Although most of your research should be incorporated using paraphrases, sometimes it is beneficial to use a direct quote.
After completing this chapter, you will be able to:
- Define a direct quote (Page, n.d., section 31)
- Explain when to use a direct quote
- Format a short and long direct quote and cite your source
- Fully incorporate quotes into your writing
Quoting means using a part of a source word for word, exactly as it was originally said or written. You might quote a phrase or an entire sentence – or even a few sentences.
When Should I use a Direct Quote?
A good rule is to not use too many quotes because extensive quoting gives the impression that you don’t understand your source enough to put it in your own words and that you cannot contribute any of your own thoughts.
While writers should usually paraphrase rather than directly quote sources, sometimes a direct quotation is more suitable: if you want to give an exact definition, when you are relaying a complex piece of information, or when you are writing to refute something someone has directly stated. You may also decide to quote directly to give extra weight to a particular piece of information by emphasizing the authority of the source; when you quote something directly, your reader knows that you have not altered the original source in any way.
If you aren’t sure whether you should use direct quotations in a specific course or paper, ask your instructor.
Direct quotes are best used for these reasons:
to support your idea or to advance your argument by highlighting that a particular piece of information is from an expert source
to present something you are analyzing, interpreting or commenting on so the reader will understand better to what you are referring (such as a literary passage)
if the original language is especially moving, descriptive, or historically significant
for unique terms or a passage that cannot be paraphrased or summarized adequately without losing or changing its meaning
Adapted from The Writing Center, n.d.
How do I Format and Cite Short Direct Quotes?
A short direct quotation contains fewer than 40 words from the original source. You must put a double set of “quotation marks” around any words that you use from your source, and the quoted material must be exactly the same as the original. Not putting quotation marks around a short quote is considered a form of plagiarism; the quotation marks allow you to attribute the exact phrasing, and not just the ideas, to your original source.
Once you have written out the direct quotation, you need to create the in-text citation for the quoted material. It is good practice to use a signal phrase or a narrative style citation to introduce a direct quote. This helps integrate the quote to your writing.
Whether you are using the narrative or parenthetical structure, all direct quotations must include the following information:
- year of publication
- page number (or paragraph number for websites or timestamp for film or video)
Short Direct Quote with a Narrative Style Citation
You should never start or end a sentence with quotation marks; you need to integrate the material into a sentence that you begin with your own words. One way to do this is to use the narrative style to introduce the quote.
There are a few ways to use the narrative style to introduce a direct quote.
1. Use the author’s full name or last name only to introduce the quote:
Note: you can use the author’s full name or just last name to introduce a quote in the narrative style, but you NEVER use the author’s first name only, and you never use initials.
Notice that in APA style you must use a past tense verb and either a comma or the word “that” to introduce the quote.
A descriptive verb helps define the context of the information and provides your reader with an understanding of how the information is used in the original source. Some common verbs used in signal phrases include the following:
Be careful though. These verbs are not simple synonyms. Some verbs, like “argued” and “asserted” mean that the author was very forceful. Other verbs, like “suggested”, mean that the author was less certain about their claims. Verbs like “said” and “stated” are neutral and can almost always be used.
The verb “claimed” can sometimes mean that you are distrustful of what the author said: She claimed that global warming was a hoax, but her research was poorly done.
2. Use the phrase “according to” followed by the author’s name:
Short Quote with Signal Phrase and Parenthetical Citation
Another way to integrate a direct quote into your writing is to use a signal phrase to introduce the quote. There are many different signal phrases that you can use, but you must be careful that you do not create a run-on sentence.
1. Use a phrase that indicates the source but that does not use the author’s name
2. Use a subordinating phrase (not a complete sentence) that connects the quote to something you’ve said previously
3. Use the phrase “according to” followed by the name of the publication or article title (as long as the publication or article title is not part of the parenthetical citation)
Notice that when you use an article title as part of your signal phrase, you use “Title Capitalization” and capitalize the first letter of each main word in the title.
If you decide to use a signal phrase to introduce a quote, make sure that you do not inadvertently create a grammar error.
Use of a complete sentence before the quote causes a run-on sentence:
Incorrect: One article explained that B.C. has experienced a resurgence in COVID-19 cases, “a number of businesses in the Central Okanagan have been forced to close because of illness” (Roffel, 2021, para. 12).
