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In a source, I have the sentence:

Trafficking in children from Togo, Nigeria, Mali, to Cote d’Ivoire’s plantation and domestic servants in Gabon, and of women from Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, and Sierra Leone as exploited sex workers in countries of the European Union has also taken root.

However, for my work, I only need this:

Trafficking domestic servants from Sierra Leone as exploited sex workers in countries of the European Union has also taken root.

Can I correctly cite the text when omitting words like this?

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    Is that really the same? I don't see domestic servants from Sierra Leone in the original text. Commented Jul 23, 2020 at 20:56
  • After domestic servants several countries are listed and Sierra Leone is one of them Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 11:21
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    @casualhuman: It’s quite difficult to tell since that sentence is very convoluted and we don’t know the intended meaning, but I am quite confident it is not correct English. The closest correct sentence (with brackets indicating structure) I see would be: “Trafficking {in [children from Togo, Nigeria, Mali to Cote d’Ivoire’s plantations] and [domestic servants from Gabon]} and [of women from Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, and Sierra Leone as exploited sex workers in countries of the European Union] has also taken root.” This would not justify your statement.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Jul 26, 2020 at 7:55
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    I have to agree with the other comments: the source sentence does not (clearly, at least) suggest that domestic servants are being trafficked and exploited as sex workers. I would interpret that part as separate from the women being trafficked as sex workers, and perhaps as children being trafficked to serve as domestic servants in Gabon.
    – wordsworth
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 4:03
  • I'm not sure why this was downvoted, it seems like a reasonable and useful question. Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 17:29

6 Answers 6

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The cleanest quoting approach would be as follows:

"[Trafficking] domestic servants in [Sierra Leone] as exploited sex workers [...] has also taken root"

Brackets can be used to show that you've summarized or edited excluded text, not merely removed it. But in this case I'd lean towards paraphrasing, e.g.:

Whomever (Whomever et al, 2017) make the case that domestic servants from Sierra Leone are increasingly being trafficked and exploited as sex workers.

If you think it's essential you can add the full quote as a footnote. This allows you to focus on the information you need (and avoid some of the given quote's grammatical issues) without sacrificing readability or altering the meaning of the original text.

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Traditionally, the sign for elided words is the ellipsis, which is three dots. Those used to be created with periods. In modern word processing, it is its own symbol.

Thus,

Trafficking in children from Togo, Nigeria, Mali, to Cote d’Ivoire’s plantation and domestic servants in Gabon, and of women from Ghana, Nigeria, Mali, and Sierra Leone as exploited sex workers in countries of the European Union has also taken root.

becomes

Trafficking... domestic servants... [from] Sierra Leone as exploited sex workers in countries of the European Union has also taken root.

The brackets are necessary around the "from" because it does not appear in that position in the original text.

There are a couple of cautions. Some of the other answers here seem to suggest that brackets are necessary around an ellipsis that's not in the original text. That's not a rule I've ever encountered, but it might be the new academic standard. Your own discipline may have a style guide that covers this situation.

Also, it's considered bad form to chop up someone else's words too much, since you can dramatically change meanings that way. Therefore, it may indeed be better in this case to just paraphrase the original, and indicate that fact when you cite it, as in the accepted answer.

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  • I entirely agree with Chris's ellipses, if the point is purely grammatical. To me, it seem far more important that your editing made too great a change in the meaning. It could still be argued that the essence was similar, but only just, and then only if you used ellipses. Commented Mar 8, 2022 at 22:19
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Of course not; not as in your example.

You either cite the exact text, or you show how you've changed it. Is that much truly not obvious?

That is more, not less important when - as here - the original text is unclear.

"Trafficking in children from (anywhere) in countries of the European Union…" is broadly comprehensible only from assumed context, not from the text itself.

("… I wrote actually I only need it…" means what, please?)

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Of course. You see this often, when people are citing a speech or another, drawn out text. What you'd see is a normal cite, but in every place something is missing, there's a "[...]" to indicate that you omitted something. In this case, yours would end up being

"Trafficking [...] domestic servants [...] from [...] Sierra Leone as exploited sex workers in countries of the European Union has also taken root"

Which is not pretty, and you might want to change this, but this is correct and you'd see it in a lot of academic texts. You still have to be careful not to alter the sentence too much or leave too much out of it, since that drastically decreases credibility.

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  • This is the technique I'd use, but with just the ellipses without the brackets. (See OWL at Purdue.) Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 13:39
  • Just you cut the sentence perverting the message.
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 31, 2020 at 10:08
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You can use the ellipsis sign ... to indicate the part of the sentence you don't want to include in you citation.

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    no, it has to be [...]
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 27, 2020 at 19:04
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    @F1Krazy - I'd like to see a cite from you or Trish that the brackets are necessary. That may be a new standard --maybe it's in an academic handbook somewhere --but traditionally, ellipses mean omitted words. Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 17:31
  • Yeah, I think Trish and I may have gotten confused. Ellipses without the brackets are for omitting words, and ellipses with the brackets are for omitting entire sentences. I'll revert my edit and try something else to make it clear that the brackets aren't part of Kenny's solution.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Jul 28, 2020 at 17:38
  • I'd still like to see evidence of the "[...]" usage. That's new to me. Commented Jul 30, 2020 at 13:41
  • In history studies (in Germany especially), citation style is extremely regulated: ... Does not suffice, it has to be [...] To differentiate it from the ... sometimes used used in transcripts of speech for an uncompleted sentence.
    – Trish
    Commented Jul 31, 2020 at 10:06
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Yes. You may be putting the information from that sentence into your own words, but you've still taken that information from another source, and you need to cite that source just like any other. Otherwise, as far as anyone knows, "Trafficking domestic servants from Sierra Leone as exploited sex workers in countries of the European Union has also taken root" is something you just made up.

Source: I wrote a dissertation and multiple essays at university and did a lot of paraphrasing, but I still had to cite the things I'd paraphrased.

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    I don't think @casualhuman is aiming to paraphrase, though - they don't claim that sentence is something they put into their own words, but that it's taken directly from the original text with some words omitted. That's not the same, surely. Commented Jul 25, 2020 at 15:24

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