How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

Quoting means copying a passage of someone else’s words and crediting the source. To quote a source, you must ensure:

  • The quoted text is enclosed in quotation marks (usually single rather than double in British English) or formatted as a block quote
  • The original author is correctly cited
  • The text is identical to the original

The exact format of a quote depends on its length and on which referencing style you are using. Quoting and citing correctly is essential to avoid plagiarism.

Example: How to quote
Natural selection ‘can produce no great or sudden modification; it can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510).

How to cite a quote in Harvard and APA Style

Every time you quote, you must cite the source correctly. This looks slightly different depending on the citation style you’re using. Three of the most common styles are APA, MLA, and Chicago.

Citing a quote in Harvard style

When you include a quote in Harvard style, you must add a Harvard in-text citation giving the author’s last name, the year of publication, and a page number if available. Any full stop or comma appears after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

Citations can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation, you place all the information in brackets after the quote. In a narrative citation, you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

Examples: Harvard in-text citation
  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510).
  • Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510).

Complete guide to Harvard style

Citing a quote in APA Style

To cite a direct quote in APA, you must include the author’s last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use ‘p.’; if it spans a page range, use ‘pp.’

Just like in Harvard style, APA in-text citations can be parenthetical or narrative, and full stops and commas appear after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

Examples: APA in-text citation
  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510).
  • Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510).

Complete guide to APA

Introducing quotes

Make sure you integrate quotes properly into your text by introducing them in your own words, showing the reader why you’re including the quote and providing any context necessary to understand it. Don’t present quotations as stand-alone sentences.

Example: Quote not properly introduced
‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).

There are three main strategies you can use to introduce quotes in a grammatically correct way:

The following examples use APA Style citations, but these strategies can be used in all styles.

Introductory sentence

Introduce the quote with a full sentence ending in a colon. Don’t use a colon if the text before the quote isn’t a full sentence.

If you name the author in your sentence, you may use present-tense verbs, such as ‘states’, ‘argues’, “explains,” “writes,” or “reports,” to describe the content of the quote.

  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Introductory signal phrase

You can also use a signal phrase that mentions the author or source, but doesn’t form a full sentence. In this case, you follow the phrase with a comma instead of a colon.

  • According to a recent poll, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • As Levring (2018) explains, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Integrated into your own sentence

To quote a phrase that doesn’t form a full sentence, you can also integrate it as part of your sentence, without any extra punctuation.

  • A recent poll suggests that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (p. 3).

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Quotes within quotes

When you quote text that itself contains another quote, this is called a nested quotation or a quote within a quote. It may occur, for example, when quoting dialogue from a novel.

To distinguish this quote from the surrounding quote, you enclose it in double (instead of single) quotation marks (even if this involves changing the punctuation from the original text). Make sure to close both sets of quotation marks at the appropriate moments.

Note that if you only quote the nested quotation itself, and not the surrounding text, you can just use double quotation marks.

Examples: Punctuation mistakes with nested quotations
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had‘ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘”Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had (Fitzgerald 1).
Examples: Correctly formatted nested quotations
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘”Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”‘ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway begins by quoting his father’s invocation to ‘remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’ (Fitzgerald 1).

Note: When the quoted text in the source comes from another source, it’s best to just find that original source in order to quote it directly. If you can’t find the original source, you can instead cite it indirectly.

Shortening or altering a quote

Often, incorporating a quote smoothly into your text requires you to make some changes to the original text. It’s fine to do this, as long as you clearly mark the changes you’ve made to the quote.

Shortening a quote

If some parts of a passage are redundant or irrelevant, you can shorten the quote by removing words, phrases, or sentences and replacing them with an ellipsis (…). Put a space before and after the ellipsis.

Be careful that removing the words doesn’t change the meaning. The ellipsis indicates that some text has been removed, but the shortened quote should still accurately represent the author’s point.

Example: Shortening a quote
As Darwin (1859) puts it, ‘natural selection acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations … it can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510).

