17 posts categorized "Direct quotations"

September 22, 2011

Me, Myself, and I

More Tales From the Style Expert Inbox

by Jeff Hume-Pratuch

Jeff Dear Style Expert,

My professor said that if I express my own opinion in a paper, I have to cite myself in text. Do I have to put myself in the reference list too, or is it more like a personal communication? It seems kind of odd to be citing a communication with yourself.

Dear Irene,

Although it’s a basic principle of scientific writing that “researchers . . . give credit where credit is due” (APA Publication Manual, 6th ed., p. 15) when they use the words and ideas of others, it’s really not necessary to cite yourself as the source of your own opinion. After all, your name is on the title page.

Your professor may be trying to encourage you to distinguish your opinions from conclusions you have drawn on the basis of empirical evidence. Generally, however, authors indicate their opinions by introducing them with a phrase such as “In my opinion,” “I think,” or “I believe.” (And yes, it’s perfectly OK to use first-person pronouns for this purpose in APA Style.)

In short, citing yourself as an authority on your own opinion is just not done in APA Style—or any form of serious communication. (Just ask Bob Dole.)

Hope this helps,


Got a nagging question about APA Style? Send it to us at StyleExpert@apastyle.org!

December 02, 2010

Citations Within Quotations

Timothy McAdoo by Timothy McAdoo

Sometimes when you are quoting from another source, the text you want to quote will include citations. You might wonder (a) whether you should keep these citations in the quote and (b) whether you should include references for the citations. The short answers are (a) yes and (b) no (see p. 173 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association).

For example, let’s say you want to quote from the highlighted section of this article, written by Flynn in 2010.
In your own paper, you might write

As Flynn (2010) noted, “two phobias, fear of snakes and fear of flying, are particularly difficult to test in combination (Jackson, 2006) because many participants quickly become agitated” (p. 3).

Because you are relying on Flynn’s (2010) study, your reference list should include Flynn (2010), but it need not include Jackson (2006). You should include a Jackson (2006) reference only if you cite that work as a primary source elsewhere in your paper.

May 20, 2010

Secondary Sources (aka How to Cite a Source You Found in Another Source)

Timothy.mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

You’ve probably heard that you should avoid secondary sources when possible. It’s true—if you find great information being quoted or paraphrased somewhere, it’s well worth your effort to track down the original source so you can read it for yourself and therefore cite it directly.

But why track down the original when you already have the quotes?

First, by reading the full text of the original source, you can verify that the context of the quote supports the point you want to make. You don’t want to be surprised by an informed reader who tells you that the original source actually contradicts your points—especially if that informed reader is your professor!  

Second, by finding and reading the original source, you will become better informed about your research topic. To a reader familiar with the research in your topic area, the citations in your paper are one indication of whether you have a firm understanding of the subject and of the relevant research. By contrast, if you’ve cited secondary sources for ideas or quotations that you could have obtained easily (or relatively so), you may give the impression that your research was hasty or superficial.

If your primary source is an archival document (e.g., a diary, limited-circulation brochure or pamphlet, unpublished manuscript), see Section 7.10 of the APA Publication Manual (6th ed.) for citation and reference guidelines and examples.  

So when are secondary sources appropriate?

It’s okay to cite a secondary source when you’ve exhausted the options for finding the original work.

For example, an out-of-print work may be impossible for you to find but could still be quoted in recent work by other authors. Or perhaps the paper you’re reading has cited a personal correspondence. You obviously can’t cite the original source directly in that case, so the secondary source is appropriate.

And of course there are those cases when an author takes a complex topic and puts it in layman’s terms. Citing this type of secondary source, where the extra level of analysis is much the point, may also be appropriate.

How is it done?

In your reference list, provide a reference for the source you read. This is known as the secondary source because it is one step removed from the original source of the idea or quotation. In your text, name the original work and provide the citation for the secondary source.

Let’s look at an example:

In his e-mails, Smith argued that asynchronous line dancing would be the next Internet meme (as cited in Jones, 2010).

