Last year, I wrote a paper and it got accepted and was presented at a conference.

This year, I am writing a more in-depth paper about a similar subject; but since one of the figures in my first paper is adequate for my purpose, I want to reuse that one (of course citing it adequately).

Am I OK in doing that, or is that seen as self-plagiarism or unprofessional?

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    Jonah Lehrer was criticized for self-plagiarism and later resigned from The New Yorker for making up Bob Dylan quotes. It seems that it is not looked down upon in the UK. But in the USA, it is considered unethical.
    – ravi paul
    Sep 11, 2012 at 15:42
  • Citing your own work gives a (teny) tiny bit of credit to your previous paper (Better if some one else cites it though) and improve search rankings (etc) (slightly, if you don't over do it). May 6, 2014 at 22:39
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    Tricky legal aspects aside, I'd just like to comment on the unprofessional notion. I may be seeing this (too much?) from a software development point of view, but IMO, extracting reusable bits and pieces and creating components of your work to be abstract enough so as to be reusable without adaptation is a very basic skill for creating anything noteworthy. Any somewhat experienced developer has probably accumulated a plethora of reusable code snippets and components, and I'm tempted to call not having such a toolbox "unprofessional". I see no reason to use a different development ... Jun 4, 2014 at 15:50
  • ... methodology there for natural language documents. Jun 4, 2014 at 15:50

2 Answers 2


There is such a thing as self-plagiarism, but I would say that your case (reusing a figure that you created and providing a citation to it) is not an instance of it. I also don't think it is unethical or unprofessional. As Ran G. says in his answer, just make sure you ask permission from the copyright holder (if it isn't you).

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    This ridiculous notion of self-plagiarism currently promulgating within academia needs to be curbed. There is no such thing. Plagiarism is stealing from another, you cannot do it against yourself. Now, journals may not like like text or figure re-use or self copying, and there do exist copyright issues with self copying, but it still doesn't make it plagiarism. Duplicate submission(s) != plagiarism. Copyright violations != plagiarism.
    – daaxix
    Jan 27, 2015 at 23:02
  • @daaxix I have sympathy and I think most of it is just journal nonsense but repeatedly submitting the exact same idea in a different order of words I think would be a form of plagiarism more than a copyright issue. Jan 19, 2016 at 13:48
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    Self-plagiarism is a misleading term. The misconduct that this term addresses is to attempt to gain credit more than once - i.e. undeserved credit - for the same piece of work (the analogy to plagiarism is that the latter is to gain undeserved credit from work by others; clearly, the "undeserved credit" issue is the point here, while plagiarism also involves withholding credit from others). If you very clearly state where the picture comes from, there is no academic problem, only potentially a copyright one. We have once paid money for the permission to use an important picture. Dec 15, 2016 at 17:08

(EDT: "in this case.." ) There's no such thing as self-plagiarism. It's your figure. you drew it, you have the right to use it anywhere you want any time you wish and as much as possible. I don't even see a need to cite previous appearances of the same figure (unless this figure is the main theorem/claim/result rather than an explanatory tool.)

The only thing to check is that the conf that published your paper doesn't hold some rights on it, due to editing it, improving it or that you gave up your rights when you signed a copyright-transfer form (as the Anonymous Mathematician mentioned in his comment)

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    There is such a thing as self-plagiarism. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-plagiarism#Self-plagiarism Sep 7, 2012 at 4:01
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    @joel, I would call such a thing, simply, `a fraud'. Indeed, if you present old result as new this can be considered as "self" plagiarism. If you copy the same section (usually, Notations and definition, motivations, examples) to your new paper - this is not plagiarism
    – Ran G.
    Sep 7, 2012 at 5:27
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    The rights issue is a little more subtle than this. It is not simply a matter of whether they edited/improved the figure. If you signed over copyright to the paper, then they now own the figure and you have no more rights to it than anyone else. On the other hand, if you retain copyright then you can do whatever you want with it, legally. (Morally you still have an obligation to cite where it originally appeared, to give credit there and to avoid giving the impression that it is new work, but it sounds like you are doing that anyway.) Sep 7, 2012 at 13:16
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    This is a bit old but...as a teacher, I fail students all the time for submitting their previously submitted work without citation. Self-plagiarism is serious in some schools and when you are presenting work as 'original' work, then it must not be just original to you but original to the time (not created before and reused). Citing is the proper solution, which the op already mentioned.
    – earthling
    Mar 18, 2013 at 23:52

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