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I'm writing a section of my thesis in LaTeX that belongs to a state of the art chapter. This section contains the summary of a scientific article (many sentences are copied literally while others are summarised) and also some figures coming from the same article.

I need to cite scientific articles and space missions about trajectories to near-Earth objects, hence everything I write comes from documents where I selected some paragraphs/sections and I want to report these in my thesis. From here, the need to put a single quotation at the beginning of my sections.

I would like to insert the citation once at the beginning so as not to repeat it in every paragraph as follows:

\subsection{title}
The article [1] reviews the methodology used by...

By clicking on "[1]" the reader can immediately read all information about the source, so this is an hyperlink to the bibliography of my thesis.

Is this correct? Should the figures be cited individually or is the citation as indicated above sufficient?

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  • 3
    Ask your thesis advisor or committee chair!
    – Bob Brown
    Oct 20 at 13:29
  • 1
    I've reformatted a bit the text, to avoid too many PSs.
    – Massimo Ortolano
    Oct 24 at 8:44

3 Answers 3

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A single citation is ok, but you also need to clearly indicate exactly what is taken from the article. It isn't enough to give a citation and then just copy-paste from the article. But if you say "The quotations in this section are all from ..." then that should suffice, provided that you quote. Even paraphrasing without specific citation is dangerous.

Note that you shouldn't write in such a way that a reader is required to follow the citation and then sort out what is used from it and what is yours. Make it clear.

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  • Thank you @Buffy. Since I need to report a summary of the article, I decided to remove the paraphrases and I reported some fragments without text ri-elaboration. I wrote: "This section reports the main aspects of the article [1]". Is this ok?
    – Giuseppe
    Oct 20 at 13:52
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For a single methodology section in a paper, just one citation is generally fine as long as it is clear the entire section comes from that reference. Keep in mind it is a good practice for a standard method widely used in the field which you are using in your work, if - as is often the case with theses - you are reviewing/evaluating multiple approaches and techniques instead, bulk quotations and borrowing large quantities of writing material are a bad practice more often than not.

There is a tendency among students (at least in my practice) to not cover enough sources, but this is for your advisor to decide. The genuine need to cover the approach taken from a single source in great detail, as opposed to summarizing it briefly and discussing what others have done, is rare. Far more commonly, the outline would be more like

"X method was pioneered by A and B in xxxx [ref]. It consists of the following steps (as described in [ref]):

(description goes here)

It has been applied to Y and Z kinds of problems with great success [ref][ref], however, its applications in ... remain limited due to R [ref]. C, D and E have previously addressed the problem of R by doing ... and ..., and R was found to be two-fold: proposed techniques only succeeded in mitigating R1 but not R2 [ref][ref][ref]".

If something is widely known and accepted, there is no need to pepper it with references. The way you school teacher told you about Newton's laws might be how you know about them, but redirecting the reader to said teacher (and, optionally, Principia) would be of limited use.

Including the reference in figure captions, however, is a good practice even if this same reference appears abundantly throughout the text. Good graphics are valuable, especially in education, and chasing down apocryphal sources can take a lot of time (plus there could be reservations about reproducing the images!).

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I suggest to my students a simple method to determine if the ideas or words of others are clearly marked:

( ) ->

  • Is the beginning clearly marked?
  • Is the end clearly marked?
  • Is it clear where it comes from?

That is for direct quotations: " [exact words] " (reference) and for indirect citations: Smith defines blah blah blah (reference, page). She also finds that waffle brittle waffle (reference, page). If you think you need to take an entire page, take a good look at what you are writing and see if you can't do it better.

The point is to reference for your READERS, not to make your life easier as a writer. Make it simple for a reader to see when you are speaking and when you are summarizing someone else.

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  • Thank you very much. The point is that I need to cite scientific articles and space missions hence everthing I write comes from documents where I selected some paragraphs and sections.
    – Giuseppe
    Oct 24 at 8:32

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