Jones (2010) would be the reference you include in your reference list. Also, note that by mentioning the original format of the information (in this case a series of e-mail messages), you not only specify that this is a secondary source but also give the reader an indication of why that’s the case. Although it’s not a requirement, mentioning the original format answers this potential question for the reader so he or she can focus on the content!

Have any questions about citing secondary sources? Feel free to leave us comments. What kinds of secondary sources have you used?

March 25, 2010

How to Cite Direct Quotations

Timothy McAdooby Timothy McAdoo

One of our goals for this blog is to convey that following the guidelines of APA Style need not restrict your flexibility as a writer. Because of space limitations, many style points illustrated in the APA Publication Manual show only one or two examples. We’re happy that the blog now allows us to provide additional examples.

Today I have an illustration of how you may write a sentence in a variety of ways and still be following perfect APA Style. All of the following citations of a direct quote are in correct APA Style, citing the author, year, and page number.


  1. According to Palladino and Wade (2010), “a flexible mind is a healthy mind” (p. 147).
  2. In 2010, Palladino and Wade noted that “a flexible mind is a healthy mind” (p. 147).
  3. In fact, “a flexible mind is a healthy mind” (Palladino & Wade, 2010, p. 147).
  4. “A flexible mind is a healthy mind,” according to Palladino and Wade’s (2010, p. 147) longitudinal study.
  5. Palladino and Wade’s (2010) results indicate that “a flexible mind is a healthy mind” (p. 147).

Of course, these are just a few of the possible wordings for this sentence. Each of these examples properly cites the direct quotation, but I've varied the placement of the citation information. By changing the order of information in the sentence, I can choose what information to emphasize.

For example, because Example 2 begins with “In 2010,” you might use it if your greater context for this quote is to indicate the timeliness of the research in your literature review.

Or, you might find the quote so striking that you want to begin the sentence with it, as in Example 4, to make the most impact.

Or, you may be considering the readability and transitions from one sentence to the next. For example, if you ended the previous sentence with “Palladino and Wade,” you would probably not want to begin the next with “Palladino and Wade,” which would rule out Example 5. You might instead choose Example 2, but change the names to “they”:

This idea was recently explored by Palladino and Wade (2010). They noted that "a flexible mind is a healthy mind" (Palladino & Wade, 2010, p. 147).

I hope these examples begin to demonstrate the choices you have as an author using APA Style. More information on direct quotation of sources can be found on pages 170–174 of the Manual.

December 17, 2009

You Can Quote Me on This

Timothy McAdoo by Timothy McAdoo

A good quote can make your paper more interesting, lend credence to your arguments, and add variety to the tone and style of your paper.  

But before you simply copy and paste, consider these four key points:

1. Be purposeful.

In researching your topic, you’ll read and absorb much more information than you could ever hope to restate verbatim in your paper. Most of this you’ll paraphrase (and cite accordingly!) or combine to form original ideas. But sometimes you’ll want to quote an original source.

Why quote rather than paraphrase an idea? A direct quote can be much more powerful. Maybe the original author is preeminent in the field, thus his or her quote lends instant gravitas to your argument. Maybe he or she coined a phrase that’s now ubiquitous in the research, and you’re quoting the earliest original use. Or maybe the original author just captured an idea so clearly and succinctly that you want to share the exact wording with your readers. Consider the impact you want the quote to have on your reader.

2. Be precise.

Once you’ve included the quotation, check and recheck the source material against what you’ve keyed in your paper. It’s easy to drop a word, insert a typo, or omit punctuation. We all know that one misplaced comma can make a world of difference (just ask that panda who eats, shoots and leaves)!

Also, be sure the author’s intent is not misrepresented. A sentence removed from the original context can sometimes be misunderstood. Read your quote with an objective eye and decide whether (a) more context is needed or (b) paraphrasing might be called for.

3. Cite your source.

Proper citation is essential. Always cite the author, date, and page or page range for direct quotes. For online sources where page numbers are not applicable, use paragraph numbers if they are visible or cite the heading and the number of the paragraph following that heading so your reader can find the quote in context.

4. Use the proper format.

Formatting the quotation is more than just an arbitrary means of ensuring consistency. It serves as a flag to the readers, telling them that something about the quote is significant or that you’ve altered or omitted some of the text. APA’s formatting recommendations are meant to provide a means of easily indicating how and why you’ve made alterations to a quote.

The quotation needs to be true to the original, but you also want it to work for you, to support your argument.

Let’s look at an example:

Smith (2009) also dabbles in hyperbole, saying, “Random Explosions 2: Revenge of the Dialogue is the worst movie in the history of time [emphasis added]. . . . it’s [sic] promise of dialogue is a misnomer of explosive proportions” (p. 13).

As you can see, even though I’ve made three separate formatting notations (added emphasis, ellipses points to indicate omitted text, and “sic” to indicate the typo), the original quote remains clear. With this formatting I've also clarified what aspect of the quotation I want the reader to focus on.

Finally, quotes of 40 or more words should be in block form, sans quotation marks.

I’ve simply touched on the APA formatting possibilities here. The APA Publication Manual includes detailed instructions on pp. 170–174. What are your thoughts on APA’s quotation guidelines?

Note: When used, sic should be italicized and in brackets (see p. 172 of the Manual). The example above was updated to reflect this.

October 19, 2009

How to Cite a Speech in APA Style

Timothy mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. made this famous declaration on August 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It may be the most famous American speech ever given, and it’s certainly oft-quoted. 

But how do you properly cite a speech in APA Style?  The answer may surprise you. You don’t reference the speech itself!

Even for a speech you may know by heart, you should find an authoritative source for the text. Then you simply reference the book, video documentary, website, or other source for the quotation. The reference format you need will depend on the type of document you’ve used. 

For example, if you’ve found Dr. King’s speech in a book of great speeches, your reference might be as follows. 

Smith, J. (Ed.). (2009). Well said! Great speeches in American history. 
  Washington, DC: E & K Publishing.

The in-text citation would include the surname of the author or editor of the source document and the year of publication.  For example, your sentence might look like this: 

Dr. King declared, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed” (Smith, 2009).

Of course, you can find speeches in a wide variety of sources. Consider two ends of the spectrum: You might find an embedded video in a blog post and use Example 76 (“Blog post,” p.  215 of the Publication Manual), or you might find a lone, dusty copy of an audiotape in an archive and use Example 69 (“Interview recorded and available in an archive,” p. 214). 

What’s your favorite source for great speeches?

October 16, 2009

APA Style for Citing Interviews

Timothy.mcadoo by Timothy McAdoo

“I’m quoting Johnny Depp from an interview I read in a magazine. But the Publication Manual has no reference format for interviews. What do I do?”

I’ve always said there are two types of interviews in this world: those you conducted and those you didn’t! Let’s look at both. 

The guidance on p. 179 of the Publication Manual about citing personal communications mentions “personal interviews” as one example. Let’s say you interview a professor about her lifetime of work in the field of industrial and organizational psychology. Because a reader would not be able to find your interview in print or online, no recoverable data are available. You’ll need to use the “personal communication” in-text citation style shown on p. 179.

Of course, these days it can be easy to make your data recoverable. If you have a blog or another publishing outlet online, you could post the text of your interview. Then you’d want to follow the appropriate reference format.  If you’ve posted to your blog, for example, use the Example 76 (“Blog post”) on p. 215 of the Publication Manual

Finally, if you’ve simply read an interview conducted by someone else, you should pick the reference format appropriate for the source. If you read the interview in a magazine, for example, you’d want to follow Example 7 (“Magazine article”) on p. 200.

I hope this post clears up that small point of confusion about citing interviews. Some of my favorite interviews are from Studs Terkel’s oral histories. What are yours?

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