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Quotations are like flavorful ingredients in writing. They add new perspectives, support arguments, and allow writers to craft in-depth analyses. Writers use quotations in all types of writing, such as research papers and literary analysis essays. Students often use them in essays for classes, research projects, and in writing on standardized exams. But in order for quotations to be effective, writers have to understand what they are, why they are important, and how to cite them.

Definition of a Quotation

Quotations are words or statements that are not original. There are several types of quotations but in general:

A quotation is a word or statement that is taken from another source.

When writers use quotations they are either taking a word or group of words from another text, or they are writing down what someone has said.

Often people use the word "quotation" and "quote" interchangeably. The word "quote" is often used as a verb, which refers to the act of quoting another source. The word quotation is a noun, which refers to content that was taken from another source.

Importance of Quotations

Quotations are important because they help writers support their arguments. For instance, imagine a writer is trying to argue that the character Holden Caufield from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (1951) suffers from depression. Using quotations from Holden that reveal his feelings and perspectives helps the writer prove this point. Similarly, imagine that a writer is trying to convince readers that they can help the environment by following a vegetarian diet. Including quotations from scientists about the link between meat production and climate change strengthens the argument, because the quotations show that credible people support this view.

Quotations are also important because when writers use quotations they give credit to the original source. Giving the source of the quotation credit is called referencing, and the information about the source is called a reference. Referencing is important because it helps writers maintain academic credibility and helps readers find more information on a topic. The exact style of a reference varies depending on the required style guide. The chart below outlines some of the popular referencing styles:

How to cite a:MLA

Journal Article

Author(s). "Title of Article." Title of Journal, Volume, Issue, Year, pages. DOI


Last Name, First Name. Title of Book. Publication City, Publisher, Publication Date.


Author last name, First name. “Title of Article.” Website Name, URL. Accessed Day Month Year.

In-Text Citation Format

(Author’s Last Name Page Number).

How to cite a:


Journal Article

Author's last name, First initial. Middle initial (Year). Title. Title of Journal, Volume(Issue), page range. DOI or URL


Author's Last Name, Author’s First Initial Second Initial if available. (Year of Publication). Title of book. Publisher Name.


Author's last name, First initial. (Year, Month Date Published). Title of web page. Website name. URL

In-Text Citation Format

(Author's Last Name, Year of Publication, p. page number of quotation)

Academic writers are required to include in-text citations and a reference list at the end of their paper. In-text citations are citations that go at the end of the sentence that references the author's last name, the year of publication (if using APA), and the page number where the writer found the quotation. For example: (Fitzgerald, 1925, p. 24) is an example of an APA in-text citation.

Writers commit plagiarism when they do not use quotations for information from an outside source or provide references for quotations. Plagiarizing is the act of stealing another’s work and passing it off as one’s own. Even if a writer accidentally plagiarizes there are serious consequences. Writers can be suspended or expelled from school, fail an assignment or a class, and lose their academic credibility.

Types of Quotations

There are several types of quotations, and the formatting and referencing style for quotations varies a bit depending on the type used.

Direct Quotations

Direct quotations are quotations that a writer takes verbatim from another source. Verbatim means the quotations are copied word for word. It is effective for writers to use direct quotations when referencing the definition of a term, using quotations to support an argument, or analyzing other writing. For example, in a literary analysis essay writers often include short direct quotations from a piece of literature and then break them down through detailed analysis. Writers should strive to avoid including too many direct quotations when writing an academic essay, as their priority should be developing their own original arguments. Direct quotations only offer support or evidence for a writer's unique ideas.

Quotation Marks

Writers need to put direct quotations in quotation marks. Quotation marks denote that the information is from another source. There are two types of quotation marks: opening and closing. Opening quotation marks go at the beginning of a sentence, and closing quotation marks go at the end of a sentence.

Quotations, quotation marks, StudySmarterDirect quotations require quotation marks. Flaticon.

When using an in-text citation, punctuation goes after the parentheses at the end of the sentence. For example, this is how you would format the following quotation from chapter 5 of Kurt Vonnegut's book Slaughterhouse Five (1969) using APA style: "Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt" (Vonnegut, 1969, p. 156). Note how the period comes after the closing parentheses, not before the closing quotation mark.

When a direct quotation is a complete sentence the first letter has to be capitalized.

Indirect Quotations

Indirect quotations are statements that writers paraphrase from another source. When writers paraphrase it means they do not take information word for word, but they put the information in their own words. For example, imagine a writer wants to indirectly quote Barack Obama, who said:

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for."1

The writer might say:

Obama says that people should not wait for change and instead make it themselves. (Obama, 2008).

