How to Quote in Various Formats: APA, MLA, and Chicago

Quoting effectively is a fundamental skill in academic writing, as it allows you to incorporate the ideas and words of others while providing proper citations, thereby avoiding plagiarism and ensuring the integrity of your work. However, understanding how to quote properly and cite sources according to specific citation styles is crucial. This article provides a comprehensive guide to quoting in three widely used citation styles: APA, Chicago, and MLA. By exploring the intricacies of these styles, writers can confidently incorporate citations into their work while maintaining academic integrity. Unleash the power of quotations and enhance your scholarly discourse with precision and finesse.

What is quoting?

Quoting is reproducing someone else’s precise words in written or spoken form. It entails enclosing the cited text within quotation marks and acknowledging the original author or speaker. This technique finds wide application across various modes of communication, such as academic writing, journalism, literature, and everyday conversations. By integrating quotations, individuals can bolster the credibility of their arguments, substantiate claims with primary source evidence, analyze language and ideas, and convey precise definitions or arguments. Skillful utilization of quotes adds depth and authenticity to one’s work while upholding the principles of intellectual property attribution.

How many times should I use quotes in my paper? 

In scientific disciplines, the significance of the information surpasses how it is expressed, which implies that quotations should generally be limited. Conversely, as for Arts and Humanities, carefully selected quotes often play a crucial role in crafting a strong paper. The situation in Social Sciences varies. If your research primarily revolves around quantitative analysis, including quotes is typically minimal. However, it may be necessary to quote directly from the collected data in qualitative studies. Quotes should typically occupy at most 5-10 % of your writing. When uncertain, it is advisable to consult your instructor or supervisor to determine the appropriate extent of quoting within your specific field of study.

Citing a quote in APA, MLA, and Chicago

Every instance of quoting requires the appropriate citation of the source. The specific format for citations varies depending on the citation style employed. Some of the most prevalent styles include APA, MLA, and Chicago.

How to cite quotes in APA

When citing a direct quote in APA format, it’s necessary to include the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number, with commas separating them. If the citation is from a single page, you should use “p.” to indicate the page number; for a range of pages, use “pp.”

APA in-text citations can be presented in two ways: parenthetical or narrative. As for parenthetical citations, all the necessary information is enclosed in parentheses following the citation. Narrative quotations have other requirements: mention the author’s name in your phrase and then include the year of publication. The page number should be added after the quotation.

Importantly, punctuation marks like periods and commas should be placed after the citation, outside of the quotation marks.

Examples:

Parenthetical citation: 

“The key to success is hard work and perseverance” (Johnson, 2019, p. 42).

Narrative citation: 

According to Johnson (2019), “The key to success is hard work and perseverance” (p. 42).

How to cite quotes in MLA

In this format, an in-text citation consists of the author’s last name and the page number. Like APA, MLA citations can be presented in parenthetical or narrative form, and a period or other punctuation mark follows the citation.

Examples:

“The key to success is hard work and perseverance” (Johnson 42).

Narrative citation: 

According to Johnson, “The key to success is hard work and perseverance” (42).

How to cite quotes in Chicago Style

This style applies Chicago footnotes as a method of citing sources. A superscript number should be located directly after the citation to indicate a note that provides information about the author, title, page number, or more comprehensive details.

In contrast to parenthetical citations, the Chicago style requires the period or other punctuation mark to be placed within the quotation marks, followed by the corresponding footnote number.

Example:

“The key to success is hard work and perseverance.”1

_____________________________

1. Johnson, The Art of Success, 42.

How to introduce quotes

Ensure that you effectively cite a quote in your text by introducing it using your language. This approach allows you to clarify to the reader the purpose of including the citation and provide any necessary context for understanding it. Avoid presenting quotations as isolated sentences. To introduce quotations in a grammatically correct manner, you can employ three primary strategies:

  1. Include an opening sentence;
  2. Utilize an introducing signal phrase;
  3. Integrate the citation into your paragraph.

Let’s consider how these strategies can be implemented into your academic writing and support these ideas with examples.

Opening sentence

To properly introduce a citation, begin with a complete sentence that sets it up and provides context. Use a colon to signal the upcoming citation. However, refrain from using a colon if the text preceding the quotation does not constitute a full sentence.

In cases where you mention the author within your sentence, you have the option to use present-tense verbs like “argues,” “states,” “writes,” “explains,” or “reports” to describe the content of the citation.

Examples:

Bad:

Jane Smith emphasizes that: “Knowledge is the key to unlocking endless opportunities.”

The text introducing the citation does not constitute a complete sentence. A colon shouldn’t be used.

Good:

Jane Smith (2020) emphasizes the importance of education: “Knowledge is the key to unlocking endless opportunities” (p.5).

The phrase preceding the citation is a full sentence. The punctuation is correct here.

Signal phrase

Another approach is utilizing a signal phrase to attribute the citation to the author and provide a smooth transition. The signal phrase should include the author or source but does not constitute a complete sentence. Use a comma instead of a colon to separate the signal phrase from the citation. 

Example:

According to Smith (2020), “Knowledge is the key to unlocking endless opportunities” (p.5).

