APA Quoting refers to the guidelines for in-text and block quotes according to APA—the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 7th Edition.

Key Concepts:


In-Text Quotations

Whether they are used to provide evidence, support for an argument, or to illustrate an idea using another writer’s words, short quotations are valuable tools that can enhance any essay. Because short quotations contain fewer than 40 words, they should be integrated into the surrounding paragraph using introductory phrases that provide some context for the quoted material. Introductory phrases, or signal phrases as they are often called, can be used to provide information about the quoted material, such as author or publication, and can also be used to build connections to ideas developed in previous sentences.

When should I use a short quotation?

As Moxley discussed in Quoting, communities of practice each have preferred citations systems. Similarly, these citation systems each have their own expectations about when authors should use direct quotes.

When using APA style, paraphrasing is preferred to quoting. However, direct quotes should be used in the following situations:

  1. when referencing definitions;
  2. when the original author’s phrasing is exceptionally artful or precise;
  3. when analyzing the exact phrasing used in the quote (APA, 2022).

APA considers quotations less than 40 words to be short quotations. To learn how to format quotations of 40 words or more, please see the information below on Block Quotations.

How should a short quotation be formatted?

The formatting of a short quotation contrasts with that of a block quotation in several ways. A short quotation should be surrounded by quotation marks and followed by a parenthetical in-text citation. The final punctuation of the sentence is then typed after the in-text citation, outside of the parentheses.

Let’s look at some examples:

However, as one researcher pointed out, “science can be seen as an ideal and altruistic activity conducted for the best of mankind, where knowledge is in itself a value” (Simonsen, 2012, p. 46).

An alternate method of formatting a short quotation is to include the author(s) and year of publication in the introductory clause, while the original page number remains in parentheses at the end of the sentence. Consider the placement of the author’s name and year of publication as the quotation is introduced.

As Simonsen (2012) went on to explain, “science can be seen as an ideal and altruistic activity conducted for the best of mankind, where knowledge is in itself a value” (p. 46).

Or, if you wanted to build a connection between Simonsen’s work and the work of another, previously discussed scholar, your signal phrase might look like this:

Contrary to Lemaitre’s (2017) association of science with narcissism, Simonsen (2012) argued that “science can be seen as an ideal and altruistic activity conducted for the best of mankind, where knowledge is in itself a value” (p. 46).

When should I use a long quotation?

Quotes of 40 or more words are also known as block quotations and should be used in moderation. Use of block quotes in brief articles can be problematic because the quote may consume 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 is 40 or more words—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.

How should a block quote be formatted?

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. Each line of the block quotation should be indented.

APA Style has these formatting guidelines for block quotes:

  • 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 .5” from the left margin (5 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.

Let’s look at some examples:

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)

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)


Altering Direct Quotations

In some cases, you may need to add or remove words from a direct quotation for clarification or to achieve grammatical correctness. This section will explain how to add words from a direct quotation, how to indicate an error in a direct quotation, and how to remove words from a direct quotation.

How do I add words to a direct quotation?

In some instances, you may need to add words to a direct quotation for clarification or explanation. When additional words are added to a direct quote, the added words must be surrounded by brackets. Additionally, the inserted material should present an accurate representation of the author’s message in the original text. Bracketed language should never be used to change the meaning of the original text.

Let’s look at an example:

Using an excerpt from Marc Kutner’s book, Astronomy: A Physical Perspective, the bracketed words in the quoted sentence were inserted into the quotation to clarify the meaning of the word they:

Original direct quotation: “Since they carry the continents with them as they move, we refer to this motion as continental drift” (Kutner, 2003, p. 451). 

Quoted sentence with added words: “Since they [tectonic plates] carry the continents with them as they move, we refer to this motion as continental drift” (Kutner, 2003, p. 451). 

How do I emphasize words in a direct quotation?

APA style generally advises against using italics for emphasis. Instead, whenever possible, you should create emphasis through diction, sentence construction, and sentence length.