Indirect quotations like this one do not go in quotation marks, since the writer is not quoting the source verbatim. However, indirect quotations still have to be properly cited because the idea came from another source.

Quotations in Fictional Dialogue

Fiction writers also use quotation marks to surround dialogue. This is because these characters are speaking to one another. The quotation marks denote that those lines of text are spoken and are verbatim records of what a person said. For instance, the following example features lines of dialogue between the narrator Nick and the character Gatsby in Chapter 6 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925). Note how Fitzgerald used quotation marks around the dialogue.

"I wouldn't ask too much of her," I ventured. "You can't repeat the past."

"Can't repeat the past?" he cried incredulously. "Why of course you can!"

Direct quotations from fiction novels like this can be used as evidence in an analytical essay. For example, imagine a writer wanted to argue that Gatsby's love for Daisy caused his downfall. They might reference the above dialogue as evidence for this claim.

Quotations, Dialogue, StudySmarterDialogue between fictional characters is always put in quotations.. Flaticon.

Applications of Quotations

Quotations are used for a variety of purposes, including the following:

  • To support an argument

  • To add new perspectives

  • To analyze a text

  • To enrich fiction

Examples of Quotations

A lot of quotations come from other texts such as books, scholarly journal articles, official reports, or essays. Such quotations could be used to support unique arguments in research papers and literary analysis essays. For example, imagine a prompt asks a student to write an essay about how historical context can impact writing. The student might argue that historical context shapes the themes writers choose to explore. The student could then use the following direct quotation from James Baldwin's essay "Stranger in the Village" (1953) in which he reflects on the way historical stereotypes about African Americans impact how white people treat him:

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them."

Quotations can also come from people who spoke the words out loud. For instance, Civil Rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. gave an impactful speech at the March on Washington in 1963. People frequently quote this speech when writing about civil rights. A student writing a research paper about important Civil Rights leaders might use the following quote to highlight Martin Luther King Jr.'s influence:

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."

Sometimes writers need to put single quotation marks around the quotations within the text. For instance, the following passage cites dialogue from Ernest Hemingway's fictional novel A Farewell to Arms (1929):

At the end of Chapter 19, Hemingway uses rain as a metaphor for Catherine's fears. "Outside the rain was falling steadily. 'I don’t know, darling. I’ve always been afraid of the rain.'" (Hemingway, 1929, p. 117).

Note how the writer of this sentence put double quotations around the entire passage and then single quotations around what the character Catherine said. Writers use single quotation marks like these to indicate a quotation within a quotation. This is an important skill for writers who analyze literature, as they often need to include quotations from books like this to support their analysis.

Quotations - Key takeaways

  • A quotation is a word or statement that is taken from another source.
  • Quotations are important because they strengthen writing, provide evidence, and give credit to the original source.
  • Direct quotations are verbatim quotations that require quotation marks.
  • Indirect quotations are paraphrased ideas and do not require quotation marks. They do still require a reference or citation.
  • Writers use quotations to support arguments, analyze text, and enrich fiction.

1. Barack Obama, "Super Tuesday Speech", 2008.

Frequently Asked Questions about Quotations

A quotation is a word or statement that is taken from another source. 

An example of a quotation is: "People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them" (Baldwin, 1953). 

Writers use quotations to support arguments, add new perspectives to their writing, or analyze text. 

One popular quotation is: "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" (MLK, 1963). 

The word quotations and quotes are often used interchangeably, but technically the word quote is a verb that refers to the act of quoting something and quotation is what is actually taken from the other source. 

Final Quotations Quiz


What is a quotation?

Show answer


A quotation is a word or statement that is taken from another source. 

Show question


True or False. The word quotation and the word quote mean the same thing. 

Show answer


False. The word quotation is a noun that references what is taken from another source. The word quote is often used as a verb that refers to the act of taking direct information from another source.

Show question


What are the two main types of quotes?

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Direct and indirect

Show question


What do writers have to do when they use indirect quotes?

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Reference the original source. 

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What do writers need to put at the beginning and end of a direct quote?

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Quotation marks 

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True or False. Quotation marks are only found in non-fiction writing. 

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False. Fiction writers put quotation marks around dialogue. 

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Why do writers use quotation marks?

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All of the above

Show question


What are direct quotations?

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Quotations that are taken verbatim from the source. 

Show question


When do writers use single quotation marks?

Show answer


When citing a quote within a quote. 

Show question


True or false. Only direct quotations need references. 

Show answer


False. Any information taken from an outside source needs to be properly cited. 

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