Self-plagiarism might be confusing for a lot of people. After all, if you wrote content earlier and decide to reuse it, how can it be considered plagiarism? you should be able to use it, right?

The simple answer is No.

Self-plagiarism usually occurs when you recycle all or a significant portion of your past work without proper attribution for a different publication. The ethical problem of self-plagiarism mainly comes up for subject matter experts, researchers, professional writers, students, or anyone who needs to write on the same topic now and then.

In this blog post, we cover everything about self-plagiarism along with tips to avoid it altogether.


What is self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is also known as auto-plagiarism or duplicate plagiarism. It is an act of repurposing your past original work and publishing it elsewhere without proper attribution. It occurs when you either write an entire piece or just parts of your past work as new. Additionally, paraphrasing or misquoting your work also counts as self-plagiarism.

Is self-plagiarism illegal?

No, self-plagiarism is not illegal in most cases. However, it can be considered dishonest and literary theft and can cause ethical issues. Thus, it can be unacceptable. As a way of misleading the audience by passing off old content as new.

In academic research, self-plagiarism is a form of research misconduct. The published research should be up to date. If it has reused material from the past work, it could mislead the readers.

In rare cases, self-plagiarism can fall under copyright breach. If a content piece written by you is protected by copyright law, and you don’t have the intellectual property (since you might have sold it), the owner has the right to distribute or sell it. If you self-plagiarize that work, they could send you a “Cease” notice or can take other legal actions.

As you are unlikely to run into legal issues with self-plagiarism, it does not mean you can do that. If caught, it may have consequences such as:

  • Damage your reputation and career
  • Hurts search rankings
  • Your readers might lose trust in you

Why do some people self-plagiarize?

Self-plagiarism is not the worst form of plagiarism, but it is not accepted. So, why do some people self-plagiarize? The answer to this might be that if you already have put effort, time, and research into writing a piece of content, it is easier to reuse some of the work to create new content.

It is common for people to recycle their work to save time. However, this could be seen as an unethical practice and can cause problems.

Self-plagiarism is most prevalent in research publications. It is so because researchers face pressure to publish papers to advance their careers or attract funding. It tempts them to reuse their own earlier work to boost publication records without carrying out the research.

Referencing an earlier published work is acceptable, but you should cite it properly.

Self-plagiarism is an ethical gray area

It is common for work to build upon itself with time. However, authors need to be clear that resubmitting previous work to pass it as new is poor practice and research misconduct.

So, how to know if it is okay to recycle a few of your own words or ideas?

How much material to recycle?

Are you recycling one or two points or copying the entire paper? There is a difference between the two. If the amount of material you want to reuse is minor, you can do that, but do not forget to rephrase it. People do not want to read a slightly edited version of the content they already read.

What kind of material to recycle?

Recycling old arguments and key results from previously published content and presenting it as new is worse than recycling general background information. For instance, you want to write three to four articles on different aspects of one broader topic. Like, separate articles on how to use plagiarism tools, features of the plagiarism tool, and strategies or tips to avoid plagiarism.

Understandably, you may want to use some of the same background information in all the articles. Each one needs some general context on plagiarism. Here, we advise avoiding including lengthy identical sections. Discovery is a different way to express your ideas, do not copy and paste. Background context is most effective when tailored to a specific angle and relatable to the rest of your article.

Tips to Avoid Self-Plagiarism

If you want to reuse some of your previous work, how to do it without risking self-plagiarism? The essential point to remember is, to avoid being dishonest. To help you avoid self-plagiarism, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

Do your research first

If you are working on a similar topic published in the past, ensure to research from scratch. Even though you are well-versed and informed about the topic, it never hurts to get a fresh outlook. Doing this serves to enhance your knowledge further on the topic. You come across new data that might not be available earlier. You avoid self-plagiarism and improve overall work quality by adding recent information.

Plan your writing 

Creating multiple content on similar topics can lead to self-plagiarism. However, you can prevent it by planning your writing schedule, and ensuring that you do not overlap similar topics in multiple content pieces. Planning and spacing your writing schedule properly allow your mind to reset, and work on a similar topic with a fresh outlook. Furthermore, maintain separate notes for different work as it helps you avoid self-plagiarism.

Reframe your ideas

Let’s say, you want to write on a topic you previously worked on, but for a different audience, do not copy and paste. Instead, reframe your ideas to suit the new audience. Look at the notes you took down while researching for the previous work, and add more notes from the new research, then write the content in your words. This way, you will avoid self-plagiarism and add value to the content. You can also use Smodin’s Rewriter, to reframe your content a bit and get inspired by the changes you could do.

Turn listicle into separate content

Listicles are a great way to introduce topics to the audience and offer a jumping-off point for exploring new ideas. If you have previously published content with a listicle and want to write on the same topic, create separate pieces of content expanding the points. It is not only a great way to turn one content into several pieces but avoid self-plagiarism as well. Additionally, when you go in more depth, you enhance your knowledge of the topic and give your readers a fresh perspective on the content.

Always attribute and cite your work

When you use your previous work to write new content, ensure to add attribution and citation. Acknowledging the author of the published content forgives you of plagiarism. Mention the date when the content was published first with the titles to make verification easy. You can use Smodin Auto citation Machine to add your citations.

For students, who do not know how to cite the previous work, ask your professor for help. Different institutions have different policies for self-plagiarism.

Get rights from the copyright holder

Even though you are referencing the content written previously by you, the publisher holds the right to it. Before, you reuse the work, ask your publisher for permission to do so and mention how you intend to use the work in the new content piece. This way, you will avoid copyright violations. Also, reframe the content to keep away from self-plagiarism.

Use a plagiarism checker tool

No matter how hard you try, there are chances that you might reuse some of the previous phrases and ideas in your new content. The best way to make sure that you do not self-plagiarize is to use plagiarism checker software.

The online plagiarism checker allows you to check all the published content highlighting the copied phrases. With this, you can avoid rewriting them. If the tool, provides you with copied parts, you can easily edit and paraphrase the parts.

However, when choosing the online plagiarism tool, ensure you research for the best one. The best plagiarism checker tool is the one that offers sentence-wise results, allows auto-citation, has a deep search algorithm, and supports multiple languages.

You can use Smodin, a free online plagiarism checker tool, to check your content for self-plagiarism. It has all the above-mentioned features. With the powerful deep search algorithm, it checks millions of content pieces for similar matches within seconds.

The auto-citation feature allows you to cite your work to avoid the issue of self-plagiarism.

Also, Smodin supports over 100 languages. So, in whatever language you write the content in, this best free plagiarism checker can detect copied content to help you avoid the issue of plagiarism.


Self-plagiarism is tricky, but you can easily avoid it by following the above tips. Remember to do good research and write content based on the new resources. Also, planning the writing and giving yourself time to paraphrase your previous content works great. Additionally, using free plagiarism checker tool ensures that you stay away from the practice of copying the content.