I have written two papers, let's say X and Y, about a concept, let's say A.

X is about other overview of concept A and how it can be improved in general. Then I have another paper i.e. Y discusses about relationship of A with reference to one particular topic.

As both papers are literature driven papers (can be called as literature reviews) and the focuses are different. However there are some sections which are overlapping with each other. Therefore I have given similar examples and used many common references.

My question is, is it a case of plagiarism ? I have written both papers separately and not copied text of one into other, rather sometimes the sense is same. I would appreciate your thinking and advices in this regards whether it can be counted as a case of plagiarism ?

Thanks in advance.

  • 3
    I thought the general advice is you can't plagiarize yourself. Plagiarism by definition is trying to pass someone else's work off as your own, or improperly referencing it. As long as you have the all the right references I would imagine you'd be fine.
    – SGR
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 9:50
  • 8
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 9:58

2 Answers 2


As you have stated, your papers have similarities and that the text is written separately and not copied, then no, this is not plagiarism (and is unlikely to be seen as such). Using the same references is fine and necessary for similar concepts.

It also sounds like the context between the two papers are distinct, this should ensure that the two papers are written differently.

Make sure you re-read and compare them to ensure that they are sufficiently different, which you sound like you have already done (and possibly ask a colleague to compare them). If possible and relevant, you could have one of your papers cite the other.

There are many guides about plagiarism and what to check for online, for example, this one from the University of Western Australia.


@OrangeDog mentioned in a comment above the concept of self-plagiarism. I have definitely been in a position in a program committee where a paper was rejected because it had large parts completely in common with another paper without giving appropriate context. I think @Saturnus is on the mark with the comment that it doesn't matter if they cover the same material if they are written differently rather than copied, but only up to a point. It also matters what the content is. Literature reviews with common references make perfect sense; I think in the example provided here, you ought to be in the clear.

But I wanted to respond in order to provide a somewhat more general answer.

If someone wrote a paper about project X, and they had an extensive introduction and a section with a couple of pages about use cases, say, and then they wrote a new paper about X, there are a couple of cases:

  • Is the new paper an extension of the earlier paper, for instance a conference-length paper going beyond an earlier workshop-length paper, or a journal version of a workshop or conference paper? Then it's fine to include earlier content verbatim, with a comment (usually a footnote to the title) that the paper is an extended version of the workshop paper. Aside: this really complicates double-blind reviewing, as people typically omit the self-referential footnote, and reviewers have to guess.

  • Is the new paper substantially different, even if some content is the same? Small amounts of overlapping content, in my experience, are OK, but if it's not quoted or referenced as coming from the earlier material, it may be a red flag if too much. Think about what automated plagiarism detectors would flag.

Finally, beware of the "least publishable unit". Whether the content is literally identical (and self-plagiarism) or merely semantically identical, you want to be sure enough is different. Again, in the description provided here, they sound different enough. I'm referring to others who may come across this in the future, wondering about reuse across papers....

  • 1
    +1 for the warning about the least publishable unit. You want to be sure you're not writing one of those, and not seen to be writing one. Commented Apr 25, 2017 at 13:30

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