How to Use Direct Quotations Correctly in Your Essays

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What is a direct quotation.

A direct quotation is when you quote an academic source or reference word for word in your essay, using quotation marks and a reference (an in-text reference or footnote) to indicate that the words belong to another author and where you found them.

When Should I Use Them?

It is preferable to write essays in your own words. The vast majority of a Distinction or High Distinction essay would be written entirely in your own words, with many references to the sources you have used.

You should only quote directly from a source when it is absolutely necessary to do so; for example, if you needed to point out a particular author’s opinion, or if something an author was saying was particularly controversial.

Otherwise, it is preferable for you to demonstrate that you have read, understood and assimilated the source into your own knowledge of the subject. The best way to do that is to present the ideas in your own words with a reference.

So remember, it is important that you only use direct quotations where necessary . Using excessive direct quotations, or quotations that are too long, can lead the marker (or reader) to believe that you are using quotations to avoid having to explain difficult concepts in your own words.

Introducing Direct Quotations

When you do use direct quotations, it is very important that you introduce them correctly. This means they must be incorporated into a sentence of your own).

This is an incorrect way to use a quotation:

A numerate person can understand how mathematics is used as a method of communication (Cockcroft, 1982). ‘Mathematics is a universal language that is communicated through all cultures’ (SACE Board, 2010).

This is the correct way. You can see that the quotation has been integrated into the student’s own sentence and introduced properly:

A numerate person can understand how mathematics is used as a method of communication (Cockcroft, 1982). The SACE Board (2010) states that ‘mathematics is a universal language that is communicated through all cultures’.

Using direct quotations correctly and sparingly will help you to improve your research skills and strengthen your essays.

If you need any further assistance, you can read more about our professional editing service . Capstone Editing is always here to help.

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How to Put a Quote in an Essay

Last Updated: November 28, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,610,145 times.

Using a direct quote in your essay is a great way to support your ideas with concrete evidence, which you need to support your thesis. To select a good quote , look for a passage that supports your argument and is open to analysis. Then, incorporate that quote into your essay, and make sure you properly cite it based on the style guide you’re using.

Sample Quotes

direct quotes in an essay

Incorporating a Short Quote

Step 1 Incorporate short direct quotes into a sentence.

  • For instance, let's say this is the quote you want to use: "The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold."
  • If you just type that sentence into your essay and put quotes around it, your reader will be disoriented. Instead, you could incorporate it into a sentence like this: "The imagery in the story mirrors what's happening in Lia's love life, as 'The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold.'"

Step 2 Use a lead-in...

  • "Critic Alex Li says, 'The frequent references to the color blue are used to suggest that the family is struggling to cope with the loss of their matriarch.'"
  • "According to McKinney’s research, 'Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.'"
  • "Based on several recent studies, people are more likely to sit on the park benches when they're shaded by trees."

Step 3 Put quotation marks...

  • You still need to use quotation marks even if you're only quoting a few words.
  • If you're in doubt, it's best to be cautious and use quotes.

Step 4 Provide commentary after...

  • For example, let’s say you used the quote, “According to McKinney’s research, ‘Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.’” Your commentary might read, “This shows that yoga can have a positive impact on people’s health, so incorporating it into the workplace can help improve employee health outcomes. Since yoga makes employees healthier, they’ll likely have reduced insurance costs.”

Step 5 Paraphrase

  • When you use a paraphrase, you still need to provide commentary that links the paraphrased material back to your thesis and ideas.

Using a Long Quote

Step 1 Introduce a long direct quote, then set it off in a block.

  • The reader will recognize that the material is a direct quote because it's set off from the rest of the text. That's why you don't need to use quotation marks. However, you will include your citation at the bottom.

Step 2 Write an introductory lead-in to tell the reader what the quote is about.

  • "In The Things They Carried , the items carried by soldiers in the Vietnam war are used to both characterize them and burden the readers with the weight they are carrying: The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water." (O'Brien 2)

Variation: When you're citing two or more paragraphs, you must use block quotes, even if the passage you want to quote is less than four lines long. You should indent the first line of each paragraph an extra quarter inch. Then, use ellipses (…) at the end of one paragraph to transition to the next.

Step 3 Indent the block quote by .5 inches (1.3 cm) from the left margin.

  • Your block quote will use the same spacing as the rest of your paper, which will likely be double-spacing.

Step 4 Use an ellipsis to omit a word or words from a direct quote.

  • For example, “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s the only one who’s begun to move on after their mother’s death” might become “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s … begun to move on after their mother’s death.”
  • Don’t eliminate words to change the meaning of the original text. For instance, it’s not appropriate to use an ellipsis to change “plants did not grow faster when exposed to poetry” to “plants did … grow faster when exposed to poetry.”

Step 5 Put brackets around words you need to add to a quote for clarification.

  • For example, let’s say you want to use the quote, “All of them experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.” This doesn’t tell the reader who you’re talking about. You could use brackets to say, “All of [the teachers in the study] experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”
  • However, if you know the study is talking about teachers, you couldn’t use brackets to say, “All of [society experiences] a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”

Step 6 Provide commentary after a quote to explain how it supports your ideas.

  • If you don't explain your quote well, then it's not helping your ideas. You can't expect the reader to connect the quote back to your thesis for you.

Step 7 Paraphrase the quote to condense it to 1 or 2 sentences, if you can.

  • For instance, you may prefer to use a long block quote to present a passage from a literary work that demonstrates the author's style. However, let's say you were using a journal article to provide a critic's perspective on an author's work. You may not need to directly quote an entire paragraph word-for-word to get their point across. Instead, use a paraphrase.

Tip: If you’re unsure about a quote, ask yourself, “Can I paraphrase this in more concise language and not lose any support for my argument?” If the answer is yes, a quote is not necessary.

Citing Your Quote

Step 1 Cite the author’s...

  • An MLA citation will look like this: (Lopez 24)
  • For sources with multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Anderson and Smith 55-56) or (Taylor, Gomez, and Austin 89)
  • If you use the author’s name in your lead-in to the quote, you just need to provide the year in parentheses: According to Luz Lopez, “the green grass symbolizes a fresh start for Lia (24).”

Step 2 Include the author’s...

  • An APA citation for a direct quote looks like this: (Ronan, 2019, p. 10)
  • If you’re citing multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Cruz, Hanks, and Simmons, 2019, p. 85)
  • If you incorporated the author’s name into your lead-in, you can just give the year and page number: Based on Ronan’s (2019, p. 10) analysis, “coffee breaks improve productivity.”

Step 3 Use the author’s last name, date, and page number for Chicago Style.

  • For instance, a Chicago Style citation will look like this: (Alexander 2019, 125)
  • If you’re quoting a source with multiple authors, separate them with the word “and:” (Pattinson, Stewart, and Green 2019, 175)
  • If you already incorporated the author’s name into your quote, then you can just provide the year and page number: According to Alexander, “the smell of roses increases feelings of happiness” (2019, 125).

Step 4 Prepare a Works...

  • For MLA, you'd cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. "A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in 'Her Darkest Sunshine.'" Journal of Stories , vol. 2, no. 5, 2019, p. 15-22. [17] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • In APA, you'd cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. (2019). A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in "Her Darkest Sunshine." Journal of Stories , 2(5), 15-22. [18] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • For Chicago Style, your article citation would look like this: Lopez, Luz. "A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in 'Her Darkest Sunshine.'" Journal of Stories 2 no. 4 (2019): 15-22. [19] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source

Selecting a Quote

Step 1 Select a quote that backs up the argument you’re making.

Tip: Quotes are most effective when the original language of the person or text you’re quoting is worth repeating word-for-word.

Step 2 Make sure the quote is something you can analyze.

  • If you’re struggling to explain the quote or link it back to your argument, then it’s likely not a good idea to include it in your essay.

Step 3 Avoid using too many direct quotes in your paper.

  • Paraphrases and summaries work just like a direct quote, except that you don’t need to put quotation marks around them because you’re using your own words to restate ideas. However, you still need to cite the sources you used.

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

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  • Always cite your quotes properly. If you don't, it is considered plagiarism. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Write a Reflection Paper

  • ↑ https://www.ursinus.edu/live/files/1160-integrating-quotespdf
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-incorporate-quotes-.html
  • ↑ https://helpfulprofessor.com/quotes/
  • ↑ https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/using-sources/quotations/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_quotations.html
  • ↑ https://guides.libraries.psu.edu/apaquickguide/intext
  • ↑ https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide/citation-guide-2.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_and_style_guide.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/reference_list_articles_in_periodicals.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/periodicals.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/quotations/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

Medical Disclaimer

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.

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To put a quote in an essay, incorporate it directly into a sentence if it's shorter than 4 typed lines. For example, you could write "According to researchers," and then insert the quote. If a quote is longer than 4 typed lines, set it off from the rest of the paragraph, and don't put quotes around it. After the quote, include an in-text citation so readers know where it's from. The right way to cite the quote will depend on whether you're using MLA, APA, or Chicago Style formatting. For more tips from our English co-author, like how to omit words from a quote, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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direct quotes in an essay

  • Quoting Directly

by jleemcga | Aug 18, 2023 | Resources for Students , Writing Resources

What is quoting?

A direct quotation (often referred to as “quotes”) is the exact language taken from source material. Direct quotations match the source material word-for-word and must be contained within quotation marks, usually introduced with a “says” verb or integrated into your own sentence structure.

When should I quote?

It’s best to directly quote when you’re referencing an idea or example in a text that would lose meaning or impact if you were to change the wording. For example, if there is a certain vocabulary that feels necessary to accurately capture the text’s meaning, you should directly quote it. Or, if the author writes the idea in a particularly striking way that would lose affect if you were to reword it, you should directly quote it. Directly quoting other sources in your paper allows you to:

  • Present especially compelling ideas in the author’s own language
  • Underscore key words or phrases relevant to your topic
  • Make more specific connections between your evidence and analysis by examining exact language from the text

Sketch image of young woman looking at pieces of paper with a concerned look on her face

  How do I directly quote?

To approach directly quoting a source, try the following steps:

  • Decide which quotations from the text are relevant, important, and/or helpful to your paper and why (writing notes for yourself about why you’re choosing these quotations will help you with developing your analysis for them later! 😊 It’s also helpful to note citation information as you go!)
  • Think about how you want to integrate your direct quotation into your writing— there’s a variety of ways to do this. You might use a classic TAG line, like “According to,” or you might bring quoted material into your own sentence structure. There are many ways to integrate quotations effectively, and it’s ideal to use variety to keep your writing fresh and interesting. For more guidance on how you can integrate direct quotations into your writing, view our handout on Integrating Direct Quotations Into Writing.
  • Be sure to use quotation marks around the exact passage you’re referencing from the text
  • Always cite at the end of the sentence containing the quoted material!

Examples of directly quoting

Here is an example of a writer directly quoting an excerpt of a passage from the source “Enter the Avatar: The Phenomenology of Prosthetic Telepresence in Computer Games” by Rune Klevjer in their essay about player participation and embodied experience in video games:

Klevjer addresses a tension that exists within the question of the avatar as either utilitarian or persona with the cursor analogy. According to Klevjer, the cursor analogy suggests that “the avatar is no more than a tool, a capacity for action, an instrument” that is often found in fighting games or franchises like Mario 64 (18).

Things to keep in mind when directly quoting

Some important things to remain mindful of while quoting in your assignments are:

  • Direct quotations should appear in your writing exactly as they do in the original source material— including capitalization, punctuation, and spelling
  • Remember to check if you’ve sandwiched your quoted material inside two quotation marks! It’s easy to forget to close the quotation when we’re in drafting mode, so it can be helpful to make this a part of your check list 😊
  • If you need to mark a misspelling or grammatical error in the original source material within your quotation, you can use [sic] beside the text to indicate you intentionally wrote it this way to match the source material. For example, if in the source material the author wrote, “The manuvers produced no results,” you can write: “The manuvers [sic] produced no results.”
  • Generally, it’s best to keep your quotations 1-2 lines at a time so that you don’t overwhelm your readers with a lot of quoted text. If your quotation is longer than 4 lines of text, you’ll need to use block quotation formatting
  • You can modify direct quotations as needed to omit irrelevant information (using ellipses) or clarify information by adding words (using square brackets). Your modifications should not change the original meaning of the author’s passage
  • Be judicious with your direct quotations! Your quotations should not be the star of your show; if your essay is a concert, you’re the headliner and your direct quotations are just your back-up singers; don’t let them outshine you— your readers will want to hear your voice the most throughout your paper 😊

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Practice in the Writing Center

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For more support and guidance on paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting, make an appointment with us here at the Writing Center! We’ll work with you on effectively integrating a variety of material into your writing and help you feel more confident pulling up a chair to the scholarly conversation 😊

For further reading:

  • Paraphrasing, Summarizing, and Quoting, from UNSW Sydney

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  • An Introduction to Paraphrasing, Summarizing, and Quoting
  • Summarizing
  • Paraphrasing
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Writing about others works: using direct quotations

Referencing workshop with students taking notes

USING OTHERS' WORK

Direct quotations can support your arguments and back up your work, but you need to show who said them

You'll use direct quotes to support your arguments throughout your degree. Learn how to reference your sources properly and show who said what to save you time and stress later on.

