I'm in the Physics community. I've already published an article on a journal where I've described a solution scheme that serves to solve a certain problem. Now, I've discovered that the same approach can be used to solve a different model. Of course the model, the comments the results, the plots, etc are different, but the technique is the same. So, is it ok to copy the section of my previous article where I describe the solution technique and paste it into the new one? Notice that the old and the new article feature the same identical authors and that the previous article would be, of course, properly cited.


3 Answers 3


Technically this is self-plagiarism and not OK. We had problems before where we published the 6th paper on a very similar topic and one sentence in our introduction was the same as in another of our papers (there are only so many ways to describe one thing) and it got flagged and we had to rewrite it, which in my personal opinion is just stupid.

However, if it's part of a methods section it is usually tolerated, since it doesn't make sense to rewrite technical statements all the time. For example in synthetic chemistry you would write something like

All chemicals were purchased from Sigma Aldrich and used without further purification.

Which is fine to just copy/paste.

  • 2
    It is "self-plagiarism" only if you do it without attribution. It may or may not be acceptable, even if it is not plagiarism.
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 13:35
  • Copy-pasting an entire section verbatim is almost certainly going to get flagged. That said, the automated plagiarism checks are almost always read by a human. I had a situation once where the automated check showed a high "percentage match", but all the phrases were generic like "chemicals were purchased from Sigma Aldrich" so the checker score was just ignored.
    – kabZX
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 17:03

I never do this, and I would not recommend doing this to anyone. You can keep the same meaning, but change the wording, add a couple of new sentences, etc. It's pretty simple.

  • 8
    But it makes it much harder for readers of academic paper. When trying to learn about a research line I often read groups of related papers together. If a later paper quotes a paragraph from an earlier paper, I only have to work out what it means once. If it is rewritten, I have to work out whether there has been a change in meaning. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 14:30

If you explicitly state that "the following section describes the method and is identical to §2.2 of our previous work [4]", then this is IMHO okay. However, you should definitely check with the journal editor before submission.

But, do you really need to do this? Surely, you can improve the text and/or adapt it to the particular application.

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