Note: There is no one, correct citation standard that is used universally; instead, each academic discipline has developed its own notions of proper citation and how it should look. Ideally, you should acquaint yourself with the system of citation most widely used in your own field.

Correctly performing citation is sometimes a difficult task, since you are constantly trying to determine when a citation is necessary. All statements, numerical data, information, etc., which can be ascribed to a specific individual (statistics, etc.) must be cited. On the other hand, stating today’s date would not need a citation, since it’s a generally accepted fact. 1


Avoid Plagiarism

Every citation must be able to be verified by a reader/grader. Therefore, you should clearly mark all ideas or content borrowed—whether directly or indirectly — from another source. Failure to do so would constitute plagiarism, the consequences of which could haunt you for years and have a negative impact on your professional career.

Tip: When in doubt as to whether a certain piece of information should be furnished with a source citation, it is better to err on the side of too much direct/indirect citation than too little.


Indirect Quotations

Indirect quotation is the analogous rendering of someone else’s content using your own words. It also includes the modification or rearrangement of the original wording used in the source. In either case, when ideas are borrowed from somebody else, they must be labeled as such. The use of indirect quotations, moreover, also demonstrates that you have grappled with the text and understand how to integrate it into your own line of argument.


The citations for indirect quotations always begin with the abbreviation cf. (confer [Latin] = compare), since they are ‘merely’ instances of analogously reproducing somebody else’s content, for example: (cf. Steinke 1996, p. 73).


Direct Quotations

If a word or statement is copied verbatim—meaning exactly how it was in the original source—then it is considered a direct quotation and is set off with quotation marks (“”). Direct quotations are used only when the exact wording or term is especially important. As a rule, you should be rather sparing in your use of direct quotations. They must be completely and faithfully reproduced, even when there are errors in the original, or it’s in a foreign language or it doesn’t cohere grammatically with your own text. Errors in the original text are labeled with [sic].

If the quotation contains another quotation from a third party, then the latter must be surrounded with single quotation marks (‘’).


Longer Direct Quotations

Longer direct quotations are usually set off typographically. Font size is reduced, lines are single-spaced, and the passage is indented a bit more on both the left and the right. Example:

„Wikipedia citation restriction: In academic writing, Wikipedia articles should not be cited, as there is no guarantee for their content. In the event that a Wikipedia citation is unavoidable, one is best advised—especially at the university level—to consult with, e.g., the relevant instructor before the completion of the paper.“ (Source:, letzter Abruf October 2009) 2


New and Old Spelling Conventions in Quotations

When citing sources verbatim, the original spelling should remain unchanged, even if it differs from contemporary spelling. No adjustment is to be made to a direct quotation for reasons of spelling. If the source was written in an earlier era when now outmoded spelling conventions were in use, the archaic spellings are not to be labeled in any way. The [sic] notation can only be used for words that were misspelled according to the conventions of that era. This means that today’s academic paper authors will have to be familiar with both contemporary and historic spellings in order to know what was considered correct in each era.



The omission of a word is noted with parentheses and two period marks. Omissions of more than two words are noted with parentheses and three period marks. If a part of the original text is moved around within a quotation, the part so moved is placed within parentheses. If the citing author adds something to the quotation, [square brackets] are placed around the added text.

An omission can never be allowed to distort or reverse the meaning of the original text.

Examples of (1) verbatim quotation, (2) quotation with omission and (3) addition:

  1. „The ever-increasing pressure on benefits recipients to accept any job on offer, no matter how unreasonable the conditions, is completely superfluous from the point of view of labor market policy” (Steinke, 1996, p. 73).
  2. 2. What is occurring in this case is a constant intensification, where “(t)he ever-increasing pressure on benefits recipients to accept any job on offer, no matter how unreasonable the conditions, is completely superfluous from the point of view of labor market policy” (Steinke, 1996, p. 73).
  3. 3. “The ever-increasing pressure on benefits recipients to accept any job on offer, no matter how unreasonable the conditions, is completely superfluous from the point of view of labor market [and socio-political] policy” (Steinke, 1996, p. 73).


Labeling Citations

Both direct as well as indirect citations must be labeled. This is done either with footnotes, or with citation tags in the main body of the text itself. While the use of tags within the text can interrupt the reader’s flow, footnotes will also divert his/her gaze from the text if the reader is interested in what the footnotes have to say.

