What shouldn't you quote?

Scientific quoting

Scientific quoting

When writing a term paper or term paper, it is not uncommon for scientific citation to cause headaches. Should you use the German or the American citation style? When does something have to be marked as a quotation at all and how is the source correctly cited? We have put together some tips for you that will make scientific citation easier for you.

To quote or not to quote, that is the question

During the writing process, it is often not that easy to decide which information has been taken from another work and must therefore be marked as a quotation. The decision is not so difficult when it comes to a direct quote, that is, when you literally take a formulation from a source. When quoting scientifically, the quotation is put in quotation marks ("..."). It gets trickier if you don't use the wording of the source directly. It applies here that you have to mark it as a corresponding quote if you reproduce the thoughts, ideas, conclusions and findings of others in your own words.

Changes and omissions in direct quotations

Sometimes the problem arises that you want to include a quote in your body text, but it does not grammatically fit into the text or is simply too long. In these cases you can “change” the quotations. Of course, this must also be clearly marked so that you don't turn the word around in the mouth of the authors you are quoting. In scientific citations, omissions are indicated by [...]. All other changes or explanations that you make within the quotation must also be in square brackets.

He therefore regards it as one of the “by far the most famous poems of literary modernism”

1 Ickstadt, Heinz: The American avant-garde in Europe: Stein, Pound and Eliot. In: American literary history. Edited by Hubert Zapf. 3. Edition. Stuttgart / Weimar: Metzler Verlag, 2010. p. 240.

Errors are also accepted

Especially when you cite older sources, it happens more often that the spelling there deviates from the current variant. The rule here is that when you cite scientifically, you adopt these "errors" in the direct quotations of your work. You also quote actual mistakes, spelling mistakes or typing errors one-to-one. So that you can still make it clear that you did not make the mistake or that you know that this is an outdated spelling, add [sic] directly after the word in question. Often there is also the use of [sic!] Or just [!] To indicate that it is to be found in the original quotation, but that it contradicts the spelling or grammar.

The American and German citation styles

When it comes to scientific citation, there is the American citation method on the one hand, and you can also work with the German citation method on the other. Find out from your institute or your lecturer which citation style is preferred and make sure to use a uniform citation style in your work.

In the American citation style, the source is immediately after the quote in the running text. Here you enter the name of the author, the year and the page number as follows:

(Reinhardt 2002: 8)

If it is an indirect quote, put a cf. for “compare” in front of the name of the author. If you cite several works by the same author from the same year, you have to include a short title. If you quote works by several authors with the same name, please include the respective first letter:

(Schulze, R. 2002: 11); (Schulze, M. 2002: 34)

With the German citation, however, the source is indicated by means of a footnote. In the footnote itself, when you cite the source for the first time, you give a complete reference to the source, as you can find it in the bibliography at the end of your work:

Name, first name of the author: Title - Subtitle. Tape. Edition. Place: publisher, year. Page number.

For every further scientific citation of this source you give either ibid. For "ibid" if it were exactly the same reference or a.a.O. for "at the specified place" if the page number differs:

1 Reinhardt, Volker: The Renaissance in Italy - History and Culture. 2nd Edition. Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck oHG, 2002. p. 8.

2 ibid.

5 loc. Cit., P. 17.

If a source has more than one author, these are listed in the order in which they can also be found on or in the work:

Fuhrhop, Nanna and Jörg Peters: Introduction to Phonology and Graphematics. Stuttgart / Weimar: Metzler Verlag, 2013. pp. 24-28.


Fuhrhop, Nanna; Peters, Jörg: Introduction to Phonology and Graphematics. Stuttgart / Weimar: Metzler Verlag, 2013. pp. 24-28.


If you use the German citation style, make sure that you write the footnotes in a different font size. Your body text will usually be written in 12p, while in academic citations the footnotes usually have a font size of 10p. Here, too, it is best to find out more from the institute or lecturer if there are different rules on font size.

If a quote is longer than three or four lines, you also have to pay attention to a different formatting in the body of the text. The direct quote is then written in font size 11p and visually contrasted with the text. Here you make a paragraph before and after the quote so that it stands on its own. In addition, it is indented on the left side and you only use a one-line space here. The quotation marks are also omitted.

Important reminders

Here you will find again, in a nutshell, what is important in scientific citation.

Make sure that ...

... you use a consistent citation style throughout your work!
... you clearly identify both the quote and the source!
... you include all sources that you have used or quoted (literature, films, newspapers, internet sources, etc.)!
... there is a reference in the running text and another in the list of references at the end of the work!
... Quotations that cover more than three lines in your work require a different formatting!
... you keep an eye on the regulations of your institute and lecturer with regard to scientific citation!