However, in circumstances in which confusion or misreading is likely, you may choose to add italics to emphasize words in a direct quotation that were not originally emphasized by the author.

Additionally, type the phrase emphasis added and enclose it in brackets directly after the emphasized words to indicate to the reader that the emphasis is not present in the original text.

Let’s look at an example:

Consider this excerpt from Katherine Cullen’s book, Biology: The People Behind the Science:

“Nature selects variations that are advantageous for survival and reproduction in a particular environment [emphasis added], just as farmers artificially select for economically desirable characteristics” (Cullen, 2006, pp. 52-53). [1]

Note: The phrase emphasis added is placed inside brackets and is not italicized.


Removing Words from Direct Quotations

How do I indicate omitted words from a direct quotation?

When a portion of a sentence (or sentences) is not included in a quotation, three ellipsis points should be typed in place of the omitted material. However, ellipsis points do not need to be included at the beginning or end of a quotation; the reader will assume that additional material is present in the original text before and after the quotation.

Let’s look at an example:

Original direct quotation: “One application of the term organic memory in which we are especially interested is that which refers to retentions in the nervous system” (Judd, 1907, p. 236).

Quoted sentence with ellipsis points: “One application of the term organic memory . . . refers to retentions in the nervous system” (Judd, 1907, p. 236).

In this instance, the author has chosen to remove the portion of the sentence expressing Judd’s interest in the specific application of the term. This omission has removed words from the original quotation that were not applicable in this new context, but the omission has not altered the original author’s intent in any way.

How should ellipsis points be used after a complete sentence?

If a sentence between two other sentences is omitted, retain the end punctuation of the first sentence and add the three ellipsis points after it.

Let’s look at an example:

The following example quotes specific sentences from Sigmund Simonsen’s book, Acceptable Risk in Biomedical Research:

Original direct quotation: “The principle of human primacy has been criticised as being vague and ill-founded or redundant in bioethical literature. A critical analysis of the principle as such falls outside the scope of this book. But, despite occasional criticism, the principle is obviously fundamental. It has also since its explicit adoption into international professional ethics in 1974 and European law in 1997 been widely acknowledged.” (Simonsen, 2012, p. 53)

Quoted sentence with ellipsis points following a complete sentence:

As Simonsen (2012) observes, “The principle of human primacy has been criticised as being vague and ill-founded or redundant in bioethical literature. . . . But, despite occasional criticism, the principle is obviously fundamental” (p. 53).

Again, in this example, the author has used ellipses to omit information that is not relevant for the current application of this quote, but ensures that the omission does not change the author’s original meaning.


Indicating Original Errors in Direct Quotations

In some situations, you may need to quote a primary source that contains a spelling or grammatical error. In these cases, it is important to indicate that the error is present in the original material.

How do I indicate an original error in a direct quotation?

To indicate that a spelling or  grammatical error appears in the original work and that you are accurately reproducing the original material, insert the word sic in italics and enclose it in brackets directly after the error [sic].

Let’s look at some examples:

If a participant in a research experiment incorrectly spells a word in a written response, you might indicate the error in your paper as follows:

In response to the question, “How many hours of sleep per night, on average, do you receive?” one participant reported, “Twevle [sic] hours of sleep.”

In the following example, the synonymous words gaining and obtaining are both included (incorrectly) in a single sentence, leading to redundancy:

As Simonsen (2012) argued, “research should also be valid, verifiable, and unbiased, to attain the overarching goal of gaining obtaining [sic] generalisable knowledge” (p. 46). 

See also:


References

American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). 

American Psychological Association. (2022). Style and Grammar Guidelines. APA Style. https://apastyle.apa.org/style-

grammar-guidelines

Cullen, K. E. (2006). Biology: The people behind the science. New York, NY: Chelsea House.

Judd, C. H. (1907). Psychology: General introduction. New York, NY: Scribner.

Kutner, M. L. (2003). Astronomy: A physical perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

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

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