Text Recycling in Scientific Writing

Event Date & Time

  • May 15, 2019
    10:00 am - 11:30 am

Event Description

This session is hosted in partnership with Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology (CTLT), Skylight and Writing Across the Curriculum+ (WAC+).

Text recycling (often called “self-plagiarism”) is the reuse of textual material from existing documents in a new text without the use of quotation marks or other means of identifying the reused material as such. While text recycling has long been common practice in some STEM fields, the recent adoption of digital plagiarism detection tools by scientific journals has made text recycling the subject of increasing controversy and ethical debate. Some researchers and editors argue that text recycling is inherently unethical or otherwise problematic. Others, including organizations such as the American Psychological Association and the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), state that some uses of text recycling are acceptable and, in limited circumstances, desirable—particularly in Introduction and Methods sections. Although text recycling is an increasingly important ethical issue in scientific communication (even listed as a priority for RCR training in an ORS-funded study), it is rarely addressed in the ethical training of researchers or in scientific writing textbooks or websites.

Our work examines text recycling in three ways:

  • interviews and surveys to understand the beliefs and attitudes of editors, faculty, and students;
  • computational text analysis to examine the extent and patterns of text recycling in published work; and
  • legal analysis to understand when text recycling may violate author-publisher contracts of infringe copyright.


    • Cary Moskovitz. Text Recycling in Scientific Writing. Science and Engineering Ethics. March 15, 2018. DOI: 10.1007/s11948-017-0008-y
    • Susanne Hall, Cary Moskovitz & Michael A. Pemberton. Attitudes toward text recycling in academic writing across disciplines. Accountability in Research, 25:3, 142-169, 2018. DOI: 10.1080/08989621.2018.1434622
    • Cary Moskovitz. Text Recycling in Health Sciences Research Literature: A Rhetorical Perspective. Research Integrity and Peer Review, 2(1), February 2017.
    • Cary Moskovitz. Self-Plagiarism, Text Recycling and Science Education. BioScience, 66(1), January 2016.


  • Cary Moskovitz, Director, Writing in the Disciplines, Thompson Writing Program, Duke University. For more info visit https://carymoskovitz.org/