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How to Cite Poem Lines and Stanzas


Once you find a poem that perfectly fits the point you wish to make, or describes the scene you wish to set, attributing it correctly is vital to your credibility as a writer. Doing so incorrectly, or not at all, might cause your work to be considered plagiarism. Quoting poetry for a research project requires adherence to a few basic rules.

Set apart any quoted lines with quotation marks. You should use double quotation marks unless you are quoting something someone is saying in the text, in which case you would use double quotes for the entire quotation, and single quotes for the person speaking.

Apply a parenthetical citation after the quotation marks that denotes the stanza number first, and then the line within that stanza. For example "(3.4)" would denote that you found this line in the fourth line of the third stanza. Typically, you would mention the author's name and the name of the poem when introducing the quote. If you quote the entire stanza, then you would just use one number, such as three, to indicate which stanza you quoted.

Use the author's name in the parenthetical reference if you did not reference it when introducing the quote. For example, use (Dickinson 3.4) at the end of the quotation if you did not mention the author's name when introducing the quote. You should still use the title of the poem when you introduce the quote. If you use two lines of the poem, you can use a comma to separate them. Using the example above, you would write (Dickinson 3.4,5) to indicate the fourth and fifth lines of the third stanza.

Quote more than four lines of text by setting it apart from the rest of your work. This is accomplished by adding an extra line and indenting both sides of the quote one inch. Cite these by using a dash to show which lines of the stanza you have quoted. For example, (Dickinson 3.4-7) indicates that you quoted lines 4 through 7 of the third stanza.

About the Author

Kirsten O'Hara started freelance writing in 2010. She wrote for her university newspaper "Lion's Roar" and won several collegiate writing contests. O'Hara earned a Bachelor of Arts in speech communication and a minor in English from Southeastern Louisiana University.