Using An Epigraph In A Dissertation: 5 Points To Consider

An epigraph is a stylistic device a writer uses – a quote, phrase, a poem, etc.—placed at the beginning of a work that serves as a kind of summary or preface that links the work to something greater in the literary canon. A writer usually intends to put his work within a context or to invite comparison with other literary works. Here are five points to consider when using an epigraph in a dissertation:

  1. Don’t use one just for the sake of it
  2. Many students think that adding an epigraph to a dissertation will, in some way, instantly improve upon the work’s status in the eyes of other academics. This is far from true. An epigraph is merely a stylistic touch. The content of the dissertation won’t be affected one way or another. Choose to include an epigraph because you feel one is appropriate.

  3. Be sure the epigraph is relatable
  4. Whether you choose to use a quote, a phrase, or a poem you must be sure that the epigraph is relatable to your work in some way. The reader shouldn’t feel as though he has been misled by whatever it is you have chosen to include. This can be a bit tricky, especially when you consider metaphorical language. So be sure you’ve given your selection plenty of thought before putting it in.

  5. Choose something that is uncommon
  6. When you choose an epigraph for your dissertation you want to be sure you don’t select something that has been overused or quite commonplace. This can be a bit tricky to find out, but it might be a good idea to find out through a quick online search. If your epigraph is clichéd then you might do more harm to your work than good.

  7. Be sure it’s accurately rewritten
  8. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to incorrectly write out an epigraph. Just think about how embarrassing it is to misquote somebody as a means to introduce your work. Don’t settle for finding a quote online (since a lot of this might be wrong). Be extra careful when selecting something originally written in another language; there may be multiple translations that have subtle but important differences.

  9. Be sure it’s academically appropriate
  10. Lastly, you want to make sure the epitaph you use is academically appropriate. This means that it should be something that would be recognized by other academics and not, say, a quote you heard from a friend or classmate. It must be something that is in-print and can be verified just as any of your academic resources would be.