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MLA Citation Guide (9th Edition): Quoting vs. Paraphrasing

what's the difference?

Quoting vs Paraphrasing: What's the Difference?

There are two ways to integrate sources into your assignment: quoting directly or paraphrasing.

Quoting is copying a selection from someone else's work, phrasing it exactly as it was originally written. When quoting place quotation marks (" ") around the selected passage to show where the quote begins and where it ends. Make sure to include an in-text citation. 

Paraphrasing is used to show that you understand what the author wrote. You must reword the passage, expressing the ideas in your own words, and not just change a few words here and there. Make sure to also include an in-text citation. 



quote examples

Quoting - Example:

There are two basic formats that can be used when quoting a source:

Parenthetical Style:

The homeless were typically neglected growing up since they "commonly come from families who are riddled with problems and marital disharmony" (Rokach 477).

Narrative Style:

As Rokach notes, the homeless "often have no one to care for them and no one knows them intimately" (477).


Note: If there are no page numbers, as in a website, cite the author name only.

What is a Long or Block Quotation?

A long or block quotation is a quotation which is 4 lines or more.


Rules for Long Quotations

There are 4 rules that apply to long quotations that are different from regular quotations:

  • The line before your long quotation, when you're introducing the quote, usually ends with a colon.
  • The long quotation is indented half an inch from the rest of the text, so it looks like a block of text.
  • There are no quotation marks around the quotation.
  • The period at the end of the quotation comes before your in-text citation as opposed to after, as it does with regular quotations.


Example of a Long Quotation

At the end of Lord of the Flies the boys are struck with the realization of their behavior:

The tears began to flow and sobs shook him. He gave himself up to them now for the first time on the island; great, shuddering spasms of grief that seemed to wrench his whole body. His voice rose under the black smoke before the burning wreckage of the island; and infected by that emotion, the other little boys began to shake and sob too. (Golding 186)

Modifying Quotations

Sometimes you may want to make some modifications to the quote to fit your writing. Here are some MLA rules when changing quotes:


Changing Quotations

  • Sometimes you may want to make some modifications to the quote to fit your writing. Here are some MLA rules when changing quotes:

Omitting parts of a quotation

  • If you would like to exclude some words from a quotation, replace the words you are not including with an ellipsis - ...

Adding words to a quote

  • If you are adding words that are not part of the original quote, enclose the additional words in square brackets - [XYZ]



paraphrase examples

Paraphrasing - Examples:

When you write information from a source in your own words, cite the source by adding an in-text citation at the end of the paraphrased portion as follows:

Mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research following the publication of John Bowlby's studies (Hunt 65).

If you refer to the author's name in a sentence you do not have to include the name again as part of your in-text citation, instead include the page number if there is one:

Hunt noted that mother-infant attachment became a leading topic of developmental research after the publication of John Bowlby's studies (65).

Correct vs. Incorrect Paraphrasing

Original Source

Homeless individuals commonly come from families who are riddled with problems and marital disharmony, and are alienated from their parents. They have often been physically and even sexually abused, have relocated frequently, and many of them may be asked to leave home or are actually thrown out, or alternatively are placed in group homes or in foster care. They often have no one to care for them and no one knows them intimately.

Source from: 

Rokach, Ami.  "The Causes of Loneliness in Homeless Youth." The Journal of Psychology, 139, 2005, pp. 469-480. Academic Search Premier.

Example: Incorrect Paraphrasing

The homeless come from families with problems. Frequently, they have been physically or sexually abused, or have lived in group homes. Usually no one cares for them or knows them intimately (Rokach 470).

Note: In this incorrect example the writing is too similar to the original source. The student only changed or removed a few words and has not phrased the ideas in a new way.

Example: Correct Paraphrasing

Many homeless experience isolation in part due to suffering from abuse or neglect during their childhood (Rokach 470).

Note: The example keeps the idea of the original writing but phrases it in a new way.

Long Paraphrases

If you paraphrase a source more than once in a single paragraph and no other sources are mentioned in between, provide an in-text citation for the source at the end of each paraphrase. In the examples, the second in-text citation only includes the page number since it is clear that the same source is still being paraphrased.


This is the first sentence of my paraphrase (Smith 64). I continue to describe the author's idea. This is the last sentence of my paraphrase (66).

Smith states that this is the first sentence of my paraphrase (64). I continue to describe the author's idea. This is the last sentence of my paraphrase (66).


If your paraphrase continues to another paragraph and/or you include paraphrases from other sources within the same paragraph, repeat the in-text citations for each.

Example: This is a new paraphrase from my first source (Smith 64). This information was taken from my second source which is a journal article (Rokach 12). I introduce another idea from my first source (Smith 66).  


In-Text Citation Tips

in-text tips

If you are using information from a single source more than once in succession (i.e., no other sources referred to in between), you can use a simplified in-text citation.

Example: Cell biology is an area of science that focuses on the structure and function of cells (Smith 15). It revolves around the idea that the cell is a "fundamental unit of life" (17). Many important scientists have contributed to the evolution of cell biology. Mattias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, for example, were scientists who formulated cell theory in 1838 (20). 


Note: If using this simplified in-text citation creates ambiguity regarding the source being referred to, use the full in-text citation format.

When you are citing two different sources that share the same author, for the Works Cited List list the first title only, and for any subsequent titles by the same author list three dashes (---) in place of the author name. 

Example: Works Cited list
Haynes, Stephen R. Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery. Oxford University Press, 2007.
---. The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation. Oxford University Press, 2012.


For in-text citations, include a shortened version of the source title following the author name.

Example: In-text citations
(Haynes, Noah's Curse 84)
(Haynes, The Last Segregated Hour  57)

If you would like to cite more than one source within the same in-text citation, simply record the in-text citations as normal and separate them with a semi-colon (;).

(Smith 42; Bennett 71). 
(It Takes Two; Brock 43).

Note: The sources within the in-text citation do not need to be in alphabetical order for MLA style.