Require permission to cite sources

Quoting in the bachelor or master thesis

If you are writing a bachelor thesis, master thesis or seminar paper, you must present your results in a comprehensible manner. The statements must be verifiable. The so-called scientific apparatus, which consists of quotations, references and the bibliography, serves this purpose.

Quotations have a special meaning in science. Scientists usually rely on using the work and knowledge of others to build on their own new research. For example, in an introductory text of a scientific paper, quotations are used to indicate which aspects of the topic are already known and where there are still gaps in knowledge. The appropriation of foreign knowledge without mentioning the author is not only immoral as plagiarism, but can also have serious legal consequences.

If you reproduce someone else's statement, it is a quotation. The quote must be identifiable as such and you must state precisely where it came from. It must be clear what your own insights are and what you have adopted from others. This requires formally correct citations and references.

In addition to text quotations, there is usually also the inclusion of illustrations in the form of photos, diagrams, tables, circuit diagrams, etc., which clarify the facts described or are themselves part of the research work. For scientific works, the copyright law generally defines greater freedom in the use of sources. But here, too, it must be checked in any case whether the author's consent is required for representation in his own work. This applies in particular to the authors of dissertations, who are generally responsible for the published quotations themselves. The author is always responsible for the correct indication of the source and for obtaining permission to print.

The right to quote and the obligation to quote the source

Copyright protects the work of an author in a material and ideal way. It is limited by the regulations in § 44a ff. UrhG. This limits the rights of the author, because other people are permitted to use the work within the legal framework. The right to quote according to § 51 UrhG is one of the most important restrictions of copyright law. It describes the exceptional cases in which protected works or parts of works may be reproduced without the consent of the author. The prerequisite for the reproduction of third-party texts or images without permission is that they are justified by the purpose of the quotation. If the purpose of a quotation is to support one's own statement, the quotation is permissible. The § 63 UrhG clearly regulates the obligation to indicate the source. If a work or a part of it is reproduced according to the right to quote, the source must always be clearly stated. The right to quote applies most widely in academic works.

The number of quotations used should be proportionate to one's own intellectual performance. The extent to which copyrighted material can be used in one's own work without express permission depends, among other things. also depends on the scope of the quotation. You do not need to quote general or low-level realizations. As z. B. An electrical engineer does not ask any of you to back up Ohm's law with a source. A collection of formulas in the literature appendix would suffice.

Text quotes

These are probably the most common quotations. Basically, between Big quote and Small quote differentiated. These designations do not refer to the length of the cited part of a work, but to its relationship to the cited entire work. A short poem, when reproduced in full, is a large quote, while a longer text passage from a book is a small quote.

Small quotations may be included in your own independent work without permission. However, this means that the quoting work itself must be protectable in the sense of copyright law (e.g. sufficient level of creation). The quotation must serve as evidence or a basis for discussion in your own work; only then is the correct reference to the source sufficient. In contrast to large quotations, small quotations may also be taken from works that have not yet been published in "physical form", including lectures or broadcasts.

The use of large quotations without authorization is only permitted in scientific works, and then not always. The work cited in full or in large part must, however, have already been published and therefore be accessible to the public. Here, too, the purpose of the quotation is decisive. If it is essential for a scientific examination of a work to reproduce it in full, this is permitted without the permission of the author or user. In this case, the economic interests of the rights holder must be put on hold in the interests of gaining scientific knowledge. If a large quotation is only used to decorate your own work, approval is required.

When differentiating between small and large citations, the same criteria apply to sources from the World Wide Web as to print media. However, large quotations are not permitted in the scientific context of pure Internet publications without permission, because a website does not meet the criterion of appearing in "physical form", i.e. in the form of so-called copies, which is necessary for large quotations without permission. In addition, an Internet publication can change constantly - just think of Wikipedia, where practically anyone can change an entry at any time.

How to quote

The following basic rules must be observed when citing:

  1. The quoted work must remain unchanged (§ 62 UrhG)
  2. The source must be given (§ 63 UrhG)
  3. Without the quotation, a work that can be protected by copyright ("Schöpfungshöhe") must remain.
The direct quote primarily reproduces concise statements that summarize a thesis or reflect a scientific assessment in an original way. However, you should not overload your text with direct quotations, otherwise there is a risk that it will appear like any string of statements made by others, in which your own argumentation is no longer recognizable. Put the direct quote in double quotation marks:

"The toads were once the most beautiful, graceful animals in the world, more beautiful and graceful than the most fragile butterfly butterflies" [Hacke2000, p. 34].

Scientific citation must pay attention to grammatical and syntactic correctness - especially if only single words or partial sentences are included in the own sentence. An indication of the source, i.e. an exact indication of the place of occurrence, is indispensable when quoting directly. Omissions are indicated by three dots.

