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Quoting and paraphrasing

In most of your academic work you won’t be expected to “re-invent the wheel.” On the contrary: In most of your texts, you will be dealing with existing literature on a particular topic or compiling a literature review. This is why it is so important to make a clear distinction between your own ideas and work already published by other authors. The following section will help you become familiar with the rules of academic citation.

Proper citation is not just a formal requirement in the sciences, but also fulfills a number of other important functions.

  • Citations make statements/hypotheses verifiable
  • Citations allow the reader to differentiate between the author’s own work and the work of others
  • Citations help readers find specific information
  • Citations document what other researchers have contributed on a specific topic
  • Citations demonstrate that you are familiar with and have read the relevant literature on your topic
  • Citations can be used to support your own arguments

The source of the information must be easily identifiable based on the citation method used. Sources used must be included in the reference list, including all relevant information pertaining to the source. Citation rules and methods vary between individual disciplines, but certain basic principles always apply:


Quotes should appear exactly as worded in the original source, the source should be accessible and findable, and the citation method should be uniform throughout the whole text.  


Please note:

Academic writing in the legal sciences differs slightly from other disciplines. Click here for information on academic writing in the field of law.

  • In-text references (Harvard system of referencing) contain only the most important information required to locate a source. They include only the author’s name, the year the text was published, and a page number if necessary. This type of reference is used in the body of the text, e.g. (cf. Mitchell, 2017, p. 189).
  • A direct quote reproduces the quoted text accurately, including any errors the quote may include and using the original orthography. It must be clearly indicated that the text is being quoted, for example: “Schemata are employed ... in allocating resources, and generally, in guiding the flow of processing in the system.” (Rumelhart 1981, pp. 33-34).
  • An indirect (or paraphrased) quote summarizes the basic information in the quoted text in other words. Quotation marks are not used, but the abbreviation [cf.] = compare – is usually added. For example: [cf. Niedermair 2010, pp. 169-171].

    Please note: Using other authors’ ideas or findings without naming the source is plagiarism, even if you express the information in your own words.
  • Footnotes are found at the bottom of the page and fulfill different functions. They may include sources, examples, or comments on the text itself. In the social and economic sciences, footnotes are rarely used for citation, also because this tends to reduce readability.

Internet pages are often the most readily available but not always the most reliable of sources. For this reason you should always make very sure that an internet source you want to use is “citable.” Online information is short-lived and can literally change from one minute to the next, so it’s a good idea to always download and save a copy of the text. “Lost” pages can sometimes be found as archived versions in a digital library like

  • When quoting internet sources, cite the URL (the internet address) of the individual page. This is found in the address bar at the top of your browser.
  • Access date or date and time of download are often required. It can be more useful, however, to cite when the page was created or last updated, using for example the date format YYYY-MM-DD. Look here for further examples (in German):

    This page also offers some useful tips in English:
  • If possible, always include the name of the author of the web page or the online text you are quoting. This can often be found in the page’s legal or copyright information or on the site’s homepage or starting page.



  • Boeglin, Martha (2012): Wissenschaftlich arbeiten Schritt für Schritt. Gelassen und effektiv studieren. 2nd edn. Munich: Wilhelm Fink
  • Kruse, Otto (2015): Lesen und Schreiben. 2nd edn. Vienna: Verlag Huter & Roth KG
  • Niedermair, Klaus (2010): Recherchieren und Dokumentieren. Vienna: Verlag Huter & Roth KG