• 3-minute read
  • 27th November 2016

How to Quote Sources with APA Referencing

APA style referencing – developed by the American Psychological Association – is used for citing sources by academics in the social and behavioural sciences around the world. It’s therefore no surprise that this referencing system is also used by many university faculties.

If you’ve been asked to use APA referencing in an essay, moreover, knowing how to quote a source correctly is crucial, since not doing so could lead to accusations of plagiarism.

In this blogpost, we run through how to quote sources using APA referencing.

How and When to Quote a Source

Ideally, most of your essay should be your own words. This means that paraphrasing a source is often better than quoting it, unless your argument depends on the specific wording used by an author (e.g. if you’re disputing an existing reading of something).

Whether paraphrasing or quoting, you should give a citation with the author’s surname and a year of publication. If quoting a source, APA citations should also include page numbers for the section:

The idea of a life-world is ‘now common currency in social thought’ (Petit, 1975, p. 252).

Note that the citation comes after the quoted passage. This changes a little if the author quoted is named in the text. In this case, the year of publication is cited immediately after the author’s name, but the page numbers still come after the quotation:

According to Petit (1975), the idea of a life-world is ‘now common currency in social thought’ (p. 252).

You can still include page numbers in a citation if paraphrasing a source, but this is only necessary if it helps the reader find the relevant section in a long or complicated text.

How to Quote a Source with No Page Numbers

Internet sources often lack page numbers, so what are you supposed to do when quoting such a source? In the case of a simple webpage, a paragraph number will suffice. With more complex webpages or e-books, however, give a section number using the ‘§’ symbol as well:

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Heidegger was born in ‘a quiet, conservative, religious rural town’ (Wheeler, 2001, § 1, para. 1).

Long Quotations

If you need to quote a passage of text more than 40 words in length, APA suggests formatting it as a block quote. This means setting it apart from the rest of the text by beginning on a new line and indenting it from the main body of your work.

No quotation marks are required for block quotations, but you should still cite your source:

Examining Heidegger’s early years is informative:

Martin Heidegger was born in Messkirch, Germany, on September 26, 1889. Messkirch was then a quiet, conservative, religious rural town […] In 1909 he spent two weeks in the Jesuit order before leaving (probably on health grounds) to study theology at the University of Freiburg. (Wheeler, 2001, § 1, para. 1)

We can therefore see why these themes reappear in his later work.

However, it’s usually better to paraphrase longer passages in your own words.

A Note on Quotation Marks

Generally, British English favours ‘single quotation marks’ for quotations and saves “double quotation marks” for quotations within quotations. This isn’t always the case, though, so check your style guide if you’re unsure about which type to use!

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