Many statements that one would like to adopt from others are often reproduced in one's own words, be it to summarize a longer paragraph or to insert the quote more stylistically into one's own text. Quoting statements that contain a mere truism should not be quoted at all. Write (to take up the example above) that Ohm's law R = U / I you do not need to support this statement because this information can be found in countless books.

[Hacke, 2000] also examines the way of life and the ability of cockroaches and earthworms to integrate.

The traceability of statements and the clear allocation of citations are always decisive for scientific citation. This is the only way to meet the requirements that are placed on a bachelor's or master's thesis. The bibliography is therefore indispensable. Instead of specifying the author and the year, the references can also be numbered and just insert the number in square brackets when quoting, which then refers to the bibliography. Here is the summary of the rules:

For embedding literal quotations applies:

  • Quotations are enclosed in quotation marks ("...")
  • Quotes within a quotation contain single quotes ('...')
  • Quotations must be used as is (with errors, emphasis, etc.)
  • necessary adjustments must not distort the meaning and must be marked
    • Omissions are marked with three dots in square brackets: [...]
    • Grammatical adjustments are put in square brackets
    • Additional information is included with (..., d. Author.)

The integration not literal quotations (Paragraphs) leaves more room for maneuver. Please note, however:

  • in indirect speech the subjunctive is used (König Eierbatz ​​claimed, the earth be a disk.)
  • the source is indicated with "s." (see) or "compare." (see) or the literature reference
  • Of course, even with this method, the meaning must not be distorted
So-called self-plagiarism is often overlooked. B. the use of the bachelor thesis in the master thesis without explicitly citing the bachelor thesis as the source.

Quoting from Wikipedia

In many cases, Wikipedia is not seen as a source, because any article can be changed there and you do not know to what extent the statements made there are correct. Even the requirement of Wikipedia does not help to include as many documents as possible in the article - the documents can also be wrong. Nevertheless, Wikipedia can be useful: At the end of many articles you will find literature references and individual references as possibly reliable primary sources.

To cite yourself you will find next to every Wikipedia page on the left-hand side under the item "Tools" a sub-item "Cite page". Clicking on it will take you to the Wikipedia citation guide. You then have several options:

  • The "simple quotation for copying" is suitable for footnotes to substantiate a fact mentioned in the text.
  • The "Bibliographical information for‘ Page title ’", on the other hand, is intended for the bibliography.
The link always points exactly to the Wikipedia article that you have viewed. Any changes made later will not be reflected in this version.

Image quotes

Illustrations (drawings, photos, etc.), like texts, are works within the meaning of copyright law and are therefore subject to the right to quote. Usually it is a large quote, as the reproduction of a section of an image is usually not permitted. Image quotations that are purely illustrative, such as "lead stories" in magazine articles, generally require approval. However, images that are indispensable for objective reasons and therefore fall under the right to quote are not necessarily freely usable. Not only is the content of an image protected, but other rights are also affected. For example, if a work of art is quoted in the picture, the right to quote restricts the artist's copyright. However, the photographer and, if applicable, the museum in whose collection the work of art is located also have rights to the image. So, willy-nilly, you have to backtrack and check the copyright chain in all directions. So z. For example, a work of art like the Mona Lisa may be free of rights (Leonardo has been dead for more than 70 years), but the photo of the Mona Lisa that you want to use may still be protected by copyright.

In the case of pictures in particular, it is not always possible to make a clear decision about the freedom to quote. This applies in particular to photos, for which the publication rights often lie with picture agencies and not with the photographer. It is therefore urgently advisable in any case to secure yourself before publishing third-party images. Either with the publishers or website operators from whose books or websites images are to be taken, or with VG Bild-Kunst in Bonn. It holds most of the image rights of living artists and photographers and offers tips on the legal background and practical procedures at

A special feature is the picture quotation in its own digital publication on the World Wide Web. The picture quotation could be taken from works that have already been published as a large quotation as described above. It is uncertain whether a print work may also be cited in an online publication if the author does not yet have his online rights (e.g. in the case of older works). Obtaining a permit is always useful here.

Of course, images and graphics must also be verified. As long as the number of images used is not too large, there is no need to include a list of figures at the end of the text. However, each caption should definitely contain the following elements:

  • Consecutive number (e.g. "Fig. 12", "Fig. 34")
  • Title, possibly subtitle
  • Explanation with legend (e.g. breakdown of abbreviations)
  • for photos and images: photographer or artist
  • Source (possibly with page number, year, place)
If you came across the picture on the Internet, enter the link and the date on which the page was accessed.

[Fig. 1] da Vinci, Leonardo. The Mona Lisa. 1506. Oil painting. Palais de Louvre, Paris.

