I published a methods paper about a data analysis method (in cognitive neuroscience), and I'm now working as a co-author with colleagues on two experimental papers using that method. Since the main audience of these papers will be much less technically inclined than that of my own, I have been asked to provide a concise (1 paragraph, about 300 words) summary of the method which explains its logic and workings as precisely as possible for that less technical audience. In one case the need for such a paragraph has been stated also by a reviewer, explicitly writing that just referring the reader to the methods paper is not sufficient.
My question is: Since the requirements of this paragraph for these two papers are identical, it would make sense to use the same text for both – but would this be considered as a case of self-plagiarism? And if yes, what can I do to avoid that?
Options I have considered:
– Include the text in one paper (likely to be published first) as-is, and then quote it in the other paper. However, explicit quotations either in quotation marks or as an indented block are extremely uncommon in (at least my) science. So would a footnote like "this paragraph has been copied verbatim from XYZ" be the right thing to do to mark it as a quotation?
– Slightly change the wording, sentence structure, etc. – In my understanding this is worse, because it just adds an attempt to disguise on top of the self-plagiarism.
– Just write a separate text for each. But because the requirements are identical and I'm writing them both within a matter of days, it his highly likely that I'll end up with near-identical text anyway, and that any differences would be artificial, just like in the last option. There are only so many ways one can explain a technical matter in a concise, clear, and accessible way.
In each case the paragraph is embedded in a longer passage that details how the method is applied to the specific experimental design of each study. In one case the text is going to go into the supplementary material, while in the other it will be part of a regular methods section.
Morally speaking I don't see any concern here, because this text in no way claims to be original anyway, but just paraphrases a paper which is of course properly cited. But should I be concerned about others seeing this as a case of self-plagiarism?
I'm interested in your personal evaluations of this matter, but if possible also in some "official" references.