Altering a quote

You can add or replace words in a quote when necessary. This might be because the original text doesn’t fit grammatically with your sentence (e.g., it’s in a different tense), or because extra information is needed to clarify the quote’s meaning.

Use square brackets to distinguish words that you have added from words that were present in the original text.

Example: Adding words to a quote
Smith (2020) states that ‘those [participants] with the highest scores were generally older than the average’ (p. 33).

The Latin term ‘sic‘ is used to indicate a (factual or grammatical) mistake in a quotation. It shows the reader that the mistake is from the quoted material, not a typo of your own.

Example: Marking a mistake with ‘sic
Sill (2022) states that ‘several problem [sic] can be addressed using this technique’ (p. 14).

In some cases, it can be useful to italicise part of a quotation to add emphasis, showing the reader that this is the key part to pay attention to. Use the phrase ’emphasis added’ to show that the italics were not part of the original text.

Example: Adding emphasis with italics
Because natural selection ‘acts solely by accumulating slight, successive, favourable variations [emphasis added], it can produce no great or sudden modification; it can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510).

You usually don’t need to use square brackets to indicate minor changes to punctuation or capitalisation made to ensure the quote fits the style of your text.

Block quotes

If you quote more than a few lines from a source, you must format it as a block quote. Instead of using quotation marks, you set the quote on a new line and indent it so that it forms a separate block of text.

Block quotes are cited just like regular quotes, except that if the quote ends with a full stop, the citation appears after the full stop.

Example: MLA block quote
Tolkien favours long sentences and detailed descriptions:

To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more. (16)

When should I use quotes?

Avoid relying too heavily on quotes in academic writing. To refer to ideas from a source, it’s often best to paraphrase, which means putting the passage in your own words. This helps you integrate information smoothly and keeps your own voice dominant.

However, there are some situations in which quotes are more appropriate.

When focusing on language

If you want to comment on how the author uses language (for example, in literary analysis), it’s necessary to quote so that the reader can see the exact passage you are referring to.

Example: Using quotes to analyse language
You are writing a paper about the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. You will have to quote frequently from the novels in order to analyse their language and style.

When giving evidence

To convince the reader of your argument, interpretation or position on a topic, it’s often helpful to include quotes that support your point. Quotes from primary sources (for example, interview transcripts or historical documents) are especially credible as evidence.

Example: Using quotes as evidence
You are working on a paper about the causes of the French Revolution, and you have studied documents and letters written at the time. You can quote from these sources as evidence in support of your argument.

When presenting an author’s position or definition

When you’re referring to secondary sources such as scholarly books and journal articles, try to put others’ ideas in your own words when possible.

But if a passage does a great job at expressing, explaining, or defining something, and it would be very difficult to paraphrase without changing the meaning or losing the weakening the idea’s impact, it’s worth quoting directly.

Example: Quoting to present a theory
Your interpretation of survey data is supported by a well-known theory on your topic. You find a sentence that perfectly sums up the theory, so you quote it directly before elaborating on your understanding of the theory.

Frequently asked questions about quoting sources

What is a quote?

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

When should I quote instead of paraphrasing?

To present information from other sources in academic writing, it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis)
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim
How do I cite a quote in academic writing?

Every time you quote a source, you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation. This looks slightly different depending on the citation style.

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: ‘This is a quote’ (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

How many quotes should I use?

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative, you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative, you may need to quote from the data you collected.

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

How do I quote text that contains a citation?

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarises other sources and cites them in parentheses, APA  recommends retaining the citations as part of the quote:

  • Smith states that ‘the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus’ (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

      Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted.

      If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase ‘as cited in’ in your citation.

      What is a block quote?

      A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate ‘block’ of text. Instead of using quotation marks, you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

      APA uses block quotes for quotes that are 40 words or longer.

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      Shona has a bachelor's and two master's degrees, so she's an expert at writing a great thesis. She has also worked as an editor and teacher, working with students at all different levels to improve their academic writing.

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