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Citing Your Sources





Quotations are explicit references to someone else’s words. Quotations are essential elements of academic writing. Quotations reproduce accurately what others have said about a certain subject. Including quotations in your academic work indicates the knowledge community you are in conversation with. It also shows your knowledge of the most relevant works and personalities of your field. Finally, working with quotations gives you the opportunity to show your analytical skills as a researcher. 

The structure of a quotation

Quotations are a part of a more complex structure. This structure has usually three simple parts: (a) an introductory phrase for the quotation; (b) the quotation itself; (c) an analytical commentary about the ideas from the quotation.

Basic examples of introductory phrases for quotations

  • According to Fowler…
  • Fowler establishes that…
  • Fowler reminds us that…
  • Fowler discusses that…
  • The study carried out by Fowler put forward the idea that…

Complex examples of introductory phrases for quotations

  • In discussing how Austen crafted multimodal characters in her latter period, Fowler claims that…
  • While explaining how paradigms instantiate research programs, Fowler describes…
  • Although Fowler denied that the concept of race played a role in his theory of cultural capital, he also mentioned that...


Suggestions for quotations

  • Try to include full sentences.
  • Provide context for the quotation to let the reader know where the excerpt came from and what the discussion was about.
  • Make sure the quotation is accurate.
  • If you have to cut out some words from the quotation use the proper punctuation to make it explicit (usually ellipsis between parenthesis).
  • Remember to include quotation marks at the beginning and at the end of a quotation.
  • After the quotation marks, include the appropriate referencing information. For example, if you're using the APA system you’ll have to add something similar to this: (Fowler, 2019, p. 3).
  • Avoid misrepresenting the author’s position; be as fair as possible.

Types of quotations

Direct quotations, indirect quotations or paraphrasis, mixed quotations and summaries



Direct quotation

A quotation is direct when you use the exact same words as the source. In other words, the original message is not altered. This type of quotation is concerned with accuracy. You need to add quotation marks at the beginning and at the end of the quoted excerpt. Include the source information at the end of the quotation.


Indirect quotation

An indirect quotation changes the words from the original source but it preserves the same idea. We call this procedure “paraphrasing”. This type of quotation is concerned not with the written words but with their meaning. Although you don’t need to add quotation marks when using this type of quotation you do need to include the source information.


Mixed quotations

A quotation is mixed when it incorporates direct quotations and indirect quotations. This strategy is usually used to avoid including big blocks of text that could potentially distract the reader. By doing so, the writer makes sure the writing is engaging. You need to add quotation marks only when using direct quotations. Remember to add the source information at the end of direct quotations, indirect quotations and mixed quotations.



Summaries are synthesis of the main ideas from the source. In other words, when you summarize a reading you gather the most important elements of the text and put them together in text.


In-text quotations versus block quotations


In-text quotations are excerpts of someone else’s ideas integrated seamlessly with the main text.


Exactly the same words as the source (no paraphrasis)

From three to forty words.

Quotation marks at the beginning and at the end

Identification information at the end of the quotation

Regular typeface

Not indented


Example of in-text quotation

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam fermentum in nisl ut condimentum “curabitur iaculis magna sed augue elementum, non viverra mauris accumsan. Nunc euismod diam ut rutrum varius. Nullam viverra fermentum nisl a congue” (1996, p. 34). Sed condimentum lacus vel felis dictum, id vestibulum nibh elementum. Morbi interdum justo rhoncus iaculis luctus.


Block quotations are bigger excerpts of someone else’s ideas separated from the main text.


  • Exactly the same words as the source (no paraphrasis)
  • More than forty words
  • No quotation marks
  • Identification information at the end of the fragment
  • Regular typeface
  • Indented


Example of block quotation

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Aliquam fermentum in nisl ut condimentum:

Curabitur iaculis magna sed augue elementum, non viverra mauris accumsan. Nunc euismod diam ut rutrum varius. Nullam viverra fermentum nisl a congue. Sed condimentum lacus vel felis dictum, id vestibulum nibh elementum. Morbi interdum justo rhoncus iaculis luctus. Duis nunc purus, sodales eget erat quis, sollicitudin mollis dui (1996, p. 34).

Nunc in turpis ultricies, volutpat arcu sed, malesuada justo. Integer sollicitudin, arcu et maximus ultricies, orci nulla vestibulum sapien, fringilla porttitor massa eros et sem. Morbi egestas lectus ac cursus gravida.


What is the function of quotations?


There are several ways to work with quotations. The three main ones are the following.

