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Self-Plagiarism


By now most authors have at least heard this term, but it has only recently begun to be Self-Plariarism White Papermore clearly understood!  So if you are still wondering what the fuss is all about – take heed!  I won’t go into a lot of detail here because the details are described very well by in a recent post on the iThenticate Blog.  And, they have provided a white paper that you can download a copy of the white paper titled “The Ethics of Self-Plagiarism.”

There are two key points that I do want to comment on because I believe these points are important to notice, whether you have considerable familiarity with the idea of self-plagiarism, or are just learning about the concept:

  • When your work is published in a journal or a book, and you have transferred copyright to your publisher, you need to treat your own work in the same manner as you would that of a work published by someone else.  The publisher now owns the copyright, not you!
  • The basics of “fair use” of any work are not governed by strict rules.  Rather, there are guidelines that help to determine how much of a published work, yours or anyone else’s, can be legally (or even ethically) quoted and cited.  Many publishers have their own guidelines concerning how much of a published work can be cited without obtaining the copyright holder’s permission.  So become familiar with not only general “fair use” guidelines, but also the guidelines of your publisher.

The Copyright Clearance Center has an excellent 6-minute video that explains the basics of copyright, including the basics of fair use.  Watch it, and make sure everyone on your team knows that this resource is available.  

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dear Peggy, I so appreciated your informative blog on self-plagarism and links to resources that I did not know existed. As a scholarly development consultant to faculty groups, I find many educators are unaware that self-plagarism is possible. This is NOT a surprise. What has surprised me is that some editors have critiqued my citing too many of my own articles in a manuscript when, in fact, my work is relevant to the topic at hand and the only publication(s) in the literature that address this topic. I’ve not known how to address this in the past but I can now direct them to your excellent blog. Many thanks, Kathy

    on citing my own work too much on manuscriptsTo complicate matters, I have cited my own work in articles only to have editors ding me on citing my own work. the so appreciate your informative article that directed me to resources I was unaware of. Beyond sharing this with the faculty groups to whom I consult, I planThanks for this informative article on a top

    September 17, 2011
  2. As someone reasonably steeped in two of the oldest hermeneutic circles: Mathematics and Philosophy, I find this really disturbing and even anti-intellectual. I had the same thoughts when a friend sent me a recent commentary from the Journal of Nursing Scholarship.

    Sometimes there is simply a best, most optimal, most concise, and least ambiguous manner in which to express a thought. All other efforts to express the same idea are less useful, more ambiguous, and flat out wordier.

    Pick up any of hundreds of textbooks in mathematics and meta-mathematics and you will see hundreds of Propositions, Theorems, and Proofs that are word for word the same as all the other books. In fact, many times 50%, or more, of each book is repeated in most of the other books. If I cite Author X (1993) as the source, it is a fiction that may appeal to journal editors who know nothing about mathematics or meta-mathematics but the absurdity of the citation would be obvious to any reader who has read any other mathematics book on the same topic.

    Author X (1993) is not the source at all. Nobody even knows for sure who the source was – well not entirely true, Gauss is probably the correct source because he was responsible for almost all modern mathematics of any note, but Author X absolutely was not. But even Gauss benefited from the work of thousands of mathematicians before him that paved the way for his prodigious work.

    As well, unless an article is flat out dull and uninspired, the content should probably be published in numerous journals and fields whose readership form essentially disjoint sets. For example, suppose I write an article on my favorite topic: Professional Caregiver Insurance Risk. I can present the argument at a really low level, perhaps aiming at a local State Nurses Association newsletter. Or, I might do an article for a Journal specializing in high end articles on Probability Theory. The difference would be that I won’t have a lot of equations, discussions about Affine spaces, Borel sets, and Bayesian methods in the newsletter and I certainly won’t discuss Risk Induced Professional Caregiver despair in the Probability Theory article.

    But a lot of what I would want to express would be the same in both articles:

    “Health care providers that manage insurance risks do so less efficiently than the entities transferring the insurance risks to them.”

    “Health care providers that engage in inefficient insurance operations must cut the level of medically necessary and appropriate care to compensate for their exposure to higher than expected losses on their insurance risk portfolios.”

    “Health care managing insurance risks need trillions of dollars in idled assets to be as well prepared to continue to deliver care to their patients as they were doing before these entities transferred the insurance risks to them.”

    The reason to cite references is multi-fold: Give credit where it is due – often difficult to do because sometimes we have the same ideas as other people whom we have never met or read, other times we have been exposed to the same idea through many different people, and some times it is just flat out a waste of limited space to cite every nuanced idea.

    Readers of State nursing association newsletters, other than me, are not likely to pick up journals in Probability Theory and readers of journals in Probability Theory are not likely to pick up State nursing association newsletters. What possible difference could it make to the bulk of readers whether large tracts of texts are identical in these two different fora? What possible intellectual harm is done by using the best version of the explanation in different articles whose readership are as foreign to each other as nuclear physicists and fashion designers?

    The point of publishing is to give readers a chance to see something novel, new, interesting, unexpected, and potentially paradigm shifting.

    Instead, this banal focus on nit picking of this sort makes the entire process of getting information out 1,000 times more tedious than it needs to be.

    Our nursing journals are filled with articles that have meaning only for their authors, the virtually totally enmeshed editors and reviewers that selected them for publication, and for a very small group of readers who never thought about it before. Most readers have thought about the content in these banal articles before, may even have written nearly identical articles, with slight differences in terminology, somewhat differently nuanced assumptions, data analysis, and conclusions and recommendations, but the bulk of material in thousands of different nursing periodicals is basically uninspired and uninspiring.

    Correcting the real problem – a lack of articles that fundamentally alter the way nurses think, view themselves, their workplaces, their practices, and alter the way health care is managed and delivered ought to be a more important goal than using the text processing and matching capabilities of super computers to identify instances in which the same paragraph is used for the obvious reason that it is the best way to express the thought.

    We can and should do better!

    September 26, 2011
    • and, as a great example, the third quotation should have read:

      “Health care managing insurance risks need trillions of dollars in idled assets to be as well prepared to continue to deliver care to their patients as they were doing before these entities transferred the insurance risks to them.”

      If I had copied it rather than writing it over again I would have had the correct statement:

      “Health care PROVIDERS managing insurance risks need trillions of dollars in idled assets to be as well prepared to continue to deliver care to their patients as they were doing before these entities transferred the insurance risks to them.”

      By phrasing it differently I delivered a less perfect statement – not intentional, though it certainly does help driving home the point that sometimes there is just a best way of expressing a thought and it ought not belong to anyone.

      This is , by the way, a major issue in Open Source Software. Who owns the right to an intellectual concept such as the “Do Loop” in response to which I would assert with masked redundancy:

      For i% = 1 to 1,00,000
      Print “All humanity should own the ‘Do Loop'”
      Next i%

      September 26, 2011

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