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We will submit two manuscripts to two Springer journals, in which we propose two techniques to solve the same problem. We found the first technique a few months ago and the second one two weeks ago.

Is it a problem if I copy part of the first manuscript (e.g. literature review, definitions & notation sections) to the second manuscript?

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    Whenever one uses significant material from another source, one needs to explain that fact and cite the source. The source having the same author(s) doesn't change that. Aug 14, 2023 at 2:50
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    Is publishing both methods as one paper a viable option? Aug 14, 2023 at 20:36
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    Don't be lazy, rewrite it. Moreover, if the literature review could be so easily copy pasted, then it means your current work is not novel.
    – kosmos
    Aug 15, 2023 at 2:04
  • I just feel directly copy and paste would not be a smart move. Aug 15, 2023 at 12:51

4 Answers 4

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A literature review needs to place a work in the context of other relevant works. Your second manuscript is not in the same context as the first, because the first now exists, and is highly relevant.

Therefore, your second manuscript will need to have at least some differences in its literature review, because it will need to discuss its relationship to the first. Even if the first is not yet published, it can be cited as a preprint (preferable) or "under review" (with a copy attached for the reviewers to look at).

Since your second manuscript takes a different approach than the first, there will also likely be some other differences in related work, based on the difference in approaches.

That said, the literature review has less expectation for novelty than most of the rest of a manuscript, and in most academic communities, it is acceptable for there to be a high degree of similarity between your review sections. If you are going to reuse significant text, however, it is good to acknowledge that fact by citing your first paper and saying something along the lines of, "The background for this approach is similar to that of [cite first paper], and thus this literature review has been adapted from that manuscript."

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    +1 for the last paragraph Aug 14, 2023 at 0:03
  • Your second manuscript is not in the same context as the first, because the first now exists, and is highly relevant. Isn't the first manuscript "existing" a bit debatable? If it gets rejected or ultimately not published, its "existence" is un-observable for anyone reading the 2nd manuscript if that one gets published (for example). Aug 15, 2023 at 19:11
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    @Kubahasn'tforgottenMonica A preprint would sidestep that issue. Even without one, it does seem like you could include a brief description of the road not taken. For example, Paper A could say something like "Although this problem can sometimes be solved analytically [ref if it exists], here we present an accurate numerical method that works under more conditions." Paper B would then say "Here we present an provably-correct analytical solution to complement existing numerical approaches [ref]."
    – Matt
    Aug 15, 2023 at 21:43
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If Springer is the publisher and ultimate copyright holder for both documents, then I assume that the copyright issue is (approximately) moot. Springer would need to decide that. But you still need to deal with the possible self-plagiarism issue. You can moot this issue by having one (or better, both) of the papers cite the other and make clear that the same lit review is applicable to both and is therefore "copied here".

But don't be silent on the issue in both papers.

In fact, you may need do nothing more in the new paper than indicate that the literature background for the current paper can be found in the other and that nothing has intervened in the (short) meantime. An editor will possibly have some things to say about this approach, of course.

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    That seems to assume that the first manuscript gets published. Could you expand a bit about what to do in this case - where, presumably, the first manuscript is not yet accepted? Aug 15, 2023 at 19:12
  • For purposes of review, prior to acceptance, you can cite the other paper as not yet published, but submitted, or similar. If it gets rejected then you will need to do some editing to fix it up. But the version first submitted is seldom the one published and you can use the time delays to your advantage here.
    – Buffy
    Aug 15, 2023 at 19:14
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Even if you can self-cite yourself to technically avoid self-plagiarism, I would personally recommend that you do not reuse text from the first lit review. At least in my old field (physics), this would look incredibly lazy to most readers. You should start from scratch, even if a lot of the lit review is similar.

You will likely find that there is some difference in how you want to present the context in the two papers. Even if not, reusing an introduction word-for-word can give the impression that you aren't really saying anything new in your second paper, or at least nothing that shouldn't have gone in the first paper. At least in physics, I think many people would interpret this behavior as unprofessional and cutting corners.

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Have you considered the fact that logically you have one paper? It seems to me that you're ignoring the logical next step to compare and contrast the techniques, discussing when one might be better than another. It seems to me that that is the ideal package. But hey, that might just be paper three in the disjointed, salami-slicing information landscape we live in now. It might also not be possible with the journals in your field, but it would be nice to have everything together for finding purposes 30 years from now. Not that you wanted an archivist's perspective...

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