Use a phrase (not a complete sentence) to introduce the quote OR use a semi-colon to correctly join the two sentences:
Correct: One article explained that “a number of businesses in the Central Okanagan have been forced to close because of illness” (Roffel, 2021, para. 12).
Correct: One article explained that B.C. has experienced a resurgence in COVID-19 cases; “a number of businesses in the Central Okanagan have been forced to close because of illness” (Roffel, 2021, para. 12).
Incorrect: According to a recent study showed “a number of businesses in the Central Okanagan have been forced to close because of illness” (Roffel, 2021, para. 12).
You can use either “according to” OR a past tense verb in your phrase (not both):
Correct: According to a recent study, “a number of businesses in the Central Okanagan have been forced to close because of illness” (Roffel, 2021, para. 12).
Correct: A recent study showed, “a number of businesses in the Central Okanagan have been forced to close because of illness” (Roffel, 2021, para. 12).
How Do I Format and Cite Long Direct Quotes?
A long direct quotation is when you use 40 or more words from the original source. Long direct quotations should not be used unless they are absolutely necessary, especially in shorter assignments. Aim to only quote phrases or short passages, not long sections of text. Ensure that every part of your quote is essential to your argument; if parts of the quote are not essential, consider paraphrasing or using ellipsis to drop words from the quote (see below).
Unlike a short quotation, a quotation of more than 40 words does not have double quotation marks surrounding it, and it is formatted in a block style. When inputting the long quotation in a paragraph, ensure that you do not add a space before or after the quotation. Double space the quotation, and indent the entire quotation 0.5 inches (0.5”) from the left margin. If there is more than one paragraph in the quotation, indent the first line of the second and subsequent paragraphs.
Long Quote with Narrative Style Citation
Long Quote with Parenthetical Style Citation
How do I Incorporate Quoted Material?
In the example below, the writer has used a narrative style citation to introduce a direct quote. Immediately after the quote, the writer uses the transition “In other words” to introduce the explanation of the quote.
Notice that the writer uses plain language to ensure that her audience can understand her explanation.
How do I Alter Quoted Material?
Expressing a Quote within a Quote
A common modification that needs to be made in direct quotations occurs when there are already double quotation marks within the direct quotation. All double quotation marks in the original source must be changed to single quotation marks.
Original from paragraph 7 of a 2020 article by Crawley and King::
Premier Doug Ford’s stance on the matter is clear: “People have to practice social distancing. They just have to. We’ve come all this way. Why go backwards based on having warm weather?”
Crawley and King (2020) reported, “Premier Doug Ford’s stance on the matter is clear: ‘People have to practice social distancing. They just have to. We’ve come all this way. Why go backwards based on having warm weather?’” (para. 7).
Adding or Omitting Words
Another modification is to omit certain words from a quotation to remove unnecessary phrasing. This is allowed, but you must make sure that your omission of certain words does not change the meaning of the sentence and that it is clear to the reader that you have omitted some material. Use ellipsis within square brackets [. . .] to show that you have removed some words.
If you add any words to a quote, perhaps to make the quote work grammatically in your sentence structure, you must use square brackets [ ] around the added material.
Most importantly, ensure that you are not changing the focus or meaning of the original.
In the example below, we used square brackets to show the two changes that we made the original quote:
These are the alterations that we made in the above quote:
- We added some phrasing to clarify a term used in the quote
- We omitted a part of the quote (some examples of things parents thought their children couldn’t do) that was not essential to our argument.
Notice that our alterations did not affect the meaning of the original.
Learning Check 
Have a look at the original text below on the left and then the quotes on the right. All three quotes are examples of plagiarism in various degrees. See if you can spot the error before you click the quote to see the answer and the explanation of the quote as it should be.
Source: (Foot & Stoffman, 1996, p. 20)
- The Writing Center University of Wisconsin-Madison. (n. d.). Quoting and paraphrasing. https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/quotingsources/ ↵
- Adapted from Page, C. (n.d.). Writing skills. In Academic integrity (U. Kestler, Ed.) KPU pressbooks. https://ecampusontario.pressbooks.pub/communications2/chapter/quotes/CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 ↵
- Foot, D. K., & Stoffman, D. (1996). Boom, bust & echo: How to profit from the coming demographic shift. Macfarlane. ↵