Providing References for Direct Quotations in Academic and Scientific Writing

Providing References for Direct Quotations in Academic and Scientific Writing
Whenever you directly quote the words of another author in your scholarly writing, you need to provide a reference that accurately leads your readers not only to the source from which you quoted the passage, but also to the precise place in that source where the quoted passage can be found. This means that a reference in the style you are using for other citations must be provided along with a page number or another type of precise locator such as a column, stanza or line number. If, for instance, you are using parenthetical author–date or author–title references and the quotation is embedded in the main text of your document, the reference should be set in parentheses and placed before (to the left of) the closing punctuation of the sentence or another punctuation mark that continues the sentence such as a comma. These examples show the correct format: I discovered that ‘an accurate reference must follow each quotation’ (Johnson, 2012, p.3), and ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds | Admit impediments’ (Shakespeare, Sonnet 116, lines 1-2).

On the other hand, if you are using a numerical style of referencing or providing the bibliographical information in a footnote or endnote, the relevant number (usually in superscript font, though that rarely shows up in posts so is not used here) is normally set outside (to the right of) the punctuation that follows an embedded quotation, as it is in this example: I discovered that ‘an accurate reference must follow each quotation.’1 To avoid creating a large number of notes containing only short page or line references when many quotations are used, an explanation of your referencing practice can be offered along with information on the source in the first relevant note with wording such as ‘All quotations from Shakespeare’s sonnets are from this edition and are referred to hereafter by sonnet and line numbers only.’ As long as it remains clear which author is quoted, all subsequent references to the sonnets can then be provided parenthetically in the text, avoiding excessive notes as well as long parenthetical references, as is the case here: ‘Let me not to the marriage of true minds | Admit impediments’ (116, lines 1-2).
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When a quotation is displayed as a block quotation, the same information about the source is required, but a parenthetical reference should appear after the closing punctuation rather than before it, and the reference is usually also oriented to the right on the line directly below the quotation:

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
(Shakespeare, Sonnet 116, lines 1-4)

If there is room for the reference on the final line of the quotation, that is an acceptable position as well, and certainly it is on that line immediately after the closing punctuation of the block quotation that a note number or numerical reference would appear if that is the documentation style you are using. As with embedded quotations, an explanation of your referencing practices can be offered in a note to facilitate shorter references and avoid numerous notes.

Regardless of which quotation format or style of referencing you are using, subsequent references to the same text can usually be shortened to provide only the information absolutely necessary for the reader to locate each quotation accurately. If, for example, you are discussing Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 for several paragraphs in which you quote repeatedly from his poem, you will likely need to identify no more than lines numbers in most cases. Only if a different author or text or perhaps a different edition or version of the poem is quoted in the midst of the discussion would a full reference be required to reorient the reader. Shortening references to a bare minimum is noted as desirable in most style guides, but do be sure to provide enough information in each instance for your readers to identify and locate your quotations, keeping in mind that offering too much bibliographical information tends to be preferable to offering too little.

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