Plagiarism often involves using someone else’s words or ideas without proper citation, but you can also plagiarize yourself. Self-plagiarism means reusing work that you have already published or submitted for a class. It can involve:
Resubmitting an entire paper
Copying or paraphrasing passages from your previous work
Recycling previously collected data
Separately publishing multiple articles about the same research
Self-plagiarism misleads your readers by presenting previous work as completely new and original. If you want to include any text, ideas, or data that you already submitted in a previous assignment, be sure to inform your readers by citing yourself.
While self-plagiarism may not be considered as serious as plagiarizing someone else’s work, it’s still a form of academic dishonesty and can have the same consequences as other forms of plagiarism. Self-plagiarism:
Shows a lack of interest in producing new work
Can involve copyright infringement if you reuse published work
Means you’re not making a new and original contribution to knowledge
Undermines academic integrity, as you’re misrepresenting your research
It can still be legitimate to reuse your previous work in some contexts, but you need to acknowledge you’re doing so by citing yourself.
How to cite yourself
It can be legitimate to reuse pieces of your previous work, but you need to ensure you have explicit permission from your instructor before doing so, and you must cite yourself.
You can cite yourself just like you would cite any other source. The examples below show how you could cite your own unpublished thesis or dissertation in various styles.
Example: Citing an unpublished thesis or dissertation
Author last name, “Shortened Title,” Page number(s).
2. Merkus, “Power of Reading,” 21.
How do educational institutions detect self-plagiarism?
In addition to plagiarism software databases, many educational institutions keep databases of submitted assignments. Sometimes, they even have access to databases at other institutions. If you hand in even a portion of an old assignment a second time, the plagiarism software will flag it as self-plagiarism.
Online plagiarism checkers not affiliated with a university don’t have access to the internal databases of educational institutions, and therefore their software cannot check your document for self-plagiarism.
In addition to our Plagiarism Checker, Scribbr also offers a Self-Plagiarism Checker. This unique tool allows you to upload your own original sources and compare them with your new assignment. It will flag any unintentional self-plagiarism, in addition to other forms of plagiarism, and helps ensure that you add the correct citations before submitting your assignment.
Yes, reusing your own work without acknowledgment is considered self-plagiarism. This can range from re-submitting an entire assignment to reusing passages or data from something you’ve turned in previously without citing them.
Self-plagiarism often has the same consequences as other types of plagiarism. If you want to reuse content you wrote in the past, make sure to check your university’s policy or consult your professor.
If you are reusing content or data you used in a previous assignment, make sure to cite yourself. You can cite yourself just as you would cite any other source: simply follow the directions for that source type in the citation style you are using.
Keep in mind that reusing your previous work can be considered self-plagiarism, so make sure you ask your professor or consult your university’s handbook before doing so.
Most institutions have an internal database of previously submitted student papers. Turnitin can check for self-plagiarism by comparing your paper against this database. If you’ve reused parts of an assignment you already submitted, it will flag any similarities as potential plagiarism.
Online plagiarism checkers don’t have access to your institution’s database, so they can’t detect self-plagiarism of unpublished work. If you’re worried about accidentally self-plagiarizing, you can use Scribbr’s Self-Plagiarism Checker to upload your unpublished documents and check them for similarities.
The consequences of plagiarism vary depending on the type of plagiarism and the context in which it occurs. For example, submitting a whole paper by someone else will have the most severe consequences, while accidental citation errors are considered less serious.
If you’re a student, then you might fail the course, be suspended or expelled, or be obligated to attend a workshop on plagiarism. It depends on whether it’s your first offense or you’ve done it before.
As an academic or professional, plagiarizing seriously damages your reputation. You might also lose your research funding or your job, and you could even face legal consequences for copyright infringement.
Most online plagiarism checkers only have access to public databases, whose software doesn’t allow you to compare two documents for plagiarism.
However, in addition to our Plagiarism Checker, Scribbr also offers an Self-Plagiarism Checker. This is an add-on tool that lets you compare your paper with unpublished or private documents. This way you can rest assured that you haven’t unintentionally plagiarized or self-plagiarized.
Tegan is an American based in Amsterdam, with master's degrees in political science and education administration. While she is definitely a political scientist at heart, her experience working at universities led to a passion for making social science topics more approachable and exciting to students.