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Is it self-plagiarism to reuse text (multiple paragraphs) from a progress report to a grant giving agency in the final report to the same agency?

The specific case is an internal scholarship of my university (no guidelines except length), but I think the question is also relevant for all other grants that require both progress/interim and final reports.

The question is not the same as this question, because in my case both reports end up at the same place, so the whole "no one will ever notice anyway" argument doesn't work.

This question is also different, because it is about dissertation reports, not funding reports.

  • I am not sure I understand your question. The final report naturally includes stuff from progress report. You run the risk if you just copy and paste because the reader might be the very same person in the same agency. If you have time to write a question here, why not spend time to rephrase some texts from the progress report? – scaaahu Apr 7 '17 at 9:39
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    1. Slight rephrasing is still plagiarism, so it's a non-trivial amount of work. 2. I can delay writing the report for a couple of days or weeks. 3. I'm curious about the answer and curious why no one (appears to) has asked the question before. 4. "run the risk if you copy and paste" - risk of what? Either it is allowed and there no risk or it isn't and I won't copy and paste. But I don't know which of those is true, hence the question. – StefanS Apr 7 '17 at 9:56
  • Okay, I understand your concern now. In the answers of your first linked question, grant proposals are not considered published, hence there is not much plagiarism issue. Is your grant report/progress report published/publish-able? – scaaahu Apr 7 '17 at 10:08
  • No, it just gets sent to a vice rectorate. I don't know if someone even reads the reports, so it's not a huge problem for me personally. I just couldn't believe that I can't find the answer anywhere, because that same question should come up for every single "real" grant as well, where you usually have to send yearly reports and a final report, as I understand. – StefanS Apr 7 '17 at 10:28
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Self-plagiarism is an offense caused by violating the expectation of originality.

When you write a progress report or a final report, there is no expectation of originality of the text per se. Rather, you are expected to have done original work during each period, and the report is expected to provide a clear and comprehensive presentation of the work that was done during the reporting period.

Thus, it is entirely legitimate to include text from an earlier report into a final report that covers the period of the earlier report. Now, it is quite likely that the text should change to some degree to fit the new context. Whatever changes you might make are not about avoiding self-plagiarism, but about how your perspective changes when you're discussing the whole project in retrospect.

To drive the point home: my own practice when preparing a final report is to begin by concatenating all of the periodic progress reports, add a writeup of the final section, and then reorganize and rewrite as necessary to provide a comprehensive final document. If I were instead to write the whole thing from scratch, I would consider that an inappropriate waste of my sponsors' money and also likely to end up accidentally omitting important information contained in the periodic reports.

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