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Translation and Quotation Marks

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You read an article which was published in French and you want to quote it in your English-language term paper. You believe that personal translation work is automatically considered paraphrasing, so while you provide the reference for the passage you translate, you do not use quotation marks or text indentation to bring attention to the translated text in your paper. Is this an acceptable method for including translated text in a term paper?




Why is this an issue?

The expression of a sentence or paragraph may change due to your choice of words, but the essential message and findings belong to the original author. Readers need to know when content they are reading has not been chosen or arranged by the author. The translation must be treated as a quote.

An interview with the disciplinary officer will be required. See the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures in the Handbook on Student Rights and Responsibilities for more details.

How can it be avoided?

There are various citation styles to choose from when including translated text in your work:

  • You may use quotation marks around translated passages and add a footnote stating that you translated the text into English; in this case, the original text would be provided in quotation marks in the footnote, with the source.
  • You may also indent the translated text so that it has larger margins than the main text. In this case the original passage, in French, would be provided either before or after the translated text.
(MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 7th edition. 2009. The Modern Language Association of America, New York, pp. 104-105).

Consult a librarian to learn what method is expected in your academic discipline.


Quick Fact

Instead of searching for just the right article every time I do library research, it's easier to download a few journals and hunt through them for the perfect article later. It's for personal use, so why is this a problem?

While individual articles can be downloaded for personal use, it is a violation of McGill's e-journal license and library agreements to download entire journals. This is a misuse of library resources and would lead to an allegation of a violation of the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures, Article 12.


Related Information

"As the Internet helps us cross language and cultural borders, more and more incidents of translated plagiarism are bound to arise. These incidents are much harder to detect, as translation is often a fuzzy process that's hard to search for, and even harder to stop as they usually cross international borders. It's very easy for someone who speaks two languages to take a piece of work, translate it and claim it as their own while feeling secure that almost no one who speaks language A will read the language B version and vice versa."
- Bailey, J. (2005, August 13). Translation Plagiarism [Web log post]. Retreived from web.