as one of many authors, and for which Alex was not mentioned as one of the writers. I'm not sure what to do given that an entire paragraph seems like it's enough to warrant including all the other authors from the other article.

Here are the questions I'm wondering about that will help me determine what path to take with this article:

  • Do I go ahead and cite the entire paragraph as a quotation? If so, do I need to tell Alex that they need permission from all other authors in the previous article?
  • Do I tell Alex that they need to include all the other authors as co-authors on this paper if they want to include this paragraph?
  • Should I just change my mind and say that, after reviewing best practices or consulting with others, Alex needs to rewrite the paragraph?
  • 4
    I don't understand what the question / problem is? An author can quote from another source regardless of whether they were involved in the writing of that source. That's the whole point of indicating a quote and citing it appropriately. Jan 14, 2021 at 23:42
  • 1
    The author had not originally cited the source, which would be self-plagiarism.
    – Parrever
    Jan 15, 2021 at 0:26
  • 1
    Obviously they have to cite the source and indicate it is a quote. That's academic writing 101. Jan 15, 2021 at 0:56
  • A factor to consider would be how trivial the paragraph is. If it is taken word-for-word from another article by the same author, it is somewhat likely that it is some trivial boilerplate text. The more trivial it is, the less the plagiarism consideration is meaningfully applicable.
    – Jake
    Jul 5, 2021 at 18:39
  • The acknowledgement section can be the same in two articles, of course, without any issue. On the next level, there can be some technical manual type formulation, e.g. "the code X is Y and Z and has features A, B, and C". The most relevant type of text in terms of plagiarism would have some research or creative value that normally shouldn't be duplicated in research papers.
    – Jake
    Jul 5, 2021 at 18:47

3 Answers 3


They need to give a citation, but, if it is permitted to quote the entire paragraph, then they don't need permission from the other authors.

Whether it is permitted or not is a question of copyright and fair-use exemptions. If they still hold copyright jointly, then each of them needs to give permission. If your journal holds it then I see little problem as the journal can grant a license. Otherwise permission should be sought from the copyright holder for a long quotation.

Even if the old paragraph is paraphrased rather than quoted, a citation is required. Otherwise it is self-plagiarism. In that case, the copyright issue would disappear as there is no "copying".

But I don't see any reason that the other authors on the old paper need to become co-authors on this one. Certainly an individual can extend old joint work as a single author.


It depends how they use the paragraph. If they make it clear it is quoted from another source, e.g. if I wrote: "In this question, Parever wrote "Copy-editor for an academic journal here with an issue I've never come across before. We work with Chicago-style footnotes." -- then it is fine as long as it's cited. This kind of usage would fall under fair use, and would not require permission from the original copyright holder. The other authors of the paragraph would not need to be included as authors of the paper, either.

If I hadn't made it explicit that the paragraph is quoted verbatim, then it is self-plagiarism. Attitudes towards this vary, and it's probably best to avoid this issue entirely by rewriting the paragraph.

  • 1
    Re writing the paragraph without citation is still self plagiarism. Plagiarism is about ideas, not about the specific expression. Don't confuse plagiarism with copyright. Fair use has limitations also. You seem to be suggesting otherwise. This is bad advice. Sorry.
    – Buffy
    Jan 14, 2021 at 23:56
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    @Buffy I beg to differ, e.g. the Wikipedia page on Dark Matter liberally reuses ideas already published elsewhere (in fact Wiki policy explicitly asks for this), but it's still an original piece of work that is not plagiarized.
    – Allure
    Jan 15, 2021 at 0:00
  • Is it uncited? That seems unlikely. Wikipedia has rules about citation (as well as about not presenting original research). I see over 170 references in that article, but haven't examined it in detail.
    – Buffy
    Jan 15, 2021 at 0:06
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    @Buffy of course it's cited. I don't understand your objection. Rewriting a paragraph does not mean not citing the primary material. E.g. if I'm working on X and write a series of papers on the topic, the introductions of all the papers are always going to be intimately related, they are going to deal with the same ideas, and they are still not plagiarized.
    – Allure
    Jan 15, 2021 at 0:10
  • The last sentence of your answer seems to suggest you avoid self plagiarism ("entirely") by paraphrasing. That is not the case. Cite.
    – Buffy
    Jan 15, 2021 at 0:15

Regardless of whether the passage in question is paraphrased or quoted verbatim on a footnote, it must be fully cited, without exception.

Now, let us discuss the length of the actual passage and its implications regarding copyright. As shown in this website, there is no uniform legal standard for defining how much quoted text constitutes a violation of copyright. You would need to directly contact the journal in question to ask what is their threshold. Some publishers such as Taylor and Francis have an online system for requesting permissions for long text passages.

That said, in the case of quoting texts from other academic journals, I think it is reasonable to assume 300 words (roughly the size of an abstract) as an adequate threshold. If the passage in question exceeds 300 words, it might be wise to request permission from the original journal (if it indeed owns the copyright to the paper). If the copyright is held by the authors of the original paper, it should normally be possible to use the whole passage with the permission only of a single author (this is not legal advice!). A footnote with full citation would probably be the best destination for such a 300-word passage. If the passage goes much beyond this threshold, paraphrasing with full citation is best.

Personal opinion, based on work experience: if this textual passage is 200 words or longer, and was included without any citation or acknowledgement, this is a major red flag. It is quite possible that several other parts of the text are also plagiarized, or that there are text passages directly translated from papers written in other languages.

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