This might be a stupid question, but I am asking as a non-native English speaker. Given that we all (even native speakers) will get our English expressions from somewhere, I am wondering when a citation/quotation becomes necessary if one finds a useful academic expression in other writings and wishes to use that in one's own writing. To be clear I am not talking here about a) original ideas that one borrows b) whole sentences or long phrases. Rather, I am thinking of expressions/wordings/language that I (again as a non-native speaker) would think are common or logical enough that they would not warrant citation/quotation.

An example could be "I wish to acknowledge the excellent research assistance of...." in the acknowledgements of an article.

The same goes for using other writings as a model. I am again not talking here of taking over the whole structure of a piece. Rather, I am, for instance, thinking about reading the conclusions of other theses to understand how to write a conclusion in terms of structure etc.

  • "one finds a useful academic expression" Some examples, please.
    – Nobody
    May 12, 2023 at 9:03
  • Done, hope it helps. May 12, 2023 at 9:13

3 Answers 3


It is perfectly acceptable to lift boiler plate phrases like your example from papers, if the phrasing is particularly pleasing. But this only applies to those common basic phrasings that might be found in the acknowledgements, conflicts of interest, data availability statements etc... where uniformity is often encouraged. In fact many publishers will provide their own copy-paste "examples" for you to use in these sections. I would recommend using these examples over pulling directly from papers in general though, to avoid inadvertently crossing into plagiarism territory.

In general, there is nothing wrong with emulating the structure and style of well-written papers. That is a perfectly valid way to improve your writing, as long as you are not lifting content directly from those papers in an unethical way. Reading others' high quality papers is a good way to learn how to produce your own high quality paper.


A good hint might be to search for the phrase you intend to use:


I get several hundred hits to numerous unrelated sources, none that credit the phrase that I can see. I think you can consider this just a common English phrase in this context.

From an academic perspective, as you mention, it also has nothing to do with the ideas and concepts that are most important to credit others for.


Quotes and citations are required for research content, not standard phraseology and linguistic structures.

Consider the following hypothetical quote from Smith (2865):

The Rogerian school of art typified the creative output of the middle years of the post-crisis, pre-unification era of Free Outer Ruritania from 200 to 300 years before the Firestorm Apocalypse.

This is research content (the "beef" of a research paper), and needs a citation. For example, this might be an appropriate paraphrase:

Since Rogerian art predates the Firestorm Apocalypse by at least 200 years (Smith 2865), we can tell that....

Now, how would you paraphrase the following?

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Hard, isn't it? Each time you try, you likely lose some of the precision in the statement. For example, the paraphrase:

No conflicts of interest were declared by the authors.

loses some precision in that now it is unclear if the authors specifically denied a conflict of interest or simply failed to say whether one existed or not.

You could also try something looser, such as:

Since no conflicts of interest were declared by the authors (citation to an irrelevant paper in another field), is is apparent that....

Now we are just being silly.

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