Plagiarism is generally defined as presenting someone else's work or ideas without full acknowledgment. The term derives from the Latin plagium, which means kidnapper. Plagiarism is a crime when it violates copyright laws, and there have been cases in some countries of people being imprisoned for plagiarizing.
The term self-plagiarism has often been used to define the re-presentation of text material of one's authorship. The term is misleading since it is not possible to steal something that belongs to you from a legal point of view. The Committee on Publication Ethics - COPE, which has been a reference in establishing ethical practices for scientific publications, advises avoiding the term self-plagiarism because of its inherently derogatory connotation. A more appropriate term for this practice is text recycling.
Text recycling is defined by the Text Recycling Research Project as the reuse of identical or substantially equivalent text material in a new work, without any citation marks, by at least one author of the new work who is also the author of the previous work. Text recycling is a regular practice in scientific publishing. Authors often reuse their own unmodified text excerpts to ensure consistency and accuracy across different publications.
Some examples of text recycling are: the use of the material of own authorship, which has not been published before, such as, for example, contents present in research projects, posters, theses, and dissertations; the use, for reasons of consistency and precision, of methodological descriptions and fragments of the bibliographic review of own authorship, which have already been published before; the adaptation of self-authored work to popularize knowledge or the translation of self-authored work into another language. There are extreme cases of full republication of a piece of one's authorship, which, although conceptually classified as examples of text recycling, are generally considered unethical. Exceptions to the latter cases are: the republication of manuscripts previously published as a preprint and, in some cases, the republication of manuscripts published in the proceedings of scientific meetings.
Whatever the motivation for text recycling, it is essential that this practice is transparent with editors and readers. Editors need to be informed that the manuscript contains text recycling so that they can make appropriate decisions based on the editorial policy to which they are submitted. Readers also need to be made aware of the existence of text recycling in the work they are reading to understand the relationship between that work and other works by the same author. It is, above all, essential that publishers and scientific journals have clear editorial policies regarding the reuse of text material.
It is important to note that, contrary to what happens with plagiarism, no legislation specifically addresses the issue of text recycling, and there is no case registered anywhere in the world of legal conviction for the practice of text recycling.
The practice of text recycling needs to be considered with sensitivity and caution. Cadernos de Linguística adopts the Policy and Best Practices proposed by the Text Recycling Research Project, encouraging its authors to use text recycling ethically and responsibly.
For more information on text recycling, we recommend the following material:
Moskovitz, C. Text Recycling in Scientific Writing. Sci Eng Ethics 25, 813–851 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-017-0008-y
Moskovitz, C., Hall, S. & Pemberton, M. A. A model text recycling policy for publishers. Science Editor 45, 42-45 (2022). https://doi.org/10.36591/SE-D-4502-42