Using direct quotes in your writing improves your work and shows evidence of research and ideas in your assessments. Here, we explore how to use different quotes in your assessments. 

What is the difference between direct quotes, paraphrasing, citing and referencing?

You'll need quoting, paraphrasing, citing and referencing to use work produced by other people in your assignments and support or challenge your arguments. You'll use a combination of these steps in your studies so it's important to understand the differences between them.

These phrases mean: 

  • Quoting : copying the exact words of the original text, using quotation marks and the author's name, for example, when taken from a book or an article on a reading list.
  • Paraphrasing : rephrasing and shortening the original text into your own words without using quotation marks, then writing the author’s surname, year of publication.
  • Citing : writing the author’s surname, year of publication and, for direct quotations, page number to show where you found your direct quotation or paraphrased information.
  • Referencing : refers to publications included in the list of references at the end.

When to use direct quotes

There are various reasons to use direct quotations in academic writing. You'll usually use them as an example of ideas in your assignment, but exactly how you use them varies depending on your discipline. History or Sociology students use quotes differently to Biology or Computing students, for example. You should consult your course handbook, speak to your tutors and learn from your previous assignment feedback to explore how direct quotations are used on your course. Reading around your subject will also help you understand how academics in your field write. 

Direct quotes are useful for defining or describing specific concepts, whereas paraphrasing or summarising information from other sources shows that you understand the content and general idea. Try to summarise sources in most of your work and use direct quotes when they'll have a strong impact. Make it clear to the reader that you understand the quote and its context, and why you've used a quote instead of paraphrasing.

Using quotes properly will support your points and improve your assignments. Use quotes that back up your argument rather than quotes that 'look good' or sound impressive. Make sure you understand what a quote is saying in its context and explain its meaning in your work. Using quotes out of context or misinterpreting them to support your point won't improve your marks. 

Plan your work, its structure and the key points and then choose which quotes to include. Choosing quotes beforehand means you're more likely to let your quotes shape your writing as you try to link one quote to another. Trying to link unrelated ideas because they sound good in isolation won't help you draw accurate conclusions, and could negatively impact your assessment. 

Using direct quotations

You'll often use direct quotes in the middle of a paragraph. Use double quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quote, use the exact words from the original text and show your source, or your work being could be considered as plagiarism. For example: 

According to Gross it is ( open direct quotation marks ) "not only the vocabulary of a language that determines how and what we think and perceive, but also the grammar."( close direct quotation marks ) (1996, p. 317).  

Quotes must sit logically in your writing and make sense. Your marker shouldn't feel like the quote stands out. Consider commenting on the quotation by discussing its meaning or adding more information to it if you need to. For example:  

But it is not only the vocabulary of a language that determines how and what we think and perceive, but also the grammar. In the Hopi language, no distinction is made between past, present and future; it is a ( open direct quotation marks ) "timeless language" ( close direct quotation marks ) (Gross, 1996, p. 324) , compared with English. In European languages, time is treated as an objective entity, as if it were a ruler with equal spaces or intervals marked off. There is a clear demarcation between past, present and future corresponding to three separate sections of a ruler.

Short quotes

Include short quotations of less than three lines in your main text. Use quotation marks to separate the quote from your own writing. This could look like: 

Furthermore, it is ( open direct quotation marks ) "not only the vocabulary of a language that determines how and what we think and perceive but also the grammar" ( close direct quotation marks ) (Gross, 1996, p. 317).

Longer quotations

Separate direct quotations that are more than three lines from your text by leaving a line space above and below the quote and indenting it. These quotes should be single line spaced (unlike the rest of your text, which is probably double or 1.5 line spaced). Indented quotes don't need quotation marks. This could look like:

Writing about Hopi, a native American language, Gross writes:

In the Hopi language, no distinction is made between the past, present and future; it is a timeless language’ compared with English, although it does recognise duration, i.e., how long an event lasts. In European languages, time is treated as an objective entity (Gross, 1996, p. 317).

(end of indent)

The distinction drawn between the languages and their treatment of time is interesting and relevant to the argument because...

Omitting parts of a quotation

Use an ellipsis (three dots) to omit or remove parts of a quote and show where you've removed text. Don't change the meaning of the quote when you do this. For example:  

Gross (1996, p.137) points out that in the language it is ( open direct quotation marks ) "not only in the vocabulary…( dot dot dot ), but also the grammar" ( close direct quotation marks ) that influences how and what we understand.

Clarifying a quotation

You can add words to a quote in square brackets to make its meaning clearer. This is known as interpolation. For example: 

Gross emphasises the contrast: ( open the direct quotation marks ) "In the Hopi language, no distinction is made between past, present and future ( open square brackets ) [whereas] ( close square brackets ) in European languages …( dot dot dot ) there is a clear demarcation between ( open square brackets ) [them] ( close square brackets )."( close direct quotation marks ) (Gross, 1996, p. 317).

Gross, R. (1996). Psychology: The science of mind and behaviour (3rd ed.). Hodder & Stoughton

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. This handout will help you decide when and how to quote like a pro.

When should I quote?

Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have probably been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). And quotations are only one type of evidence: well-balanced papers may also make use of paraphrases, data, and statistics. The types of evidence you use will depend in part on the conventions of the discipline or audience for which you are writing. For example, papers analyzing literature may rely heavily on direct quotations of the text, while papers in the social sciences may have more paraphrasing, data, and statistics than quotations.

Discussing specific arguments or ideas

Sometimes, in order to have a clear, accurate discussion of the ideas of others, you need to quote those ideas word for word. Suppose you want to challenge the following statement made by John Doe, a well-known historian:

“At the beginning of World War Two, almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly.”

If it is especially important that you formulate a counterargument to this claim, then you might wish to quote the part of the statement that you find questionable and establish a dialogue between yourself and John Doe:

Historian John Doe has argued that in 1941 “almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly” (Doe 223). Yet during the first six months of U.S. involvement, the wives and mothers of soldiers often noted in their diaries their fear that the war would drag on for years.

Giving added emphasis to a particularly authoritative source on your topic.

There will be times when you want to highlight the words of a particularly important and authoritative source on your topic. For example, suppose you were writing an essay about the differences between the lives of male and female slaves in the U.S. South. One of your most provocative sources is a narrative written by a former slave, Harriet Jacobs. It would then be appropriate to quote some of Jacobs’s words:

Harriet Jacobs, a former slave from North Carolina, published an autobiographical slave narrative in 1861. She exposed the hardships of both male and female slaves but ultimately concluded that “slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.”

In this particular example, Jacobs is providing a crucial first-hand perspective on slavery. Thus, her words deserve more exposure than a paraphrase could provide.

Jacobs is quoted in Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

Analyzing how others use language.

This scenario is probably most common in literature and linguistics courses, but you might also find yourself writing about the use of language in history and social science classes. If the use of language is your primary topic, then you will obviously need to quote users of that language.

Examples of topics that might require the frequent use of quotations include:

Southern colloquial expressions in William Faulkner’s Light in August

Ms. and the creation of a language of female empowerment

A comparison of three British poets and their use of rhyme

Spicing up your prose.

In order to lend variety to your prose, you may wish to quote a source with particularly vivid language. All quotations, however, must closely relate to your topic and arguments. Do not insert a quotation solely for its literary merits.

One example of a quotation that adds flair:

President Calvin Coolidge’s tendency to fall asleep became legendary. As H. L. Mencken commented in the American Mercury in 1933, “Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”

How do I set up and follow up a quotation?

Once you’ve carefully selected the quotations that you want to use, your next job is to weave those quotations into your text. The words that precede and follow a quotation are just as important as the quotation itself. You can think of each quote as the filling in a sandwich: it may be tasty on its own, but it’s messy to eat without some bread on either side of it. Your words can serve as the “bread” that helps readers digest each quote easily. Below are four guidelines for setting up and following up quotations.

In illustrating these four steps, we’ll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quotation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

1. Provide context for each quotation.

Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing context for our above example, you might write:

When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression.

2. Attribute each quotation to its source.

Tell your reader who is speaking. Here is a good test: try reading your text aloud. Could your reader determine without looking at your paper where your quotations begin? If not, you need to attribute the quote more noticeably.

Avoid getting into the “he/she said” attribution rut! There are many other ways to attribute quotes besides this construction. Here are a few alternative verbs, usually followed by “that”:

Different reporting verbs are preferred by different disciplines, so pay special attention to these in your disciplinary reading. If you’re unfamiliar with the meanings of any of these words or others you find in your reading, consult a dictionary before using them.

3. Explain the significance of the quotation.

Once you’ve inserted your quotation, along with its context and attribution, don’t stop! Your reader still needs your assessment of why the quotation holds significance for your paper. Using our Roosevelt example, if you were writing a paper on the first one-hundred days of FDR’s administration, you might follow the quotation by linking it to that topic:

With that message of hope and confidence, the new president set the stage for his next one-hundred days in office and helped restore the faith of the American people in their government.

4. Provide a citation for the quotation.

All quotations, just like all paraphrases, require a formal citation. For more details about particular citation formats, see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . In general, you should remember one rule of thumb: Place the parenthetical reference or footnote/endnote number after—not within—the closed quotation mark.

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers, 11).

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”1

How do I embed a quotation into a sentence?

In general, avoid leaving quotes as sentences unto themselves. Even if you have provided some context for the quote, a quote standing alone can disrupt your flow.  Take a look at this example:

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

Standing by itself, the quote’s connection to the preceding sentence is unclear. There are several ways to incorporate a quote more smoothly:

Lead into the quote with a colon.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression: “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

The colon announces that a quote will follow to provide evidence for the sentence’s claim.

Introduce or conclude the quote by attributing it to the speaker. If your attribution precedes the quote, you will need to use a comma after the verb.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. He states, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

When faced with a twelve-foot mountain troll, Ron gathers his courage, shouting, “Wingardium Leviosa!” (Rowling, p. 176).

The Pirate King sees an element of regality in their impoverished and dishonest life. “It is, it is a glorious thing/To be a pirate king,” he declares (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

Interrupt the quote with an attribution to the speaker. Again, you will need to use a comma after the verb, as well as a comma leading into the attribution.

“There is nothing either good or bad,” Hamlet argues, “but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet 2.2).

“And death shall be no more,” Donne writes, “Death thou shalt die” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Dividing the quote may highlight a particular nuance of the quote’s meaning. In the first example, the division calls attention to the two parts of Hamlet’s claim. The first phrase states that nothing is inherently good or bad; the second phrase suggests that our perspective causes things to become good or bad. In the second example, the isolation of “Death thou shalt die” at the end of the sentence draws a reader’s attention to that phrase in particular. As you decide whether or not you want to break up a quote, you should consider the shift in emphasis that the division might create.

Use the words of the quote grammatically within your own sentence.

When Hamlet tells Rosencrantz that he “could be bounded in a nutshell and count [him]self a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2), he implies that thwarted ambition did not cause his depression.

Ultimately, death holds no power over Donne since in the afterlife, “death shall be no more” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Note that when you use “that” after the verb that introduces the quote, you no longer need a comma.

The Pirate King argues that “it is, it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king” (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

How much should I quote?

As few words as possible. Remember, your paper should primarily contain your own words, so quote only the most pithy and memorable parts of sources. Here are guidelines for selecting quoted material judiciously:

Excerpt fragments.

Sometimes, you should quote short fragments, rather than whole sentences. Suppose you interviewed Jane Doe about her reaction to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. She commented:

“I couldn’t believe it. It was just unreal and so sad. It was just unbelievable. I had never experienced such denial. I don’t know why I felt so strongly. Perhaps it was because JFK was more to me than a president. He represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

You could quote all of Jane’s comments, but her first three sentences are fairly redundant. You might instead want to quote Jane when she arrives at the ultimate reason for her strong emotions:

Jane Doe grappled with grief and disbelief. She had viewed JFK, not just as a national figurehead, but as someone who “represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

Excerpt those fragments carefully!

