Throughout high school and college, you’ve likely learned about the unethical nature of plagiarizing someone else’s work. However, self-plagiarism is a topic that is not as often discussed, but engaging in it can yield severe consequences.
While there are several different types of plagiarism, self-plagiarism involves reusing all or portions of your previously submitted work for another assignment. This is true if you reuse the work for the same class, a different class, or even a different institution. This could be done on purpose by submitting the same paper twice in two different classes, or it could be done unintentionally by slightly rephrasing pieces of content you’ve previously submitted. While many people feel that they have the right to reuse their own work, many institutions view this type of behavior as cutting corners and consider it a form of academic dishonesty.
As a form of academic misconduct, self-plagiarism can land you in a lot of trouble with your college. Colleges take academic misconduct seriously with different levels of offenses that could lead the student to fail, be on academic probation, or expulsion. Depending on your institution’s policy on plagiarism, you may receive a failing grade for the assignment or the course. Some institutions may expel students for academic dishonesty on the first offense. While it may be tempting to reuse your own work, it’s not worth the potential consequences you could incur.
Citing Your Own Work
If you’re thinking about incorporating an original thought you included on a previous assignment for your current work, first consider if it’s truly necessary that you cite yourself. If you believe your assignment would benefit from your previous work, be sure to receive permission from all professors involved. This includes the professor for whom you submitted your previous work and the professor who gave you your current assignment. If you receive the appropriate permissions, follow the style guide your course uses for directions on how to cite yourself. If you do not cite your work, it could be considered plagiarism. The citation in your reference list or bibliography will usually include your name, the title of your paper, the date it was submitted, and the type of work it is. You may label it as a "student paper" or an "unpublished paper."
When it comes down to it, self-plagiarism is a form of academic dishonesty that can cost you your grades or your academic career at your university. While your desire to reuse your own material may come from innocent motives, you must discuss doing so with your professor to make sure he or she will permit its use. After permission is attained, using proper citations will help you avoid a potentially devastating plagiarism charge.