I am writing a new paper based on my old paper. They are very similar, but different in three 1) They study the different problems. 2) The method changed 50%. 3) They have totally different experiments.

I think the new paper should be considered innovative and publishable.

However, due to the similarity of these two papers, I want to use my old paper as the template for convenience. I have rewritten the language and remade the figures and tables based on the original paper, so I can guarantee that basically nothing is the same. There are maybe at most 5 identical sentences.

But, anyone who has read the two articles carefully will know that they are highly similar. So is it counted self-plagiarism? Is it dangerous to do so? What is your advice on this?

2 Answers 2


Don't do that. Don't write a new paper by modifying an old one until it is entirely different.

Not for plagiarism reasons - the reason is that it will almost certainly hurt the presentation of the new paper. Start from scratch, and the presentation will be much more natural for the new paper. In my experience starting from something to make something else - and be it even a shortened version of a paper - rarely gives the best result, and is typically quite far from it.

(As a comparison, it is extremely hard to fix a badly written paper carefully - it is much easier to rewrite it from scratch. Otherwise, you will always bound to the old structure.)

  • 1
    I respect your opinion. However, as a beginner, I found it easier to revise than start from scratch. In my limited experience, I am better at refining the past instead of building something totally new. Personally, I think it depends on writing experience; experienced writers can build something solid quickly, so writing from scratch uninfluenced by a priori knowledge can be better suited to a new task.
    – dawen
    Jan 27, 2022 at 22:05
  • I think if you want to learn from the structure of a paper, read it, try to understand the structure, and then start from scratch, following the structure. Don't work your way by changing the existing paper piece by piece. Both the result and the learning effect will be less. -- But yes, it will be easier.
    – user151413
    Jan 27, 2022 at 22:13

Given your points 1-3 it seems unlikely that anyone would consider it self plagiarizing based only on the structure. The exception would be if your structure were, somehow, creative or innovative and contributed to the scientific/academic advance of the paper.

A lot of papers have the same, more or less, traditional structure. There are even templates for such things. It seems like you are just using a different template. I don't see any issue.

  • Can I modify my own previous or someone else's figure to fit my paper? By modify I mean, I use the same format (color\structure) but change everything inside.
    – dawen
    Jan 27, 2022 at 16:35
  • 1
    Graphics have other considerations as they can be considered creative works on their own. Reusing your own shouldn't be a problem, but for anything creative by another you need citations and possibly permission due to copyright. But it is impossible to say specifically since the details matter. But some graphical layouts are common knowledge and standard practice, so aren't bound by copyright or other rules.
    – Buffy
    Jan 27, 2022 at 21:56
  • @dawen If MATLAB/matplotlib/ggplot/Excel default color usage was considered plagiarism, oh boy... I can't help but to worry about "use the same format but change the rest" bit though: if it is indeed the case, you are just learning to do good typesetting, no plagiarism there. If you see someone and think to yourself "damn, they are absolutely rocking that black and orange combo, I should pick something of sorts for myself" that's fine. If you instead copy their whole outfit and change a tiny detail in each piece of it (the way students like to do to avoid plagiarism charges)... Ouch.
    – Lodinn
    Jan 27, 2022 at 23:55

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