Quoting the words of others carries a big responsibility. Misquoting misrepresents the ideas of others. Here’s a classic example of a misquote:

John Adams has often been quoted as having said: “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.”

John Adams did, in fact, write the above words. But if you see those words in context, the meaning changes entirely. Here’s the rest of the quotation:

Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell.

As you can see from this example, context matters!

This example is from Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (Oxford University Press, 1989).

Use block quotations sparingly.

There may be times when you need to quote long passages. However, you should use block quotations only when you fear that omitting any words will destroy the integrity of the passage. If that passage exceeds four lines (some sources say five), then set it off as a block quotation.

Be sure you are handling block quotes correctly in papers for different academic disciplines–check the index of the citation style guide you are using. Here are a few general tips for setting off your block quotations:

  • Set up a block quotation with your own words followed by a colon.
  • Indent. You normally indent 4-5 spaces for the start of a paragraph. When setting up a block quotation, indent the entire paragraph once from the left-hand margin.
  • Single space or double space within the block quotation, depending on the style guidelines of your discipline (MLA, CSE, APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Do not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of the block quote—the indentation is what indicates that it’s a quote.
  • Place parenthetical citation according to your style guide (usually after the period following the last sentence of the quote).
  • Follow up a block quotation with your own words.

So, using the above example from John Adams, here’s how you might include a block quotation:

After reading several doctrinally rigid tracts, John Adams recalled the zealous ranting of his former teacher, Joseph Cleverly, and minister, Lemuel Bryant. He expressed his ambivalence toward religion in an 1817 letter to Thomas Jefferson:

Adams clearly appreciated religion, even if he often questioned its promotion.

How do I combine quotation marks with other punctuation marks?

It can be confusing when you start combining quotation marks with other punctuation marks. You should consult a style manual for complicated situations, but the following two rules apply to most cases:

Keep periods and commas within quotation marks.

So, for example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.”

In the above example, both the comma and period were enclosed in the quotation marks. The main exception to this rule involves the use of internal citations, which always precede the last period of the sentence. For example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries” (Poe 167).

Note, however, that the period remains inside the quotation marks when your citation style involves superscript footnotes or endnotes. For example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.” 2

Place all other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks) outside the quotation marks, except when they were part of the original quotation.

Take a look at the following examples:

I couldn’t believe it when my friend passed me a note in the cafe saying the management “started charging $15 per hour for parking”!

The coach yelled, “Run!”

In the first example, the author placed the exclamation point outside the quotation mark because she added it herself to emphasize the outrageous nature of the parking price change. The original note had not included an exclamation mark. In the second example, the exclamation mark remains within the quotation mark because it is indicating the excited tone in which the coach yelled the command. Thus, the exclamation mark is considered to be part of the original quotation.

How do I indicate quotations within quotations?

If you are quoting a passage that contains a quotation, then you use single quotation marks for the internal quotation. Quite rarely, you quote a passage that has a quotation within a quotation. In that rare instance, you would use double quotation marks for the second internal quotation.

Here’s an example of a quotation within a quotation:

In “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “‘But the Emperor has nothing on at all!’ cried a little child.”

Remember to consult your style guide to determine how to properly cite a quote within a quote.

When do I use those three dots ( . . . )?

Whenever you want to leave out material from within a quotation, you need to use an ellipsis, which is a series of three periods, each of which should be preceded and followed by a space. So, an ellipsis in this sentence would look like . . . this. There are a few rules to follow when using ellipses:

Be sure that you don’t fundamentally change the meaning of the quotation by omitting material.

Take a look at the following example:

“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus and serves the entire UNC community.”

“The Writing Center . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

The reader’s understanding of the Writing Center’s mission to serve the UNC community is not affected by omitting the information about its location.

Do not use ellipses at the beginning or ending of quotations, unless it’s important for the reader to know that the quotation was truncated.

For example, using the above example, you would NOT need an ellipsis in either of these situations:

“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus . . .”

The Writing Center ” . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

Use punctuation marks in combination with ellipses when removing material from the end of sentences or clauses.

For example, if you take material from the end of a sentence, keep the period in as usual.

“The boys ran to school, forgetting their lunches and books. Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

“The boys ran to school. . . . Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

Likewise, if you excerpt material at the end of clause that ends in a comma, retain the comma.

“The red car came to a screeching halt that was heard by nearby pedestrians, but no one was hurt.”

“The red car came to a screeching halt . . . , but no one was hurt.”

Is it ever okay to insert my own words or change words in a quotation?

Sometimes it is necessary for clarity and flow to alter a word or words within a quotation. You should make such changes rarely. In order to alert your reader to the changes you’ve made, you should always bracket the altered words. Here are a few examples of situations when you might need brackets:

Changing verb tense or pronouns in order to be consistent with the rest of the sentence.

Suppose you were quoting a woman who, when asked about her experiences immigrating to the United States, commented “nobody understood me.” You might write:

Esther Hansen felt that when she came to the United States “nobody understood [her].”

In the above example, you’ve changed “me” to “her” in order to keep the entire passage in third person. However, you could avoid the need for this change by simply rephrasing:

“Nobody understood me,” recalled Danish immigrant Esther Hansen.

Including supplemental information that your reader needs in order to understand the quotation.

For example, if you were quoting someone’s nickname, you might want to let your reader know the full name of that person in brackets.

“The principal of the school told Billy [William Smith] that his contract would be terminated.”

Similarly, if a quotation referenced an event with which the reader might be unfamiliar, you could identify that event in brackets.

“We completely revised our political strategies after the strike [of 1934].”

Indicating the use of nonstandard grammar or spelling.

In rare situations, you may quote from a text that has nonstandard grammar, spelling, or word choice. In such cases, you may want to insert [sic], which means “thus” or “so” in Latin. Using [sic] alerts your reader to the fact that this nonstandard language is not the result of a typo on your part. Always italicize “sic” and enclose it in brackets. There is no need to put a period at the end. Here’s an example of when you might use [sic]:

Twelve-year-old Betsy Smith wrote in her diary, “Father is afraid that he will be guilty of beach [sic] of contract.”

Here [sic] indicates that the original author wrote “beach of contract,” not breach of contract, which is the accepted terminology.

Do not overuse brackets!

For example, it is not necessary to bracket capitalization changes that you make at the beginning of sentences. For example, suppose you were going to use part of this quotation:

“The colors scintillated curiously over a hard carapace, and the beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello.”

If you wanted to begin a sentence with an excerpt from the middle of this quotation, there would be no need to bracket your capitalization changes.

“The beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.

Not: “[T]he beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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APA 7th referencing style

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What is a direct quotation?

Format of a direct quotation in-text reference, placement of a direct quotation in-text reference, quoting audiovisual works, works without a page number.

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A direct quotation reproduces word-for-word material taken directly from another author’s work, or from your own previously published work.

If the quotation is fewer than 40 words , incorporate it into your paragraph and enclose it in double quotation marks. 

David Copperfield starts with "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show" (Dickens, 1869, p. 1).

If the quotation comprises 40 or more words , include it in an indented, freestanding block of text, without quotation marks. Make it double spaced .

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To beginmy life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously. (Dickens, 1896, p. 1)

  • Include the author, year, and specific page number for that quotation.
  • For material without page numbers, give the paragraph number or a time stamp.
  • Include a complete reference in the reference list.

(Smith, 2003, p. 105)

(Brown, 1999, pp. 49-50)

Smith (2003) has argued that "......" (p. 105)

As Brown (1999) found "......" (pp. 49-50) 

(Anderson, 2019, 2:17)

Anderson (2019) noted that "...." (2:17)

Direct quotes that are less than 40 words

Parenthetical reference.

  • Can be added either directly after the quote or at the end of the sentence.
  • Ensure it is the same sentence as the quote.

Mindfulness has a range of meanings as it "has become a trend word conveying a diversity of understandings dependent on context" (Crane, 2017, p. 586).

Mindfulness has a range of meanings as it "has become a trend word conveying a diversity of understandings dependent on context" (Crane, 2017, p. 586) and can encompass...

Narrative reference

  • Add the author in the sentence, followed by the year in brackets. Include the page number in brackets after the quote.

As Crane (2017) said, "Mindfulness has become a trend word conveying a diversity of understandings dependent on context" (p. 586).

As Crane (2017) said, "Mindfulness has become a trend word conveying a diversity of understandings dependent on context" (p. 586) and can encompass....

Quotes with more than 40 words (block quotes)

  • Include at the end of the quote.

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously. (Dickens, 1896, p. 1)

  • Include the author last name in the sentence, followed by the year in brackets before the block quote.
  • Add the page number in brackets at the end of the block quote.

As Dickens (1896) famously began "David Copperfield":

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously. (p. 1)

  • Add a time stamp in place of a page number when quoting from audiovisual works such as videos, songs, TV shows.

(Yates, 2019, 1:14)

(Henderson, 2017, 2:30:14)

For works without a page number, you can add:-

  • paragraph number (manually count if not listed) eg. (Kennedy, 2019, para.8)
  • heading or section name eg. (Harris, 2018, Behaviour Therapy section)
  • act, scene and line(s) for plays eg. (Wilde, 1895/1997, 1.1.6-8) (means Act 1.Scene 1.Line(s) 6-8)
  • canonically numbered sections for religious or classical works eg. (Genesis 15:6) (include book, chapter, verse, line or canto in place of page number)
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  • How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

Published on 15 April 2022 by Shona McCombes and Jack Caulfield. Revised on 3 September 2022.

Quoting means copying a passage of someone else’s words and crediting the source. To quote a source, you must ensure:

  • The quoted text is enclosed in quotation marks (usually single quotation marks in UK English, though double is acceptable as long as you’re consistent) or formatted as a block quote
  • The original author is correctly cited
  • The text is identical to the original

The exact format of a quote depends on its length and on which citation style you are using. Quoting and citing correctly is essential to avoid plagiarism , which is easy to detect with a good plagiarism checker .

How to Quote

Table of contents

How to cite a quote in harvard and apa style, introducing quotes, quotes within quotes, shortening or altering a quote, block quotes, when should i use quotes, frequently asked questions about quoting sources.

Every time you quote, you must cite the source correctly . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style you’re using.

Citing a quote in Harvard style

When you include a quote in Harvard style, you must add a Harvard in-text citation giving the author’s last name, the year of publication, and a page number if available. Any full stop or comma appears after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

Citations can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in brackets after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) . Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510) .

Complete guide to Harvard style

Citing a quote in APA Style

To cite a direct quote in APA , you must include the author’s last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use ‘p.’; if it spans a page range, use ‘pp.’

An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in parentheses after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

Punctuation marks such as full stops and commas are placed after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) .
  • Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510) .

Complete guide to APA

Make sure you integrate quotes properly into your text by introducing them in your own words, showing the reader why you’re including the quote and providing any context necessary to understand it.  Don’t  present quotations as stand-alone sentences.

There are three main strategies you can use to introduce quotes in a grammatically correct way:

  • Add an introductory sentence
  • Use an introductory signal phrase
  • Integrate the quote into your own sentence

The following examples use APA Style citations, but these strategies can be used in all styles.

Introductory sentence

Introduce the quote with a full sentence ending in a colon . Don’t use a colon if the text before the quote isn’t a full sentence.

If you name the author in your sentence, you may use present-tense verbs, such as “states’, ‘argues’, ‘explains’, ‘writes’, or ‘reports’, to describe the content of the quote.

  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Introductory signal phrase

You can also use a signal phrase that mentions the author or source but doesn’t form a full sentence. In this case, you follow the phrase with a comma instead of a colon.

  • According to a recent poll, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • As Levring (2018) explains, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Integrated into your own sentence

To quote a phrase that doesn’t form a full sentence, you can also integrate it as part of your sentence, without any extra punctuation.

  • A recent poll suggests that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (p. 3).

When you quote text that itself contains another quote, this is called a nested quotation or a quote within a quote. It may occur, for example, when quoting dialogue from a novel.

To distinguish this quote from the surrounding quote, you enclose it in double (instead of single) quotation marks (even if this involves changing the punctuation from the original text). Make sure to close both sets of quotation marks at the appropriate moments.

Note that if you only quote the nested quotation itself, and not the surrounding text, you can just use single quotation marks.

  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘ ‘ Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, ‘ he told me, ‘ just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had ‘ ‘ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘”Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had “  (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”’ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway begins by quoting his father’s invocation to ‘remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’ (Fitzgerald 1).

