Q: Would it be ethical to rewrite an existing review paper in my own words and submit to another journal?

Detailed Question -

I am writing a review paper on welding technologies. However, I found that there is already a review paper in my area. I wanted to know if I can edit the other paper (using my own words) and add updated literature to it. Would it be ethical to rewrite another review paper in my own words?

1 Answer to this question

The simple answer is: No. :)

And now, the elaborate answer. Actually, there are two aspects to your question, ethics and novelty. So, let’s take them one by one.

Firstly, yes, it is unethical to do what you are considering. It is plagiarism even if you add your literature review to it, because the other author’s part would be the same. Even if you write it in your own words, it is likely to be detected by plagiarism checking software (which is getting increasingly sophisticated) and perhaps also by the editor, who would likely be updated of the recent literature in their journal’s scope.

Coming to the second part, novelty, as you can guess, such a paper would have little or no novelty, and would likely be rejected by the new journal.

Yes, it’s unfortunate that you got scooped (someone else published a similar paper before you), but this does happen in research. Nevertheless, there are quite a few ways in which you can move forward.

  • Go through the other author’s paper to see what they have missed out. In particular, go through the Conclusion section to see what they have suggested as future research possibilities. This may help you come up with some new topics for your study.
  • All may not be lost in your present paper. You have said their paper was in a similar area, but perhaps it wasn’t on the same topic. If not, you could look at your existing topic through another perspective and still manage to find some novelty in it. For instance, is there anything to be studied between 3D printing and welding technologies, or the use of AI/automation to make processes faster? [Note: These are only pointers, and not intended to be recommendations, for we wouldn’t really know your field/topic.]
  • As you seem quite keen on this other paper, you may even consider contacting the author for a collaboration paper.

For more, you may refer to this similar query shared by another researcher previously: Should I reconsider the novelty of my study if a similar idea has been published in a working paper?

Also, you may gain from these courses in ethics offered by a sibling brand, R Upskill. They cover a range of issues in research publishing, from co-authorship to retractions. What’s more, for a limited period, all courses on the platform are available for free. So, do check it out!

Hope all that helps. All the best for thinking anew on your paper and taking it forward!