How to quote correctly: A guide

Written by Christina Pichler, Jan 27, 2022

Your first academic or seminar paper is coming up, maybe you are already working on your bachelor or master thesis. No matter which kind of academic paper you’re writing, quoting is an essential part of any scientific work. Sometimes the different guidelines can be confusing, therefore we’ve created a simple guide to give you an overview of the most common citation rules. This way you’ll always quote correctly!

What is a quote?

A quote is a literal or in terms of content copied text passage from another academic work and refers to this external textual source. Basically, this means that you have to indicate every thought, theory or statement that isn’t yours as a quote.

Quotation vs citation

If you quote a passage, then you copy the text word for word from a different academic work. You have to mark this literal quote with quotation marks. If the quotation has more than 40 words, then it has to be formatted as a block quotation. Depending on the citation style, you have to indent the quote some centimetres and this way the quotation is optically different from the rest of the text.

Citations use the content from another academic work. So, you don’t use the same exact words, but explain the content in your own words. Citations, also called paraphrases, don’t require quotation marks, but you have to refer to the source.

Sources and references

Basically there are two types of references, namely in-text citations and references for the reference list. In-text citations are used to indicate the source of a quotation or citation. In the reference list, you name all the bibliographic information for every academic work that you used in your paper. This way, anyone who reads your paper can understand where you used which sources and which academic works they are.

There are many different kinds of sources and how to cite them correctly depends heavily on the type of source. Therefore, we will show you a few sources that are used a lot for quotations and citations.

  • A monographic book is a scientific solo work. So, there is one book for a specific topic.
  • An anthology is a collaboration of a few scientists that write articles for an overarching topic. Usually one or two editors publish the book under their names.
  • A journal is a periodical scientific journal, in which scientists of a field publish studies, analysis and articles.
  • Online sources are not a separate kind of source and are not very welcome in scientific work. If you find one of the above-mentioned sources, you can still use it because you will apply the citation guidelines and then add the hyperlink.

The most common citation styles

There are many different citations styles published by universities and institutions. Many faculties and university centres follow the most common citation styles with small changes or special requirements. Therefore, you should find out which citation rules are used in your field of study and follow those. Nevertheless, we will show you the three most important citation styles, so that you can get a good picture of how it should look.

APA citation style

Originally developed for academic papers in the field of psychology, the citation style of the American Psychology Association (APA) is used in many different fields and is one of the most common citation styles.

In your text, you use parenthetical citations to refer to the source. It doesn’t matter what kind of source it is. You always follow this pattern:

  • (Last name of the author, publication year, page number)

In the reference list, you have to identify the type of source and adapt the citation style accordingly.

Books and monographies are referenced like this:

  • Last name, first name (publication year): Subtitle. (edition). Publisher’s place: publisher.

For anthologies you have to write:

  • Last name, first name (publication year): Title. Subtitle. In: editor (ed.): Title of the anthology (Page number). Publisher’s place: publisher.

For journals you can do it like this:

  • Last name, first name (publication year): Title. Name of the journal, volume number, page number.

Here’s an example for illustration:

For the reference list: Thaine, Craig (2012): Cambridge Academic English (1st ed). Vienna: Klett.

In text: (Thaine, 2012, p.13)

Harvard citation style

The Harvard citation style, also called American citation style, is a widespread citation style. It is mainly used in economic and social studies as well as in the Anglo-American community.

For in-text references after quotations you write:

  • (Last name publication year: page number)

For in-text references after citations you use:

  • (see Last name publication year: page number)

You can also implement the reference into your text by using the author as a subject:

  • Author (publication year: page number) says…

For the reference list, you write citations for monographic books like this:

  • Last name, first name (ed.) (publication year), title of the book, edition, publication place.

For articles in journals and anthologies you cite like this:

  • Last name, first name (publication year), “Title of the article”, name of the journal or anthology, publication year, edition, page number.

If there are two authors in a book, you mention both with / or &.

  • (Last name / last name publication year: page number) or Last name, first name / last name, first name (publication year), title, edition, publication place.

If there are more than two authors, you only list the first author and then write “et al”.

Here’s an example for you:

In the reference list: Thaine, Craig (2012), Cambridge Academic English. 1st ed. Vienna.

In the text: (Thaine 2012: p.15)

German citation style

The German citation style uses footnotes instead of in-text citations. This means that you add a footnote at the end or your quotation or citation. This way, you have upper case numbers in the text that indicate the corresponding footnote.

For quotations, the footnote looks like this:

  • Last name, initial.: title of the book, publication place and year, page number

For citations, you have to add “see”:

  • See last name, initial.: title of the book, publication place and year, page number

The footer should have font size 10pt and a line spacing 1. The foot notes must have numbers.

In the reference list you have to list all your sources with the complete information without the page numbers in alphabetical order.

Here’s an example:[1]

1 Thaine, C.: Cambridge Academic English. Vienna 2012. p.41

STUWO bonus tips

There are many free citation management programmes that do all the citation work for you. You only have to put the book or bibliographical information into the programme and then it produced the perfect short in-text citations and full length reference list entries in your preferred citation style.

It’s best to use the tool “Create reference list” in word and other text programmes. This way your reference list is uniform.

Many university libraries and online publishers have the tool “Cite as”, where you can choose your citation style and then they create the appropriate reference for the chosen book.

An our last tip: Cite as you write! As soon as you have written a quotation or citation, add the correct in-text citation and the according full-length reference at the end. It will take forever and be flawed if you only add all the citations after having written the paper.

Hopefully, you can tackle your academic or seminar paper confidently with this guide. We recommend the pomodoro technique for a perfect time management, so that you finish paper in time. Enjoy writing!


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