Self Plagiarism

Self-Plagiarism is the submission of the same paper—or substantial parts thereof—for more than one course. Bellevue College considers any act of self-plagiarism to be a form of academic dishonesty and a violation of the Student Conduct Code. To avoid any accusation of self-plagiarism, students must provide an APA-type citation that explicitly notifies the instructor of what portions of a paper were previously submitted, and students should also specify the course and date of the prior submission.  In addition, students are also required to get the instructor’s permission for any papers that were previously submitted.

Why don’t many students consider self-plagiarism academic misconduct?

Academic institutions define plagiarism as a sort of intellectual property theft. According to the sixth edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association(APA, 2010), “Researches do not claim the words and ideas of another as their own; they give credit where credit is due …” (p.15).

However, this makes the concept of self-plagiarism to derive seemingly from a state of cognitive dissonance:

As a matter of logical consistency, when students rely on the above definition of plagiarism as the basis for their own interpretations of self-plagiarism, they become, quite naturally, skeptical that self-plagiarism could constitute academic dishonesty. It could seem, indeed, that self-plagiarism is some sort of misnomer. How can one steal one’s own ideas, after all? Well, the answer is that the focus isn’t so much on the concept of theft or stealing one’s own work; rather, the issue here concerns a slightly different form or definition of academic dishonesty—that is, a form of academic fraud.

Why can’t a student submit the same paper for credit if he or she previously submitted it for another course? Don’t such papers become, in effect, his or her intellectual property? 

Keep in mind that college credits on a transcript signify that students completed all of the course’s work requirements. Double-paper submissions amount to academic fraud because students are not delivering the full amount of work promised when they registered for the course. Students who double-submit papers are, in fact, short-changing the accreditation system. If students’ academic fraud goes undetected, their degrees become counterfeit documents—because they were stolen and not earned. Therefore, the strictures against self-plagiarism serve the Bellevue College community’s shared interest in protecting the authenticity of its degrees.

What is Bellevue College’s official policy regarding self-plagiarism?

Bellevue College’s 2050 Student Conduct Code(2018) does not actually use the term “Self-Plagiarism.” However, its substantive statements on prohibited forms of academic dishonesty—especially with regards to items 2(b) and 2(d) of the Prohibited Student Conduct section [132H-126-100]—are congruent with the above definition of Self-Plagiarism as the double-submission of academic work:

(2) Academic dishonesty. Any act of academic dishonesty including, but not limited to,         cheating, plagiarism, and fabrication.

(b) Plagiarism. Taking and using as one’s own, without proper attribution, the ideas, writings, or work of another person in completing an academic assignment. May also include the unauthorized submission for credit of academic work that has been submitted for credit in another course .

(d) Multiple submissions. Submitting the same work in separate courses without the express permission of the instructor(s) (Bellevue College, 2018).

Doesn’t this present Capstone students with an insuperable obstacle to completing their project’s final write-up? How can they avoid repeating any content in their final project that was in their proposals? 

If self-plagiarism involves submitting the same paper—or substantial parts of its content—for more than one course, this definition could provoke a substantial amount of anxiety for students who are writing up their final capstone projects. The difficulty of not repeating any of the proposal’s content in the final project seems nearly impossible. Indeed, because that final course is usually preceded by a Capstone Proposal course, the replication of substantial parts of any student’s proposal seems inevitable and unavoidable. Even the most creative of writers would become stymied without some acceptable standard for ensuring fair usage of previously submitted content from his or her proposal.

Fortunately, capstone students have an escape hatch. They can write a citation that explicitly tells the reader that this final capstone project uses content previously submitted in the capstone proposal. However, a simple citation would not provide adequate or sufficient disclosure if a substantial amount of content from the capstone proposal text is replicated in the final text of the final capstone paper.

In such a case, capstone students should write an annotated citation to furnish adequate or sufficient disclosure. The annotation should provide a substantial amount of specific detail in terms of exactly what content is being replicated in the final write-up.  No replicated content should be omitted from the annotation.

Finally, capstone students need to secure their instructor’s permission to use any replicated content in their project’s final write-up. Therefore, before they submit their final projects, they should first submit their annotated citation to their instructor in order to receive his or her permission beforehand to use any replicated content.

How should students write such an annotated citation?

The following Sample Annotation serves as a useful paradigm that students can use to write their own citations in order to avoid inadvertently committing self-plagiarism:

Doe, J. (2017). A proposal to outsource MRI diagnostic services. Unpublished manuscript, Bellevue College.

Substantial parts of this manuscript first appeared in my paper for the RAIT 475 Capstone Proposal course taught at the Winter 2017 Quarter by Professor Jane Somebody at Bellevue College—which was the foundational course for this project. Therefore, content from the original proposal appears in the following sections of this manuscript: the section on “Background”; the section on “Unsustainable Costs Overruns”; and the section on “The Anticipated Logistical Benefits to BC Medical Center.”



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Last Updated April 1, 2019