What Is Self-Plagiarism and Why Is It Considered an Ethical Issue?

What Is Self-Plagiarism and Why Is It Considered an Ethical Issue?
Plagiarism is usually defined as using the words, ideas or any intellectual property of other individuals without properly acknowledging the original creator and source. This traditional understanding does not entirely encompass self-plagiarism, however, for the simple reason that when an author reuses his or her own material, the original creator is acknowledged. However, the original publication of a document often involves the transfer of copyright to the publisher, which means that the physical words and any images in that text no longer belong to the author. In this case, only if the original publication is properly cited and acknowledged in the new text can the author borrowing from his or her own writing avoid self-plagiarism, and then the reuse of the material must usually be reasonable and appropriate for the textual or intellectual context.
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The academic and scientific research papers published in scholarly journals, for instance, are normally expected by researchers and other readers to be original in the sense that they describe new research, report new results and share new interpretations of those results to advance the body of knowledge in a field. Reusing portions of earlier published material is considered unethical and unacceptable in such a context, and so are other practices that are associated with self-plagiarism such as publishing the same paper in more than one journal, using the same research data to write and publish papers that are slightly different in perspective, or dividing the results of a complete study into smaller chunks simply to achieve more publications.
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Self-citation and self-quotation are acceptable, however, and can not only provide background and support for a new study, but also draw attention to an author’s previous research. It is important that such citations be justifiable in intellectual terms; excessive or unnecessary self-citation will achieve little more than revealing a desire to earn yourself additional citations. If you need to use a significant chunk of text or perhaps a table or image from one of your earlier publications, be sure to request formal permission from the original publisher and make it absolutely clear to the new editor and readers exactly what has been borrowed and from where.

Open access journals present a slightly different situation because reuse of the material is acceptable, so formal permission is not required, but it remains essential to attribute and cite the earlier publication. Legal issues of copyright will also not be a problem if you need to borrow your own words, ideas or data from an earlier document that has not been formally published, but ethical concerns remain. In an academic or scientific context it is wise to alert readers to any work that has been previously disseminated or shared in a significant or public way. If, for example, you gave a conference paper on your research or you have been posting your progress on your blog or university website and are now preparing a journal paper on the same research, the best practice is to refer specifically to the earlier dissemination in your paper and let the editor know about it in your cover letter. If, on the other hand, you are recycling earlier research and writing that was never published or otherwise shared, there will be no need to refer readers to a particular venue, but it is a sound policy to inform them that you are making use of older research in your new text.
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Authors often feel that they can do whatever they wish with their own writing, but self-plagiarism is becoming an increasingly controversial issue in academic and scientific publishing. Once research has been published it is considered part of a public bank of knowledge and in many cases it literally becomes the property of the publisher, so it is hardly surprising that journal and other proofreaders will reject the manuscripts of authors who reuse their writing in inappropriate ways. The best approach is therefore to avoid cutting and pasting as much as possible and to cite your own writing with the same frequency and rigorous scholarly documentation methods you use when discussing the published writing of other researchers in your field.

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At Proof-Reading-Service.com we offer the highest quality journal article editing, phd thesis editing and proofreading services via our large and extremely dedicated team of academic and scientific professionals. All of our proofreaders are native speakers of English who have earned their own postgraduate degrees, and their areas of specialisation cover such a wide range of disciplines that we are able to help our international clientele with research editing to improve and perfect all kinds of academic manuscripts for successful publication. Many of the carefully trained members of our expert editing and proofreading team work predominantly on articles intended for publication in scholarly journals, applying painstaking journal editing standards to ensure that the references and formatting used in each paper are in conformity with the journal’s instructions for authors and to correct any grammar, spelling, punctuation or simple typing errors. In this way, we enable our clients to report their research in the clear and accurate ways required to impress acquisitions proofreaders and achieve publication.

Our scientific proofreading services for the authors of a wide variety of scientific journal papers are especially popular, but we also offer manuscript proofreading services and have the experience and expertise to proofread and edit manuscripts in all scholarly disciplines, as well as beyond them. We have team members who specialise in medical proofreading services, and some of our experts dedicate their time exclusively to PhD proofreading and master’s proofreading, offering research students the opportunity to improve their use of formatting and language through the most exacting PhD thesis editing and dissertation proofreading practices. Whether you are preparing a conference paper for presentation, polishing a progress report to share with colleagues, or facing the daunting task of editing and perfecting any kind of scholarly document for publication, a qualified member of our professional team can provide invaluable assistance and give you greater confidence in your written work.

If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.

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