Most of the time, you will summarize or paraphrase source material instead of quoting directly. Summarizing and paraphrasing show that you understand your research well enough to write about it confidently in your own words. However, direct quotes can be powerful when used sparingly and with purpose. Direct quotes mean that you use your source’s wording, sentence structure, and punctuation exactly.
Shakespeare, William. “As You Like It.” Shakespeare Online, www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/asu_5_1.html.
Quoting directly can sometimes help you make a significant point. If an author’s words are especially vivid, memorable, or well phrased, quoting them may help you hold your reader’s interest. Less experienced writers sometimes overuse direct quotations in a paper because it seems easier than paraphrasing. At best, this reduces the effectiveness of the quotations. At worst, it results in a paper that seems pasted together from outside sources. Use quotations sparingly for greater impact, and remember that they should be used sparingly, and should be used to strengthen your own arguments and ideas.
Some valid reasons for quoting include:
- When not using the author’s exact wording would change the original meaning
- To lend authority to the point you are trying to make
- When the language of the quote is significant
Quotations should always be introduced and incorporated into your argument, rather than dropped into your paper without context.
Consider this first BAD example:
There are many ads for prescription drugs on television. “African-American physicians regard direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines as one way to educate minority patients about needed treatment and healthcare options” (Wechsler).
This is a potentially good piece of information to support a research writer’s claim, but the researcher hasn’t done any of the necessary work to explain where this quote comes from or to explain why it is important for supporting her point. Rather, she has simply “dropped in” the quote, leaving the interpretation of its significance up to the reader.
Now consider this revised GOOD example of how this quote might be better introduced into the essay:
In her Pharmaceutical Executive article available through the Wilson Select Internet database, Jill Wechsler writes about one of the positive effects from advertising prescription drugs on television. “African-American physicians regard direct-to-consumer advertising of prescription medicines as one way to educate minority patients about needed treatment and healthcare options.”
In this revision, the writer’s point and where the evidence comes from are much more clear.
When you do choose to quote directly from a source, follow these guidelines:
- Quotations should always be introduced and incorporated into your argument, rather than dropped into your paper without context. Most quotations start with an attribution, a phrase such as “Smith states…” or “According to Jones…”
- Make sure you have reproduced the original statement exactly (exact wording, sentence structure, and punctuation).
- Represent the author’s ideas honestly. Quote enough of the original text to reflect the author’s point accurately.
- Use ellipses (…) if you need to omit a word or phrase.
- Use brackets [ ] if you need to insert or replace a word or phrase. Only insert a word or phrase if you need to clarify the quotation for your reader. E.g., “The result of that [the new sales campaign] was shown in a 26% increase in sales of tractors and a 32% increase in sales of backhoes, according to Timior Marketing.” Only replace a word or phrase if there is an error in the original text. E.g., “Harrison and Greene state that the results of [their] sales campaign have made them one of the most sought-after advertising firms in the state.” (In this case, “their” replaced “there,” which was incorrect.)
- Make sure any omissions, insertions, or changed words do not alter the meaning of the original text. Omit, insert, or replace words only when absolutely necessary to shorten the text or to make it clear and/or grammatically correct within your sentence.
- Remember to cite your quotation at the end, following MLA, APA, or whatever standard citation style you are using throughout your essay.
View the following video, which gives examples of improperly incorporated quotations (which the video calls “quote bombs”) and properly incorporated quotations.
Finally, remember to quote responsibly.
The practice of quoting out of context, or removing a quote from its surrounding matter to distort its intended meaning, can create logical fallacies and a type of false attribution.
- Quoting out of context can create a straw man argument, frequently found in politics. This involves quoting an opponent out of context in order to misrepresent his or her position (typically to make it seem more simplistic or extreme) in order to make it easier to refute.
- Quoting out of context can create an appeal to authority. This involves quoting an authority on the subject out of context, in order to misrepresent that authority as supporting some position.
Quoting a source out of context can be done intentionally to advance an agenda or win an argument, but it more often occurs accidentally if someone misinterprets the meaning of the original quotation and/or omits essential information, such as the lead-in and commentary on the quotation.