Writing papers that overlap significantly




In our July “how can we help you?” thread, T asks:

I have two papers that deal with the same issue but from slightly different perspectives. Paper 1 has been accepted for publication. Paper 2 is a work in progress. Paper 2 utilizes and relies upon a criticism of a view that I develop more fully in paper 1. However, how do I incorporate this criticism in paper 2 without plagiarizing myself? I figure I should first cite myself, of course. But then can I basically copy and paste? Or should I rephrase the criticism, or expand it? How to go about this? Thanks!

These are good questions. I’ve faced this issue many times, and I normally try to rewrite things significantly for a few different reasons.

First, I’ve tended to find that rewriting things can be a good exercise as an author, and for readers. It’s often the case that you can restate what you’ve argued before in more straightforward terms, or ways that otherwise “cut to the chase”, making things clear to readers without getting into (or at least streamlining) the nitty-gritty details of what you’ve argued previously.

Second, rewriting things seems important for preserving anonymized review. If, for example, you just cut and paste sections from a previous paper (even if they are small sections), that may clue editors and reviewers in to your identity. Although I suspect that in cases where one cites or builds upon previously published work, editors and reviewers may strongly suspect you were the original author being cited anyway, I take it that if you do cite yourself in a way that ostensibly preserves anonymization (citing yourself in the third person), they can’t know for sure. In contrast, copying and pasting passages from previous papers is just a dead giveaway. Second, although I don’t know how many people care about this sort of thing (and I tend to side with its critics in thinking that it is a bit bizarre), I have heard that strictly speaking, self-plagiarism can be considered a form of academic misconduct. Why risk it?

But these are just my thoughts. What are yours? It would be great to hear how other authors approach this, but also from editors and referees!

Originally appeared on The Philosophers’ Cocoon Read More