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Basics of Source and Quote Formatting (APA)

Basics of Source and Quote Formatting (APA)

Author: Gavin McCall

This lesson teaches the basics of quoting and referencing sources.

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Welcome to English Composition. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me. What are we going to learn today?

Today, we're going to be learning all about sources and quote formatting, covering all the nuts and bolts of quoting and referring to or referencing sources. We'll cover how to reference a source's author and title and look at the basics of formatting questions and block quotes. Then we'll cover how and when to use ellipses when quoting and end with a discussion about summaries and paraphrases.

It's common for writers to refer to or reference the author or authors of a source before quoting from it or explaining its ideas. This gives the reader a little context. The first time an author's name is used, it should include both first and last name. After that, using only the last name is preferable.

And for sources that have multiple authors, they should be referenced in the same order as they appear on the publication. And in the essay's bibliography. And be sure not to use titles when referring to authors, no doctors, misters, or misses, anything like that, just a name. For example, here's a made-up reference to a made-up author.

"John Waterweight argues that there is no such thing as dehydration, only a condensation of blood. And even though the medical community seems to disagree, Waterweight has found a following, if only in some online circles." Notice how this fictional writer is referenced to first by his full name and from then on with his last name only.

Just like an author's name, source titles are also commonly referenced before a quotation, summary, or paraphrase. Often, writers will mention both the source's title and the author at the same time. For titles of books, journals, magazines, newspapers, films, and albums, italics should be used.

But writers should use quotation marks instead for the titles of articles, essays, which include individual pieces found online, short stories, poems, and individual songs. The best way to remember these rules is that if it's a whole thing, it takes italics. But if it's a part of a bigger thing, it takes quotation marks instead.

For example, here's another made-up reference. "In the album Bigger, Better, and Balder, rapper Herschel Kiss promotes respect for elders. His song "In the Eyes of your Momma" really makes this message hit home for me personally."

Notice how here, the album, the whole, uses italicized lettering, the slanty font any word processor can create. While the song, the piece, requires quotation marks around it to separate it from the rest of the sentence and mark it as the subject.

A quotation, by which we mean text that's been taken directly from a source for use in an essay or other piece of writing, should always include quotation marks at the beginning and end of a quote. This will signal to readers that the words within the marks are not the writer's own but come from another source and are being used for the writer's purposes.

In order to promote transparency for readers and fairness for writers, bibliographic information should always be used after a quotation in keeping with the assigned formatting style. This information should be in parentheses to separate it from the sentence, while still allowing readers to understand from who and where the quotation is being borrowed.

We should also be sure to use sentence closing punctuation, like a period after the parentheses, or a comma if the sentences continue after the quote. If any information comes before the quotation, leading up to it that is, this should be followed by a comma or colon before the quotation starts.

For example, in this sentence, the made-up quotation has been correctly formatted and referenced. "Going against the tide of popular opinion, she writes, 'I refuse to admit that butter is best served on the upper side of toast, no matter the personal cost.'"

Notice the punctuation. We have a colon before the quotation starts and, at the end of the sentence, a closing quotation mark immediately after the quoted material, then parentheses and author's last name, comma, the year of publication, another comma, p, which stands for page or pages with a period, and the page that the quote was taken from, followed by a closing parentheses and the period to end the sentence.

Now, here's another quotation, one that comes closer to the middle of the sentence. "Another disagrees, 'About the issue of toast there can be no alternative but that butter should face the sky,' but adds that while butter is a closed door, there remain possibilities for jam manipulation."

Here, the principle behind the punctuation is the same, the only difference being at the end of the quotation, there's a comma standing in for what would have been a period, which in this example doesn't come until after the writer has added additional information after quote.

According to the APA formatting requirements, any quotations longer than 40 words should be changed to block quotations. This requires the quoted material become a new line, indented half an inch. This is called blocking. And because it's a big enough of a visual cue, block quotes don't require quotation marks.

They do, however, need parentheses around the bibliographic data, which should be included at the end of the quotation. The final punctuation should have come at the end of the quote. And there should be no punctuation whatsoever after the parentheses.

And after the block quote, the paragraph should continue on without any indentation. Here's an example of a block quotation with a little bit of the text of the surrounding paragraph.

"This then is the question, what is the comfort of people worth when compared to a national language? Or to ask it more bluntly, how many people today live in a language that is not their own, or no longer, or not yet, know their own language, and know poorly the major language they are forced to use?"

"This is the problem for many people around the world, the problem of received communication. Here, we can see the problem inherent in allowing governments to control the language of their people." And then the essay would continue.

As you can see, even in this excerpt, the way that the block quote is separated from the surrounding text is enough to make the use of quotation marks unnecessary. And notice the parentheses at the end. Here, they come after the punctuation but before the writer's own writing resumes on the next line with no indentation. After all, this is the same paragraph.

Ellipses are an important tool for writers who want to get the most out of their sources. They can be used in regular or block quotations to indicate that information has been removed from a quote. They are three periods in a row separated by spaces used to indicate an absence.

When using ellipses and removing information, it's important to be certain that you're using the writer's words accurately and ethically. Also, ellipses are only required in the middle of quoted material.

So if only part of a sentence is being used, there's no need to use ellipses to indicate that the beginning of the quotation is not the beginning of the source's sentence or at the end to indicate that the sentence continues on in the source, since readers can assume that lots of text came before and after the quoted material.

Here's an example of a quotation with an ellipses. "My mom said Grandpa was a product of The Great Depression. But I never understood what she meant, until I found out he donated thousands of dollars to our business, just to keep it afloat."

Now, here's the sentence it was taken from in its entirety. Notice any material that's been left out? It's the part of the sentence that's the least important, I'd say, the part that the reader can understand just as well without it. And so, this is a fair and ethical use of an ellipses, because the meaning of the material has not been changed, just tightened.

When summarizing or paraphrasing from a source, writers should include the same bibliographic information, following the same formatting rules as quoting. Quotation marks are obviously not required. Because for both paraphrases and summaries, there's no direct use of the source's language but rather an explanation of the ideas and points of the source in the writer's own words.

Summaries and paraphrases never take block formatting, no matter how long they are, since they aren't supposed to be separated from the rest of the writer's text. All that's required is the information readers need to understand where the ideas being presented came from originally.

Here's an example of a summary. "Though it shies away from actually calling for any kind of broad, systemic change, there remains a subtle argument against allowing anything like a monarchy to ever come to power again." As you can see, the same information is being presented, but without the quotation marks, because this is the writer's own words.

What did we learn today? We learned about formatting quotes and other source references, from referring to the source's author and title, to the formatting requirements of quotations and block quotes, to using ellipses, summaries, and paraphrases. We should now be ready to make fair and accurate use of our own research sources. I'm Gavin McCall. Thanks for joining me.