Of course, it is absolutely important to quote all thoughts that did not originate from the author. This makes one think that it would be OK to include works of others when referencing them correctly.

For example, consider that one had that really great list of problems that also apply to your own paper. Is it legal and/or legitimate to write about that list, include the key points in your work and reference the original author?

I am facing that situation where I want to include some key aspects but quoting all of them and describing them individually feels like copying too much, even though I explicitly state that the aspects originate from another paper with referencing to it.

3 Answers 3


You can include any material that is published as long as you appropriately cite the material (source). If you think any phrasing made by the author(s) is key, then you can do it as a quote where the text is reproduced in verbatim. If you do not use quotes you need to rephrase the text in your own words since it would otherwise be considered as a form of plagiarism. So, just be careful with referencing and quotes if necessary. It is better to have cited one time too many than the opposite.

  • Thank you! Does "published" mean that it simply is available? Saying it the other way round: Is there a distinction between works that are for sale and those that are freely available?
    – Xiphias
    Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 17:18
  • Isn't there a copyright issue if large parts of a work are reproduced, though?
    – F'x
    Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 17:22
  • In general, I cannot see any distinction as long as the material is cited and quoted appropriately. What you are alluding to is something that would be covered by a copyright law that prohibits any reproduction of even a formulation. There is clearly a limit to how much can be included although the limits is not easily determined. Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 17:23

Idea-wise it's hard to tell. It'd depend on how different your interpretations of the problems are compared to the original author's. It'd be prudent to consult a couple other researchers/peers for some objective inputs.

Format-wise, of course you can cite anything up to any amount. One way to do that is through block quotation. I have seen pages and pages of run-on quotes. Just double check, again, with some people in the same field to make sure your quoting style is not too outlandish, just because it's legal to do does not mean it's culturally appropriate to do.

Since it's just a list of questions, another way I can see working around this is to tabulate them in your work, attributing the list to the original author in the caption or footnote of the table. Then, in your text, refer to the questions through the table.


It would be prudent to look up the journal's policy on such matters, as the exact answer depends on the publisher. Example: Oxford Journals let you copy a maximum of two figures (post-1998) from a journal article, and five per issue. Above these limits, specific permission is needed.

If in doubt, ask the publisher of the material you're citing if it's OK.

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