Integration into your paragraph

When quoting a phrase that does not make up a complete sentence, you can seamlessly integrate it into your sentence without any additional punctuation.

Example:

Achieving success requires a commitment to learning, as Jane Smith (2020) states, “Knowledge is the key to unlocking endless opportunities” (p.5).

How to quote within a quote

If you need to cite a text that includes another quotation, it is called a nested quotation. There are various scenarios where a quotation within a quotation becomes necessary. One such instance is when a character in a story vocalizes a citation from someone else.

Example:

The teacher emphasized, “As Mark Twain once said, ‘The secret of getting ahead is getting started.’”

This example is formatted according to the American citation styles guide. The main citation is enclosed in double quotation marks, while the quote within the quote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started,” is enclosed in single quotation marks. 

According to the British guidelines, the opposite pattern should be applied: single quotation marks for the main quote and double quotation marks for the quote within the quote. If single and double quotation marks are adjacent at the beginning or end, including a space between them is unnecessary.

Quoting a quote

The underlying principle remains consistent when confronted with the question of how to quote material that already includes a quotation. In this case, you are directly reproducing someone else’s words that another source has already cited. 

Examples:

Original Quotation: 

“The sky is the limit,” said James.

Quoting the Quotation: 

In his article, Paul referenced James's statement, quoting, “The sky is the limit.”

In this case, Paul is quoting the statement made by James. The citation should be enclosed in double quotation marks.

Shortening or modifying a citation

It is common to modify the original text when you need to summarize an article without plagiarizing and seamlessly integrate a quotation into your text. It is acceptable to do so as long as you clearly indicate the alterations made to the quotation. Discover the essential techniques to shorten your citations or properly modify them while transferring the author’s ideas. 

How to shorten a citation?

To condense a quotation, you can omit redundant or irrelevant parts by adding an ellipsis (…) instead of phrases, words, or sentences that were removed. Ensure that you include a space before the ellipsis and after it. 

Be cautious when removing words to avoid altering the original meaning. Using the ellipsis is a marker to indicate the removal of text, while the shortened citation should faithfully convey the author’s intended message.

Examples:

Sentence with an original quotation: 

As Mark Twain (1907) states, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started, and the secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one” (p.212).

Sentence with a shortened quotation: 

As Mark Twain (1907) states, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started … breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and then starting on the first one” (p.212).

How to modify a citation?

It may be necessary to make changes to a quote in certain situations. It could be due to grammatical incongruity with your sentence (for example, an author uses a different verb tense that doesn’t fit your sentence) or the need to provide additional information for clarity.

You should use brackets to differentiate between words and phrases you have introduced and those originally present in the source. 

Examples:

Original quotation: 

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” (Churchill, 1962, p.193).

Sentence with a modified quotation:

According to Winston Churchill (1962), “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue [despite challenges and setbacks] that counts” (p.193). 

The Latin word “sic” is often employed to indicate a grammatical or factual error within the citation. It informs readers that the mistake originates from the quoted material rather than being a typographical error on your part.

Example:

As mentioned by the participant, “The studnet [sic] expressed their concerns about the assignment.” 

Including [sic] after the word “studnet” indicates that the mistake is present in the original citation and is not a typographical error introduced by the writer.

Italicizing a portion of a quote can be beneficial to emphasize key elements that warrant attention. You may use the phrase “emphasis added” to indicate that the original text didn’t contain the italics.

Example:

According to Albert Einstein, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution [emphasis added]” (1948, p. 22).

Typically, minor alterations to punctuation or capitalization can be made without the need for brackets to indicate these adjustments. It ensures the quote conforms to the style of your writing.

How to use block quotes

When quoting a substantial portion of text from a source, organizing it as a block quote is necessary. What are block quotes? It’s a particular format: rather than quotation marks, the citation should be presented as a separate block of text on a new line, with indentation. Block quotes follow the same quotation rules as regular quotes, with one exception. If the quote concludes with a period, the citation is placed after the period.

When to use quotes

In academic writing, it is advisable to avoid excessive reliance on quotes. Instead, paraphrasing the information is often more effective, which involves expressing the paragraph in your own words. This approach facilitates seamless integration of the material and maintains the prominence of your voice.

Nevertheless, there are certain circumstances in which quoting is more appropriate:

  1. When you need to focus on language: If you wish to analyze how an author employs language, such as in literary analysis, it becomes necessary to cite the exact text for the reader’s reference.
  2. When you provide evidence: To persuade the audience regarding your argument, position, or interpretation of a topic, including relevant quotes that support your idea can be highly beneficial. Quotes derived from primary sources, such as historical documents or interview transcripts, hold particular credibility as evidence.
  3. When you deliver an author’s definition or position: While conveying ideas from secondary sources in your own words is generally preferable, there are instances where directly citing quotes is justified. It applies when a passage effectively expresses, explains, or defines something, and paraphrasing would risk altering the meaning or weakening the idea's impact.

By exercising thoughtful judgment, you can balance paraphrasing and selectively incorporating quotes to enhance the clarity and strength of your academic writing.

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