The question How was it determined how many neutrinos result from a single Beta decay? was asked recently and I had previously researched and written up in my book. As the passage in my book constitutes as good an answer as I am capable of giving, I reused it. As it was my own text, I do not regard it as plagiarism (the rules for "self-plagiarism" which apply to research journals, where authors may be trying to boost their publication count for research papers, do not seem appropriate for a question and answer site).

I had not said in the answer that the text was taken from my book, because that seemed like a "vanity citation". I understand that this was the wrong interpretation of policy. The answer has been deleted and I have been asked "to edit the post to comply with Phys.SE citation policy", only I cannot find an applicable statement of Phys.SE citation policy. Can anyone give a link?

I can certainly make a statement that the text is taken from my book, but another moderator has said "but instead [of using the full text] should use short quotes as appropriate to support an independently written answer". I cannot see how to do this. It is not as though my text is full of "quotable quotes" (quoting parts would indeed be "vanity citation"). Having already written it as clearly and succinctly as I am able, I find I can only damage the answer by editing it, which I am reluctant to do.

Will it be sufficient to include a note in my post that I have used text from my book?

  • 6
    $\begingroup$ Closing that seems harsh. Can you just start your answer with a line "This analysis is taken from my book <reference>". That would be enough for me. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ @JohnRennie, That is what I would like to do. I am hoping that enough consensus will be found here that I can do it with confidence. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 9:27
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    $\begingroup$ Not enough for an answer, but I do want to comment on "the rules for 'self-plagiarism' ... do not seem appropriate for a question and answer site" -- we're not just a Q&A site, we're a Q&A site for professionals and students of a hard science (Physics). So we do try to uphold many of the standards expected in that community -- learning how to properly reference and quote sources is an important skill students in the sciences need to learn. Of course, key word is "try" -- just like journals, we rely on the community to address problems or alert us to them, so sometimes things slip through. $\endgroup$
    – tpg2114
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 11:55
  • $\begingroup$ Now that the text is properly attributed, the answer is visible to everyone again. $\endgroup$
    – rob Mod
    Commented Apr 28, 2020 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for asking this question, Charles. There are some questions about self-plagiarism on MSE, eg meta.stackexchange.com/q/333708/334566 & meta.stackexchange.com/q/298464/334566 but as you can see, there isn't a clear consensus, and the plagiarism FAQ does not cover it. $\endgroup$
    – PM 2Ring
    Commented Apr 30, 2020 at 14:24
  • $\begingroup$ "you should at least provide the Internet the courtesy of attributing the original source." – Must we cite pictures from the internet? - You traded vanity for hubris and ended up back where you started. - If you want to attribute w/o a bunch of block quotes, make a bibliography under a line break using sub text and numbered asterisks. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 1:04
  • $\begingroup$ "I cannot improve on the text I wrote" is an out of place meta rebuttal. What follows is an expert from [my book, linked], with minor additions. (no block quote at all) $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 1:06

1 Answer 1


The main place for this is How do you cite yourself?

It's perfectly OK to use text from previously-published own work in your answers, so long as you (i) cite the source, and (ii) make it clear that it's your work. As mentioned in the comments, a simple "This analysis is taken from my book " is more than enough.

Regarding the answer you've linked to, from the moderator comments,

Our site policy is that any copied content must be marked as a quote and properly attributed

is indeed right, but

also, answers shouldn't consist entirely of copied content, but instead should use short quotes as appropriate to support an independently written answer

I disagree with this. If you've written text elsewhere that directly answers the question, I don't see anything wrong with posting something like "I've addressed this before in [reference]: [quote]". The worst that can happen is that it could look a bit lazy and result in downvotes, but I don't think such an answer should be removed.

  • $\begingroup$ On the point of your last paragraph, an answer that says "I've addressed this before in [reference]: [quote]" (assuming the quote is in fact formatted as a quote) would comply with our policy on referencing and wouldn't be deleted for that reason. It sounds like you might have thought otherwise, though I wasn't sure. $\endgroup$
    – David Z
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 1:16
  • $\begingroup$ While not necessarily deserving a deletion, the last part is actually the official policy of Stack Exchange on How to reference material written by others: "Do not copy the complete text of external sources; instead, use their words and ideas to support your own." $\endgroup$
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 2:27
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    $\begingroup$ @AndrewT. But in this case the source's ideas and the user's ideas are the same. $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 29, 2020 at 2:55

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