The essential rule
In a personal written production (report, dissertation, thesis, article, essay…), whenever you quote a pre-existing text, you must use citation rules, even if you are the author of the original document. In fact, because you are working on a distinct production, it is important to show up what falls within the “new” production and what falls within the “old” production.
Self-plagiarism according to CNRS
“Self-plagiarism consists in « recycling » in part or in full a content that has already been published, without citing its sources. Such practice can constitute a violation of deontology when the document or the extracts that are being reused have already been published, as this does not respect the obligation to only submit original works.” 1 1
Why is it serious?
Self-plagiarism takes away the reader’s rights
Self-plagiarism mustn’t be taken lightly! According to Michelle BERGADAA, plagiarism expert, “self-plagiarism is one of the most worrying examples of breach of scientific integrity“. Although “Self-plagiarism is not a theft from others”, self-plagiarism still takes away the reader’s “fundamental right […] to access the sources of knowledge”. 2
Self-plagiarism distorts evaluation and rewarding
What is at stake here is not only the identification of the author (who is the same), but the identification of the fact that a more or less important portion of the text comes from a pre-existing production and consequently doesn’t fall within the new production.
That being the case, how to measure the new effort provided and the new concept and ideas brought about?
Is it normal that somebody’s rewarded, or even paid, several times for a work that has simply been duplicated?
Plagiarism and self-plagiarism: same sanctions
So, «To copy oneself is not plagiarism » cannot be a line of defense when facing accusations, contrary to what the philosopher of science Etienne Klein, accused of self-plagiarism, claimed. 4
In any case, it is just right to be transparent towards the reader. You must cite yourself, using quotation marks and references to the original production. Otherwise, you will fall into self-plagiarism… And self-plagiarism can be punished, just like plagiarism.
1 – Comité d’éthique du CNRS, Promouvoir une recherche intègre et responsable, Juillet 2014.
2 – Bergadaà M., Autoplagiat, Plagiat et fraude scientifique, 20 juin 2013.
3 – Wager E., Why is Redundant Publication a Problem?, 2015.
4- Maouche S., L’ « affaire » Étienne Klein : “Se recopier” est un auto-plagiat, Médiapart, 8 décembre 2016. Available here.