Citing Sources in Presentations

by Janelle Davis

So you’re giving a presentation. No big deal. And then you realize that you used a quote from a really excellent author and didn’t know you had to cite them in your speech.

Big deal.

Not citing your sources in a speech is plagiarism, just as if you failed to do so in a paper. So what do you do? Being a logical person, you might turn to a writing handbook or search online, only to find that there really isn’t much in the way of resources for verbal citations. But the WaCC has you covered! These general guidelines will help you sort out when and how to cite sources in speeches and presentations.

The first step is always to check with your professor to find out what they’re expecting. Some professors will have a clear idea of how they want you to format verbal citations; others might not. While you should always default to your instructor’s guidelines or preferences, the suggestions below will give you a place to start.

General Guidelines: Academic integrity guidelines apply to speeches and presentations as well as papers. So just as with a paper, it’s important to provide a citation any time you use information from someone else, whether it’s a direct quotation, a paraphrase, or a summary.

  • It’s not usually necessary to cite a specific page number in a speech – however, that information should be in your outline so that you can provide it easily on request.
  • To maintain the flow of your speech, incorporate the citation information into the sentences around the material you’re borrowing. “According to…” is the easiest way to do this, but to maintain variety be sure to use other constructions: “In the 1994 film…,” “In her book, Mary Writer informs us…,” “When we look to…,” and many others can work.
  • Since your audience can’t see quotation marks in your voice, you have to provide them verbally. If there might be any doubt about where the quotation ends and your own words pick up, begin direct quotations by saying “quote” and end them by saying “endquote.”

Specific guidelines:

  • Books & Films: Introduce your information, whether it’s a direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary, by giving the title of the work and the name of the author(s) or director. For films, be sure to include the year, especially if there is a remake or another film with the same or similar title.
  • Articles in Periodicals: For newspapers and magazines, it is often sufficient to give the title of the publication (e.g. The Economist or The New York Times) and the full date of the article’s publication. For scholarly articles, provide the name of the author, the title of the article, and mention that it is an article. Some professors might want you to include the title of the journal as well, so be sure to check.
  • Websites: Tell the audience the title of the website and the name of the publisher. Some professors might also want you to include the most recent date of access.
  • Interviews: Include the name of the interviewer, the name of the interviewee, the year, and, if published or aired, the name of the publisher or the show. If you are presenting original research and want to include quotations from anonymous or confidential interviews that you conducted, you can either use a pseudonym for your interviewees (and mention in the speech that names have been changed to protect confidentiality), or you can indicate in your verbal citation that the interview was confidential. The latter works best if you only have one or two interviewees that you want to cite; the former is better if you have several such interviews. In both cases, when citing an interview that you conducted, describe it as a “personal interview.”

In general, always be sure to provide proper attribution for information or material that you borrow from someone else. The exact requirements, as with all citation formats, will vary depending on an instructor’s preference, but the information above gives you a sense of the minimum necessary information.

This is part three in a series on public speaking tips. Read the previous posts here and here.


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