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Can You Plagiarize Your Own Work?

Plagiarizing Yourself: Is It Legit to Do That? 

For as long as we have gone to college, we have tried to find ways to ease our way through exams and assignments. The easiest way around was plagiarism – plagiarising yourself and plagiarising others alike. Remember those high school days when your teacher asked you to ‘write down in your notebook an analysis of the character?’ You’d probably go home, Google it and write the entire thing word for word.

College is where things probably got complicated because this is where plagiarism detectors are thriving. Scanning paper after paper, students became wary of using other people’s work as their own – which made them become even more creative and they alaso started to order papers from essay writing services.

Plagiarism of Your Own Work

Take this scenario: You are a student nearing your final years, and you already have a stash of essays from your previous assignments. You have now received a topic that is incredibly familiar to something you’ve had to write before. This is where your light bulb turns on, and you feel as if you were stricken by genius: Is it plagiarism if you use your own work? Clearly, you won’t have to worry about copyright infringement – you’ve already got permission for yourself. But will it pass?

Well, that depends. Looking at it morally, it is still plagiarism. You’re turning in something that was already done before, which makes it no longer original. So if you take one of your old papers and turn it in just like you did the first time, with no modifications, you can be sure that the screen will flash ‘100% plagiarized.’ Why? Because Big Brother remembers everything.

Plagiarism Detectors in Institutions Remember Everything

Most plagiarism detectors work on an already existent database. So if ‘plagiarism your own work’ sounded like a terrific idea at first, you might want to think again. Plagiarism detectors work with words. So if you turn the same strings of ideas, the detector will link back to the paper you’ve submitted before. Definitely plagiarized, it will say.

Plus, imagine that there weren’t plagiarism detectors, and the paper will be read by a professor with a very good memory:

Professor: This seems familiar to me…

You: Uhm… well… uh… some critics had these same theories, and-

Professor: Nope. You’ve submitted this before. Zero work on this assignment.

And this is how you fail a class, my friend. Since professors want to see original things, of course, it’ll light the ‘I’ve-seen-this-before’ bulb. So yes, also in the eyes of a professor, submitting something you did before is still plagiarism.

It’s No Longer Fun to Be the Plagiarized One

Remember how many essays you copied off the Internet from someone else? You thought that “Oh well, what they don’t know can’t hurt them.” Now imagine this: you wrote a paper, and later you come to the realization that “someone plagiarized my work!” Not so fun anymore to see someone take credit for your hard work, is it? You’d rather take your own paper and plagiarize it – at least it’s yours.

But here comes the question: Can you plagiarize your own work without a plagiarism detector noticing? Sure you can – if you rewrite everything word by word. In that case, the plagiarism detector won’t be able to place you anywhere. But where will the satisfaction of a job well-done be? It will be as if drinking recycled water – it won’t help you improve in any way. Sure, if the first version wasn’t published or scanned anywhere, it might not show as plagiarism – you might’ve had a draft at home that you, later on, decided to use. In that case, it won’t be considered plagiarism.

It becomes a problem when it registers as a twin, though. While it is not as cut-and-dry as a regular kind of plagiarism, since the writer is not violating any rights, it still defeats the whole purpose of writing that paper.

So, the next time you start thinking ‘can you plagiarise yourself,’ just remember what we told you. Using a previous essay or even a paragraph from it will still count as plagiarism, especially if it’s sent through a detector. If you want to fly safe with your paper, it’s usually best that you write it from scratch.