I am quite young but embarked on a rather new challenge for me: writing a book. There aren't so many books on this specific topic in my field: maybe 2 or at most 3 good references, with the first two quite old. The trouble for me is that although there is some clear original stuff in each chapter/section, the main reason for writing the book, the methods (some algorithms and numerical stuff, many equations) are quite standard and all good lecture sets (not too many) draw from these two books.

My book would be clearly better organized than the previous ones. However, the methods are basically the same. I mention that this chapter draws from x and y source, and sometimes that the theoretical part of a certain section is according to z source.

Would citing my sources be enough in terms of not having issues with plagiarism?

  • 2
    "Enough" for what?
    – ff524
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 20:36
  • 2
    "My book would be clearly better organized than the previous ones.": beware that the result might be quite different from the intentions ;-) Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 21:04
  • FYI, writing a book is a rather risky endeavor. If you don't have a publisher lined up and/or aren't aware of whether you'll have a wide market, it's very possible that you'll spend several years writing the book only to have nobody really care. You're probably better off just doing research - both for your own career, as well as for the algorithms community in general.
    – Byte Lab
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 22:02
  • @01010110011001 May I ask what is the sample size on which you are basing this advice? In particular, how many books have you written, and how many of them were unsuccessful?
    – Dan Romik
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 22:33
  • @DanRomik My personal sample size is 0. My sample size of professors I am friends with who have written books, however, is sizeable. Most of them, even the ones whose book publications have been very successful, advise against writing books for the reasons I mentioned above.
    – Byte Lab
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 22:58

1 Answer 1


Plagiarism is literally copying the text (or making only minor changes to pretend that you are not copying the text literally). Writing a book about something that is known is not plagiarism by itself, as long as you use your own words to explain the "standard methods".

If you do this, and if you do not copy figures and exercises (if there are any) it is not plagiarism. If you do need to copy a figure you usually need permission from the publisher (because of copyright, but that is a different issue than plagiarism).

So if your book has a different structure, is written in your own words, and cites the sources, it is probably not plagiarism. Your text simply needs to be clearly different from the original text(s).

  • I already say the sources for a specific topic at the beginning of each chapter. This chapter draws from x, y and z. My feeling is that if for a given section I don't draw from a specific source too much, I can leave it like this (of course, everything in my own words, no uncited figures from other sources). What about a specific section that draws mostly from 1-2 sources, is it better to mention this specifically in that section? (like: I follow mostly w and y for the theoretical exposition?) Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 19:15
  • You need to understand the difference between "copying" and "relying on sources". The first is plagiarism, the second is not. Even if you use only a single source this is perfectly fine, as long as you use your own words instead of copying the source text. If the sources deserve as much credit as you say it may indeed be a good idea to mention them specifically in the text, but that has nothing to do with plagiarism.
    – Louic
    Commented Dec 10, 2016 at 10:15

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