What are some of your original quotes

Don't quote blindly

Why you should avoid secondary citations

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You have probably heard from a friend that his friend said that his girlfriend meant ... The girlfriend's words could be taken out of context and a misunderstanding or even an argument is inevitable.

The same phenomenon can be seen in the game “Stille Post”, in which a complicated sentence is whispered into the ears of many people. What you understand, you whisper to the next person. The last person in the group then says the sentence out loud - and it almost never matches what the first person said originally.
That can be very fun.

Unfortunately, this Stille-Post effect could also arise during academic work.
Here, too, statements made by others are taken up in one's own work and verified when quoting. However, the original statements and findings must not be misrepresented under any circumstances. The result here would be worse than an argument and by no means funny:
You expose yourself to the charge of plagiarism.

You should therefore always read the sources in the original text yourself and quote from this original text. This is the only way to be sure of what the source actually is.

If you do not read the original text, it is called a secondary citation:

Secondary quotations are quotations that you do not take from the original source, but from another source that in turn cited the original source (secondary source). With a secondary quotation you are quoting as it were "second hand". In any case, you must make it clear that you have not quoted from the original source.
If, on the other hand, you do not mark a secondary quotation correctly, but simply copy the quotation, this is called a "blind quotation". Blind quotes are plagiarism. This case study from the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg shows that blind quotations are unfortunately more common than is conducive to scientific quality. A frequent citation of a conference contribution was with high probability simply copied without the source being checked in the original - or the secondary source being given.

How do you proceed correctly in practice?


You are reading an article by Meier from 2018, which adapted his methodology to that of Bauer et al. 2016 leans on. This methodological approach by Bauer et al. You too would like to follow 2016 in your work.

The best solution:

What if Meier followed the Bauer et al. Misunderstood or misinterpreted 2016? If you blindly go to Bauer et al. Referring 2016, they would fall into the same error without realizing it. You can only prevent this if you follow Bauer et al. Read 2016 for yourself.

Therefore, look in the bibliography of Meier 2018, which study by Bauer et al. 2016 is meant. Research this study and obtain the article. In most cases, this can be done easily via the databases or catalogs of your library. You download the article directly or borrow the book on site.

If the book in which the original study is printed is not in your university library or other library in your city, use interlibrary loan. Find out on the website of your library from which other libraries in Germany and abroad you can order interlibrary loans to your library. Here, links are made to regional or national catalogs in which you can continue your search for the original source.

The sometimes time-consuming procurement of the original source is worthwhile:

Now check the study and you can be sure that you are reproducing the experimental setup correctly.

The interim solution:

You may have to wait a while to get the original source. Either your VPN connection is on strike, so that you do not have access to the databases of your institution. Or the article is only available in printed form and must first be ordered from another library.

In order not to interrupt your writing flow and to be able to use the quotation directly, record it temporarily as a secondary quotation:

(Bauer et al. 2016 quoted from Meier 2018)

It is best to mark this point with a highlight so that you can adapt it as soon as you have the original source and have checked the statements.

If you use a literature management program such as Citavi, enter the original source and the secondary source in which you found the citation and cite both in a reference as just described.

Citavi also offers the option of including the content of a quotation in a so-called knowledge element. For a secondary citation, there are some special features to consider:

  1. Do not include the quote from the secondary source where you found it, but rather as a quote from the original source. After the quote text, add in brackets: (Quoted from: Citavi short title of the secondary source, pages). You take the Citavi short title of the secondary source from the title entry that you created for the secondary source.
  2. Add a task to the original source: Check title and quote. (How to create custom tasks.)
  3. Obtain the original source. Once you have this in front of you, double-check the wording of the quote. If it is correct, delete the addition in brackets in Citavi in ​​the quotation (quoted from ...). Mark the task as done.

The stopgap solution:

However, in some cases it is difficult to get the original source:

  • A printed study only found in a library in Alaska
  • An unpublished company report
  • A foreign language article that is not available in your country and language

If you are actually unable to obtain the original text, you must use the secondary quote in your text along with the addition in brackets. The Chicago Manual of Style and the American Psychological Association state that consequently only the secondary source is listed in the bibliography. The original source is not cited directly and is therefore not listed in the bibliography.

Nevertheless, the following applies:

Secondary quotations are a scientific stopgap measure. If possible, you should avoid these and go to the trouble of obtaining the original text. If you use secondary citations frequently, the reader of your paper will wonder why you didn't bother to get the original source. That doesn’t throw a good light on your work.

It may also be possible to find an alternative job that provides comparable evidence but is easier to get hold of.

Incidentally, databases like Statista are not the original source for the charts you get there. Again, you need to get the original source.

You now know how to do it correctly: put an end to the breastfeeding post effect in scientific work and do not grope in the dark with blind quotes!

Have you ever discovered a blind quote?

What source could you just not find and had to resort to a secondary citation?

We look forward to your comments Facebook.

Created by: Jana Behrendt - Published on: 04.12.2018
Tags: citation

About Jana Behrendt

Jana Behrendt is interested in everything to do with personal knowledge organization - as one would expect from a qualified librarian. On the other hand, she reads very little in her free time. But she loves hiking in the Swiss mountains - as long as she doesn't have to look down.