Block Quotations

Block Quotations are long quotations, typically at least four lines of text (MLA) or 40 words (APA).


Block quotations should be used in moderation. Use of block quotes in brief articles can be problematic because the quote may consumer the reader’s attention and interfere with the author’s Rhetorical Stance. Loads of block quotes may give the reader the impression that you are inexperienced in the subject or are simply filling pages to meet a word count requirements. Lengthy, wordy quotations should never be used simply to fill pages when the writer has little to say about the topic or issue.

When a writer chooses to include a long quotation—one that takes up four or more lines of text—it must be set off as a free standing block. As with any quotation a writer employs as evidence, the original text should contain relevant and compelling ideas that are expressed in vivid and concise language.

Formatting Block Quotes

While a short quotation is enclosed in quotation marks and integrated into the surrounding paragraph, a block quotation is an independent paragraph that is indented five spaces from the left margin.

Citation Styles for academic writing often require block quotes to be double-spaced, especially if the rest of the paper is double spaced. In contrast, workplace writing often calls for single space. Thus, writers are wise to research the genre and context to identify spacing requirements.

  • A block quotation is introduced with an informative, full-sentence signal phrase that ends with a colon.
  • The entire free standing block of the quoted material is indented 1” from the left margin (10 spaces) and is double-spaced throughout.
  • The first line of the quotation is not indented more than the following lines, unless two or more paragraphs are quoted.
  • Quotation marks are not added at the beginning or end of the quotation.
  • The end punctuation appears at the end of the last sentence in the quotation, not after the page number; no additional punctuation appears after the parenthesis.
    • Example: These results deserve further investigation. (23)

APA Block-Quote Example

One researcher outlines the viewpoints of both parties:

Freedom of research is undoubtedly a cherished ideal in our society. In that respect research has an interest in being free, independent and unrestricted. Such interests weigh against regulations. On the other hand, research should also be valid, verifiable, and unbiased, to attain the overarching goal of gaining obtaining [sic] generalisable knowledge. (Simonsen, 2012, p. 46) [1]

Note that although the block quotation is formatted as a separate block of text, it is preceded by an introductory phrase or sentence(s) followed by a colon. If the author’s name and the year of publication appear in the introductory sentence, the parenthetical in-text citation at the end of the paragraph should simply include the page number(s) of the original text, as shown in this example:

Simonsen (2012) outlines the two opposing viewpoints:

Freedom of research is undoubtedly a cherished ideal in our society. In that respect research has an interest in being free, independent and unrestricted. Such interests weigh against regulations. On the other hand, research should also be valid, verifiable, and unbiased, to attain the overarching goal of gaining obtaining [sic] generalisable knowledge. (p. 46)

Citation

 [1] Simonsen, S. (2012). Acceptable risk in biomedical research. New York, NY: Springer

MLA Block-Quote Example

In their investigation of the way the human mind deals with multitasking, Salvucci and Taatgen determined that driving is an act that requires drivers to engage in a variety of simultaneous subtasks; when drivers choose to add interaction with an electronic device to an already complex activity, the new demands on their minds can distract them from their primary task:

The heavy cognitive workload of driving suggests that any secondary task has the potential to affect driver behavior. Any concurrent task would necessarily involve procedural steps and thus, whether large or small, create additional cognitive workload. At the same time, not all secondary tasks are created equal, and we would expect some tasks to interfere with driving more than others. Not surprisingly, tasks involving significant visual demand have the greatest potential for negative effects on driver performance. (108) [1]

Thus, the researchers determined that the use of electronic devices—such as cell phones—while driving can possibly place enough additional demands on the drivers’ mental capacity to compromise their ability to operate a vehicle safely.

Citation

[1] Salvucci, Dario D., and Niels A. Taatgen. Multitasking Mind. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 20 Feb. 2012.