How to provide a direct quote from a source

Ancient stone tablet with hieroglyphs
© History Skills

A direct quote is a word-for-word extract taken from either a primary or a secondary source.


There are some general rules for using direct quotes:

  • Use double inverted commas to signify the exact words that you have used.

  • Keep them short (usually less than three lines of typed text)

  • Just before the full stop of the sentence in which you have used a direct quote, place the in-text reference.

Rules about modifying direct quotes:

  • If you want to change or insert a word in a direct quote, use square brackets “[ ]” to show the reader that you have done so.

  • If you want to leave out some of the words in the middle of a direct quote, use an ellipsis “…” to do so.

For example:


Rankin states that there "may [be] doubt whether Vindex wished to … replace the emperor at Rome" (1987, 145).

For example:


The number of casualties is stated by Smyth, when she states that "over 40,000 victims were recorded by the officials" (2021, n.p.).

Incorporating Direct Quotes

Direct quotes should be incorporated into your own writing. They should not be put into your writing as whole sentences by themselves.


Instead, they need to be imbedded into your own writing. At the very least, it requires your own words either before or after the quote, as below:

For example:


This is clear when Plutarch said that it was “a religion of women and eunuchs” (von Domaszewski, 1911, 51-2).


For example:


It should be noted that Plutarch stated that it had always remained “a religion of women and eunuchs”, insinuating that it was unacceptable to the majority of Romans (von Domaszewski, 1911, 51-2).


However, it is best to embed direct quotes in the middle of a much larger sentence:

You should only use a limited number of direct quotes in your essays. They are best used when you think that the author’s exact words are the best way to support your argument.


However, if you can rewrite (paraphrase) the information in a better way, do it as an indirect quotation.