I am currently writing an academic text and need to directly quote/cite text from a paper. What is best practice when I need to add a remark/note to the quote?

For instance, I would do it like this: The authors claim that "we do the best work ever in the area of CS (note: Computer Science)".

So in the above case the actually quoted text is "we do the best work ever in the area of CS", however, I want to add a note which explains the abbreviation "CS".

How should this be done?

Related questions:

How to add contextualizing text to a quotation?

How to indicate "Our remark"?

2 Answers 2


Square brackets are commonly used to indicate insertions in quoted text. You wouldn't need to use the word "note", so just "... CS [computer science]".

thepunctuationguide.com sums it up quite nicely -- their first example is in many ways equivalent to your case.

  • thanks! just a minor additional question (breaking the rules here).. do you know what is best practice regarding styling direct quotes? should they be in italics and under quotation marks in the text or is it enough to just use quotation marks? I have seen both versions..
    – beta
    Feb 12, 2016 at 7:26
  • 2
    So long as you're clear what's your work and what's quoted, the academic standards are satisfied. Many writers use quotes for short online quotations and have a block quote style for quotes of several lines. There's no need to italicise quotes; in fact you may like to keep italics in reserve for emphasis (even within quotes, where you should specify whose emphasis).
    – Chris H
    Feb 12, 2016 at 7:31
  • thepunctuationguide.com would be well advised to change its name to *apunctuationguide.com" because that's all it is, one of many. If you're writing for yourself, adopt a style manual that you like, but if you're writing for someone else (perhaps an editor or a professor), that person will likely dictate which style manual to use.
    – deadrat
    Feb 12, 2016 at 10:19
  • @deadrat I'd never heard of it until looking for a source for this answer. Of the top 2 hits on my search it was the clearer. Link title modified though. And IME many destinations don't specify a style guide, then complain when they dislike the one you choose.
    – Chris H
    Feb 12, 2016 at 16:29

You say,

For instance, I would do it like this: The authors claim that "we do the best work ever in the area of CS (note: Computer Science)".

It's simple. Either quote it in direct speech or convert it to indirect. The above is a hotch-potch. It should be:

The authors claim that they do their best work ever in the area of CS.   [Indirect speech]


The authors claim, "we do the best work ever in the area of CS (note: Computer Science)."
                                [Direct speech]

  • I'm afraid that would be considered plagiarism. If you include the original words, you must use quotation marks. If you don't want to just quote, you have to use your own words (i.e., you have to paraphrase the original sentence).
    – Yay
    Feb 12, 2016 at 10:05
  • 1
    @Yay This is wrong. Plagiarism is representing others' words as your own. The issue is not direct or indirect speech, but rather attribution. If I had written the following sentence: FDR said that the only thing we had to fear is fear itself, no one would accuse me of stealing.
    – deadrat
    Feb 12, 2016 at 10:23
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    @deadrat That may be true in informal contexts, but when writing a scientific paper you have to either quote (with quotation marks), or paraphrase. You cannot repeat the exact words without quotation marks even though you're clearly stating such idea isn't yours (so-and-so said...). Plagiarism isn't restricted to "representing others' words as your own." E.g., giving due credit to a source but failing to format a citation properly could get you expelled from your university. Plagiarism also includes repeating the same exact words without using quotation marks.
    – Yay
    Feb 12, 2016 at 10:45
  • @deadrat By the way, FDR's quote wouldn't require quotation marks because it's common knowledge. The sentence at hand most certainly isn't.
    – Yay
    Feb 12, 2016 at 10:48
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    @Yay I'm afraid you're still confused. Plagiarism is misrepresenting the work of others as your own. The obvious case is appropriating someone else's words verbatim, but it's still plagiarism to paraphrase someone else's ideas in your words. It's a matter of a few minutes to find a university policy that gives the example of how to properly credit a paraphrased paragraph. Proper attribution is an absolute defense against plagiarism. English has a set of well-understood rules for mapping between indirect and direct discourse by changing tense, location, and person.
    – deadrat
    Feb 12, 2016 at 23:53

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