How to Cite and Format a Quote to Use in an Essay

by Nicky Sutton, Demand Media

Referencing in an essay shows readers where the words of another author have been used. Citing quotes in essays reinforces writers' arguments, adds weight to discussion and introduces interesting new concepts. It is important to correctly reference any ideas that are drawn from others to avoid plagiarism, whether they are direct quotes or reworded concepts. The Harvard referencing system is very commonly used. It ensures that referencing is done properly so that writers can show they are not using other authors' ideas as their own.

Write the quote within quotation marks. If you are quoting someone else, you must write it correctly word for word.

Place the author's name at the end of the quote followed by a comma followed by the date and the page number of the publication -- surround all this with brackets. Example: to evaluate performance 'a simple questionnaire can reveal a lot about what your customers think' (Morrison, 2011:23). In this example, only the part within quotation marks is the author's words, the part before this is an introduction by the essay writer. If you refer to the author before the quote, you only need brackets around the date and page number. Example: Morrison (2011:23) explains that 'a simple questionnaire can reveal a lot about what your customers think' when evaluating performance.

Write two or three authors names, e.g. Morrison and Jones (2011:23) or Morrison, Jones and Peerless (2011:23). Write Morrison et al (2011:23) when there are more than three authors.

Write page numbers separated by a dash if the quote goes onto a second page, e.g. (Morrison, 2011:23-24).

Paraphrase an authors words; this does not require speech marks. The ideas used from the source must be written in your own words but they are referenced in the same way. Example: To evaluate the performance of our customer service, Morrison (2011:23) suggests the use of a simple questionnaire in order to gain perspective on the thoughts of service users.

Reference from an organization where the author cannot be found by writing the organization name, e.g. more than a third of people living in the north felt that the cold weather was too much to bear (The CLD Association, 2011:10).

Create a reference list at the end of your essay in the following format; Name, date, publication title (in italics), place of publication, publisher. Example: Morrison, N. (2011), The Art of Service Improvement: A Friendly Approach, 2nd edition, London: Routledge.

Write in full the names of all authors, e.g. Morrison, N., Jones, P. and Peerless, W. (2011), The Art of Service Improvement: A Friendly Approach, 2nd edition, London: Routledge.


  • Build your list of references as you cite quotes in your essay, this way you can easily keep track of where you found your quotes.

About the Author

Nicky Sutton began writing professionally in 2004 as a marketing executive—creating promotional copy for well-known U.K. organizations. She has ample business knowledge, and project management and business development experience. Now working within the health-care sector, Sutton has a First Class Honors Degree in marketing and is studying for a master's degree in public health at the University of London.

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