How can I incorporate quotes into my essay?

Effective supporting detail


Answer

It's important to use quotes in any essay. Quotes are one way to provide evidence to support the points you make when proving a claim.

The first thing to think about when quoting, however, is: is this necessary? If you can paraphrase the quote effectively (write it in your own words), then a quote is unnecessary. Simply write the quote in your own words and then cite the text so we know where the idea came from. For a quote to be necessary,  you want the quote to be said in language that would not be as effective if paraphrased.

For example:

In the book, 1984, privacy is not guaranteed for anyone. Everyone living in Oceania is constantly reminded of this through the signs everywhere that read, "Big Brother is Watching You!" (Orwell [page #])

This quote uses a slogan in the book that would not be as effective summarized. Imagine I tried to summarize this same quote:

In the book, 1984, privacy is not guaranteed for anyone. Everyone living in this society is constantly reminded of this through the ominous signs that remind everyone that they are being watched by Big Brother (Orwell [page #]).

 

The first example is more effective because we learn the actual slogan that plays such a large role in the novel. 

 

Overall, you want to use your quotes sparingly and at effective times. If you can paraphrase, paraphrase. If the quote can't be said another way, you want to maintain the emotional content, or you want the reader to hear directly from another author, then a quote is a good option. Otherwise, consider paraphrasing. 

 

Example of a paraphrase: Winston works at the Ministry of Truth and routinely changes historical documents that will make the party look good (Orwell [page #]). 

 

The second thing to consider is how to incorporate quotes correctly. Here are some guidelines:

 

1. Never let quotes stand alone. Always introduce a quote in the same sentence or following a colon. 

To demonstrate, I'll first write the incorrect way to incorporate a quote:

It has been debated for decades that the Patriot Act went too far and stripped too many liberties in an effort to defend against terrorist attacks. "While most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act actually turns regular citizens into suspects" (ACLU.org). 

The problem with this use of a quote is that because it's not introduced in the same sentence, it's hard to make a connection between the previous sentence and the quote. The context of the quote, too, isn't clear. We can probably make some educated guesses since the source is ACLU.org, but as a writer, it's your job to make things clear for your reader. You don't want them to do too much work. Provide context about who is speaking and how this quote will fit into your essay. 

Here are two possible corrections to this passage:

It has been debated for decades that the Patriot Act went too far and stripped too many liberties in an effort to defend against terrorist attacks. The ACLU emphasizes that "While most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act actually turns regular citizens into suspects" (ACLU.org). 

It has been debated for decades that the Patriot Act went too far and stripped too many liberties in an effort to defend against terrorist attacks. The ACLU and other organizations take this a step further and accuse the U.S. government of weaponizing the legislation against ordinary citizens: "While most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act actually turns regular citizens into suspects" (ACLU.org). 

For both of these passages, the quote is clearly introduced in the same sentence and clarifies the context of the quote and the connection to the first sentence. 

Always introduce your quotes in the same sentence. 

 

2. Punctuation at the end of a quote should go outside of the citation. For example: "Where have all the flowers gone" (author [page #])? not "Where have all the flowers gone?" (author page #)  

 

3. Cite your quotes!!! This will depend on what format you're using, but in every format, it is necessary to cite your quotations so that a reader will be able to find the location of the quote to check your evidence. Here are guidelines for citing in MLA and APA styles. For more styles and details, see the links to this question. 

MLA: "..." (Orwell 15).  =  ([author's last name] [page #])

APA: "..." (Jones, 1998, pg. 19)  =  ([author's last name], [year of publication], [page number])

 

4. If you use a quote in your essay, the source where you found the quote should be on a reference or works cited page. See links for more information on correctly formatting reference/works cited pages. 

 

5. Remember that the less you quote, the more effective it will be. You want the reader to hear your voice first. The quotes should help to support what you have to say and truly stand out for the reader. Don't overquote and lose your voice in the essay!

 

6. Sometimes you may need to use block quotes. Try to avoid long block quotes unless they are absolutely necessary. Keep your quotes as short as possible. However, if you do need to use a block quote, refer to your style guide and follow the style's format. MLA and APA have the block quote in the main text, 1/2 inch indented. Do this when the quote is forty words or longer in APA format and 4 lines or longer in MLA format. 

 

6. Ellipses--if you take out part of the quote, remember to include ellipses where the words were removed

For example: Really though, "He was thinking about Georgia...and the country as a whole" (Jones 45).  

 

7. Use brackets if you need to change a word in the quote to better fit your introduction or to include extra information not present in the quote. The brackets indicate that any words inside were not in the original quote. 

For example: In fact, "[They] believed it was the largest eruption in centuries" (Jones 55). 

He went on to say, "The horrible destruction that took place [in 1992] was incalculable" (Blanton 61). 

 

8. If there are grammatical errors in a quote, you can place "sic" inside of brackets after the mistake to indicate to readers that the mistake is from the source rather than a mistake you've made. 

For example: "There [sic] two excellent lawyers from San Diego" (Grant 45), stated Hovington.

 

9. If you mention the author when introducing the quote, you don't need to repeat the author's name in the citation. 

For example: 

Orwell's fictional Oceania eliminated the expectation of privacy as evidenced through the slogan, "Big Brother is Watching You!" (45).

 

Happy quoting!

  • Last Updated May 21, 2024
  • Views 7
  • Answered By Timothy Connors

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