Me and my friend are arguing about the placement of an epigraph in our scientific report. I want the epigraph to be placed on the page before the table of contents, right above the middle of the page, italicized and with nothing else on that page. My friend wants the epigraph to be placed before the introduction to the report but after the introduction heading and before the introduction body, like the image shows (sorry about the Icelandic, I hope you understand the context).enter image description here

My reason for not putting the epigraph where he wants it is that we only have one epigraph, not one for each chapter so it makes more sense to put it on a separate page in the beginning. If we had an epigraph for each chapter then it would make more sense to place it like he wants to.

What do you think? Is there maybe another solution that we're not seeing?

  • I think you're right, if (as you say) there is an epigraph for each chapter. Otherwise, it'll lack consistency and aesthetically look incomplete. Would it be a trouble to just add one for each chapter that is missing one? (I'm keeping as a comment, because I personally don't know the rule - if any - for this).
    – K Johnson
    Commented Mar 18, 2018 at 23:13
  • @bumpy The intention was to have only this one epigraph, not for each chapter. But I agree, it lacks consistency if we have an epigraph for just one chapter, that's why I want to place it before the table of contents, so that the quote is the first thing that the reader sees (besides the title page). Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 0:12
  • You could also place the epigraph (if it's relevant) just as the image above shows, but on the same page as your synopsis/abstract. I'm assuming that comes before the table of contents, right? At least I've seen something like this in fiction (without a table of contents), an epigraph placed only in the prologue.
    – K Johnson
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 0:23

1 Answer 1


Your answer lies in what the convention is in your field.

You can check:

  • style guidelines (e.g. university, MLA, APA, etc.)
  • other papers in your field
  • your mentor, professor, or peers

You could argue for both possibilities. An epigraph on a separate page before the ToC may convey a sentiment that applies to the entire paper. An epigraph at the beginning of the introduction could also be used as a counterpoint.

Whether you should include an epigraph is debatable. Some scientists love it, others hate it, but the majority does not have a strong opinion.

From the introduction onwards it is preferred you write a scientific paper as dry as possible. That means de-contextualized and aesthetic content that is not elaborated upon should be avoided.

MLA guideline:

Used in many scientific articles. The epigraph as well as the long quotation require a 1 inch indentation.


APA guideline:

Used in social sciences. Dates play an important role. Quotations are included in the body.

Fourier (1822) stated that "heat, like gravity, penetrates every substance of the universe, its rays occupy all parts of space" (p. 1).

The epigraph is notated as a block quote. Usually placed before an other passage. Does not need to be included in the reference list.

Heat, like gravity, penetrates every substance of the universe,

its rays occupy all parts of space (Fourier, 1822, p. 1).

Promoter or university guideline:

Unconventional methods (?) but okayed by the supervisor or board of examiners. If it's okay by all your supervisors, that's the way to go, at least for that paper, because they will grade you. Highly recommended to ask your supervisors or mentors if available.


Before the abstract on a separate page:

The abstract is usually placed directly after the title page. It would be better to place the epigraph before the ToC instead. Couldn't find Fourier for this one, so I got the other famous physicist.


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