Is it appropriate to put at the beginning of my PhD thesis a personal quote that very few people would understand ? Could it make my work seem not serious ?

More specifically, it would be lyrics from a song that reflects a personal problem , that my phd helped me to deal with eventually. There is no direct link with the actual content about my research. It just feels right to me to acknowledge what these 4 years of phd brought to my life, beyond pure scientific aspects. 99% of the people reading my thesis would not understand the meaning, and it may even sound quite cryptic for them.

  • 1
    (1) Can you clarify what you mean by "appropriate"? (2) Also, this sort of thing is going to vary greatly by discipline and school. (3) Litmus test: do you expect people (including yourself) to read your PhD in the future and how do you imagine they would react?
    – virmaior
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 9:02
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    Cryptic may go through; avoid "potentially offensive". Commented May 14, 2016 at 9:57
  • Why do such a thing? Why include something that nobody is likely to understand in the first place?
    – Ébe Isaac
    Commented May 14, 2016 at 13:22
  • Do you intend to use the quote as epigraph? Commented May 14, 2016 at 13:56

1 Answer 1


Yes, it is appropriate and harmless. At worst, it will be ignored, and at best, it will serve to remind readers of your thesis that you are human, and maybe that they are, too.

More generally, academia.se seems to have many questions that follow the template "Is it appropriate to do [insert completely innocuous but slightly nonconformist action that isn't mindlessly emulating the way everybody else in academia does something]?" The answer to such questions is generally Yes. Moreover, for what it's worth, I personally have a favorable view of people who are not afraid to do things in a slightly unconventional way, and I'm sure there are others who take the same view as me.

  • I added quotations to each chapter in my thesis, and got away with it. Many of the quotations were rather whimsical, and only vaguely related to the chapter that followed.
    – Simon B
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 15:58
  • @SimonB that's interesting. It might be helpful if you also mention what happened after you did that...
    – Dan Romik
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 18:13
  • Nothing really happened. The examiners didn't seem bothered by them.
    – Simon B
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 21:37

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