Public domain sources

According to German law, copyright protection for works expires 70 years after the author's death. The works are then "in the public domain" and can be reproduced as required. Not only works or parts of works may then be incorporated into one's own work, but entire works can be reissued without permission in the form of reprints or digital publications. However, quotations from works in the public domain must also be provided with a source. There are also authors who voluntarily waive their right of exploitation. An example of this is Wikipedia, which maintains a license in the form of Creative "Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported / DEED" - unless the author of an article wishes otherwise. Simplified, this license (source: detailed rules_Creative_Commons_Attribution-ShareAlike_3.0_Unported/DEED :) allows the following:

  • the work or the content reproduce, distribute and make publicly available
  • Modifications and adaptations of the work or content

Under the following conditions:

  • Attribution - You must state the name of the author / rights holder in the manner specified by him.
  • Disclosure under the same conditions - If you edit, modify or otherwise use the licensed work or the licensed content as a basis for your own creativity, you may only pass on the newly created works or content under the use of license conditions that are identical to those of this license agreement, are comparable or compatible.

The following applies:

  • Waiver: Each of the aforementioned conditions can be waived, provided you receive the express consent of the rights holder.
  • Other rights: The license does not affect the following rights:
  • The legal barriers to copyright and other rights to private use;
  • The moral rights of the rights holder;
  • Rights of other people, either on the licensed object itself or with regard to its use, for example personal rights of persons depicted.
  • Note: In the event of distribution, you must inform others of all license terms that apply to this work. The easiest way is to include a link on in the appropriate place.

Good sources that are not in the public domain, but mostly free, are the press offices of companies. There you can get high-resolution photos that were specially made for the purpose of the publication. As a rule, printing in a thesis is free of charge - you only have to ask if the publication conditions are not already clearly formulated on the company website. Data sheets also fall under this category. These are published especially for developers, who are then allowed to quote from them when describing the circuit.


Instead of specifying the originator of the quote in brackets directly in the text, you can also place a footnote reference in the text and cite the originator of the quote in the footnote. Footnotes with sources can be kept short. Together with the bibliography, however, it must be possible to clearly identify the source. The footnotes begin with the same information under which the source can also be found in the bibliography: surname and, if applicable, first name of the author, short title and page number. In the case of direct quotations, the footnote begins with the last name of the quoted author. If the same work was already quoted in the previous footnote, the indication "ibid." for "ibid". If a source is reproduced accordingly, the footnote begins with "cf." for "compare" and the last name of the quoted author or the reference. Footnotes are whole sentences and end with a period.

The bibliography

The bibliography is usually at the end of a paper. It is sorted alphabetically by name. At the beginning of each paragraph, the surname and first name (not abbreviated) of the author are highlighted, followed by the title, subtitle, place of publication, edition and year of publication. If the work was published in a series, the series title and volume number can be inserted before the place of publication. If necessary, the publisher can be separated by a colon after the place of publication.

If a book comes from a single author (monograph), it is easy to cite the source. If the book has a publisher in addition to the author, he is indicated in front of the place of publication. If there are more than one author, only the first is named and followed by "u. ("and others") or "et al." ("et alii" or "et aliae") refer to the other. The edition can be separated by commas between the place of publication and the year. Information on extended or revised editions etc. should be listed exactly as it is printed in the book.

[GANS81] Grobian Gans, Die Ducks, Psychogram of a clan, Hamburg: rororo, 11th edition, 1981
[LOEF04] Henner Löffler, Wie ducks hausen, The Ducks from A to Z, Munich: C.H.Beck, 2004
[BAHN13] Patrick Bahners, Duckburg, The whole truth, Munich: C.H.Beck, 2013

Instead of the author's abbreviation, e.g. For example: [GANS81], the titles can also simply be numbered consecutively and only the number given in the literature reference, e. B .:
[1] Roger P. Wormwood, The World Before the Internet and Other Frightening Tales, Paris, Texas, 2009
[2] Carl Barks, Junior Woodchuck's Guidebook and Reservoir of Inexhaustible Knowledge, Duckburgh Press, 1952

In the case of articles from anthologies, the author and title as well as the anthology in which the article appears are given. For newspaper or magazine articles, the name of the author, title of the article, name of the newspaper, number and date of issue and page number are listed.

In the case of articles from encyclopedias, the article is sorted under the name of the author, if this is known. If an author is missing in the lexicon, the article is sorted under the title. The indication of the year of publication is followed by the page or column indication of the article.

As a rule, only websites can be cited in academic papers that originate from clearly identifiable authors. If information is also available in a print version, one should fall back on the printed version or at least check the reliability of the website quote in random samples. When citing the source, it is important to include as much information as possible (verifiability of the content). As a rule, the details of the author / provider, title, URL and date of access should suffice. Given the speed with which web pages appear and disappear again, it is advisable to save the cited web document permanently for further inquiries (possibly in the form of a CD / DVD that is attached to the work).


Copyright © Munich University of Applied Sciences, FK 04, Prof. Jürgen Plate
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