FAQs on Quotations APA Style

  1. Do I need to use quotations or can I just paraphrase or summarize?
    The rule of thumb is to use a quotation when the wording of it is particularly effective. Other than literary papers, most papers don’t need direct quotes because most students can support their own arguments and ideas with their research findings through paraphrasing or summarizing their sources. These must always be cited in-text.

  2. What does cited mean?
    This means giving credit for the idea you’ve used in your paper to the source of your information.

  3. What is the difference between a quotation and an in-text citation?
    A quotation is an exact duplication of another author’s words. If it is less than 40 words it must be enclosed by quotation marks and followed by a citation. This is the author’s last name, the date of publication and the page number where the quotation is found enclosed by brackets.

    example: “Learning outcomes claimed by nurse educators focus on relational capacities and on reflective thinking” (Sakalys, 2002, p. 388).

  4. What if I just put the quotation in my own words? Do I still need to use quotation marks or cite my source?
    Always cite your source, but you don’t need the quotation marks or page number.

    example: Dr. Jurate Sakalys (2002), a professor at the University of Colorado’s School of Nursing, has observed that relational capacities and reflective thinking are the focus of nurse educators.

    example: Nurse educators focus on relational capacities and reflective thinking (Sakalys, 2002).

    All cited material must be included in the reference list or list of works cited.

  5. Should I include a page number when I paraphrase?
    According to the APA Manual providing page numbers is not necessary when paraphrasing; however, students should always check with their instructors for their preferences.

  6. What should I do if there is no author of my source? How do I make a citation?
    Use the first few words of the title of your source and the year of publication. Make sure to use quotation marks around the title of an article or book chapter. If the title is of a book or journal, italicize the title.

  7. How do I cite a quotation I found already quoted from another source in my textbook?
    Your textbook is considered a “secondary” source. List it in your reference list. In the body of your paper name the original source and give the citation for your secondary source (your textbook).

    example: John Gault’s study (as cited in Wilcox, 2006) indicates . . .

  8. How do I cite class notes in my essay?
    Your instructors prefer that you use class notes ONLY if you are quoting your instructor’s own thoughts or ideas. (You should ask permission to use her material or ask for her source.)

    If you are quoting information which can be found in another source you need to find the original source and cite or quote the original.

    Unless your instructor is quoting from a published source, you would cite your class notes in the same way you would other personal communications such as personal interviews, e-mails, etc.

    Cite in text only. (These types of communications are not recoverable data and therefore should not be included in the reference list.)

    Give the initials and surname of the person you are quoting, indicate personal communications and the date.

    example: G. Kanin (personal communication, May 28, 2003)

  9. How do I cite personal interviews?
    The same as a personal communication (see above). You can also check Section 3.102 (p. 214) of the 5th edition of the APA publication manual.

    Many instructors also request students to obtain permission to quote the people they interview and to name the class if they are using class notes.

  10. How do I cite articles I found on a website?
    As soon as you access an article found on a website make sure you write down the URL, the author(s), organization, home page, address, date you accessed the site, the titles of the sections and pages before you close the site. Many students think that if they print the article all this information will be included on the hard copy. Unfortunately, vital information is often missing.

    If you are citing an article with a known author then cite it the same way you would a regular author, but make sure you include the website address in your reference list.

    If you wish to cite the website itself then give the address of the site itself in the body of your paper.

    example: The APA website ( has several good tips and examples on how to cite and reference websites.

  11. Some assignments ask for a bibliography; some assignments ask for a reference list. What’s the difference?
    A Reference list contains ONLY the works you have cited in your paper or essay. A bibliography is a list of works available on a particular topic not just the works you have cited. Most first year papers only require a reference list. This means you must include ALL works you have cited in the body of your paper except for class notes or personal communications.

  12. What is plagiarism?
    Plagiarism is the deliberate theft of another person’s words and/or ideas The most obvious form of plagiarism is submitting someone else’s paper as your own. However, plagiarism often inadvertently occurs when students paraphrase or summarize passages of published works and don’t acknowledge the sources of the paraphrases or summaries.

    Glennis Zilm and Cheryl Entwistle in their book The Smart Way: An Introduction to Writing for Nurses provide several excellent examples of how students can plagiarize without realizing it. This often occurs when they take notes while researching but don’t bother citing the source in their notes. When it comes time to write their first draft they may have forgotten where the idea came from and think it is their own.

  13. How can I tell if a source is accurate and reliable?
    Use only the resources you find in reputable and scholarly professional and academic journals. Look for authors cited in these journals, your textbooks, or recommended by your instructors. Use appropriate websites and databases and when in doubt check with your instructor or one of our librarians. Check the end of each article or chapter. Is there a list of recommended reading or list of references? If there isn’t, ask yourself how can the accuracy of that data be checked?

Updated January 2008