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03/09/2021

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rehashbrowns

I think it's pretty normal to see overlap in an author's work, especially if they're extending the same theory or set of ideas across a number of papers. In fact, it would be weird if that theory *weren't* presented in a consistent manner. As long as the papers are advancing substantially different theses and making distinct contributions to the literature, some overlap is fine.
The overlap issue is actually much more egregious for more senior people who do a lot of invited publications where they just endlessly rehash old ideas (I learned this the hard way when I invited some famous people to contribute new papers to a volume I was editing).

More careful now

When I was in graduate school, there was an episode where a student got in trouble for self-plagiarism, or submitting verbatim/close-to-verbatim material to two places at once (where the expectation was that both submissions would be "original" work). Some of the faculty members told us that self-plagiarism was just as bad as plagiarizing from other people.

Having been around for a while now, though, I've seen many, many philosophers do this, and so I'm not really sure what my professors were talking about years ago. I have seen both book chapters and articles with sentences, paragraphs, and even whole passages lifted almost without alteration from an author's previous work. I've never heard anyone complain about this.

So I guess my answer to OP is, based on the behaviors I have seen during my time in the profession, what they're describing seems completely fine.

JR

At least one of the paper should cite the other paper. That is the least you should do to avoid self-plagiarism. (and you cannot use the same sentences/paragraphs in both papers, so rewrite!)

Evan

I recently read an chapter article published by a philosopher. Then I came across an informal article of the same argument published (by the same author) on another website prior to the book chapter. Chunks of the chapter article were cut-and-pasted from the informal article without citation. So, it *might* be okay to do it.

However, personally, when I see an article citing something that is either forthcoming, in progress, or a manuscript, I become hesitant about how firm the argument from those sources are simply because they have not been read and hence (peer) reviewed or criticized by others yet. Manuscripts and “work in progress” papers are more suspicious since they haven’t gotten passed peer-reviewed or been published in a journal yet. And so it’s hard to judge the credibility or scholarship of them. Maybe I just have a higher level of scholarly expectation than most people that I become skeptical when seeing those kinds of papers or books being cited. Indeed, i mostly see this in philosophy articles and rarely in other academic papers. Therefore, there can be a chance that a referee might think like me and might see it as a red flag. It’s something to think about.

Postdoc

There is a list of "non-original" things that I allow myself to copy/paste from a paper to another, including definitions, quick statements of someone's views in the literature, and footnotes describing who wrote on what in the field. As someone who is not a native English speaker, it can he hard to come up with 3 different ways to present a problem, or 3 different ways to state the same thesis.

I would not hide the fact that you present a quick survey of a problem discuss at length in (redacted). Later, when you will de-anonymize the paper, you can make it clear that there will be similarities between the papers.

In my case, writing the exact same sentence in two different papers is not always conscious. I have worked for so long on a given topic that I end up writing the exact same sentences twice or three times in different papers. It is almost mechanical.

Here is a thought: Could you make it clear that we can appreciate your contribution in Paper #1 even if we disagree with what you say in Paper #2? This way, it will be clear to editors and referees that this is not your original contribution in Paper #1 (or, not the reason why we should read Paper #1).

RJ Leland

I have also had this problem! I think it’s best if you can frame paper 1 so that its main contribution is responding to the problem, and not in introducing the paper 2 view. If that’s clear (and if you don’t borrow a lot of the actual prose from paper 2) I think you’re good. Interlocking anonymized citations seem appropriate, too.

Jakub

I encounter this problem every time I write a paper. I tend to agree with Postdoc: Chunks of non-original text can be copied/pasted from one paper to another. I always disclose this practice in a footnote.
Here is a typical situation: A reviewer suggests taking some tangential ideas out of the paper. I usually try to develop this unused material into another paper. The introductory section of this new paper has a significant overlap with the original paper. I try to rewrite. But if I find the original wording better than any alternative, I keep it.

perspective

Just to be clear, there are people who cross the line. I have refereed papers where the author cites numerous unpublished manuscripts by themselves (or by some anonymized person). This is not acceptable. You cite things in the public record. The point is, your reader is supposed to be able to access these, if they are so inclined.

Michel

It seems to me that paraphrasing is a basic academic skill, and that one should *never* submit work that straight-up copies "chunks" of one's prior published work. (Where a 'chunk' is text that says something substantive, not just a turn of phrase or a footnote saying 'See X, Y, and Z,' etc.)

I sometimes copy/paste chunks verbatim into *drafts* of my work. I then flag those chunks and return to them later, when doing so won't interrupt my flow. But that's just basic editing. If you find yourself copy/pasting a few sentences here, or a paragraph there, then I'm afraid that I think there's a problem with your writing and editing process. I'm reasonably confident in this assessment. But perhaps I've misunderstood just what people mean.

Where the OP is concerned, it sounded like they were referring to overlap of ideas/subjects or taking from unpublished work. Both of those are fine in my books.

UK Grad

I'm really surprised by those who say that one shouldn't re-use "chunks" (to use Michel's phrase above). Sure, paraphrasing is a basic academic skill: if I were to summarise someone else's view, it would be wrong to just copy their sentences (unless in a direct quotation, of course). But isn't it *also* a basic academic skill to write and re-write an exposition or explanation until one has found the *best* formulation of a certain idea, e.g. the one that is most lucid, concise, precise, etc. It just seems unreasonable to me that one has to come up with a *different* way of formulating that same idea every time it comes up in a paper (which, as Marcus notes, can be very often if multiple papers are based on the same dissertation), *even though one has already worked hard to come up with the very best formulation of that idea*. This is not only annoying for the author, it is also genuinely worse for the profession, since we are asking academics to waste their time coming up with worse ways of phrasing an idea, just for the sake of variety. It seems to me that this tells academics that it is actually not so important to think hard about how to formulate an idea, especially if this is an idea that is central to said academic's body of work and therefore likely to occur in different papers.

Of course, there are some reasons to prefer variation. For example, what *I* might think is the best formulation of an idea might not be what someone *else* considers the best. So, it is helpful if there exist multiple distinct formulations of the same idea in the literature. Secondly, each paper considers the idea in a different context, and one might think that different contexts require emphasis on different aspects of the idea, or different connections to other ideas.

But such arguments for variety are clearly grounded in its effect on the quality of a body of philosophical literature, not a failing in the writing/editing process itself. So, I simply fail to see why copying "chunks" belies a problem with the writing/editing process. Of course, it might be the case that the 'rules of the profession' demand that one does not self-plagiarise, so one has prudential reasons not to do so. But given the above, those rules might have side-effects that are harmful to the quality of the body of philosophical literature, and so perhaps we ought to revise them?

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