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Suppose somebody is repeating a class, where the assignment topic is the same every year. Is it self-plagiarism if that person is handing in the same or a similar paper, essay, etc.?

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  • When you publish something, you usually transfer copyright to the publisher. This means you no longer own the right to your work. If you self-plagiarise, that means you are violating the said copyright. For assignment, universities have a policy that forbids students from submitting the same work to multiple subjects; it is not a copyright issue. Commented May 21, 2022 at 21:42
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    @VitaminE Copyright law has only a very tangential connection to issues of plagiarism. It is irrelevant in this context.
    – Arno
    Commented May 21, 2022 at 22:23
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    Welcome to Academia SE. Please only ask multiple questions per question if you expect that the answers will strongly overlap. I reduced your question to the one question that the existing answers address. Also note that some of your questions were not suited for this site on account of lacking detail (what is a plagiarism form?), being too broad (“What are some examples of self-plagiarism?”), or opinion-based (“should some univerities …” – this site is about how academia is, not about discussing how it should be). If you can fix these issues, feel free to ask your other questions separately.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 19:47
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    Does this answer your question? Is it considered plagiarism if I use my OWN answers twice Commented May 23, 2022 at 5:18
  • Usually, the reason for repeating a class is failing the previous class. This means you did not learn enough and should do it again. Don't try to get away with the least amount of work possible. but put in the work, even if you need to repeat something, and ace the class this time. This is how you learn - and learning is the entire purpose of attending university.
    – Louic
    Commented May 23, 2022 at 7:23

2 Answers 2

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If you submit something you previously submitted to any previous class, even if it's the same class you're retaking, it is indeed self-plagiarism unless the instructor specifically allows it, which many do. If it's not in the syllabus, don't assume anything; you'll need to ask.

If you're retaking a class, resubmitting previous work rather than redoing it can be a poor idea. In an intro computer science class I taught at the University of Michigan where we did allow resubmissions, students often did well on projects (especially if they had strong partners) but fell down on the exams, hurting their final grades enough to force them to retake the course before they could continue. If they merely resubmitted their work from last time, they got no new practice (instead getting only more out of practice) and tended to do worse, not better, the second time.

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    Second paragraph makes some especially good points. Practice helps you improve in many things.
    – Buffy
    Commented May 22, 2022 at 16:05
  • Fwiw? A new one for me and not something that makes the answer more enlightening Commented May 22, 2022 at 20:46
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    @PeterJansson Fwiw = for what it's worth. The second paragraph is offered as advice, not a rule that must be followed. Commented May 22, 2022 at 21:10
  • INETUAA! Just a comment about unnecessary acronyms and abbreviations. Quite interesting that one would require a completely rephrased answer regardiless if the original was correct. Would rephrasing superceed correctness under all circumstances (remembering that this is an answer provided by the same person)? I am far from sure about the issue at hand here. Commented May 22, 2022 at 22:12
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    @PeterJansson Your comment looks so much like English. And yet, I have no idea what it means. Commented May 22, 2022 at 22:29
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IMHO self-plagiarism would better be called "violating novelty requirements".

Where I am, such requirements are typically spelled out as submitting "own and novel work". E.g., theses contain such a statement.

Course work over here typically has the requirement to be your own work (or that of a specified group), but novelty requirements are less typical where I am (chemistry, Germany, see below for reasons).

E.g., you cannot submit (parts of) your Bachelor thesis in your Master or PhD thesis. Instead, you can cite the previous thesis as state of the art. You can then also build upon this with novel work which will be judged for the current thesis.

Say, you conduct some experiments for your Master thesis. In your PhD thesis, you can cite the Master thesis as source of (some) data, and present a novel analysis of that data. The experiments will then not be considered part of that PhD, but the new data analysis is.


We don't do essays, though, but e.g. reports on the state of the art about some topic, say, CO2-sensors in a course on sensors.

In that context

a) handing in the same report that got you a fail last year is not a sensible strategy,
And btw., we'd usually say that if a teacher hands out the same topic to report on twice to the same student, it's rather the teacher's fault. Or, rather, we'd take this as an indication that instead of asking for an entirely novel report the teacher asks a "revise and resubmit".
Handing out the same topic twice together with a novelty requirement would create an unfair and ambiguous situation:

b) Well-conducted literature searches in consecutive years should yield highly similar content.
A teacher should not pose grade-relevant work for which it is inherently and needlessly difficult to judge whether the formal requirements are met. In the example, next year ask maybe about methane sensors, but not CO2 sensors again, whether same student or not.

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