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Quoting, summarizing, and paraphrasing

Learn how to quote, summarize, and paraphrase other scholars' works and avoid plagiarism

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Inline quotations (39 words or fewer)

When quoting, a comma should be used to set off a complete sentence inserted within your sentence. Also, the closing period of the sentence appears after the citation for an inline quotation.

Example: Smith (2002) testified, “No one had ever explained the rules of downloading music to them” (p. 150).

Block quotations (40+ words)

Writers usually use a clarifying sentence with a colon to introduce a long quotation. Also, the closing period of the quotation appears before the citation for a block quotation. 

Example: The researcher carefully considered how Lias and Bartmess (2003) explained this type of energy

The adiabatic ionization energy is the lowest energy required to effect the removal of an electron from a molecule or atom, and corresponds to the transition from the lowest electronic, vibrational, and rotational level of the isolated ion. (p. 22)

Making changes to a quotation

You may need to make changes to the words in a quotation so that it makes sense incorporated in your own writing. You can change the capitalization of the first letter of the first word in a quotation to better integrate the quotation into a sentence without needing to note that you made the change.

Using square brackets for insertions

If you change the verb tense or replace a pronoun with a noun, put the changed words in brackets:

Original    Modified
Smith (2002) observed that, “No one had ever explained the rules of downloading music to them” (p. 150). Smith (2002) observed that, “no one had ever explained the rules of downloading music to [the students]” (p. 150).


Using an ellipsis

An ellipsis is three spaced dots that indicates an omission of text. You can use it to take out words that don’t add to the meaning of the quotation:

Original    Modified
 "No one ever explained the rules of downloading music or any other sort of online files to students and therefore they could not be held accountable" (Smith, 2002, p. 150). According to Smith (2002), “no one ever explained the rules of downloading music . . . therefore they could not be held accountable” (p. 150).


As per the APA style rules, if you remove text from the end of a sentence but continue quoting from the following sentence, use four spaced ellipsis points (e.g., . . . .) to indicate the removal of material from between the sentences (American Psychological Association, 2010, pp. 172-173). Start your quotation at the point where the text is relevant; ellipses are not necessary at the beginning or end of a quotation (p. 173). 

Author credit

Adapted from "Using someone else's words: Quote, summarize, and paraphrase your way to success" © Center for Teaching and Faculty Development at San Francisco State University. Adapted with permission.