When can I use a direct quotation?

Direct quotations are exact, word-for-word extracts from the original text. Most of what you write should be a summary or paraphrase of the original source, rather than a direct quotation. Direct quotations should be used very selectively – as a general rule, no more than 5% of your total word count should be a direct quotation. If you have too many direct quotations in your text, it will lack consistency of style – it will read as if it has multiple authors, rather than just one. When you quote directly, give the page number from the original text.

Use a direct quotation

  • When it is important not to change the original words (eg, a definition)
  • When the phrasing of an idea reflects a writer’s original insight or point of view.
  • Because a writer has captured a complex idea concisely and memorably


Sandel (1996, p342) argues that cosmopolitan democracy is ‘flawed, both as a moral ideal and as a public philosophy for self-government’, on the grounds that at the centre of cosmopolitan democracy is a liberal notion of the individual which fails to consider the way in which individuals, their beliefs and interests are ‘constructed’ by the communities in which they live and are members.

Schneider (1985, p37) defines satisfaction as ‘a personal evaluation of conditions present in the job, or outcomes ….. that arise as a result of having a job’.

[…. indicates that some words from the original source have not been included – when quoting directly, make sure all of the quoted text is relevant]

Don’t use a direct quotation to cite factual information you could find in a variety of sources and that is easily paraphrased

X M&S’s Annual Report (2014) stated that ‘Womenswear sales have performed well, showing year on year increase in profits’.

M&S womenswear has continued to deliver consistent profits (Marks and Spencer 2014)