|Have I already|
In a few weeks, I need to give advice to a crop of incoming grad students about plagiarism. It's a talk I've given before, and I feel pretty confident about most of it, but there's one part that's always made me a little uneasy.
I tell them--primarily to shock them with how vigilant one really needs to be--that it's technically possible to plagiarize yourself. After watching their scared faces for a moment, I explain that this can happen when:
- you reuse an assignment for multiple classes without explicit consent from both professors, or
- you publish something using material you previously wrote without properly attributing that material, or, most likely,
- you write your dissertation using the text of papers you've already published--but you fail to get permission from the journals in which they've been published.
I reassure them that (3) isn't as scary as it sounds--most journals will happily grant permission for you to use your own papers as part of your dissertation, and indeed in some fields a dissertation is barely more than a collection of papers you've already published, strung together nicely and narratively. But you do need that explicit, written authorization from the journals.
More than any other part of the presentation, though, this is the slide that makes me nervous. At least half of the questions I tend to get afterwards are about plagiarizing one's own writing, and I never feel equipped to answer them. Usually I do my best, then say something like, "Uh, if you're unsure about specific things, preemptively ask your professor or adviser what's allowed." Then I thank them and run out of the auditorium to beat them to the free coffee and bagels, which are the primary reason I give this talk.
Q: This semester, I want to be prepared. What are the nuances of self-plagiarism that I haven't thought of? Do you have anecdotes about self-plagiarism? What valid, tough questions can I expect from first-year grad students, and how would you answer those questions? Thanks in advance for the help.