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I'm writing part of my Computer Science PhD and I'd like to know whether it is generally acceptable to have a reference to a famous quotation by a famous person without citing a source. For example,

"Program testing can be used to show the presence of bugs, but never to show their absence!" - Edsger W. Dijkstra

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    The world of quoting is full of misattributing famous quotes, so I'd personally suggest it's a good practice to give a citation for those. This doesn't answer your (current) question of whether it's generally acceptable but generally acceptable isn't necessarily the best option. – JiK Aug 23 '17 at 17:18
  • Depends on university/department, better ask alumni or check older theses. – Mark Aug 23 '17 at 17:20
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    "Notes On Structured Programming" (EWD249), 1970. – JeffE Aug 23 '17 at 19:09
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But please don't decorate each chapter with a quote you took from a calendar. As JiK said, there are so many misattributions and misstatements around, you need to go to the source if you absolutely must use a quote. But as chapter decoration I find them silly. Okay, Knuth is allowed to do that, but until you reach the god-like status of Knuth, please refrain.

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  • I think Knuth used them before having reached the god-like status. Personally, I do like well-chosen and tasteful decorations. – Boris Bukh Aug 23 '17 at 23:34
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    Knuth is allowed to do that — But Knuth sources everything. – JeffE Aug 24 '17 at 3:02
  • I meant, Knuth is allowed to use quotes for every chapter, but it looks silly if everyone does it and additionally misattributes everything. Indeed, Knuth's quotations are properly sourced. – Debora Weber-Wulff Aug 25 '17 at 10:54
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    Knuth's (co-written) 1961 paper “Algol 60 Confidential” (written while he was a PhD student at Caltech, and only his sixth publication even counting the one in MAD Magazine) has a pair of quotes at the top. So he's been doing it before reaching any particularly exalted status. – ShreevatsaR Sep 1 '17 at 6:36

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