Note:  When the quoted text in the source comes from another source, it’s best to just find that original source in order to quote it directly. If you can’t find the original source, you can instead cite it indirectly .

Often, incorporating a quote smoothly into your text requires you to make some changes to the original text. It’s fine to do this, as long as you clearly mark the changes you’ve made to the quote.

Shortening a quote

If some parts of a passage are redundant or irrelevant, you can shorten the quote by removing words, phrases, or sentences and replacing them with an ellipsis (…). Put a space before and after the ellipsis.

Be careful that removing the words doesn’t change the meaning. The ellipsis indicates that some text has been removed, but the shortened quote should still accurately represent the author’s point.

Altering a quote

You can add or replace words in a quote when necessary. This might be because the original text doesn’t fit grammatically with your sentence (e.g., it’s in a different tense), or because extra information is needed to clarify the quote’s meaning.

Use brackets to distinguish words that you have added from words that were present in the original text.

The Latin term ‘ sic ‘ is used to indicate a (factual or grammatical) mistake in a quotation. It shows the reader that the mistake is from the quoted material, not a typo of your own.

In some cases, it can be useful to italicise part of a quotation to add emphasis, showing the reader that this is the key part to pay attention to. Use the phrase ’emphasis added’ to show that the italics were not part of the original text.

You usually don’t need to use brackets to indicate minor changes to punctuation or capitalisation made to ensure the quote fits the style of your text.

If you quote more than a few lines from a source, you must format it as a block quote . Instead of using quotation marks, you set the quote on a new line and indent it so that it forms a separate block of text.

Block quotes are cited just like regular quotes, except that if the quote ends with a full stop, the citation appears after the full stop.

To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more. (16)

Avoid relying too heavily on quotes in academic writing . To integrate a source , it’s often best to paraphrase , which means putting the passage into your own words. This helps you integrate information smoothly and keeps your own voice dominant.

However, there are some situations in which quotes are more appropriate.

When focusing on language

If you want to comment on how the author uses language (for example, in literary analysis ), it’s necessary to quote so that the reader can see the exact passage you are referring to.

When giving evidence

To convince the reader of your argument, interpretation or position on a topic, it’s often helpful to include quotes that support your point. Quotes from primary sources (for example, interview transcripts or historical documents) are especially credible as evidence.

When presenting an author’s position or definition

When you’re referring to secondary sources such as scholarly books and journal articles, try to put others’ ideas in your own words when possible.

But if a passage does a great job at expressing, explaining, or defining something, and it would be very difficult to paraphrase without changing the meaning or losing the weakening the idea’s impact, it’s worth quoting directly.

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: ‘This is a quote’ (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarises other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA  recommends retaining the citations as part of the quote:

  • Smith states that ‘the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus’ (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase ‘as cited in’ in your citation.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate ‘block’ of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

APA uses block quotes for quotes that are 40 words or longer.

Cite this Scribbr article

If you want to cite this source, you can copy and paste the citation or click the ‘Cite this Scribbr article’ button to automatically add the citation to our free Reference Generator.

McCombes, S. & Caulfield, J. (2022, September 03). How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA. Scribbr. Retrieved 27 December 2023, from https://www.scribbr.co.uk/working-sources/quoting/

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In-Text Citations: The Basics

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Welcome to the Purdue OWL

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Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Note:  This page reflects the latest version of the APA Publication Manual (i.e., APA 7), which released in October 2019. The equivalent resource for the older APA 6 style  can be found here .

Reference citations in text are covered on pages 261-268 of the Publication Manual. What follows are some general guidelines for referring to the works of others in your essay.

Note:  On pages 117-118, the Publication Manual suggests that authors of research papers should use the past tense or present perfect tense for signal phrases that occur in the literature review and procedure descriptions (for example, Jones (1998)  found  or Jones (1998)  has found ...). Contexts other than traditionally-structured research writing may permit the simple present tense (for example, Jones (1998)  finds ).

APA Citation Basics

When using APA format, follow the author-date method of in-text citation. This means that the author's last name and the year of publication for the source should appear in the text, like, for example, (Jones, 1998). One complete reference for each source should appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

If you are referring to an idea from another work but  NOT  directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference.

On the other hand, if you are directly quoting or borrowing from another work, you should include the page number at the end of the parenthetical citation. Use the abbreviation “p.” (for one page) or “pp.” (for multiple pages) before listing the page number(s). Use an en dash for page ranges. For example, you might write (Jones, 1998, p. 199) or (Jones, 1998, pp. 199–201). This information is reiterated below.

Regardless of how they are referenced, all sources that are cited in the text must appear in the reference list at the end of the paper.

In-text citation capitalization, quotes, and italics/underlining

  • Always capitalize proper nouns, including author names and initials: D. Jones.
  • If you refer to the title of a source within your paper, capitalize all words that are four letters long or greater within the title of a source:  Permanence and Change . Exceptions apply to short words that are verbs, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and adverbs:  Writing New Media ,  There Is Nothing Left to Lose .

( Note:  in your References list, only the first word of a title will be capitalized:  Writing new media .)

  • When capitalizing titles, capitalize both words in a hyphenated compound word:  Natural-Born Cyborgs .
  • Capitalize the first word after a dash or colon: "Defining Film Rhetoric: The Case of Hitchcock's  Vertigo ."
  • If the title of the work is italicized in your reference list, italicize it and use title case capitalization in the text:  The Closing of the American Mind ;  The Wizard of Oz ;  Friends .
  • If the title of the work is not italicized in your reference list, use double quotation marks and title case capitalization (even though the reference list uses sentence case): "Multimedia Narration: Constructing Possible Worlds;" "The One Where Chandler Can't Cry."

Short quotations

If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference (preceded by "p." for a single page and “pp.” for a span of multiple pages, with the page numbers separated by an en dash).

You can introduce the quotation with a signal phrase that includes the author's last name followed by the date of publication in parentheses.

If you do not include the author’s name in the text of the sentence, place the author's last name, the year of publication, and the page number in parentheses after the quotation.

Long quotations

Place direct quotations that are 40 words or longer in a free-standing block of typewritten lines and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout, but do not add an extra blank line before or after it. The parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark.

Because block quotation formatting is difficult for us to replicate in the OWL's content management system, we have simply provided a screenshot of a generic example below.

This image shows how to format a long quotation in an APA seventh edition paper.

Formatting example for block quotations in APA 7 style.

Quotations from sources without pages

Direct quotations from sources that do not contain pages should not reference a page number. Instead, you may reference another logical identifying element: a paragraph, a chapter number, a section number, a table number, or something else. Older works (like religious texts) can also incorporate special location identifiers like verse numbers. In short: pick a substitute for page numbers that makes sense for your source.

Summary or paraphrase

If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference and may omit the page numbers. APA guidelines, however, do encourage including a page range for a summary or paraphrase when it will help the reader find the information in a longer work. 

A Guide to Using Quotations in Essays

Quotations Add Credibility to a Persuasive Essay

  • Love Quotes
  • Great Lines from Movies and Television
  • Quotations For Holidays
  • Best Sellers
  • Classic Literature
  • Plays & Drama
  • Shakespeare
  • Short Stories
  • Children's Books
  • M.B.A, Human Resource Development and Management, Narsee Monjee Institution of Management Studies
  • B.S., University of Mumbai, Commerce, Accounting, and Finance

If you want to make an impact on your reader, you can draw on the potency of quotations. The  effective use of quotations  augments the power of your arguments and makes your essays more interesting.

But there is a need for caution! Are you convinced that the quotation you have chosen is helping your essay and not hurting it? Here are some factors to consider to ensure that you are doing the right thing.

What Is This Quotation Doing in This Essay?

Let us begin at the beginning. You have a chosen a quotation for your essay. But, why that specific quotation?

A good quotation should do one or more of the following:

  • Make an opening impact on the reader
  • Build credibility for your essay
  • Make the essay more interesting
  • Close the essay with a point to ponder upon

If the quotation does not meet a few of these objectives, then it is of little value. Merely stuffing a quotation into your essay can do more harm than good.

Your Essay Is Your Mouthpiece

Should the quotation speak for the essay or should the essay speak for the quotation? Quotations should add impact to the essay and not steal the show. If your quotation has more punch than your essay, then something is seriously wrong. Your essay should be able to stand on its own legs; the quotation should merely make this stand stronger.

How Many Quotations Should You Use in Your Essay?

Using too many quotations is like having several people shouting on your behalf. This will drown out your voice. Refrain from overcrowding your essay with words of wisdom from famous people. You own the essay, so make sure that you are heard.

Don't Make It Look Like You Plagiarized

There are some rules and standards when using quotations in an essay. The most important one is that you should not give the impression of being the author of the quotation. That would amount to plagiarism . Here are a set of rules to clearly distinguish your writing from the quotation:

  • You may describe the quotation in your own words before using it. In this case, you should use a colon (:) to indicate the beginning of the quotation. Then begin the quotation with a quotation mark ("). After you have completed the quotation, close it with a quotation mark ("). Here is an example: Sir Winston Churchill made a witty remark on the attitude of a pessimist: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
  • The sentence in which the quotation is embedded might not explicitly describe the quotation, but merely introduce it. In such a case, do away with the colon. Simply use the quotation marks . Here is an example: Sir Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
  • As far as possible, you should mention the author and the source of the quotation. For instance: In Shakespeare ’s play "As You Like It," Touchstone says to Audrey in the Forest of Arden, "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." (Act V, Scene I).
  • Ensure that the source of your quotation is authentic. Also, verify the author of your quotation. You can do so by looking up the quotation on authoritative websites. For formal writing, do not rely on just one website.

Blend Quotations In

An essay can seem quite jarring if the quotation does not blend in. The quotation should naturally fit into your essay. No one is interested in reading quotation-stuffed essays.

Here are some good tips on blending in your quotations:

  • You can begin your essay with a quotation that sets off the basic idea of the essay. This can have a lasting impact on your reader. In the introductory paragraph of your essay, you can comment on the quotation if you like. In any case, do ensure that the relevance of the quotation is communicated well.
  • Your choice of phrases and adjectives can significantly boost the impact of the quotation in your essay. Do not use monotonous phrases like: "George Washington once said...." If your essay is written for the appropriate context, consider using emphatic expressions like: "George Washington rocked the nation by saying...."

Using Long Quotations

It is usually better to have short and crisp quotations in your essay. Generally, long quotations must be used sparingly as they tend to weigh down the reader. However, there are times when your essay has more impact with a longer quotation.

If you have decided to use a long quotation, consider paraphrasing , as it usually works better. But, there is a downside to paraphrasing too. Instead of paraphrasing, if you use a direct quotation , you will avoid misrepresentation. The decision to use a long quotation is not trivial. It is your judgment call.

If you are convinced that a particular long quotation is more effective, be sure to format and punctuate it correctly.   Long quotations should be set off as block quotations . The format of block quotations should follow the guidelines that you might have been provided. If there are no specific guidelines, you can follow the usual standard—if a quotation is more than three lines long, you set it off as a block quote. Blocking implies indenting it about half an inch on the left.

Usually, a brief introduction to a long quotation is warranted. In other cases, you might need to provide a complete analysis of the quotation. In this case, it is best to begin with the quotation and follow it with the analysis, rather than the other way around.

Using Cute Quotes or Poetry

Some students choose a cute quotation first and then try to plug it into their essay. As a consequence, such quotations usually drag the reader away from the essay.

Quoting a verse from a poem, however, can add a lot of charm to your essay. I have come across writing that acquires a romantic edge merely by including a poetic quotation. If you are quoting from poetry, keep in mind that a small extract of a poem, say about two lines long, requires the use of slash marks (/) to indicate line breaks. Here is an example:

Charles Lamb has aptly described a child as "A child's a plaything for an hour;/ Its pretty tricks we try / For that or for a longer space; / Then tire, and lay it by." (1-4)

If you use a single line extract of a poem, punctuate it like any other short quotation without the slashes. Quotation marks are required at the beginning and at the end of the extract. However, if your quotation is more than three lines of poetry, I would suggest that you treat it like you would have treated a long quotation from prose. In this case, you should use the block quote format.

Does Your Reader Understand the Quotation?

Perhaps the most important question you must ask yourself when using a quotation is: "Do readers understand the quotation and its relevance to my essay ?"

