Recycling

Sometimes you might want to reuse sections of an assignment that you have written earlier. For example, consider the following scenario.

In first year Biology, Tina wrote a laboratory report which had a literature review section on enzymes in pineapples. In second year, Tina has to write another laboratory report comparing pineapple and papaya enzymes. Tina copies the literature review section from her first year report and adds another section on papaya enzymes.

When the lecturer reads Tina's second year report, the pineapple enzymes section sounds strange. The style of writing is different to the rest of the report, and the analysis is weaker.

The lecturer compares the report to her first year report, and decides that it is recycling, which is a form of plagiarism. The lecturer reports the case, meets with Tina, and Tina receives a low mark for the report.

Unless your lecturer instructs you otherwise, you should not reuse your work across different assessment pieces. Each assignment needs to be developed for the purpose of answering the question you have been set. You might use similar information from the same sources in different assignments. However, it is expected that your ideas about the information will change over time and in relation to how you answer the question.

To successfully use the same source for another assignment, check out our resources on analysing questions and taking notes. As a starting point, ask yourself the questions below.

  • What makes this assignment question different from my previous assignment question?
  • How does this source help me to answer this question?
  • Have my ideas about the source changed over time?

Another frequently asked question is whether you can reference your own work. Unless you have published that work through a peer reviewed, legitimate academic process, it is inadvisable to reference it. If in doubt, check with your lecturer.