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Quite often one comes across a really succinct and precise explanation of a concept. I'm wondering if it is permissible to use this explanation verbatim, if the source work is cited in your paper (next to the explanation)? What's in question here is at most 3 sentences.

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Why do you not want to use quotes ? Another option is a footnote, but quotes seem like the right thing for a verbatim usage. –  Suresh Apr 16 at 15:30
    
@Suresh Using quotes isn't common in my field. People tend to reword or paraphrase. –  Neil Apr 16 at 15:55
    
@Neil what is your field? –  Kyle Strand Apr 16 at 20:53
    
@Kyle Strand Applied Math –  Neil Apr 17 at 10:27
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up vote 28 down vote accepted

No, it's not permissible. Some minor overlap in wording can occur naturally (e.g., you couldn't possibly avoid all two-word phrases anyone has ever used before), but deliberately copying text is different. If the copied text is special or remarkable and says something better than you could have said it, then you should attribute it to its source and not seem to be presenting it as your own words. Citing the source nearby is not considered enough to indicate a verbatim quote. On the other hand, if there's nothing special about the copied text, then there's no reason to copy it. (I suppose it could save you a few minutes of work in writing your own explanation to replace these sentences, but that's not considered a good excuse.)

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I'd like to add that while it is not permissible, in STEM, it is unfortunately very common. Quotation marks for some reason are not part of our cultural norm when it comes to writing papers, but you most certainly should quote or paraphrase. –  MHH Apr 16 at 23:31
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This looks like a textbook example of when you should use a block quote, e.g.:

The research of Bart and Homer [1] determined the root cause of the phenomenon:

Bart and Homer's explanation, indented one to the right and left of the main text.

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No. It is never acceptable to use another person's exact words without quotes and a citation that includes the page number. What you are suggesting is plagiarism. If extensive quoting is not common in your field, and most people paraphrase, then I suggest you paraphrase, even if it seems that you cannot write this in any way better or even equal to what was already written.

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