The purpose of academic writing is to come to new conclusions and create new knowledge through writing. When you recycle papers written for previous courses and re-submit them for a new grade, you are not creating new information or knowledge to contribute to the academic community. DePaul University’s Academic Integrity Policy specifically identifies as a form of plagiarism “Copying of any source in whole or part without proper acknowledgement… [including t]he reuse or repurposing of any previously submitted version of one’s own work product or data into a ‘new’ product without requesting permission from the current instructor (also known as ‘self-plagiarism’).” (DePaul University Academic Integrity Policy II.B.2.b)

If you are questioning whether or not there are serious ramifications for recycling your own work, consider the case of Jonah Lehrer, a prominent writer who was asked to resign from his job at the New Yorker because he recycled works from previously published books and blogs. Some speculate that had Lehrer been forthright about where his claims were coming from (citing his own works) he could have avoided tarnishing his reputation and dismantling his extremely successful writing career. Read more about the fall out and reactions to Lehrer’s practices: http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2012/06/jonah_lehrer_self_plagiarism_the_new_yorker_staffer_stopped_being_a_writer_and_became_an_idea_man_.html

Finally, when in doubt, always discuss ideas with your professor. If you have a similar paper from a previous course, bring it to your professor during his/her office hours and discuss ways of using it as a jumping off point to come to new and unique conclusions.