If the reader is re-reading a quotation, just to understand it, then you are in trouble. So when you choose a quotation for your essay, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this too convoluted for my reader?
  • Does this match the tastes of my audience ?
  • Is the grammar and vocabulary in this quotation understandable?
  • How to Use Block Quotations in Writing
  • Definition and Examples of Direct Quotations
  • Definition and Examples of Quotation in English Grammar
  • How to Use Shakespeare Quotes
  • Guidelines for Using Quotation Marks Correctly
  • What Is an Indentation?
  • Practice in Using Quotation Marks Correctly
  • How To Write an Essay
  • Difference Between "Quote" and "Quotation": What Is the Right Word?
  • The Five Steps of Writing an Essay
  • How and When to Paraphrase Quotations
  • Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
  • Development in Composition: Building an Essay
  • Compose a Narrative Essay or Personal Statement
  • What Is a Compelling Introduction?

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How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps

How to use Quotes in an Essay

A quote can be an effective and powerful literary tool in an essay, but it needs to be done well. To use quotes in an essay, you need to make sure your quotes are short, backed up with explanations, and used rarely. The best essays use a maximum of 2 quotes for every 1500 words.

Rules for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes.
  • Quotes should be less than 1 sentence long.
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples.
  • Use Max. 2 Quotes for 1500 words.
  • Use page numbers when Citing Quotes.
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes.
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes.

Once you have mastered these quotation writing rules you’ll be on your way to growing your marks in your next paper.

How to use Quotes in an Essay

1. avoid long quotes.

There’s a simple rule to follow here: don’t use a quote that is longer than one line. In fact,  four word quotes  are usually best.

Long quotes in essays are red flags for teachers. It doesn’t matter if it is an amazing quote. Many, many teachers don’t like long quotes, so it’s best to avoid them.

Too many students provide quotes that take up half of a paragraph. This will lose you marks – big time.

If you follow my  perfect paragraph formula , you know that most paragraphs should be about six sentences long, which comes out to about six or seven typed lines on paper. That means that your quote will be a maximum of one-sixth (1/6) of your paragraph. This leaves plenty of space for discussion in your own words.

One reason teachers don’t like long quotes is that they suck up your word count. It can start to look like you didn’t have enough to say, so you inserted quotes to pad out your essay. Even if this is only your teacher’s perception, it’s something that you need to be aware of.

Here’s an example of over-use of quotes in paragraphs:

Avoid Quotes that are Too Long

Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors on economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student made the fatal mistake of having the quote overtake the paragraph.

Simply put, don’t use a quote that is longer than one line long. Ever. It’s just too risky.

Personally, I like to use a 4-word quote in my essays. Four-word quotes are long enough to constitute an actual quote but short enough that I have to think about how I will fit that quote around my own writing. This forces me to write quotations that both show:

  • I have read the original source, but also:
  • I know how to paraphrase

2. Do not use a Quote to that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph

These are three common but fatal mistakes.

Essay quotes that start sentences or end paragraphs make you appear passive.

If you use a quotation in an essay to start a sentence or end a paragraph, your teacher automatically thinks that your quote is replacing analysis, rather than supporting it.

You should instead start the sentence that contains the quote with your own writing. This makes it appear that you have an  active voice .

Similarly, you should end a paragraph with your own analysis, not a quote.

Let’s look at some examples of quotes that start sentences and end paragraphs. These examples are poor examples of using quotes:

Avoid Quotes that Start Sentences The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. “Children have the ability to learn through play and exploration. Play helps children to learn about their surroundings” (Malaguzzi, 1949, p. 10). Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Avoid Quotes that End Paragraphs Before Judith Butler gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex, men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time. “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Both these quotes are from essays that were shared with me by colleagues. My colleagues marked these students down for these quotes because of the quotes:

  • took up full sentences;
  • started sentences; and
  • were used to end paragraphs.

It didn’t appear as if the students were analyzing the quotes. Instead, the quotes were doing the talking for the students.

There are some easy strategies to use in order to make it appear that you are actively discussing and analyzing quotes.

One is that you should make sure the essay sentences with quotes in them  don’t start with the quote . Here are some examples of how we can change the quotes:

Example 1: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “children have the ability to learn through play and exploration.” Here, Malaguzzi is highlighting how to play is linked to finding things out about the world. Play is important for children to develop. Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Here, the sentence with the quote was amended so that the student has an active voice. They start the sentence with According to Malaguzzi, ….

Similarly, in the second example, we can also insert an active voice by ensuring that our quote sentence does not start with a quote:

Example 2: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice In 1990, Judith Butler revolutionized Feminist understandings of gender by arguing that “gender is a fluid concept” (p. 136). Before Butler’s 1990 book  Gender Trouble , gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex. Men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time.

In this example, the quote is not at the start of a sentence or end of a paragraph – tick!

How to Start Sentences containing Quotes using an Active Voice

  • According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “…”
  • Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) argues that “…”
  • In 1949, Malaguzzi (p. 10) highlighted that “…”
  • The argument of Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) that “…” provides compelling insight into the issue.

3. Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples

Earlier on, I stated that one key reason to use quotes in essays is so that you can analyze them.

Quotes shouldn’t stand alone as explanations. Quotes should be there to be analyzed, not to do the analysis.

Let’s look again at the quote used in Point 1:

Example: A Quote that is Too Long Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults.  “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors in economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student has included the facts, figures, citations and key details in the quote. Essentially, this student has been lazy. They failed to paraphrase.

Instead, this student could have selected the most striking phrase from the quote and kept it. Then, the rest should be paraphrased. The most striking phrase in this quote was “[poverty] is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761).

So, take that one key phrase, then paraphrase the rest:

Example: Paraphrasing Long Quotes Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. In their analysis, Mistry et al. (2016) highlight that there is a misconception in American society that hard work is enough to escape poverty. Instead, they argue, there is evidence that over 40% of people born in poverty remain in poverty. For Mistry et al. (2016, p. 761), this data shows that poverty is not a matter of being lazy alone, but more importantly  “a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  This implies that poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

To recap,  quotes shouldn’t do the talking for you . Provide a brief quote in your essay, and then show you understand it with surrounding explanation and analysis.

4. Know how many Quotes to use in an Essay

There’s a simple rule for how many quotes should be in an essay.

Here’s a good rule to follow: one quote for every five paragraphs. A paragraph is usually 150 words long, so you’re looking at  one quote in every 750 words, maximum .

To extrapolate that out, you’ll want a maximum of about:

  • 2 quotes for a 1500-word paper;
  • 3 quotes for a 2000-word paper;
  • 4 quotes for a 3000-word paper.

That’s the maximum , not a target. There’s no harm in writing a paper that has absolutely zero quotes in it, so long as it’s still clear that you’ve closely read and paraphrased your readings.

The reason you don’t want to use more quotes than this in your essay is that teachers want to see you saying things in your own words. When you over-use quotes, it is a sign to your teacher that you don’t know how to paraphrase well.

5. Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays

One biggest problem with quotes are that many students don’t know how to cite quotes in essays.

Nearly every referencing format requires you to include a page number in your citation. This includes the three most common referencing formats: Harvard, APA, and MLA. All of them require you to provide page numbers with quotes.

Citing a Quote in Chicago Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990, 136).

Citing a Quote in APA and Harvard Styles – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Citing a Quote in MLA Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 136).

Including a page number in your quotation makes a huge difference when a marker is trying to determine how high your grade should be.

This is especially true when you’re already up in the higher marks range. These little editing points can mean the difference between placing first in the class and third. Don’t underestimate the importance of attention to detail.

6. Don’t Italicize Quotes

For some reason, students love to use italics for quotes. This is wrong in absolutely every major referencing format, yet it happens all the time.

I don’t know where this started, but please don’t do it. It looks sloppy, and teachers notice. A nice, clean, well-formatted essay should not contain these minor but not insignificant errors. If you want to be a top student, you need to pay attention to minor details.

7. Avoid quotes inside quotes

Have you ever found a great quote and thought, “I want to quote that quote!” Quoting a quote is a tempting thing to do, but not worth your while.

I’ll often see students write something like this:

Poor Quotation Example: Quotes Inside Quotes Rousseau “favored a civil religion because it would be more tolerant of diversity than Christianity. Indeed ‘no state has ever been founded without religion as its base’ (Rousseau, 1913: 180).” (Durkheim, 1947, p. 19).

Here, there are quotes on top of quotes. The student has quoted Durkheim quoting Rousseau. This quote has become a complete mess and hard to read. The minute something’s hard to read, it loses marks.

Here are two solutions:

  • Cite the original source. If you really want the Rousseau quote, just cite Rousseau. Stop messing around with quotes on top of quotes.
  • Learn the ‘as cited in’ method. Frankly, that method’s too complicated to discuss here. But if you google it, you’ll be able to teach yourself.

When Should I use Quotes in Essays?

1. to highlight an important statement.

One main reason to use quotes in essays is to emphasize a famous statement by a top thinker in your field.

The statement must be  important. It can’t be just any random comment.

Here are some examples of when to use quotes in essays to emphasize the words of top thinkers:

  • The words of Stephen Hawking go a long way in Physics ;
  • The words of JK Rowling go a long way in Creative Writing ;
  • The words of Michel Foucault go a long way in Cultural Studies ;
  • The words of Jean Piaget go a long way in Education Studies .

2. To analyze an Important Statement.

Another reason to use quotes in essays is when you want to analyze a statement by a specific author. This author might not be famous, but they might have said something that requires unpacking and analyzing. You can provide a quote, then unpack it by explaining your interpretation of it in the following sentences.

Quotes usually need an explanation and example. You can unpack the quote by asking:

  • What did they mean,
  • Why is it relevant, and
  • Why did they say this?

You want to always follow up quotes by top thinkers or specific authors with discussion and analysis.

Quotes should be accompanied by:

  • Explanations of the quote;
  • Analysis of the ideas presented in the quote; or
  • Real-world examples that show you understand what the quote means.
Remember: A quote should be a stimulus for a discussion, not a replacement for discussion.

What Bad Quotes Look Like

Many teachers I have worked with don’t like when students use quotes in essays. In fact, some teachers absolutely hate essay quotes. The teachers I have met tend to hate these sorts of quotes:

  • When you use too many quotes.
  • When you use the wrong citation format.
  • When you don’t provide follow-up explanations of quotes.
  • When you used quotes because you don’t know how to paraphrase .

how to use quotes in an essay

Be a minimalist when it comes to using quotes. Here are the seven approaches I recommend for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes in Essays
  • Do not use a Quote that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples
  • Use a Maximum of 2 Quotes for every 1500 words
  • Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes

Chris

Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

  • Chris Drew (PhD) https://helpfulprofessor.com/author/chris-drew-phd/ 41 Important Classroom Expectations (for This School Year)
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Home / Guides / Citation Guides / Harvard Referencing / Harvard Referencing Style Examples / Referencing direct quotes in Harvard style

Referencing direct quotes in Harvard style

If you include a direct quote in your paper, you’ll need to know how to create Harvard in-text citations . The Harvard style of referencing follows an author-date format for in-text citations; this means that the surname of the author and the date of publication are used to cite a quotation or idea borrowed from another author. If you include a direct quote in your paper and that source has page numbers, you’ll also need to know how to format page numbers in Harvard style .

Follow these rules when directly quoting from a source in Harvard style:

Short direct quotations

A short direct quote is one to two lines long. When you are using a short direct quotation from a source, it should be enclosed in quotation marks. The following format is used:

“Quotation” (Surname of the author, year of publication of the source, page number if applicable).

Example :  

“He put up his book of notes in a very deliberate manner” (Gaskell, 1855, p. 290).  

Note that if you mention the name of the author in the sentence containing the direct quotation, you do not have to put the author’s name in the parenthetical in-text citation.

Gaskell (1855, p. 292) writes, “She had sunk under her burden.”

While referencing this quotation in the reference list, you will follow the following format:

Surname of the author, initial(s). (Year of publication) Title of the source . Place of publication: Publisher.

Gaskell, E. (1855) North and south . London: Vintage Publishing.

Longer direct quotations

Quotations that run for more than two lines should be separated from the paragraph. A free line should be left above and below the quotation.

A colon is placed before the quotation. Unlike short quotations, longer quotations are not enclosed in quotation marks. The author’s name, date of publication, and page number are included.

The font size of the quotation should be at least 2 points smaller than the font size of the rest of the text.

The full citation in the reference list should be formatted the same way as for shorter direct quotations.

The narrator describes why Radley house was different from the otherwise amiable neighborhood of Maycomb county. As stated by Lee (1960, p. 9):

The Radleys, welcome anywhere in town, kept to themselves, a predilection unforgivable in Maycomb. They did not go to church, Maycomb’s principal recreation, but worshiped at home; Mrs. Radley seldom if ever crossed the street for a mid-morning coffee break with her neighbors, and certainly never joined a missionary circle.

