A direct quote may be appropriate if you do not feel that the author's words can be paraphrased without risk of distortion or loss of meaning.

A quotation is easier to do than a paraphrase, but it is also easy to get wrong. For more information on quotations, visit the Turnitin practice site.

A quotation must be:

  • copied from the source exactly, including emphasis, spelling, and any mistakes the original author may have made
  • enclosed in quotation marks
  • followed by a citation and a page number.

You should not rely on quotations to make your argument. There are times when quoting is appropriate, and times when it is not.

Quote when:

  • it emphatically reinforces your own ideas
  • the language is particularly effective
  • paraphrasing would distort the original.

Do not quote when:

  • you could paraphrase the idea more effectively
  • the passage you have chosen is too long
  • when you already have many quotations in your work.

Do not forget that you need to 'introduce' your quotations with your own words, as in the example below, rather than letting your quotation take up an entire sentence on its own. You also need to follow your quotation with a sentence that explains its relevance to your point. Language such as "This quote demonstrates ..." and "Schedneck clearly shows that ..." will help you to articulate the connection between the quote and your particular point.

Short quotations

Quotation is particularly useful when you need to cite specific details. This is a sample short quote using the same source as our paraphrase:

According to the Chair of Woolworths' People Policy Committee Holly Kramer, improvements in the remuneration framework will assist in creating a "clear link between business performance and reward outcomes for all relevant management" (Woolworths Limited 2016, p. 33).

Note how the words in quotation marks are Kramer's exact words. They also have an introduction and a citation with a page number, so the reader can find the original quote themselves. Check your referencing style guide for rules on the length of short quotations.

Long quotations

There are times when you cannot avoid quoting something that is very long. When a quotation is more than four lines, you must format it differently.

Long quotations are indented from the main text and do not need quotation marks. They also require some introductory text in your own words. For example:

The Chair of Woolworths' People Policy Committee Holly Kramer notes in the company's annual report (Woolworths Limited 2016, p. 33) that:

Soon after the appointment of Brad Banducci to the role of Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (Group CEO), the Board approved a new and refocused business strategy and operational structure. In support of this transformational agenda, the People Policy Committee (PPC) has completed a comprehensive revision of the remuneration framework, incorporating best practices where appropriate. These changes reinforce the Company's strategic objectives by providing a clear link between business performance and reward outcomes for all relevant management, from our critically important store managers through to our newly formed senior executive team. We believe the new remuneration programs will reinforce a culture of accountability, which is vital to our long term success.

As the Chair's statement demonstrates, Woolworths has undergone significant changes in its remuneration practices...

Only use long quotations when it is unavoidable. You should also explain why the long quote is so valuable to your work. Paraphrasing is usually preferred because it shows more detailed engagement with and understanding of the source material.

What if I need to make a minor change to a quotation?

Usually, a quotation is copied exactly from the original source. However, there are times when it is permitted to make small changes to help the flow of your writing.

Removing text

Sometimes you might not want to include something in the middle of the sentence because it is irrelevant to your argument. You can skip it using an ellipsis ...

Holly Kramer notes that "the Board approved a new ... operational structure" (Woolworths Limited 2016, p. 33).

Be careful when using ellipses not to remove too much text or misrepresent the meaning of the original.

Changes or additions

Square brackets [ ] are used to make small changes to the grammar of the sentence. This is useful when the quotation requires an adjustment to its grammar in order to fit in with your writing.

According to Holly Kramer, Woolworths used "best practices where [it was deemed] appropriate" (Woolworths Limited 2016, p. 33).

Mistakes in the original

Published sources may have typos or grammatical errors. If you need to quote a passage that has a mistake in it, you can use [sic] to show that the mistake is the original author's, not your own.

One study found "investors value there [sic] money" (Jackson 2016, p. 76).