Using Quotes in Your Writing

Learning Objectives

  • Effectively integrate and introduce quotes into your writing
  • Successfully identify the components of MLA in-text citations

When we use sources in our writing, we don’t want to just plop a quote between sentences and assume that readers understand the purpose or use of the quote. Instead, we want to include quotes, paraphrases, or summaries that provide support, context, and explanation of the main ideas of the paper.

First, let’s review the proper MLA formatting for including quotations in your writing, and then practice including quotes.

Including Quotations

Let’s look at an example. Say you are writing a paper about urban planning and want to include a quote from this PLOS One article “Flower power in the city: Replacing roadside shrubs by wildflower meadows increases insect numbers and reduces maintenance costs.” Specifically, you want to pick a quote that will help strengthen your argument that city planners should plant and maintain wildflowers inside of medians and public spaces instead of using so much grass.

Try It

When including quoted information into your papers, you want to provide it with sufficient supporting material so that it clearly serves a purpose. It should strengthen your argument. Introduce a quote (or a paraphrase or summarized passage) within the framework of a “quote sandwich”: begin with an introduction to your argument, use a signal phrase (like “According to…”), then add in the quotation and citation along with a further explanation of its relevance.

Try It

Formatting Quotations

A quote on a the side of the building that reads "This is how change happens. One gesture. One person. One moment at a time." with the name "Libba Bray" written next to it.

Figure 1. While many street artists only provide a name when citing their quotes (or no name at all), a very specific format is required when citing sources for academic essays.

Quotes (as well as paraphrases and summaries) need in-text citations. For example:

  • Experts agree that “the moon is comprised of green cheese” (Sousa and Thompson 43).
    • This tells us that the quote comes from page 43 of something authored by Sousa and Thompson. We could find the rest of their citation information by looking it up in the Works Cited entry.

Another example:

  • Sousa supports this theory but adds that “the core could be made of white cheddar” as well (“Deeper” 374).
    • In this example, the quotations tell us that there was no author of the article, but we can find it in the works cited list by looking under “Deeper.”

Try It

Short Quotes

The way you format a quote depends on whether it is short or long. Short quotes that are fewer than four lines, or three lines of a poem or song, should be included within your writing using quotation marks. Include the name of the author and the page number of where you pulled the quote. For example, if you are including a passage from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, you’d write:

  • As Tweedledum once explained, “if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn’t, it ain’t” (Carroll 176).

Long Quotes

If a quotation is longer than four lines or at least three lines of part of a poem or song, then place the quotation in a block quote. A block quotation begins on its own line, it is not enclosed in quotation marks, and its in-text citation will come after the ending punctuation, not before it. Here’s an example from a rhyme from Treasure Island:

Treasure Island made famous the ballads and music we associate with pirates today, particularly famous is Dead Man’s Chest:

Fifteen men on the dead mans’ chest—

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum!

Drink and the devil had done for the rest—

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum! (Stevenson 176)

Quotes and In-Text Citations

  • Direct quotes always need to be framed by your own words before and/or after.
  • Don’t change anything inside quotes!
    • If you do change something (for clarity or to fit your own sentence), place the changed word(s) in square brackets. E.g. Sousa adds that “the core could be [cheese]” as well.
  • Keep just what you need—you have no obligation to keep the author’s whole sentence if you don’t need it.
  • When quoting, you always need to include a specific page number (if the source has pages).

Writing Workshop

Open your working document.

STEP 1: Read the abstract and part of the conclusion below from the PLOS One article “Exploring the personal and professional factors associated with student evaluations of tenure-track faculty.”


“Tenure-track faculty members in the United States are evaluated on their performance in both research and teaching. In spite of accusations of bias and invalidity, student evaluations of teaching have dominated teaching evaluation at U.S. universities. However, studies on the topic have tended to be limited to particular institutional and disciplinary contexts. Moreover, in spite of the idealistic assumption that research and teaching are mutually beneficial, few studies have examined the link between research performance and student evaluations of teaching. In this study, we conduct a large scale exploratory analysis of the factors associated with student evaluations of teachers, controlling for heterogeneous institutional and disciplinary contexts. We source public student evaluations of teaching from and information regarding career and contemporary research performance indicators from the company Academic Analytics. The factors most associated with higher student ratings were the attractiveness of the faculty and the student’s interest in the class; the factors most associated with lower student ratings were course difficulty and whether student comments mentioned an accent or a teaching assistant. Moreover, faculty tended to be rated more highly when they were young, male, White, in the Humanities, and held a rank of full professor. We observed little to no evidence of any relationship, positive or negative, between student evaluations of teaching and research performance. These results shed light on what factors relate to student evaluations of teaching across diverse contexts and contribute to the continuing discussion teaching evaluation and faculty assessment.”


This paper provided an exploratory analysis of the factors relating to online ratings of teaching quality and their relationship to research productivity. We constructed a novel dataset by matching records of known tenure and tenure-track faculty from Academic Analytics with individuals listed on We assessed the effect of the demographics of the teacher, characteristics of the class, of the university, and of the discipline. Faculty tended to receive higher ratings when they were rated as attractive (having the “chili pepper” on, when they were male, when they were young, when they were not mentioned as having an accent, and when they were full and associate professors. Faculty tended to receive lower ratings when the course was difficult, when there was little student interest, or when a teaching assistant was mentioned. We observed some evidence that faculty in private universities were rated slightly higher than those from public universities, but overall university characteristics were weakly related to ratings of teaching. Faculty from the Humanities tended to be rated most highly, followed by those in the Medical Sciences, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and finally Engineering.


STEP 2: Imagine you were assigned to write an argumentative paper about whether or not faculty evaluations are a good idea. Pull out a quote from the conclusion above to support your opinion.

STEP 3: Write a “quote sandwich” using the quote you selected. This means you want to provide an introduction to your argument, use a signal phrase, the quotation itself, the in-text citation, and an explanation of the relevance of your quote.


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