• 3-minute read
  • 1st August 2016

Who Said That? (Quoting Sources with APA Referencing)

You might know that referencing is essential to academic writing. You might even know how to cite various source types. But are you sure you know the conventions for quoting sources?

This is crucial, since failing to indicate when you’re quoting a source could lead to accusations of plagiarism. Quoting sources correctly, on the other hand, clearly distinguishes your ideas from those of other thinkers and will help your reader follow your arguments.

As such, today we’re looking at quoting sources with APA referencing.

When Should I Quote a Source?

Most of the time, it isn’t necessary to quote sources directly. Your work should be primarily your own words, so paraphrasing a source and giving a citation will do a better job of demonstrating your understanding. The main reasons to offer a direct quotation are:

  • To provide textual evidence supporting your interpretation of a source
  • To discuss a particular passage of text from a source
  • When your arguments depend on the particular wording used by an author
  • When paraphrasing a passage of text would make it less clear or change its meaning

Quoting Sources: The Basics

If you need to quote a source, the basic rules in APA referencing are to clearly cite the author’s surname, year of publication and relevant page numbers (if available), as well as enclosing the quoted text in quotation marks:

Stale bread is ‘the baker’s bugbear’ (Irons, 1948, p. 340).

If the author or year of publication is mentioned in the main text, there’s no need to duplicate these details in the citation. When the author is named, cite the year of publication immediately and any relevant page numbers after the quoted text:

According to Irons (1948), stale bread is ‘the baker’s bugbear’ (p. 340).

The man was serious about his bread. [Image from Breadcraft by J. R. Irons]

Quoting Sources without Page Numbers

If a source doesn’t have page numbers, such as a website, you can still quote it directly by giving a paragraph number:

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Quoting involves reproducing ‘the words of another writer verbatim’ (Lee, 2015, para. 2).

When citing larger documents without page numbers, it may also help to give a section title.

Longer Quotations

APA specifies that quotations of 40 or more words should be formatted as a block quote. This means:

  • Starting the quoted text on a new line
  • Indenting roughly half an inch from the margins
  • Giving a parenthetical citation with page numbers after the final punctuation

No quotation marks are required for block quotations, so they should look something like this:

One aspect of Ricoeur’s reliance on metaphor stands out:

In focussing on metaphor as the stimulus of creative insight in hermeneutics, Ricoeur … wishes to assimilate an innovative element that, while appreciative of Kant’s notion of a productive imagination, also takes into account recent developments in structuralism and linguistic philosophy. (Joy, 2013, p.72)

We should, therefore, explore this element of his work in order to…

Generally, however, you should only quote sources at length when absolutely necessary.

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