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The source I would like to cite introduces a new concept, and when doing so, the term used to describe this concept is written in quotation marks – however these quotation marks are used for emphasis rather than citing a specific source.

I.e. The source, written by (Example, 1999) says something like

In the early 20th century, sharp rises in productivity lead to the institution of mass consumption. This mode of production is called "Fordism".

Now, I would like to introduce Fordism in my own writing, and to do so, I would like to cite the first occurrence of the term Fordism, so it is clear to the reader where I got it from.

I.e. I write something along the lines of

This new mode of production, which creates an imperative for mass consumption in order to realize profits from increased productivity, is called "Fordism" (Example, 1999, p.5).

How do I properly use quotation marks in my writing in this example?

Technically, double quotation marks in the original text should be printed as single quotation marks when citing, according to APA guidlines, which would mean I have to print

This new mode of production, which creates an imperative for mass consumption in order to realize profits from increased productivity, is called "'Fordism'" (Example, 1999, p.5).

Which, to me, looks a little awkward. Does anyone know the correct APA-way of handling quotation marks in cases like this?

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    Doesn't APA mean that if the entire section is double-quoted, any interior double-quotes just get changed to single quotes?
    – mkennedy
    Mar 22, 2022 at 15:34
  • Yes, that is what APA guidelines state. But I am unsure how this translates to the case above.
    – Pentaquark
    Mar 23, 2022 at 10:33
  • Do I understand you correctly @mkennedy, that you would advise to use simple quotation marks?
    – Pentaquark
    Mar 23, 2022 at 14:05
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    Only if you're doing this: "In the early 20th century, sharp rises in productivity lead to the institution of mass consumption. This mode of production is called 'Fordism'." If you're indenting or otherwise making clear what the quotation is, but not enclosing it with double quotation marks, leave Fordism in double quotation marks.
    – mkennedy
    Mar 23, 2022 at 15:58
  • The issue is, that I am not quoting anything else but the word "Fordism", which is already in quotation marks. So I am neither using quotation marks to indicate a quote in the surrounding words, nor is the passage indented.
    – Pentaquark
    Mar 25, 2022 at 12:03

2 Answers 2

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It's true that APA format is one of the most-detailed specifications of any publishing style. However, despite its intricacies, there are a few basic underlying principles, one of which is to give credit where credit is due and to allow a reader to find the source of non-original material. A second principle is "Do not make life hard for the reader!".

Your aims should be to:

  • indicate that the word Fordism is a neologism, whether or not it is widely used or accepted
  • say, or show, that the neologism was created by someone other than you
  • indicate who it was that created the term ... or at least point the reader to a source of description of the term.

With those ideas in mind, you should write exactly as you have in your second example:

This new mode of production, which creates an imperative for mass consumption in order to realize profits from increased productivity, is called "Fordism" (Example, 1999, p.5).

A further thing to bear in mind is that you are not simply quoting the word "Fordism"; you are also referencing the source of the idea as well as the word.

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Either quote or paraphrase --- don't quote a single word in a paraphrase

You need to decide if you are going to quote the cited source or just make a paraphrased assertion based on that source. At the moment you are mixing these two things and it is getting you into trouble. If I have a source Aitken (1980) that says "Monkeys like bananas" (p. 5) then I could quote it:

According to Aitken (1980) "[m]onkeys like bananas" (p. 5).

or I could paraphrase it:

There has been some previously literature suggesting that monkeys like bananas (see e.g., Aitken 1980, p. 5).

but it will look silly if I paraphrase it but use a quotation only around the object under discussion:

There has been some previously literature suggesting that "monkeys" like bananas (see e.g., Aitken 1980, p. 5).

Observe that adding quotation marks only for this single word creates confusion ---this formulation makes it sound like I'm using scare quotes, as if I'm sceptical as to whether the things under discussion that like bananas are really monkeys. The reader will look at this and wonder what these "monkeys" (in scare quotes) actually are.


Turning to the case of interest to you, by the same token, you can either quote your cited source or you can paraphrase it. If you quote it (and apply the APA rule on internal quotation marks) you get something like this:

Example (1999) notes that "In the early 20th century, sharp rises in productivity lead to the institution of mass consumption. This mode of production is called 'Fordism'." (p. 5)

Alternatively, if you paraphrase it you will get something like this:

This new mode of production, which creates an imperative for mass consumption in order to realize profits from increased productivity, is called "Fordism" (Example 1999, p.5).

In the latter case, you can refer to "Fordism" (in quotes) by virtue of the fact that you are paraphrasing a source that refers to this thing. The quotes you are using serve the same purpose they did when Example used them --- i.e., they show that you are referring to a neologism that is not in common use in the language. This is just the same as being able to refer to monkeys when paraphrasing a source that refers to monkeys. As before, if you directly quote this single word, and thereby add an extra set of quotation marks, it creates confusion. In the present case you end up referring to "'Fordism'", which creates a kind of second-order mention of a concept.

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