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Referencing and assignment writing: Quoting



Many problems in presenting assignments are related to the misuse of quotations from secondary sources (that is material presenting critical interpretations of primary texts). It is acceptable to refer to secondary material to gain knowledge or find different interpretations that may stimulate your own thinking and, sometimes, confirm ideas you already hold. Whether you quote your source directly or simply paraphrase the idea, you must always acknowledge the source you used.

If you are unsure whether to quote directly or completely rephrase, use quotation marks so as to avoid plagiarism.

The total word count in an assignment refers to your own words and
usually excludes direct quotations and paraphrasing.
Don't overuse quotations - use them only to support your argument.

Every time you use the words of others they should be acknowledged by either:

  • quotation marks, or
  • indenting.

Quotation marks for quotes under three lines in length

If a quotation is short, from a couple of words to approximately three lines, it should be marked by single quotation marks and incorporated as part of the sentence.

Dennis Lawton argues that these proposals 'have much in common with John White's idea of a friendly interface'.1

with footnote or endnote;

1 Dennis Lawton, Ways and Means (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1994), 90.

When you need to show a quote within a quote, use double quotation marks inside the single ones.

Greene also notes that 'according to Garp, "completeness and finality" were out of the question where editing was concerned and the potential for rapid change was great.'2

with footnote or endnote:

2 Greg Greene, Foolproof Editing (Melbourne: Gordon & Gotch, 1993), 108.

Indenting quotations over three lines in length

A quotation over three lines in length should be separated from the sentence that supports it by indenting the quoted passage.

In typed or word processed assignments, these quotations should be either single spaced or one and a half spaced. When you need to show a quote within a quote, use double quotation marks. Indent quotations about eight spaces or 3 cm from the margin. Introduce indented quotes so that they follow on from the preceding sentences.

Developments have been rapid or as Ed Krol says:

the information resources that visionaries talked about in the early 80s are not just "research realities" that a few advanced thinkers can play with in some lab - they're "real life" realities that you can tap into from your home. Once you're connected to the Internet, you have instant access to an almost indescribable wealth of information.3

with footnote or endnote:

3 Ed Krol, The Whole Internet (Sebastopol, Ca.: O'Reilly & Associates, 1992), xix.

Omissions of words from quoted material

If you leave out a word or words from a quote, you must ensure that the meaning of the quoted passage stays the same. You should always indicate you have left out a word or words by inserting three trailing dots instead of the omitted words.

Dutton, in reply to his critics, unashamedly remarks that 'the truth of the matter can only be resolved ... with close attention to detail."4

with footnote or endnote:

4 Jeremy Dutton, Truth and Fiction (London : Penguin, 1992), 86.


If you leave out words at the end of the quote remember to put a full-stop after the three trailing dots and close of single quote marks. Whichever style you are using, trailing dots at the end of a quoted passage should look like this

that 'such assumptions have long been accepted by most universities ...'

If you leave out a whole sentence or more within your quotation, you should indicate this by using FOUR trailing dots instead of three.

If you change a quote or adjust it to make it read sensibly in the context of your sentence, you should use square brackets to designate the alteration, for example:

The comparison drawn between Colt and an executioner and the mention of his odorous skin incongruously recall details from Leon Hunnybun's sombre meditations upon 'the world's malignity : [Leon] is brooding over the lion's mouth that swallowed citizens whole, Venice'.

Note: the bracketed Leon displaces the pronoun He.


Style manual

The referencing recommendations in this guide are based on the Chicago manual of style. 15th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003. Please refer to Chapters 16 and 17 of that manual for further examples.

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