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Academic Integrity: Reusing Existing Content

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This guide is part of Academic Integrity at Macalester College. For more information about our academic integrity program, please contact Ginny Moran (

Materials here are available for reuse under a Creative Commons  Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA license.

Re-using Your Own Work For More Than One Class

It seems apparent that one of the fundamental guidelines of doing academic work in a college setting is that the assignments you submit for your classes are your original work, but are there times where even this is not clear. There is a myth around “creating your own original work” in academia. As you learn and build your own base of knowledge, you are expanding on the work of others, including, sometimes, yourself. The key here is how you use that earlier work, your own or that of others, to create something new, something transformed. There will be times when your work in another class will seem appropriate to hand-in for another, however this may not be permissible.

Due to your own interests it is more than likely you will find yourself writing about the same topic for more than one class. You will also be given research assignments in multiple classes that are similar in nature to one another. When either, or both, of these two instances happen it may be tempting to use all or part of a one assignment to fulfill the requirements for another assignment in a different class. If you are re-using content from a previous class, be sure to consult with your current professor. If you're working on a project that could be used for two classes during the same semester, be sure that both professors are made aware of your intentions. Some professors are comfortable with an assignment being re-used, at least in part, while others are not. Some professors might have different policies depending on the assignment. Always make sure you have approval from and a clear understanding with both of your professors as to what content will be unique to each project.

Reusing Other Students' Work

In terms of giving credit and re-stating the work of another person, you should treat the work of other students the same as any other piece of scholarship you may reference. If another student's work is being used as part of yours then a reference should be provided.

Case Studies

Informal Case Studies: Macalester Students Tell Their Stories... Case studies are a great way to better understand an issue. A group of Mac students who were found to have violated the College's academic integrity policy agreed to share their experience through brief essays. These 'informal case studies' ask the students to discuss their violation, what led up to it, as well as identify lessons learned.