This clearly shows why the Radleys were different.

Published October 29, 2020.

Harvard Formatting Guide

Harvard Formatting

  • et al Usage
  • Direct Quotes
  • In-text Citations
  • Multiple Authors
  • Page Numbers
  • Writing an Outline
  • View Harvard Guide

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Inserting or Altering Words in a Direct Quotation

  •   Nancy Lewis

Creative Commons license type BY-NC-ND 4.0

What punctuation should be used when words are inserted or altered in a direct quotation?

When writers insert or alter words in a direct quotation, square brackets—[ ]—are placed around the change. The brackets, always used in pairs, enclose words intended to clarify meaning, provide a brief explanation, or to help integrate the quote into the writer’s sentence.  A common error writers make is to use parentheses in place of brackets.

How are square brackets used around clarifying or explanatory words?

Let’s look at an example:

Quotation with brackets used correctly around a clarifying word:

“It [driving] imposes a heavy procedural workload on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107). [1]

Note : Brackets are placed around the inserted word in this example to let the reader know that ‘driving’ clarifies the meaning of the pronoun ‘it.’

Quotation with parentheses incorrectly used in place of brackets:

“It (driving) imposes a heavy procedural workload on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Parentheses are used incorrectly in place of brackets in this example, making the inserted word look like it could be part of the original text.

Let’s look at another example:

Quotation with brackets used correctly around an explanatory insert:

“[D]riving is not as automatic as one might think; in fact, it imposes a heavy procedural workload [visual and motor demands] on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Brackets are placed around the inserted words in this example to provide further explanation of the “procedural workload” discussed in the original text.

“[D]riving is not as automatic as one might think; in fact, it imposes a heavy procedural workload (visual and motor demands) on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Parentheses are used incorrectly in place of brackets in this example, making the inserted words look like they are part of the original text.

How are square brackets used to help integrate a quote properly?

Original direct quotation beginning with an upper case letter:

“The heavy cognitive workload of driving suggests that any secondary task has the potential to affect driver behavior” (Salvucci and Taatgen 108).

Integrated quotation with brackets used correctly to indicate a change in letter case:

Salvucci and Taatgen propose that “[t]he heavy cognitive workload of driving suggests that any secondary task has the potential to affect driver behavior” (108).

Note : Brackets are placed around the lower-case letter ‘t’ to indicate that the letter case has been changed. The quotation is introduced by a signal phrase, which makes the quote an integral part of the writer’s sentence; as a result of this syntactical change, the upper case ‘T’ in the original is changed to a lower case letter.

Original direct quotation written in the past tense:

“Not coincidentally, drivers have been increasingly engaging in secondary tasks while driving” (Salvucci and Taatgen 68).

Note : The authors’ words appear in the past tense in the original text.

Quotation with brackets used correctly to indicate a change in verb tense:

“Not coincidentally, drivers [are] increasingly engaging in secondary tasks while driving” (Salvucci and Taatgen 68).

Note : Brackets are placed around the word ‘are’ to indicate that the verb has been changed to the present tense, which is the preferred tense for most writing in MLA style. The past tense is preferred for APA style writing. 

A word of caution : Bracketed insertions may not be used to alter or add to the quotation in a way that inaccurately or unfairly represents the original text. Quite simply, do not use bracketed material in a way that twists the author’s meaning.

Bracket Use: Quick Summary

[1] Salvucci, Dario D., and Niels A. Taatgen. Multitasking Minds . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) . Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

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Frequently asked questions

How many quotes should i use.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

Frequently asked questions: Citing sources

A scientific citation style is a system of source citation that is used in scientific disciplines. Some commonly used scientific citation styles are:

  • Chicago author-date , CSE , and Harvard , used across various sciences
  • ACS , used in chemistry
  • AMA , NLM , and Vancouver , used in medicine and related disciplines
  • AAA , APA , and ASA , commonly used in the social sciences

There are many different citation styles used across different academic disciplines, but they fall into three basic approaches to citation:

  • Parenthetical citations : Including identifying details of the source in parentheses —usually the author’s last name and the publication date, plus a page number if available ( author-date ). The publication date is occasionally omitted ( author-page ).
  • Numerical citations: Including a number in brackets or superscript, corresponding to an entry in your numbered reference list.
  • Note citations: Including a full citation in a footnote or endnote , which is indicated in the text with a superscript number or symbol.

A source annotation in an annotated bibliography fulfills a similar purpose to an abstract : they’re both intended to summarize the approach and key points of a source.

However, an annotation may also evaluate the source , discussing the validity and effectiveness of its arguments. Even if your annotation is purely descriptive , you may have a different perspective on the source from the author and highlight different key points.

You should never just copy text from the abstract for your annotation, as doing so constitutes plagiarism .

Most academics agree that you shouldn’t cite Wikipedia as a source in your academic writing , and universities often have rules against doing so.

This is partly because of concerns about its reliability, and partly because it’s a tertiary source. Tertiary sources are things like encyclopedias and databases that collect information from other sources rather than presenting their own evidence or analysis. Usually, only primary and secondary sources are cited in academic papers.

A Wikipedia citation usually includes the title of the article, “Wikipedia” and/or “Wikimedia Foundation,” the date the article was last updated, and the URL.

In APA Style , you’ll give the URL of the current revision of the article so that you’re sure the reader accesses the same version as you.

There’s some disagreement about whether Wikipedia can be considered a reliable source . Because it can be edited by anyone, many people argue that it’s easy for misleading information to be added to an article without the reader knowing.

Others argue that because Wikipedia articles cite their sources , and because they are worked on by so many editors, misinformation is generally removed quickly.

However, most universities state that you shouldn’t cite Wikipedia in your writing.

Hanging indents are used in reference lists in various citation styles to allow the reader to easily distinguish between entries.

You should apply a hanging indent to your reference entries in APA , MLA , and Chicago style.

A hanging indent is used to indent all lines of a paragraph except the first.

When you create a hanging indent, the first line of the paragraph starts at the border. Each subsequent line is indented 0.5 inches (1.27 cm).

APA and MLA style both use parenthetical in-text citations to cite sources and include a full list of references at the end, but they differ in other ways:

  • APA in-text citations include the author name, date, and page number (Taylor, 2018, p. 23), while MLA in-text citations include only the author name and page number (Taylor 23).
  • The APA reference list is titled “References,” while MLA’s version is called “ Works Cited .”
  • The reference entries differ in terms of formatting and order of information.
  • APA requires a title page , while MLA requires a header instead.

A parenthetical citation in Chicago author-date style includes the author’s last name, the publication date, and, if applicable, the relevant page number or page range in parentheses . Include a comma after the year, but not after the author’s name.

For example: (Swan 2003, 6)

To automatically generate accurate Chicago references, you can use Scribbr’s free Chicago reference generator .

APA Style distinguishes between parenthetical and narrative citations.

In parenthetical citations , you include all relevant source information in parentheses at the end of the sentence or clause: “Parts of the human body reflect the principles of tensegrity (Levin, 2002).”

In narrative citations , you include the author’s name in the text itself, followed by the publication date in parentheses: “Levin (2002) argues that parts of the human body reflect the principles of tensegrity.”

In a parenthetical citation in MLA style , include the author’s last name and the relevant page number or range in parentheses .

For example: (Eliot 21)

A parenthetical citation gives credit in parentheses to a source that you’re quoting or paraphrasing . It provides relevant information such as the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number(s) cited.

How you use parenthetical citations will depend on your chosen citation style . It will also depend on the type of source you are citing and the number of authors.

APA does not permit the use of ibid. This is because APA in-text citations are parenthetical and there’s no need to shorten them further.

Ibid. may be used in Chicago footnotes or endnotes .

Write “Ibid.” alone when you are citing the same page number and source as the previous citation.

When you are citing the same source, but a different page number, use ibid. followed by a comma and the relevant page number(s). For example:

  • Ibid., 40–42.

Only use ibid . if you are directing the reader to a previous full citation of a source .

Ibid. only refers to the previous citation. Therefore, you should only use ibid. directly after a citation that you want to repeat.

Ibid. is an abbreviation of the Latin “ibidem,” meaning “in the same place.” Ibid. is used in citations to direct the reader to the previous source.

Signal phrases can be used in various ways and can be placed at the beginning, middle, or end of a sentence.

To use signal phrases effectively, include:

  • The name of the scholar(s) or study you’re referencing
  • An attributive tag such as “according to” or “argues that”
  • The quote or idea you want to include

Different citation styles require you to use specific verb tenses when using signal phrases.

  • APA Style requires you to use the past or present perfect tense when using signal phrases.
  • MLA and Chicago requires you to use the present tense when using signal phrases.

Signal phrases allow you to give credit for an idea or quote to its author or originator. This helps you to:

  • Establish the credentials of your sources
  • Display your depth of reading and understanding of the field
  • Position your own work in relation to other scholars
  • Avoid plagiarism

A signal phrase is a group of words that ascribes a quote or idea to an outside source.

Signal phrases distinguish the cited idea or argument from your own writing and introduce important information including the source of the material that you are quoting , paraphrasing , or summarizing . For example:

“ Cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker (1994) insists that humans possess an innate faculty for comprehending grammar.”

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarizes other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA and Chicago both recommend retaining the citations as part of the quote. However, MLA recommends omitting citations within a quote:

  • APA: Smith states that “the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus” (Smith, 2019, p. 4).
  • MLA: Smith states that “the literature on this topic shows no clear consensus” (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted in all styles.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase “as cited in” in your citation.

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim

To paraphrase effectively, don’t just take the original sentence and swap out some of the words for synonyms. Instead, try:

  • Reformulating the sentence (e.g., change active to passive , or start from a different point)
  • Combining information from multiple sentences into one
  • Leaving out information from the original that isn’t relevant to your point
  • Using synonyms where they don’t distort the meaning

The main point is to ensure you don’t just copy the structure of the original text, but instead reformulate the idea in your own words.

“ Et al. ” is an abbreviation of the Latin term “et alia,” which means “and others.” It’s used in source citations to save space when there are too many authors to name them all.

Guidelines for using “et al.” differ depending on the citation style you’re following:

To insert endnotes in Microsoft Word, follow the steps below:

  • Click on the spot in the text where you want the endnote to show up.
  • In the “References” tab at the top, select “Insert Endnote.”
  • Type whatever text you want into the endnote.

If you need to change the type of notes used in a Word document from footnotes to endnotes , or the other way around, follow these steps:

  • Open the “References” tab, and click the arrow in the bottom-right corner of the “Footnotes” section.
  • In the pop-up window, click on “Convert…”
  • Choose the option you need, and click “OK.”

To insert a footnote automatically in a Word document:

  • Click on the point in the text where the footnote should appear
  • Select the “References” tab at the top and then click on “Insert Footnote”
  • Type the text you want into the footnote that appears at the bottom of the page

Footnotes are notes indicated in your text with numbers and placed at the bottom of the page. They’re used to provide:

  • Citations (e.g., in Chicago notes and bibliography )
  • Additional information that would disrupt the flow of the main text

Be sparing in your use of footnotes (other than citation footnotes), and consider whether the information you’re adding is relevant for the reader.

Footnotes appear at the bottom of the page they refer to. This is convenient for the reader but may cause your text to look cluttered if there are a lot of footnotes.

Endnotes appear all together at the end of the whole text. This may be less convenient for the reader but reduces clutter.

Both footnotes and endnotes are used in the same way: to cite sources or add extra information. You should usually choose one or the other to use in your text, not both.

An in-text citation is an acknowledgement you include in your text whenever you quote or paraphrase a source. It usually gives the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number of the relevant text. In-text citations allow the reader to look up the full source information in your reference list and see your sources for themselves.

If you are reusing content or data you used in a previous assignment, make sure to cite yourself. You can cite yourself just as you would cite any other source: simply follow the directions for that source type in the citation style you are using.

Keep in mind that reusing your previous work can be considered self-plagiarism , so make sure you ask your professor or consult your university’s handbook before doing so.

A credible source should pass the CRAAP test  and follow these guidelines:

  • The information should be up to date and current.
  • The author and publication should be a trusted authority on the subject you are researching.
  • The sources the author cited should be easy to find, clear, and unbiased.
  • For a web source, the URL and layout should signify that it is trustworthy.

Peer review is a process of evaluating submissions to an academic journal. Utilizing rigorous criteria, a panel of reviewers in the same subject area decide whether to accept each submission for publication. For this reason, academic journals are often considered among the most credible sources you can use in a research project– provided that the journal itself is trustworthy and well-regarded.

