How to quote in academic writing
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 or formatted as a block quote.
- The original author is correctly cited.
- The text is identical to the original.
How to cite a quote in APA, MLA and Chicago
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 periods and commas are placed after the citation, not within the quotation marks.
Citing a quote in MLA Style
An MLA in-text citation includes only the author’s last name and a page number. As in APA, it can be parenthetical or narrative, and a period (or other punctuation mark) appears after the citation.
Citing a quote in Chicago Style
There are two versions of Chicago Style citation: the author-date system, and the notes and bibliography system.
The author-date system looks similar to APA: you include the author, year, and page number in parentheses.
The notes and bibliography system uses footnotes to cite sources. A note, indicated by a superscript number placed directly after the quote, specifies the author, title, and page number—or sometimes fuller information.
Unlike with parenthetical citations, in this style, the period or other punctuation mark should appear within the quotation marks, followed by the footnote number.
|1. Darwin, The Origin of the Species, 510.|
In all styles, you also need to list all the sources you cited at the end of your paper. The requirements for formatting this list vary by citation style.
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.
|Citation style||When to block quote|
Block quoting is most common in literary analysis, where detailed analysis of the original text requires you to quote at length.
Block quotes are cited the same as regular quotes, except that if the quote ends with a period, the citation appears after the period.
Avoid including quotations as entire stand-alone sentences. Each time you quote, you must introduce it in your own words. This shows the reader why you’re including the quote and how it relates to your argument.
There are three main strategies you can use to introduce quotes in a grammatically correct way. The following examples use APA Style citations, but these strategies can be used in all styles.
Introduce the quote with a full sentence followed by a colon.
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.
Introductory signal phrase
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.
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.
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 three dots, called an ellipsis. Most style guides specify that there should be a space before, after, and between each of the dots.
When you shorten a quote, 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.
When should you use quotes?
In academic papers and essays, you should avoid relying too heavily on quotes. When you want to refer to information or ideas from a source, it’s often best to paraphrase, which means putting the passage in your own words. This shows that you have fully understood the text and ensures your own voice is 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 papers about literature, linguistics, communication and media), it is 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, the occasional concise quote can be used to present other authors’ theories, arguments or ideas. You can quote to show that your point is supported by an authority on the topic, or to critique a position that you disagree with.
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 impact, it could be worth quoting directly.
How many quotes should you use?
The amount of quotes you should include depends on your subject of study and topic of research.
In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quotes 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, the amount of quotes you use depends partly on whether you’re doing qualitative or quantitative research. If you’re dealing mainly with numbers and statistics, you shouldn’t include many quotes, but if you’re dealing mainly with words, you will need to quote from the data you collected.
As a general guideline, we recommend that quotes 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 about quoting sources
- What is a quote?
- When should I use quotes?
- 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.
- How do I cite a quote in academic writing?
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.
- What is a block quote?
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: