Once you’re familiar with how to introduce a quotation using a signal phrase, you’re ready to learn the more advanced rules on this page. You don’t have to memorize every rule, but try get a general sense of things and then consult specific sections when you have questions.
If your quotation consists of 40 words or more, you need to set it off as a block quotation.
In a block quotation, almost all the regular rules for quoting are inverted or changed. There are no quotation marks, the entire quotation is indented one tab space, and the final punctuation comes before the citation, and not after:
According to Dubrovnick (2011), many students taking psychology are looking for answers to the most fundamental questions of life:
For many students, psychology functions a bit like religious studies. While on the surface students are hoping to discover scientific explanations for the workings of the mind, secretly many are longing to make sense of a world in which spirituality is a fraught concept. These students hope that psychology will fill the void, that their psych prof will teach them what to believe. They couldn’t be further from the truth. (p. 45).
Here’s another way to cite the same information:
Many students taking psychology are looking for answers to the most fundamental questions of life:
For many students, psychology functions a bit like religious studies. While on the surface students are hoping to discover scientific explanations for the workings of the mind, secretly many are longing to make sense of a world in which spirituality is a fraught concept. These students hope that psychology will fill the void, that their psych prof will teach them what to believe. They couldn’t be further from the truth. (Dubrovnick, 2011, p. 45).
Do note that these examples use line spacing that’s more common online. In your essay you should double space all text, leaving no extra spaces between your block quotation and your own text.
Most block quotations are introduced by a formal introduction. The reason is that if you’re quoting a significant amount of text, you need to give it a fairly detailed introduction. Otherwise the reader may have a hard time making sense of the quotation.
In particular, you should avoid using a run-in signal phrase or continuing your sentence after the quotation, even though you will often see these things in older academic texts.
Finally, after the block quotation there is no need to indent your next sentence. Usually you will want to continue with your paragraph and explain the significance of the quotation.
It may happen that you want to emphasize something in a quotation. To do so, italicize the words in question, and then insert (immediately afterwards) the words “emphasis added” in square brackets:
Churchill apparently joked, “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put [emphasis added].”
If you’re also citing a source, add it at the end as usual:
Birnwick and Flintstone (2009) noted that “most of the penguins who watched Madagascar or Happy Feet showed little reaction [emphasis added] to scenes that involved penguins dancing” (p. 95).
Most of the time, though, you don’t need to add any emphasis. Assume that your reader is smart enough to figure out what’s significant about the quotation.
Sometimes when you quote you may want to skip part of the quotation.
To indicate the omission of words, phrases, or entire lines, you must use an ellipsis (plural ellipses), which is just a fancy word for three spaced periods. Here’s an example:
Winchester studied the 1500 meter race in Oslo in 1981, and argued that “people love to see the pacemaker succeed … against all odds” (2015, p. 46).
Be careful that when you use an ellipses the grammar and meaning of the quoted passage still make sense.
Also, you do not have to add ellipsis marks at the beginning or end of a quotation. We know that the quoted text has been cut out of a larger passage. The only exception is if your source already contains an ellipsis.
If you end one sentence before the ellipsis, and start a new one afterwards, then you will end up with four spaced periods (one regular period and three for the ellipsis). Here is an example:
Computer programmers “read on average one book per year. . . . They get most of their knowledge from watching Youtube videos” (Smith & Smith, 2016, para. 8).
You can edit quotations by inserting your own words in square brackets. Here are some areas where this is useful:
1. When you want to clarify or explain something in the original passage
A recent study by Williams and Jones (2017) found that “even when participants knew that a name brand item was of the same quality or worse [than similar non-brand products], such knowledge did not significantly affect purchasing behaviour” (p. 14).
2. When you want to insert some words to make the grammar work:
Sniggle and Popper claimed that the story of Sleeping Beauty “provide[s] a powerful analogy to a person in a coma” (2016, p. 33).
Do note, however, that in APA style you do not have to use square brackets to change the first letter of a quotation from lowercase to uppercase, or vice versa.
3. If there’s a mistake in the quotation (let’s say a spelling error), you can insert [sic] behind it to indicate that the mistake belongs to the original author of the quotation:
According to Rottweiler, “Carl Jang’s [sic] theory of the anima and animus can be explained by means of the concept of yin and yang” (2017, p. 44).
In these instances you can avoid coming across as pedantic by rewriting slightly:
Rottweiler argued that Carl Jung’s use of the terms anima and animus “can be explained by means of the concept of yin and yang” (2017, p. 44).
In other words, try to minimize the use of square brackets.
A quote within a quote is placed between single quotation marks:
My friend Natasha told me about a conversation she had with Nibaa after their American lit class: “The other day, Nibaa said, ‘I don’t understand why Moby-Dick is a classic. Much of it reads like a manual on how to run a ship'” (N. Smith, personal communication, August 2, 2019).
In the unusual event that you’re dealing with a quote within a quote within a quote, you would revert back to double quotation marks.
If you’re not quoting anything more than the entire quote within a quote, then just use double quotation marks:
Natasha told me what her friend Nibaa had to say about Moby-Dick: “I don’t understand why Moby-Dick is a classic. Much of it reads like a manual on how to run a ship” ((N. Smith, personal communication, August 2, 2019).
Finally, when you apply these rules to a block quotation, remember that a block quotation doesn’t have any quotation marks around it, so any internal quotation can be set off by double quotation marks.
A paraphrase is when you sum up a passage in your own words and provide an appropriate citation. The APA style actually recommends that most of your citations should be paraphrases; direct quotations are normally reserved for definitions, for capturing the author’s specific wording, or for interacting with a particular passage.
Let’s say you want to paraphrase the following passage (found online on Adler University’s website):
Perhaps Adler’s most influential concept – and the one that drives Adler University today – is that of social interest. Not to be confused as another form of extraversion, social interest should be viewed as an individual’s personal interest in furthering the welfare of others. Collaborating and cooperating with one another as individuals and communities can progress to benefit society as a whole.
Here’s how you might paraphrase part of this passage:
Alfred Adler’s most important contribution was his emphasis on a person’s social interest (“Adler,” n.d., para. 10).
Be careful that you don’t use entire phrases from the original text. This is how not to do it:
Adler’s concept of social interest is not another form of extraversion, but refers to a person’s interest in further other people’s welfare (“Adler,” n.d., para. 10).
When too many specific words or phrases are copied directly from the original passage, you may be guilty of plagiarism, even when you have cited your source.
To avoid any suggestion of unscrupulous copying, be sure also to cite a page or paragraph number. While this is less essential for APA style than for, let’s say, MLA style, it is nevertheless a good practice.
It’s always important to remember why you are using quotations in the first place. An essay is not just a patchwork of quotations. Think of yourself more as a curator at a museum. You get to put on a show and tell a story. You organize the spaces and write the captions. In the same way you need to help the reader make sense of the ideas of others.
So don’t let the quotations swamp your own analysis. Introduce every quotation carefully and be sure to explain, interpret, and apply quotations before you move on with your argument.
For more information about the APA guidelines for integrating quotations, see especially sections 8.25-8.36 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.).