Academic dishonesty can be intentional or unintentional, ranging from something as simple as claiming to have read something you didn’t to copying your neighbor’s answers on an exam.

You can commit academic dishonesty with the best of intentions, such as helping a friend cheat on a paper. Severe academic dishonesty can include buying a pre-written essay or the answers to a multiple-choice test, or falsifying a medical emergency to avoid taking a final exam.

Academic dishonesty refers to deceitful or misleading behavior in an academic setting. Academic dishonesty can occur intentionally or unintentionally, and varies in severity.

It can encompass paying for a pre-written essay, cheating on an exam, or committing plagiarism . It can also include helping others cheat, copying a friend’s homework answers, or even pretending to be sick to miss an exam.

Academic dishonesty doesn’t just occur in a classroom setting, but also in research and other academic-adjacent fields.

To apply a hanging indent to your reference list or Works Cited list in Word or Google Docs, follow the steps below.

Microsoft Word:

  • Highlight the whole list and right click to open the Paragraph options.
  • Under Indentation > Special , choose Hanging from the dropdown menu.
  • Set the indent to 0.5 inches or 1.27cm.

Google Docs:

  • Highlight the whole list and click on Format >  Align and indent >  Indentation options .
  • Under  Special indent , choose Hanging from the dropdown menu.

When the hanging indent is applied, for each reference, every line except the first is indented. This helps the reader see where one entry ends and the next begins.

For a published interview (whether in video , audio, or print form ), you should always include a citation , just as you would for any other source.

For an interview you conducted yourself , formally or informally, you often don’t need a citation and can just refer to it in the text or in a footnote , since the reader won’t be able to look them up anyway. MLA , however, still recommends including citations for your own interviews.

The main elements included in a newspaper interview citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the names of the interviewer and interviewee, the interview title, the publication date, the name of the newspaper, and a URL (for online sources).

The information is presented differently in different citation styles. One key difference is that APA advises listing the interviewer in the author position, while MLA and Chicago advise listing the interviewee first.

The elements included in a newspaper article citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author name, the article title, the publication date, the newspaper name, and the URL if the article was accessed online .

In APA and MLA, the page numbers of the article appear in place of the URL if the article was accessed in print. No page numbers are used in Chicago newspaper citations.

Untitled sources (e.g. some images ) are usually cited using a short descriptive text in place of the title. In APA Style , this description appears in brackets: [Chair of stained oak]. In MLA and Chicago styles, no brackets are used: Chair of stained oak.

For social media posts, which are usually untitled, quote the initial words of the post in place of the title: the first 160 characters in Chicago , or the first 20 words in APA . E.g. Biden, J. [@JoeBiden]. “The American Rescue Plan means a $7,000 check for a single mom of four. It means more support to safely.”

MLA recommends quoting the full post for something short like a tweet, and just describing the post if it’s longer.

The main elements included in image citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the image’s creator, the image title, the year (or more precise date) of publication, and details of the container in which the image was found (e.g. a museum, book , website ).

In APA and Chicago style, it’s standard to also include a description of the image’s format (e.g. “Photograph” or “Oil on canvas”). This sort of information may be included in MLA too, but is not mandatory.

The main elements included in a lecture citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the speaker, the lecture title, the date it took place, the course or event it was part of, and the institution it took place at.

For transcripts or recordings of lectures/speeches, other details like the URL, the name of the book or website , and the length of the recording may be included instead of information about the event and institution.

The main elements included in a YouTube video citation across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name of the author/uploader, the title of the video, the publication date, and the URL.

The format in which this information appears is different for each style.

All styles also recommend using timestamps as a locator in the in-text citation or Chicago footnote .

Each annotation in an annotated bibliography is usually between 50 and 200 words long. Longer annotations may be divided into paragraphs .

The content of the annotation varies according to your assignment. An annotation can be descriptive, meaning it just describes the source objectively; evaluative, meaning it assesses its usefulness; or reflective, meaning it explains how the source will be used in your own research .

Any credible sources on your topic can be included in an annotated bibliography . The exact sources you cover will vary depending on the assignment, but you should usually focus on collecting journal articles and scholarly books . When in doubt, utilize the CRAAP test !

An annotated bibliography is an assignment where you collect sources on a specific topic and write an annotation for each source. An annotation is a short text that describes and sometimes evaluates the source.

The elements included in journal article citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the name(s) of the author(s), the title of the article, the year of publication, the name of the journal, the volume and issue numbers, the page range of the article, and, when accessed online, the DOI or URL.

In MLA and Chicago style, you also include the specific month or season of publication alongside the year, when this information is available.

In APA , MLA , and Chicago style citations for sources that don’t list a specific author (e.g. many websites ), you can usually list the organization responsible for the source as the author.

If the organization is the same as the website or publisher, you shouldn’t repeat it twice in your reference:

  • In APA and Chicago, omit the website or publisher name later in the reference.
  • In MLA, omit the author element at the start of the reference, and cite the source title instead.

If there’s no appropriate organization to list as author, you will usually have to begin the citation and reference entry with the title of the source instead.

The main elements included in website citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author, the date of publication, the page title, the website name, and the URL. The information is presented differently in each style.

When you want to cite a specific passage in a source without page numbers (e.g. an e-book or website ), all the main citation styles recommend using an alternate locator in your in-text citation . You might use a heading or chapter number, e.g. (Smith, 2016, ch. 1)

In APA Style , you can count the paragraph numbers in a text to identify a location by paragraph number. MLA and Chicago recommend that you only use paragraph numbers if they’re explicitly marked in the text.

For audiovisual sources (e.g. videos ), all styles recommend using a timestamp to show a specific point in the video when relevant.

The abbreviation “ et al. ” (Latin for “and others”) is used to shorten citations of sources with multiple authors.

“Et al.” is used in APA in-text citations of sources with 3+ authors, e.g. (Smith et al., 2019). It is not used in APA reference entries .

Use “et al.” for 3+ authors in MLA in-text citations and Works Cited entries.

Use “et al.” for 4+ authors in a Chicago in-text citation , and for 10+ authors in a Chicago bibliography entry.

Check if your university or course guidelines specify which citation style to use. If the choice is left up to you, consider which style is most commonly used in your field.

  • APA Style is the most popular citation style, widely used in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • MLA style is the second most popular, used mainly in the humanities.
  • Chicago notes and bibliography style is also popular in the humanities, especially history.
  • Chicago author-date style tends to be used in the sciences.

Other more specialized styles exist for certain fields, such as Bluebook and OSCOLA for law.

The most important thing is to choose one style and use it consistently throughout your text.

The main elements included in all book citations across APA , MLA , and Chicago style are the author, the title, the year of publication, and the name of the publisher. A page number is also included in in-text citations to highlight the specific passage cited.

In Chicago style and in the 6th edition of APA Style , the location of the publisher is also included, e.g. London: Penguin.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate “block” of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

The rules for when to apply block quote formatting depend on the citation style:

  • APA block quotes are 40 words or longer.
  • MLA block quotes are more than 4 lines of prose or 3 lines of poetry.
  • Chicago block quotes are longer than 100 words.

In academic writing , there are three main situations where quoting is the best choice:

  • To analyze the author’s language (e.g., in a literary analysis essay )
  • To give evidence from primary sources
  • To accurately present a precise definition or argument

Don’t overuse quotes; your own voice should be dominant. If you just want to provide information from a source, it’s usually better to paraphrase or summarize .

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: “This is a quote” (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

The DOI is usually clearly visible when you open a journal article on an academic database. It is often listed near the publication date, and includes “doi.org” or “DOI:”. If the database has a “cite this article” button, this should also produce a citation with the DOI included.

If you can’t find the DOI, you can search on Crossref using information like the author, the article title, and the journal name.

A DOI is a unique identifier for a digital document. DOIs are important in academic citation because they are more permanent than URLs, ensuring that your reader can reliably locate the source.

Journal articles and ebooks can often be found on multiple different websites and databases. The URL of the page where an article is hosted can be changed or removed over time, but a DOI is linked to the specific document and never changes.

When a book’s chapters are written by different authors, you should cite the specific chapter you are referring to.

When all the chapters are written by the same author (or group of authors), you should usually cite the entire book, but some styles include exceptions to this.

  • In APA Style , single-author books should always be cited as a whole, even if you only quote or paraphrase from one chapter.
  • In MLA Style , if a single-author book is a collection of stand-alone works (e.g. short stories ), you should cite the individual work.
  • In Chicago Style , you may choose to cite a single chapter of a single-author book if you feel it is more appropriate than citing the whole book.

Articles in newspapers and magazines can be primary or secondary depending on the focus of your research.

In historical studies, old articles are used as primary sources that give direct evidence about the time period. In social and communication studies, articles are used as primary sources to analyze language and social relations (for example, by conducting content analysis or discourse analysis ).

If you are not analyzing the article itself, but only using it for background information or facts about your topic, then the article is a secondary source.

A fictional movie is usually a primary source. A documentary can be either primary or secondary depending on the context.

If you are directly analyzing some aspect of the movie itself – for example, the cinematography, narrative techniques, or social context – the movie is a primary source.

If you use the movie for background information or analysis about your topic – for example, to learn about a historical event or a scientific discovery – the movie is a secondary source.

Whether it’s primary or secondary, always properly cite the movie in the citation style you are using. Learn how to create an MLA movie citation or an APA movie citation .

To determine if a source is primary or secondary, ask yourself:

  • Was the source created by someone directly involved in the events you’re studying (primary), or by another researcher (secondary)?
  • Does the source provide original information (primary), or does it summarize information from other sources (secondary)?
  • Are you directly analyzing the source itself (primary), or only using it for background information (secondary)?

Some types of source are nearly always primary: works of art and literature, raw statistical data, official documents and records, and personal communications (e.g. letters, interviews ). If you use one of these in your research, it is probably a primary source.

Primary sources are often considered the most credible in terms of providing evidence for your argument, as they give you direct evidence of what you are researching. However, it’s up to you to ensure the information they provide is reliable and accurate.

Always make sure to properly cite your sources to avoid plagiarism .

Common examples of secondary sources include academic books, journal articles , reviews, essays , and textbooks.

Anything that summarizes, evaluates or interprets primary sources can be a secondary source. If a source gives you an overview of background information or presents another researcher’s ideas on your topic, it is probably a secondary source.

Common examples of primary sources include interview transcripts , photographs, novels, paintings, films, historical documents, and official statistics.

Anything you directly analyze or use as first-hand evidence can be a primary source, including qualitative or quantitative data that you collected yourself.

The Scribbr Citation Generator is developed using the open-source Citation Style Language (CSL) project and Frank Bennett’s citeproc-js . It’s the same technology used by dozens of other popular citation tools, including Mendeley and Zotero.

You can find all the citation styles and locales used in the Scribbr Citation Generator in our publicly accessible repository on Github .

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Academic Writing Success

The Simple Secret to Writing Direct Quotations

by Suzanne Davis | Apr 4, 2019 | Academic Writing Skills , Writing Essays and Papers | 8 comments

Direct quotations in a research paper makes your writing stand out.

Direct quotations help your academic writing because they support and emphasize specific points in your essay or research paper. They can be eloquent, powerful, and memorable. They are an important tool in any academic writer’s toolbox.

However, the different rules and guidelines for using quotes can be confusing.  When do you quote? How much should you rely on quotes and when are you using too many?   What is the difference between citing quotations in APA and MLA?

There are some simple tips on how to use direct quotations in your essays and papers. You just need to understand the mistakes some writers have made and see how to do use quotes effectively.

2 Big Direct Quotation Mistakes

There are 2 common pitfalls students fall into  when using quotations in their academic writing:

  • They use too many quotations in their essays.
  • They do not show how quotations relate to their essays (I call this leaving a quotation hanging).

These are both easy problems to solve.  And by the end of this post, you’ll be able to fix them on your own.

Mistake # 1 Using too many quotations in an essay.

Your professors want to know your ideas about the topic of your paper. If you use quotations to state facts that could be paraphrased or summarized, then your professors will think you are “filling up space” in your paper.  They will feel you don’t have your own ideas.  Or even worse, they will assume you don’t understand your topic and evidence.

You need to be selective with the quotations you use in your academic writing.

So how do you decide when to include a quotation in your paper? There are four questions that will help guide you.  If you can answer yes to any of these questions then try including the quotation in your academic paper.

