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:

Example: APA direct quote
According to a recent paper, “quotes can be useful in academic writing” (Singh et al., 2019, p. 25).

Citing a direct quote

To cite a quote in APA, you always include the the author’s last name, the year the source was published, and the page on which the quote can be found. The page number is preceded by “p.” (for a single page) or “pp.” (for a page range).

There are two types of APA in-text citation: parenthetical and narrative.

In a parenthetical citation, you place the entire citation in parentheses directly after the quote and before the period (or other punctuation mark).

Example: APA parenthetical citation
A recent study of student plagiarism found that “plagiarism is often a matter of confusion rather than deception” (Horváth & Kovács, 2020, p. 4).

In a narrative citation, the author(s) appear as part of your sentence. Place the year in parentheses directly after the author’s name, and place the page number in parentheses directly after the quote.

Example: APA narrative citation
Horváth and Kovács (2020) argue that “plagiarism is often a matter of confusion rather than deception” (p. 4).

Remember that every in-text citation must correspond to a full APA reference at the end of the text. You can easily create your reference list with our free APA Citation Generator.

Generate APA references

Quoting a source with no page numbers

Some source types, such as web pages, do not have page numbers. In this case, to cite a direct quote, you should generally include an alternative locator, unless the source is very short.

The locator may be a chapter or section heading (abbreviated if necessary), a paragraph number, or a combination of the two. Use whichever locator will help your reader find the quote most easily.

For sources such as movies, YouTube videos, or audiobooks, use a timestamp to locate the beginning of the quote.

Example: Citing a section heading
While quotation is a useful tool, it should not be overused: “Relying too heavily on quotes often makes a paper less original” (Oliveira, 2018, Originality section).
Example: Citing a paragraph number
While quotation is a useful tool, it should not be overused: “Relying too heavily on quotes often makes a paper less original” (Oliveira, 2018, para. 5).
Example: Citing a heading and paragraph
While quotation is a useful tool, it should not be overused: “Relying too heavily on quotes often makes a paper less original” (Oliveira, 2018, Originality section, para. 5).
Example: Citing a timestamp
While quotation is a useful tool, it should not be overused: “Relying too heavily on quotes often makes a paper less original” (Oliveira, 2018, 01:23).

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words and awkward phrasing.

See editing example

Quoting 40 words or more (APA block quotes)

If the quote contains 40 words or more, it must be formatted as a block quote. To format a block quote in APA Style:

  • Do not use quotation marks.
  • Start the quote on a new line.
  • Indent the entire quote 0.5 inches.
  • Double-space the entire quote.

Like regular quotes, block quotes can be cited with a parenthetical or narrative citation. However, if the block quote ends with a period, place the citation after the period.

Example: Block quote with parenthetical citation
Sometimes it is necessary to quote a source at length:

Block quoting is particularly useful when you want to comment on an author’s language or present an argument that you will then critique. By setting the quote on a new line and indenting it, the passage is clearly marked apart from your own words. Therefore, no quotation marks are necessary. (O’Connor, 2019, p. 38)

Example: Block quote with narrative citation
O’Connor (2019) explains the purpose and format of block quotes:

Block quoting is particularly useful when you want to comment on an author’s language or present an argument that you will then critique. By setting the quote on a new line and indenting it, the passage is clearly marked apart from your own words. Therefore, no quotation marks are necessary. (p. 38)

Block quotes with multiple paragraphs

If the block quote contains multiple paragraphs, indent the first line of each paragraph after the first.

Example: Block quote with multiple paragraphs
Sometimes it is necessary to quote a source at length:

Block quoting is particularly useful when you want to comment on an author’s language or present an argument that you will then critique. By setting the quote on a new line and indenting it, the passage is clearly marked apart from your own words. Therefore, no quotation marks are necessary.

However, it is important not to rely on long quotes to make your point for you. Each quote must be introduced and explained or discussed in your own words. (O’Connor, 2019, p. 38)

Making changes to direct quotes in APA

In general, a direct quote should be an exact reproduction of the original. However, there are some situations where you may need to make small changes.

You may change the capitalization of the first word or the final punctuation mark in order to integrate the quote grammatically into your sentence, as long as the meaning is not altered.

Any other changes must be marked following these APA guidelines.

Shortening a quote

If you want to omit some words, phrases, or sentences from the quote to save space, use an ellipsis (. . .) with a space before and after it to indicate that some material has been left out.

If the part you removed includes a sentence break, add a period before the ellipsis to indicate this.

Example: Quote shortened with ellipsis
According to O’Connor (2019), “block quoting is particularly useful when you want to . . . present an argument that you will then critique” (p. 38).
Example: Quote shortened with ellipsis and period
According to O’Connor (2019), “block quoting is particularly useful when you want to comment on language or present an argument that you will then critique. . . . However, it is important not to rely on long quotes to make your point for you” (p. 38).

Clarifying a quote

Sometimes you might want to add a word or phrase for context. For example, if a pronoun is used in the quote, you may add a name to clarify who or what is being referred to.

Any added text should be enclosed in square brackets to show that it is not part of the original.

Example: Adding text to a quote
In the view of Anderson (2017), “the results [of the election] reflected global patterns” (p. 17).

Adding emphasis to quotes

If you want to emphasize a word or phrase in a quote, italicize it and include the words “emphasis added” in square brackets.

Example: Italicizing for emphasis
In the view of Anderson (2017), “the results reflected global patterns [emphasis added]” (p. 17).

Errors in quotes

If the quote contains a spelling or grammatical error, indicate it with the Latin word “sic”, italicized and in square brackets, directly after the error.

Example: Indicating an error
In the view of Anderson (2017), “the results reflected global paterns [sic]” (p. 17).

Frequently asked questions about APA Style

How do I quote in APA format?

To include a direct quote in APA, follow these rules:

How do I cite in APA format?

APA citations consist of an in-text citation and reference entry. Each source type has its own format; for example, a webpage citation is different from a book citation.

Use Scribbr’s free APA Citation Generator to generate flawless citations in seconds or take a look at our APA citation examples.

How do I cite a source with no page numbers in APA Style?

When you quote or paraphrase a specific passage from a source, you need to indicate the location of the passage in your in-text citation. If there are no page numbers (e.g. when citing a website) but the text is long, you can instead use section headings, paragraph numbers, or a combination of the two:

(Caulfield, 2019, Linking section, para. 1).

Section headings can be shortened if necessary. Kindle location numbers should not be used in ebook citations, as they are unreliable.

If you are referring to the source as a whole, it’s not necessary to include a page number or other marker.

When should I use “et al.” in APA in-text citations?

The abbreviation “et al.” (meaning “and others”) is used to shorten in-text citations with three or more authors. Here’s how it works:

Only include the first author’s last name, followed by “et al.”, a comma and the year of publication, for example (Taylor et al., 2018).

How do I cite an indirect source in APA Style? (“as cited in”)

In an APA in-text citation, you use the phrase “as cited in” if you want to cite a source indirectly (i.e., if you cannot find the original source).

Parenthetical citation: (Brown, 1829, as cited in Mahone, 2018)
Narrative citation: Brown (1829, as cited in Mahone, 2018) states that…

On the reference page, you only include the secondary source (Mahone, 2018).

When should I use quotes?

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

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.

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Shona McCombes

Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.

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