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Rewording concepts for each new paper?

  1. Dec 27, 2009 #1

    I am doing a PhD in computer science (on simulation and modeling) and my research is based on the work of a few physicists.

    I have written around 10 papers (journal, IEEE and other international conferences and local ones) on this topic. I normally add a contribution (let's say 4-5 months of work) and then write a new paper to report it in a conference. Then after I have 3-4 papers, I convert them to a journal paper.

    In these papers I need to put some background and literature review and some parts of my previous works (which are almost the same). The problem is that every time I want to write a paper, my supervisor forces me to reword every single sentence. Do you believe that I have reworded some of the paragraphs 5-6 times!!?

    I am really really tired of this!

    Is it really needed to reword my own sentences and paragraphs word by word each time (even though the paper contains totally new contributions) ? Will it be considered as plagiarism if I have almost (90%) similar paragraphs (2-3 paragraphs) in my papers?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2009 #2


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    Yes, copying paragraphs of your own published work for further manuscripts is called self-plagiarism. It is deprecated because it's generally seen as an indication that an author wants to get publishing credit multiple times for the same material.

    If you are not the copyright holder of the earlier published work (for example, if you signed over the copyright to IEEE), then it is also a copyright violation.

    I'm sure your supervisor would like you to not just reword the paragraphs to avoid self-plagiarism, but reword them to provide context for and emphasize the new material you're presenting. For example, one paper's introduction may specifically motivate the search for a fast algorithm (which you then present); a later paper's may emphasize the need for a new function (which you then incorporate), etc.

    You might send this question to the journal editors and your school's ethics office to get their opinion on avoiding plagiarism/copyright problems.
  4. Dec 28, 2009 #3


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    Something else to keep in mind is that a new paper isn't supposed to be an udpate on your last few months of work. It has to contain something original and of value to the scientific community. If you're essentially re-writing the same piece of work without adding any new information, you shouldn't be writing the paper at all.

    The introduction and literature review and even methodology for similar papers is likely going to be similar, but you have to make sure that it's doing its job. As Mapes suggested, you need to place current work in the proper context and properly describe the reasons for the new aspects of the investigation you're presenting. This should involve more than an exercise in cut and paste.

    Besides, typing out a few new paragraphs to give the necessary background to the work that you're presenting should come as almost as easily as you're typing out the paragraphs in your posts on this forum.
  5. Dec 28, 2009 #4
    Mapes and choppy,

    Thank you very much for your useful comments.

    Having seen multiple papers of this reputable group of professors (working on cryptography) made me think it is not necessary to change the whole article. Their papers are almost 70% unchanged (word by word) and they just add the new method they have created.

    As I said I make a contribution and just after that I start writing. However my field is relatively narrow. Every time I should mention a list of 10-15 papers for my literature review which is 1-2 paragraph long.

    For my own work I need to review my previous model(s) and then build the new contribution on it. The contribution is really a contribution otherwise neither my supervisor nor the publisher would accept that.

    Having wrote 3 journal papers and 7 conferences, I have learned basics but sometimes you see different practices around you which makes you think you are in mistake.

    Thank you again for your help.
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