  • Does this author say something striking or well-written? Here you should consider if the quotation is unique, or if the author of the quotation says something in an original way.
  • Are the words themselves a piece of evidence?  For example, if you analyze a piece of literature you want to include the original words in that literature.
  • Do you want to disagree with an author’s statement or point of view? When you argue with an author you want to quote the words exactly so that you are fair to that person.  You don’t want to misuse their words to prove your own point.
  • Does this quotation enhance something in your paper?

Can you answer yes to any of the questions?  If not, try paraphrasing or summarizing the original quotation.  See if your paraphrase or summary gives the same valuable information that’s in the original one.

Professors want to read your ideas about what you’ve studied.   So, let them read your words, and use other people’s words to emphasize your ideas.

Mistake # 2 Quotations do not relate to the ideas in a research paper.

Your quotations must prove or demonstrate something in your paper. Show your reader how the quotation relates to your ideas. You can do this by making The Quotation Veggie Burger (yes, I’m vegetarian).

direct quotes in an essay

1)  The top roll is the lead-in:  Introduce the context of the quotation.  This could include the title of the source, the author’s name, and/ or background information.

2)  The veggie burger is the quotation : Include the direct quote with the in-text citation.

3)  The bottom roll is the interpretation:  Explain the importance of the quotation and how it connects to your point.

Using the Quotation Veggie Burger in In-text (Short) Direct Quotations

direct quotes in an essay

The quotation is in black print. It begins at the end of the first sentence.  The quote has double quotation marks. The in-text citation is in parenthesis and it includes the page number of the quote.

The interpretation is in green. This is where I explain what the quotation shows and how it relates to my paper.

The example above uses the Modern Language Association (MLA) Style citation.

If you write an in-text quotation in MLA Style follow these guidelines:

  • If a quotation is 4 lines or fewer then blend it into the sentences in the paragraph.
  • Use quotation marks at the beginning and end of the quotation.
  • Include the author’s last name and the page where you can find the quotation.  In the above example, I included the author’s name in the lead-in, so I only cited the page number in the reference.
  • Put the period after the reference. For example: (41).

Using The Quotation Veggie Burger for Block (Long) Direct Quotations

Long quotations are also called block quotations.  A quotation becomes a block quotation if it is more than 4 lines. The format between in-text and block quotations is different, but The Quotation Veggie Burger works for both types. This block quotation from Charlotte’s Web uses The Quotation Veggie Burger.

Block Quotation in Academic Writing

The blue sentence is the lead-in, and this sets up the quotation.  I describe the situation in which Wilbur is looking at the web.

The quotation is in black print. It is indented and there are no quotation marks.  There is a reference at the end of the quotation.

The interpretation is in green print.  Here, I explained how Wilbur hopes Charlotte’s web will impress the people at the fair so that Mr. Zuckerman decides to let him live.

If you are writing a block quotation in MLA style follow these format guidelines:

  • Indent your block quotation ½ of an inch. This is the same length as a paragraph indent.
  • Don’t use quotation marks.
  • Put a period at the end of the quotation.
  • Include the author last’s name and the page number in the citation. In this example, I included the author’s name with the page number in the reference. But if you quote from the same source earlier you could put down the page number. Ex: (147)
  • Put the reference in parenthesis at the end of the quotation.

Differences Between Writing Quotations in MLA and APA Styles

MLA vs. APA in quotations

What you need to remember about using quotations in academic writing is don’t overdo it with too many and make sure you connect your quotations to the ideas in your paper.  

Do these two things and the quotations in your academic essays will impress teachers and professors.

Want to know more about writing a great research paper? Check out my blog post, ” How to Write a Research Paper Professors Will Love” at https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/how-to-write-a-research-paper/

Write a great research paper with the free guide, How to Write a Research Paper That Will Blow Your Professor’s Mind.  

I absolutely love your infographic and how easily it explains how to use quotations. And I love your sense of humor with the veggie burger. That was pretty awesome.

Thank you, Joanne. I used the Quotation Veggie Burger in my classroom, and my students liked it a lot. I hope it’s useful to all of my readers.

Excellent. The use of visuals really help with understanding. I like the Charlotte Web example.

Thank you, Raven. I try to make writing with quotations easy to understand, and my favorite to way to do that is with visual images.

Suzanne I love the infographics. They make the information so easy to understand. I also really liked your video on the writing challenge. This is a great way to get students using the skills they will need in college. The way you laid out the task was great and your students understand that this is something they will encounter in their college writing. Awesome!

Rosemerry, I’m glad you like the infographics. I try to use them a lot with learning about academic writing.

Absolutely correct. And this concept of flooding an essay with relevant or irrelevant quotations is prevalent in every language.

Nilanjana, that’s an important point. Flooding writing with research is very common everywhere.

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Writing Center@AEC Citation Help

direct quotes in an essay

APA 7th Direct Quotes

APA Direct Quote

If a source has multiple authors, follow these guidelines.

Two  authors in a parenthetical citation:  Use an ampersand (&) between the two last names. ​ 

Two authors in the narrative:   Use  and  between the two last names. ​ 

Three or more authors:  Only cite the first author, followed by  et al.

If directly quoting, include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference. Introduce the quote with a phrase like  according to  or state the author's last name.

  • According to Smith (2017), "First-year college students struggle with the lack of sleep, good eating habits, and APA style" (p. 23).
  • According to Jones and Brown (2017), "Citing in correct APA style can be challenging" (p. 25).
  • Smith (2017) discovered "first-year college students struggle with lack of sleep, good eating habits, and APA style" (p. 23); what does that mean for college health officers, librarians, and teachers?

If you do not name the author in the sentence, list it with the date and page numbers after the quotation.

  • She said, "First-year college students struggle with lack of sleep, good eating habits, and APA style" (Roberts, 2017, p. 199), and listed several solutions.

No page numbers . If the work does not have a page number, then provide an "address" to find the quoted text using one of the following methods:

  • Supply a heading or section name (this can be abbreviated).                                                                    "Librarians are the keepers of information" (Johnson & Minchew, 2022, Reference Section)
  • Supply a paragraph number (for unnumbered paragraphs count them accordingly).                                  "Reference is not a mute topic" (Johnson & Minchew, 2022, para. 1).
  • Supply a heading or section name and a paragraph number.                                                                      "Research is a complex undertaking. Proper technique wields the best possible results" (Johnson & Minchew, 2022, Research section, para. 3).

Audiovisual work . When providing a quote directly from an audiovisual work ( audioBooks, films, podcast, TV programs, YouTube video ), place a time stamp for the beginning of the quote in lieu of a page number.

     "Books open the path to understanding and expanding our minds" (Johnson, 2022, 7:11). 

View APA Style guidance for Quotations . 

  • << Previous: APA 7th In Text Citations & Quotes
  • Next: Block Text >>
  • Last Updated: Oct 6, 2023 9:53 AM
  • URL: https://libguides.ggc.edu/apastyle_7th

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  1. 3 Ways to Cite a Direct Quotation

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  2. How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps (2023)

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  3. What Is A Direct Quote Mla

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  4. [55] In Text Citation Apa Example According To

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  6. What Is A Direct Quote In An Essay

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COMMENTS

  1. Direct quotes in APA Style

    A direct quote is a piece of text copied word-for-word from a source. You may quote a word, phrase, sentence, or entire passage. There are three main rules for quoting in APA Style: If the quote is under 40 words, place it in double quotation marks. If the quote is 40 words or more, format it as a block quote.

  2. How to Use Direct Quotations Correctly in Your Essays

    What Is a Direct Quotation? A direct quotation is when you quote an academic source or reference word for word in your essay, using quotation marks and a reference (an in-text reference or footnote) to indicate that the words belong to another author and where you found them. When Should I Use Them?

  3. How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Pictures)

    1 Incorporate short direct quotes into a sentence. A short quote is anything that is shorter than 4 typed lines. When you use a short quote, include it directly in your paragraph, along with your own words.

  4. Direct quotations

    What is quoting? A direct quotation (often referred to as "quotes") is the exact language taken from source material. Direct quotations match the source material word-for-word and must be contained within quotation marks, usually introduced with a "says" verb or integrated into your own sentence structure. When should I quote?

  5. Quotations

    For a direct quotation, always include a full citation ( parenthetical or narrative) in the same sentence as the quotation, including the page number (or other location information, e.g., paragraph number). Place a parenthetical citation either immediately after the quotation or at the end of the sentence.

  6. Using Direct Quotations

    Direct quotes are useful for defining or describing specific concepts, whereas paraphrasing or summarising information from other sources shows that you understand the content and general idea. Try to summarise sources in most of your work and use direct quotes when they'll have a strong impact.

  7. Quotations

    Quotations What this handout is about Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. This handout will help you decide when and how to quote like a pro.

  8. How to Quote

    To cite a direct quote in APA, you must include the author's last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use "p."; if it spans a page range, use "pp." An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative.

  9. Library Guides: APA 7th referencing style: Direct quotations

    A direct quotation reproduces word-for-word material taken directly from another author's work, or from your own previously published work. If the quotation is fewer than 40 words, incorporate it into your paragraph and enclose it in double quotation marks. David Copperfield starts with "Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life ...

  10. Definition and Examples of Direct Quotations

    A direct quotation is a report of the exact words of an author or speaker. Contrast with other types of quotations, and learn when to use them.

  11. Quoting, Paraphrasing, & Summarizing

    Quoting, paraphrasing, and summarizing are all different ways of including evidence and the ideas of others into your assignments. Using evidence from credible sources to support your thesis is an important part of academic writing. Citing the source of any quote, paraphrase, or summary is an important step to avoid plagiarism.

  12. How to Quote

    Citing a quote in APA Style. To cite a direct quote in APA, you must include the author's last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use 'p.'; if it spans a page range, use 'pp.'. An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative.

  13. Style and Formatting Guide For Direct Quotations

    The purpose of using direct quotations is to direct attention to a particular element of an author's style—therefore, if the information, not an author's particular wording, is what is important for your purposes, paraphrases, rather than direct quotations, should be used. Include an explanation for why you are using direct quotations in ...

  14. MLA Formatting Quotations

    When you directly quote the works of others in your paper, you will format quotations differently depending on their length. Below are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper. Please note that all pages in MLA should be double-spaced. Short quotations

  15. In-Text Citations: The Basics

    If you are referring to an idea from another work but NOT directly quoting the material, or making reference to an entire book, article or other work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication and not the page number in your in-text reference.

  16. Using Quotations in Essays

    A good quotation should do one or more of the following: Make an opening impact on the reader Build credibility for your essay Add humor Make the essay more interesting Close the essay with a point to ponder upon If the quotation does not meet a few of these objectives, then it is of little value.

  17. How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps (2023)

    To use quotes in an essay, you need to make sure your quotes are short, backed up with explanations, and used rarely. The best essays use a maximum of 2 quotes for every 1500 words. Rules for using quotes in essays: Avoid Long Quotes. Quotes should be less than 1 sentence long. Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples.

  18. Referencing direct quotes in Harvard style

    A short direct quote is one to two lines long. When you are using a short direct quotation from a source, it should be enclosed in quotation marks. The following format is used: "Quotation" (Surname of the author, year of publication of the source, page number if applicable). Example:

  19. Inserting or Altering Words in a Direct Quotation

    When writers insert or alter words in a direct quotation, square brackets— [ ]—are placed around the change. The brackets, always used in pairs, enclose words intended to clarify meaning, provide a brief explanation, or to help integrate the quote into the writer's sentence.

  20. When to Use Quotation Marks ("")

    Quotation marks (also known as quotes or inverted commas) are used to indicate direct speech and quotations. In academic writing, you need to use quotation marks when you quote a source. This includes quotes from published works and primary data such as interviews.

  21. How many quotes should I use?

    It can encompass paying for a pre-written essay, cheating on an exam, or committing plagiarism. It can also include helping others cheat, copying a friend's homework answers, or even pretending to be sick to miss an exam. ... For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: "This is a quote" (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

  22. The Simple Secret to Writing Direct Quotations

    Direct quotations help your academic writing because they support and emphasize specific points in your essay or research paper. They can be eloquent, powerful, and memorable. They are an important tool in any academic writer's toolbox. However, the different rules and guidelines for using quotes can be confusing. When do you quote?

  23. Direct Quotes

    APA Direct Quote. If a source has multiple authors, follow these guidelines. Two authors in a parenthetical citation: Use an ampersand (&) between the two last names.. Two authors in the narrative: Use and between the two last names. Three or more authors: Only cite the first author, followed by et al. If directly quoting, include the author, year of publication, and page number for the reference.