MLA Quoting a quote
January 24, 2011 7:24 PM   Subscribe

In MLA format when you are citing a book that quotes another book, which book should you cite?

I know that probably sounds a little confusing so I'll try to explain it more. Say I'm reading book A for a paper. In it, it has a quote from book B that I really like. I only want to use the quote from book B, so do I cite book A or book B? It makes sense to me that you would cite book B, the original author. However recently someone told me you should cite book A as that is where you found the quote and if Book B was misquoted or taken out of context, you would not be at fault because you cited the book that made the error. So which is correct?
posted by Deflagro to Writing & Language (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ideally you go read book B, find the quote and confirm the correct context. This is part of consulting the reference list of your sources to find more sources in your research. If you can't find book B, then you cite book B as quoted by book A.
posted by waterandrock at 7:27 PM on January 24, 2011

You have two options - one way is to cite both, looking up the correct form in your MLA reference (a library will have a copy if you don't - MLA resists putting their stuff online). Alternately, you can trace the source back to the original Book B, verify the citation, and then just cite that.
posted by muddgirl at 7:29 PM on January 24, 2011

Here's an explanation from the University of Maryland.
posted by waterandrock at 7:30 PM on January 24, 2011

Excuse me, it's not quite that you "cite both" - this reference states that you say "...(quoted in Book A, XX)" and just put Book A in your works cited list.
posted by muddgirl at 7:31 PM on January 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Editorial choice, but it's bad form to cite B directly if you don't actually have B to verify that it says that.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:53 PM on January 24, 2011

It's also good form to acknowledge that A helped you find the good quote from B. I would simply cite to A, unless you are doing a further analysis/deeper reading of B. For example, you might write"'It was hot,' Shakespeare noted regarding his summer vacation (quoted in Jane 31)."
posted by jb at 8:41 PM on January 24, 2011

I get asked this question frequently (I'm a librarian), and the answer I give is that you need to get a copy of Book B and cite it directly.

If it's a good enough quote that you want to use it in your paper, then you really should be reading it's original source.
posted by bryghtrose at 9:08 AM on January 25, 2011

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