  1. Description of a position
  2. Analysis
  3. Rebuttal



Describing a position


You can use quotations to describe an author’s position. This is especially useful when you are trying to state the purpose of the author, the introduction of a theory or the definition of a concept or category.


Example 1

According to the DSM-IV, the core traits of a person that falls under the autistic spectrum are “the presence of markedly abnormal or impaired development in social interaction and communication and a markedly restricted repertoire of activity and interests” (DSM-IV, 2000, p.70).


Example 2

While trying to answer the question about what technology is, Heidegger explains that technology is usually understood in two ways: “one says: Technology is a means to an end. The other says: Technology is a human activity. The two definitions of technology belong together (...) The manufacture and utilization of equipment, tools, and machines, and the manufactured and used things themselves, and the needs and ends that they serve, all belong to what technology is” (Heidegger, 1986, p. 5).


Example 3

Banks’ purpose is explicit  in the following excerpt: “I argue here that a useful understanding of African American rhetoric must account for both public and private kinds of persuasion, of communication by experts and lay users of a system, as well as non-users who attempt to use or participate in it” (Banks, 2006, p. 7).





Additionally, you can quote a fragment of text to analyze it. Sometimes, when analyzing texts, writers discover that some concepts have more than one meaning or that there are some assumptions in the source’s position that need to be highlighted.


Example 1

In discussing the fast pace of academic production and journal publishing ecologies, Ulmer mentions the reaction to the “publish or perish” dictum: “scholars have described the need for a slower pace of production across academia (...) such descriptions have been framed as slow research” (2016, p. 1). Here the key word is “slow” because it might be understood in two senses, in the epistemological sense but also in the ontological. As an epistemological concept, it refers to the rhythm of knowledge production; as an ontological one it describes a way of being in academia.


Example 2

In a television interview, Alan Badiou asked Michel Foucault the question “what is psychology?” (1965, min 1:17). This question assumes that, contrary to other sciences, psychology’s definition is still a controversial subject. In other words, nobody asks what physics is; instead they ask what can you do with it. However, Badiou’s question implicitly casts some doubts about the scientific status of the discipline. 


Example 3

In his reconstruction of the discussion around the teaching of grammar, Hartwell states that “the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or (...) even a harmful effect on improvement in writing” (1985, p. 105). However, that depends on the meaning of grammar. There are at least five different senses of the word “grammar”: (a) Grammar as “a set of formal patterns in which the words of a language are arranged” (p. 109); (b) Grammar as a subfield of linguistics as opposed to pragmatics. (c) Grammar as “linguistic etiquette”  (p. 109); (d) Grammar as a modularized faculty innate and hardwired in our brains that allows us to learn a language; (e) Grammar as a stylistic convention that prescribes, for example, that passive sentences should be avoided in a clear and concise prose. To begin with, Grammar d is impossible to teach according to the definition of “cognitive module”.




Using a quote to make a critical remark it’s useful because it allows the reader to contrast it with your comments. You can show that a concept is not properly applied, that one premise is false, that there is contradictory evidence, that their proofs are inconclusive, or that the conclusion is too strong.


Example 1

Pinker claims to respect science, yet he blithely ignores fifteen thousand scientists’ desperate warning to humanity. Instead, he uses the blatant rhetorical technique of ridicule to paint those concerned about overshoot as part of a “quasi-religious ideology… laced with misanthropy, including an indifference to starvation an indulgence in ghoulish fantasies of a depopulated planet, and Nazi-like comparisons of human beings to vermin, pathogens, and cancer” (2018, p. xx).


Example 2

At one point, Pinker explains that, “Despite the word’s root, humanism doesn’t exclude the flourishing of animals, but this book focuses on the welfare of humankind”  (2018, p.xx). That’s convenient, because any non-human animal might not agree that the past sixty years has been a period of flourishing. In fact, while the world’s GDP has increased 22-fold since 1970, there has been a vast die-off of the creatures with whom we share the earth (World Wild Life Progress Report, 2016).


Example 3

But we don’t need to look outside the human race for Pinker’s selective view of progress. He is pleased to tell us that “racist violence against African american… plummeted in the 20th century, and has fallen further since”” (2018, p. xx). What he declines to report is the drastic increase in incarceration rates for African Americans during the same period. An African American man is now six times more likely to be arrested than a white man, resulting in the dismal statistic that one in every three African American men can currently expect to be imprisoned in their lifetime (The Sentencing Project, 2019, p. 5).




Source: Lent, J. (May 18, 2018). Steven PInker’s Ideas About Progress are Fatally Flawed. These Eight Graphs Show Why.