Academic Tips and Tricks

All the help you need for good essay writing

Tips and Tricks 14: Different ways to quote and reference texts

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So, you’ve done all your reading and now you’re ready to write your essay. But what many people who are writing essays for the first time don’t realise is that there are several different ways to get quotes/references into your essay.

Direct Quoting

The most often used way of quoting is direct quoting, where you take a word, sentence or paragraph and insert it verbatim (word-for-word) into your essay. My previous blog entry on altering quotes shows how you can chop and change quotes in such a way that they fit perfectly into your text. A good rule for when to use this type of quotation is when you think that the author concerned has made the point you are trying to make/support better and more succinctly than you could do it yourself. If a quote seems to cumbersome, or you’re just using it to prove you’ve actually read the text concerned, don’t use a direct quote, chose to quote indirectly or simply reference the quote.

Indirect Quoting

The second method you can use is to indirectly quote another author. By this I mean you take what the other author has written and rephrase it in your own words.
For example, in this excerpt from my BA dissertation I sum up an entire study, rather than using a set of quotes which would have been cumbersome:

In Trudgill’s 1972 study of a close-knit community in Norwich, he found that middle class men aimed for a more streetwise, ‘macho’ standard because they wanted to identify with the lower class norm (Trudgill 1972 In: Stockwell 2002:16)

Single and Multiple Summaries

Everyone’s been there, you’ve done a load of reading around the subject but several of the books you’ve read haven’t got quotes which are entirely relevant to your essay, but they do support the general theme of your writing. In this instance, and in instances where you have several works by different authors who all say the same thing, you can simply reference the text or texts after saying something about the broad theme of what you will be talking about, e.g.:

We laugh to ease tension in awkward situations such as during doctor-patient interaction (Haakana 1999, Ragan 1990), or during sequences of conflict (Osvaldsson 2004). As a response to teases (where we are not the recipient) (Glenn 1989:142), where telling of our troubles (Holt 2010a, 2010b, 2011, Jefferson 1984), when telling stories (Glenn 2003, Liddicoat 2007), to indicate laughter as an appropriate response to what we have just said (Jefferson 1979, Glenn 1989, 2003) and to indicate agreement and affiliation with the speaker (Jefferson et al. 1987, Schenkein 1972). Also, as Vettin and Todt state; ‘laughter is contagious and can be elicited just by the sound of people laughing’ (2004:94).

This paragraph has a stunning 13 references and is followed by a direct quote. Obviously, I have gone through my previous work and found the most ridiculous example of this possible, for anything other than a dissertation length piece of work at undergraduate level, this volume of reading around the subject is not expected.

Summaries like this are a great way of bulking out your bibliography, saying a lot without using up much of your word count, and generally diversifying your writing style.


I should also mention here that this site: has a really great section telling you how to quote and what type of detailed reference is needed for each quote type. It’s very detailed, but well worth a look.


Any questions, as always, please just comment below.

Happy writing 🙂


Author: Liz

Hi, I'm Liz. I like easy crafts, photography, cooking, lifestyle blogs and YouTube videos. I work as a part-time proofreader and am currently studying for a PhD in linguistics.

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