Caution: Every grader has his/her own thoughts on this subject, so be sure and discuss the issue before each assignment with the grader. In any case, the labeling system should always be consistent throughout the entire work.

With direct quotations, the footnote is placed after the closing parenthesis mark at the end of the quotation; with indirect quotations, it is placed at the end of either the sentence or the passage—wherever the conceptual reference ends. Numbers are handled just like direct quotations, only without double quotation marks. (The footnote follows right after the number.)

Footnote numbers either continuously increment for the duration of the paper, or else they start over every page, section or chapter. (Don’t panic: Word can do it for you automatically.) Be sure and discuss this with your grader! The text of the footnote contains the information for the source of the citation. Here there are two possibilities: short-form documentation and full documentation.


Short-Form Documentation

Short-Form Documentation in the Footnote

Short-form documentation in the footnote merely contains the following information: author (surname), year of publication and page number. Example: Steinke, 1996, p. 73.

Short-form documentation is preferred for longer papers, since particular authors may be cited more often, and a longer form of documentation would start to seem repetitive. The full documentation for each source is still given in the bibliography3

Short-Form Documentation in the Text

Another variation is the short-form documentation in the main body of the text, the ‘Harvard Style’ of source citation. This citation style requires the insertion of a citation tag into the text right after the citation and enclosed in (parentheses).

Tip: More information on „Harvard“-Style  Harvard referencing guide (PDF, English, last accessed October 2009). 4


Full Documentation

The full documentation method places all the source information in the footnotes, sparing the reader the need to look at a bibliography. For reasons of space and time, though, this method is not advisable.

loc. cit.

When writing a shorter paper, it may make sense to forgo a  bibliography. 5 In that case, in order not to have to repeat all the source information over and over, you can use the abbreviation loc. cit. (loco citato [Latin] = in the place cited). Beginning the second time a given source is cited and every time thereafter, you would use this abbreviation in parentheses instead of a full source citation.


The labeling of indirect citations when using full documentation always begins with the abbreviation cf. (confer [Latin] = compare), since we are dealing ‘merely’ with the analogous reproduction of somebody else’s content.


If two (or more) citations from the exact same source are found immediately after one another in the footnote section, you should use the abbreviation ibid. (ibidem [Latin] = in the same place). Each footnote so labeled must refer to the exact same work from the exact same author; only the page numbers, which are indicated after the ibid., may differ.



Documentation Examples

Examples of (1) short-form documentation, (2) full documentation in the footnote and (3) short-form documentation using ibid.:

1 Steinke 1996, S. 73 
2 Rifkin, J.: The End of Work and Its Future. Frankfurt/Main 1996, S. 112 
3 Rifkin, J.: a. a. O., S. 113 
4 vgl. Steinke 1996, S. 70ff 
5 vgl. BT-Drucksache 13/4941, S. 30 
6 vgl. ebd., S. 31

Be aware that, in footnotes, you can also find additional information that would be considered too detailed or distracting for the main body of text.


Citing a Preface

Should you need to cite a preface written by someone other than the main author of the book, you can always use the following method. Let’s assume that Drewer has written the preface to Meier’s book:

„…“ (Drewer, Preface to Meier 1999, p. xi)

In the bibliography, you would list the book under ‘M’ for Meier.


Citing Internet Sources

Sources from the internet should only be used with the greatest of care in academic papers. On account of the fast-paced nature of the internet, it can be difficult to verify a citation at a later date.

How to list internet sources in a bibliography is explained on the Bibliography page.


The content of the article has been made available to the Plagiathek in courtesy of: Matthes, Holger: Literaturverzeichnis bzw. Quellenverzeichnis In: Stand: 20.01.2012. URL: (last accessed on 03.02.2012)
2, last accessed on October 2009
3 Matthes, Holger: Literaturverzeichnis bzw. Quellenverzeichnis. In: Stand: 20.01.2012. URL: (last accessed on 03.02.2012)
4 Harvard referencing guide (PDF, English, last accessed on October 2009)
5 Matthes, Holger: Literaturverzeichnis bzw. Quellenverzeichnis. In: Stand: 20.01.2012. URL: (last accessed on 03.02.2012)
6 Matthes, Holger: Literaturverzeichnis bzw. Quellenverzeichnis. In: Stand: 20.01.2012. URL: (last accessed on 03.02.2012)