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Is Using an Old Paper Plagiarism?

Some people take their time going through college. For example, they may change their major three times or more because they have a hard time deciding what they want to do. Other students may be working full-time jobs; therefore, they are only taking a partial load of classes per semester. It can be a little as two to three classes. For those students, it can take up to eight years to earn a college degree. Regardless of whether a student is taking that much time due to indecisiveness or having a full-time job, there will be times when they will see an opportunity to use an old paper from a previous class.

Is using an old paper plagiarism? The answer is yes when the old paper that you are using is not properly cited. Even if the previous work is your own, you still need to cite it. Else, you are falsely claiming that you did the work for the current assignment.

How to Cite Yourself

How can you cite your own work? Here’s how to do it in APA format (Disclaimer: The following sample uses the fictional name of John Smith for the student and the words are my own, though not from a paper that I’ve written.)

The in-text citation would be:

Smith (2008) states that Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and “enabled society to communicate with each other in a more reliable way” (p.2).

The citation in the bibliography or reference list would be:

Smith, J. (2008). Alexander Graham Bell and His Role in the Evolution of Communication. Unpublished paper. Pretend University.

Now, this is how to do the same citation in MLA format:


Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and “enabled society to communicate with each other in a more reliable way” (Smith 2)

Reference list:

Smith, John. “Alexander Graham Bell and His Role in the Evolution of Communication.” 2008. TS.

The TS stands for Typescript. It means John Smith typed the paper on the computer. This is used when a paper is not published.

For both APA and MLA, if what you quote from your previous work includes citations for other sources, those citations need to appear in your new paper too.

When is the Use of Your Old Paper Not Self-Plagiarism?

But, when is the use of an old paper you wrote not plagiarism? When you properly cite the work using the appropriate writing style, such as the APA and MLA formats discussed earlier. However, you should not just reuse your entire paper, even if it’s cited. That defeats the purpose of why your professor is assigning the paper in the first place. They want to see how you present your own ideas in relation to what you are learning in that class. If there is necessary to refer to your previous work, only use small parts of the work in your new paper while also citing yourself appropriately.


Rafael is a student at a public state university. He is majoring in Engineering. He is in his fifth and final year of college. He has room for a couple of electives in his last semester. He has a hard time deciding what to take. He finally decides to take a class on the Russian Empire. This is a class that he took earlier in his third year, but failed. But Rafael notices that it’s a different professor teaching the course this time, so he signs up for it.

During the class, the professor assigns a seven-page paper that will be due in three weeks, and gives the class a list of topics that they can write about. Rafael sees that one of the topics is about Catherine the Great and how her Western European beliefs influenced her rule. This is the same topic that he wrote about when he took the class previously. He had gotten a decent grade on the paper. He just failed out of the previous class because he didn’t study hard enough.

Rafael decides to just reuse his old paper, which he still has on his computer. He does do a little bit of editing, but otherwise, it’s the same paper. As a result, he doesn’t have to actually write the paper. He can spend more time studying for his Engineering classes, working on his other research papers, and being with friends.

After Rafael turns the paper in, he waits for his grade. He expects that it will be decent, just like the last time. However, unbeknownst to him, the professor uses turnitin.com to check the originality of the papers that are turned in to their class. She does this with Rafael’s paper, and sees his submission from two years ago in the system. The professor sees this as a blatant case of self-plagiarism and reports it to the University via the appropriate channels.

The University follows a process outline in their code of conduct. This includes a formal investigation and a hearing in front of a university ethics committee. During the hearing, Rafael is given the chance to defend himself, but he cannot adequately do it. As a result, Rafael is expelled from the University. He does not get to graduate with his friends and he is assigned a failing grade all of the classes he was taking that semester, not just the Russian Empire class that he committed the offense in.

When Rafael tries to apply to another university in the fall, and transfer over the academic credits that he was able to keep, that university declines him. Then, another one does the same thing. Eventually, Rafael has to start over at a local community college in order to repair his damaged academic reputation.

The purpose of this scenario is to show you how seriously universities take the issue of self-plagiarism. They consider it to be just as bad as regular plagiarism.

Prescott Papers

Rather than being lazy and reusing an old paper, you should write a new paper. If the topics are similar and you are having a hard time coming up with new ideas, you can always use Prescott Papers. You can order academic help from Prescott Papers, and someone will help you with the writing of your paper. They can also help you learn the course material better so that you can incorporate it into your paper.

Prescott Papers also provides custom writing services. We use U.S. based writers with academic and/or professional backgrounds that can produce a paper that is completely unique. The writer we handpick to write your paper will write it according to your specific instructions. For example, if you put a copy of your old paper on a topic similar to the paper you want us to write, you put instructions stating: “Please don’t use the ideas in this paper for the current one you are writing for me, unless they help you elaborate on current ideas.” The writer will follow this instruction exactly. If they see the need to use something from the previous paper, they know how to provide a proper citation.

There’s no need to worry about your Professor, school, or anyone else for that matter finding out that you bought your paper from Prescott Papers. We will keep your information strictly confidential. This is important because if your professor finds out that you bought a paper, even if it’s a custom-written one, they will consider that act to be plagiarism because you did not do the work.

However, with the unlimited edits and revisions included for free with your order, you do have the chance to really make the work your own. You can contact us at any time via email to let us know of any revisions that are needed, and we will take care of it for you in a timely manner. For example, if you see that our writer included something from your old paper in the new paper, but the proper citation is missing, you can ask for a correction. That way, you are not guilty of self-plagiarism.

So, is reusing an old paper plagiarism? As discussed above, it is if you don’t provide the proper citation to your previous work. In the long run, it’s best to take the time to write a new paper. If you are going to buy a custom paper, Prescott Papers is a choice you will not regret.

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