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MLA Citation Guide (MLA 8th Edition): Quoting vs Paraphrasing

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. 

Quoting - Example:

There are two basic formats that can be used:

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.


Quoting - Tips:

What Is a Long Quotation?

A quotation of 4 lines or more. 

Rules for Long Quotations

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

  1. The line before your long quotation, when you're introducing the quote, usually ends with a colon.
  2. The long quotation is indented half an inch from the rest of the text, so it looks like a block of text.
  3. There are no quotation marks around the quotation.
  4. 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 behaviour:

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)

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]




Paraphrasing - Example:

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).

 Note: MLA encourages including the page number when paraphrasing if it will help the reader locate the information in a long text and distinguish between the information that is coming from you and the source. If the information is from multiple pages, include them. E.g. (65, 88-89).


Paraphrasing - Tips:

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.

If your paraphrase is longer than one sentence, provide an in-text citation for the source at the beginning of the paraphrase. As long as it's clear that the paraphrase continues to the following sentences, you don't have to include in-text citations for the following sentences.Including the author's name in the prose may provide clarity as well.


This is the first sentence of my paraphrase (Smith). I continue to describe the author's idea. This is the last sentence of my paraphrase (65-66).

Smith states that this is the first sentence of my paraphrase. I continue to describe the author's idea. This is the last sentence of my paraphrase (65-66).



Additional Resource:

In-Text Citation Tips:

If you're 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.


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 entries:

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:

(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.

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