A direct quotation is a report of the exact words of an author or speaker put inside quotation marks. Using a direct quotation (also called word-for-word quotation) from someone else’s writing can be powerful, but it should be used thoughtfully and for the right purpose. In humanities subjects, like English, you may be expected to use quotations a lot more than in science and social science subjects. 

Scroll down for our recommended strategies and resources. 

Why and when

Direct quotations should normally be used sparingly and only when you really need to pay attention to the author’s language. For a short, but comprehensive, overview of everything connected to quoting, see this guide or this video:


Normally you would integrate quotes into your sentence, and put quotation marks around them. However, for a longer quote of more than two lines, you would indent the quote instead of using quotation marks. See this guide on how to format short and long quotes:

Don’t avoid paraphrasing

Sometimes people include many direct quotes because they are not confident about putting the text into their own words, and don’t want to risk plagiarising. This isn’t a good strategy as the assignment becomes a patchwork of other people’s voices and not their own. See our page for more on how to be confident when paraphrasing:

Single or double quotation marks

Normally British publishers prefer the use of single quotation marks for direct quotes ‘...’ but it is fine to use double quotation marks “...” as long as you are consistent.  

Check quotation marks

An important step in both your note-making and proof-reading is checking you have put quotation marks around any direct quotes. You don’t want to miss them out accidentally as it will look like you have plagiarised. 

Referencing quotations

For more details on how to cite quotations in the text of your assignments using the appropriate referencing style for your subject, see our page on referencing: