Quoting and referencing

There are two main reasons why we use source material in our writing:

  • to support a particular point that we have just made in the body of the essay or dissertation
  • to indicate to the reader that we have read and understood the literature that is relevant to the particular topic.

We quote from a particular source when we use the original words from a text without any changes. Quotations are important in your essay. If they are well used, and support the text, they demonstrate both wide reading and understanding. However, you should not quote too often because the reader might take this as being a sign of a lack of real thought on your part.

In addition to quotations, it is also important to explain in your own words (summarising or paraphrasing) what you understand by a particular idea or approach. A maximum of about two quotes per page is generally recommended.

Quoting is different from summarising or paraphrasing because we use the writer's actual words. There are a number of rules that we need to be aware of when we are quoting directly.

  • It is very important to ensure that the quote is correctly given; providing a mis-quotation in your essay would indicate a serious level of carelessness.
  • The quotation must be relevant to the argument that you are making.
  • The quotation should support a point that you have just made.
  • The quote must be integrated grammatically into your own writing.
  • Where the quotation is short (for example, less than one line) you can continue on the same line, enclosing the quotation in single quotation marks, and of course, providing the reference.
  • If the quotation is more than one line, start a new line and indent the whole quotation. Do not forget the reference.
  • Do not use quotation marks where the passage is indented.
  • At times, you will not want to quote the whole passage and where you wish to omit part of it, type three or four dots to indicate that a section has been deliberately omitted because it is unnecessary.

Here are several examples of how to quote in an essay.

Example 1

...and recent research has indicated that '...teachers in both primary and secondary schools are finding it increasingly difficult to teach effectively...' (Kimble 2005 p.46) and the reasons given focus in particular on the amount of administrative work that they are obliged to carry out.

Note the fact that the quote becomes an integral part of the sentence. The quote is surrounded by single inverted commas to help to make it stand out. Because the quote is only part of the original sentence, the writer puts three dots at the start and end of the quotation.

Example 2

Some writers question the current approach to meeting and communicating with members of the opposite sex.

Chatting on the Internet seems to be accepted as normal today, just like chatting to a girl on a street corner fifty years ago; but is it the same? Evidence suggests that they are different in fundamental ways. (Mathews, Jones and Smith 2000)

Note that only longer pieces of text are laid out in this way. The quoted passage is indented. It's important to note that the text does not have inverted commas around it unlike when a short quote is integrated within a sentence.

However, we do not always want to quote directly and so we may wish to comment on others' writing without actually using their words.

Example 3

Many writers are already asking questions about the environment in which we bring up our children (Harold 2000; Yeshim 2001; Timms 2002).

Note that the reference is the year and date only without a page reference in this case because we are referring to a general view put over by these writers and we are not referring to a specific page. Note also that the reference is integrated within the sentence and the only full stop comes after the reference.

With direct quotes, grammatical integration into the text is particularly important. Look at these examples and decide if there is anything wrong with them.

  • As Smith has noted 'Foreign direct investment in China have had a significant impact on the whole economy' (1987 : 54).
  • Smith (1987 : 78) defines foreign direct investment as 'Foreign direct investment is the inflow of capital from external sources.'
  • Some writers have expressed their concern. Smith (187 : 109) expressed his concerning when he claimed that 'and my concern is that excessive levels of inward direct investment can adversely impact on the economy.'
  • Kilburn has defined innocence as 'Innocence is the child in all of us.' (Kilburn, 1987 : 56)
  • As Blair (Blair, 1997 : 109) writes that the origins of the Labour Party lie in the history of exploitation.
  • Emmit notes (Emmit, 1999 : 91) that road safety is not negotiable and 'road safety is not negotiable because people's lives matter more than speed.'

Notes

  • As Smith has noted 'Foreign direct investment in China have had a significant impact on the whole economy' (1987 : 54).

Mistake in the quote; use of have instead of has.

  • Smith (1987 : 78) defines foreign direct investment as 'Foreign direct investment is the inflow of capital from external sources.'

The quote is not integrated into the sentence and it should read as follows: Smith defines foreign direct investment as 'the inflow of capital from external sources'.

  • Some writers have expressed their concern. Smith (187 : 109) expressed his concerning when he claimed that 'and my concern is that excessive levels of inward direct invest can adversely impact on the economy.'

The quote is not integrated in the sentence; delete and my concern is that. Mistaken use of concerning instead of concern.

  • Kilburn has defined innocence as 'Innocence is the child in all of us.' (Kilburn, 1987 : 56)

The quote is not integrated in the sentence; delete Innocence is.

  • As Blair (Blair, 1997 : 109) writes that the origins of the Labour Party lie in the history of exploitation.

It's unnecessary to repeat Blair. Mistaken and unnecessary use of as/that.

  • As Blair (1997 : 109) writes, the origins of the Labour Party lie in the history of exploitation.
  • Blair ( 1997 : 109) writes that the origins of the Labour Party lie in the history of exploitation.
  • Emmit notes (Emmit, 1999 : 91) that road safety is not negotiable and 'road safety is not negotiable because people's lives matter more than speed.'

The writer should not repeat Emmit and repetition in the quote.

At the end of your essay you will have listed your bibliography, in other words the books that you have referred to in writing the essay. Within the body of your essay, you only have to provide a small amount of information (the reference) but it will be enough to tell the reader in which book you found the quotation, and perhaps where to find it in that book.

We can provide the reference in a number of slightly different ways.

References in an academic essay usually consist of the author's last name, the year of publication and the page number. Like this:

In a recent article Jones (1989 :126) stated that...

or:

In a recent article, one writer (Jones 1989 :126) argued that ...

or:

Jones claims that the agreement is unworkable (Jones 1989 :126).

or:

Jones has described the proposition as 'unworkable and unacceptable' (1989 : 126).

Notice the single quotation marks around the original words used. Notice also the position of the full-stop when we have the reference at the very end of the sentence. The reference is enclosed within the boundary of the sentence.

As noted before, where a longer passage is quoted within a paragraph, then this is inset and the author's name is placed at the end of the quotation. Like this:

There is little doubt that this is an unworkable and unacceptable solution to the problem. Further research must be conducted before a solution can be found. (Jones 1989 : 126)

As noted before, there are no quotation marks around the excerpt when it is inset in this way.

Another point to remember is that where several authors have written one book or article, and the first named author is a man, you should not refer to he when you mean they. If the authors are John Benson and Mary Jones, it would be incorrect to refer throughout the essay to what Benson said or what he discovered. It would be more appropriate to talk about what the writers have stated, or what they had noted.


 

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