I'm a statistics student at the undergraduate level, writing an undergraduate thesis about genetics. I already have the objectives well defined and I will write the introduction lined with those objectives.

I found a text in a website with authors name and publication date that would be nice to put in my introduction. Is a bad thing start an introduction with a citation?

EDIT: Is a direct quote.

  • Perhaps this is tangential but monograph (which generally refers to a single-author book) can't be the right word for an undergraduate thesis (at least in AmE).
    – virmaior
    Aug 28, 2016 at 13:53
  • Do you mean literally the very first words? I had put a long quote from at the end of the first paragraph of my thesis and it was fine I think, but it wasn't the very first words, it was more the eye-catcher on the first page of Introduction.
    – yo'
    Aug 28, 2016 at 19:56
  • Are you quoting a website, or are you quoting a book which was also cited by this website? If the latter, you most certainly need to follow up and get the book and check that the quote exists, is in fact the exact wording you're using, and that you're comfortable with the work as your initial building block - it says a lot about what you're doing, particularly to people who have read it in full (have you?).
    – E.P.
    Aug 28, 2016 at 19:58
  • Also, compare the following two narratives: "I found this great quote in some website and I just decided to pop it into my thesis, and as my star starting lines no less", versus "I chased up this quote from some website, which led me to this great book which I read and I thought it was awesome, so I found the bit I liked best and I quoted it in my thesis". Spot the difference?
    – E.P.
    Aug 28, 2016 at 20:00

4 Answers 4


While I am not aware of any hard and fast rule against it, I would find it off-putting to read a scientific document that started its prose with a direct quote. There are just so many ways to start with one's own words that it feels lazy and lacking in self-confidence to me to use another's words for the first impression of a reader.

Note, however, that I am speaking of using a quotation as the first piece of one's prose, as distinct from the practice of putting a separated "thematic" quotation at the start of a document of chapter. I see this somewhat more often, and though I find it a bit "cute" in scientific work, I don't have a problem with it the way I would if somebody starts their prose with a quotation.


I generally am not crazy about starting anything with a direct quote unless it absolutely adds value. It's easy when you use this particular trope to just use a quote for the sake of using a quote, and often it comes off as cheesy. In the context of a scientific paper I would probably shy away from doing this, unless you have some sort of reason that you want to "lighten up" your content. Honestly, I really only have found it to be done tastefully with fiction.


It depends a lot on the purpose of the quote. If it is there to replace your own explanations and thoughts, then it is bad. However, a short quote from a respected source that emphasizes the importance or the difficulty of the problem discussed in the thesis can look way more convincing than any of your own blah-blah-blah in this respect, especially if you have something to say about the problem later that other people could not. In general, use your own words when speaking about the nitty-gritty of what you do, but refer to other people opinions, if you can, when you discuss the meta-issues like why it is worth doing, etc. In the first case, excessive quotations create an impression that you are just parroting somebody else's work, and in the second case absence of any appeal to the external opinion may make you look like if you are desperately trying to sell something no one else cares about, especially if you use a lot of standard buzzwords (another thing I would rather abstain from unless they are a part of a direct quote).


The introduction of any document should provide the readers the importance and necessity of this work. If the quote is relevant to the importance you can use it by a presentence of yourself. Overally speaking the direct quote in academics is not generally acceptable with an exception for pioneers of that field. You can use an implication of this qoute and write in your language with a citation to the original document.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .