I am currently writing a biography of a band, and have a question regarding citing quotes, such as from interviews. Is it necessary to cite everything a person (for example a band member or manager) has said, from the original source of the speech?

The reason I ask is because an already published biography on a similar subject has quotes from people that are originally from interviews that were, for example, originally from the NME or newspaper interviews that I have located on the internet. The book has no acknowledgement (footnotes, bibliography) that these quotes are from other interviews/pieces. Is this because the author will have cleared the rights to use it with the original publisher, or are there different rules when citing speech?

Thank you very much for your time!

  • Tagged as mla because we're closing an earlier question as a dupe of this - and the currently most-upvoted answer here addresses this in MLA style. (Also see this closed question.) Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 15:37

2 Answers 2


This is called quoting from an indirect source.

And, yes, if you don't take your quotations from the original source, you need to acknowledge the intermediary. This is in part to recognize the work that person did, but also to protect yourself in case that person misquoted the original source.

I don't know the audience for your work, so I don't know which style you should use, but in MLA, for example, you write "qtd in" and then give the source. eg.

The star said he "couldn't care less about the little people." (qtd. in Smith 273).

If you're writing something less academic, you could just explain the situation in words. eg.

John Smith was the only one in the room after the show, and he reports that the star said he "couldn't care less about the little people."

Responsible writing requires that you make it clear where the information comes from, in the name of integrity and accuracy.

  • Brilliant, thank you. I assume the author of the book I referred to would have sought permission to use the information. While he uses the 2nd technique you outlined a lot, there are some points (for example the quote he used un-cited that I found the original source for) that I presume he must have gained permission to use. Thanks! :)
    – Ali
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 15:24
  • |If it's a work of scholarship, you can't really 'get permission' to use something un-cited. You shouldn't want to.The citation is your way of showing that your information is legit. If I'm reading you correctly, and the book you're using has taken things word-for-word from another source and not acknowledged it, I would seriously question the legitimacy of the book you're using. It's sloppy scholarship, at the very least.
    – Kate S.
    Commented Aug 12, 2011 at 15:30

I don't know if the rules for citing from speech are any different from those of citing from text, however, if you are to cite something or someone verbatim, you need to put it in quotes, if not also as a separate paragraph. In cases where the article/object of the quote is tacit, you may place it in square brackets as part of the quote. This also applies to conjunctive terms. For example, take the following phrase:

"Fred was seen leaving the crime scene. After hours of searching, he was arrested by police."

If only the second sentence of this phrase is relevant to your discussion, you may quote it as follows:

"After hours of searching, he [Fred] was arrested by police."

Note that you may also omit part of the quote that is not relevant to your discussion, so long as you don't take it out of its context, and so long as you replace it with ellipses. For example,

"Fred was seen leaving the crime scene...[but] was later arrested by police."

Notice how I also added a conjunctive term in square brackets in order to join the two sentences from the original quote.

Note that these rules apply only if you are citing from the original source. If, however, you are citing from a secondary source, you must paraphrase it as well as acknowledge the source where it came from. Using the above example, you may write:

"According to the Daily Telegraph, Fred was seen leaving the crime, but was later arrested by police."

And, if publishing this in a (scientific) paper, for example, you will most likely need to reference the bibliography entry of your source.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.