Skills Hub

How do I reference quotes and ideas?

If you are using someone else's words, the words must be indented or in quotation marks. These actions show that you are not claiming the work is your own. You must also provide a reference to show where the words came from, to help the reader find the source. See Direct quotes for more information.

 

If you are using your own words to describe someone else's ideas, you still need to give a reference to their work. See Paraphrased ideas for more information.

Direct quotes

A direct quote is where you have used the exact words (or graphs, or other information) from someone else's work. Direct quotes can be very useful for supporting an argument or establishing a point of view. Whenever you use a direct quote, you must indent the quote or put it in quotation marks.

Direct quotes should be in quotation marks ("") if they are relatively short. Longer quotes should be put in a separate paragraph, and indented. In this example from a student's essay, look at how the two quotes are presented differently:

Fletcher points out that scholars have interpreted the Rwandan genocide as being organised by the state:

The most common explanation for the Rwandan genocide interprets the violence as a state project, whereby elites were able to manipulate and bully the population into carrying out their programme of mass slaughter (Fletcher 2007, p.28).

Straus agrees with this, saying that scholars have presented the Rwandan genocide as “a state-organised, planned extermination campaign” (Straus 2004, p.86).

 


Fletcher, L. (2007) 'Turning interahamwe: individual and community choices in the Rwandan genocide'. Journal of Genocide Research, (9)1, pp. 25-48.

Straus, S. (2004) 'How many perpetrators were there in the Rwandan genocide? An estimate'. Journal of Genocidal Research, (6)1, pp. 85-98.

In this example, the longer quote has been put in a separate, indented paragraph. The shorter quote has been put in inverted commas. In both cases, it is clear where the student has quoted someone else's work.

Next to the direct quote, you must include a citation to show where the quote came from. In addition, you must include a full reference to the original work. You can see the student's references at the bottom of the example above.

Paraphrased ideas

You may wish to write another person's idea in your own words. This can be helpful for making a point in a short amount of space. It also shows that you have understood the idea fully and can make use of it as part of your argument.

When you are paraphrasing someone else's idea, you still need to make it clear where you found the idea, and include an accurate reference. Look at the example below, which is a paraphrased version of the direct quotes we looked at before.

Both Fletcher and Strauss point out that most scholars have interpreted the Rwandan genocide in the same way. These authors argue the genocide is commonly interpreted as a campaign organised by the Rwandan state. (Fletcher 2007, pp.25-48) (Straus 2004, pp.85-98)

 

 

Fletcher, L. (2007). 'Turning interahamwe: individual and community choices in the Rwandan genocide'. Journal of Genocide Research, 9:1, pp 25-48.

Straus, S. (2004). 'How many perpetrators were there in the Rwandan genocide? An estimate'. Journal of Genocidal Research, 6:1, pp 85-98.

Because the text has been completely re-written, there is no need to indent the text or put it in quotation marks. However, citations and references have still been provided. This shows the student is not claiming to have come up with the idea themselves.

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Common knowledge

You do not need to quote information which is common knowledge e.g. Everest is the highest mountain in the world. It can seem hard to judge which information is common knowledge. If you are unsure, it may be best to provide a reference.

 


You could try checking in an encyclopaedia in the library (not Wikipedia); information which is common knowledge will usually not be referenced in the library's encyclopaedia. 

What is the difference between a reference and a citation?

A citation is a 'link' in the text, whether a number or author and date, that connects the data/information/ideas being discussed with the more detailed information in the reference list or bibliography.

The reference list or bibliography provides the full details of the source cited. It enables the reader to further investigate ideas or validate the writer's comments.

Here is an example of citation using the Harvard referencing system:

 

 


(Fletcher 2007, p.27)

 

The citation points the reader in the right direction, but it does not include much information. In the numeric system, citations are just numbers like this (1) or this 1.

Here is an example of a reference using the Harvard referencing system:


 

Fletcher, L. (2007) 'Turning interahamwe: individual and community choices in the Rwandan genocide', Journal of Genocide Research, 9:1, pp25-48.

 

A reference should include full details of the source. Every citation should have a relevant reference later in the text. For more details, see What information should I include in a reference?


 

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