Learning Objective

  • Differentiate among paraphrase, summary, and quotation

What Does Quotation Look Like?

Direct quotations are words and phrases that are taken directly from another source and then used word-for-word in your paper. If you incorporate a direct quotation from another author’s text, you must put that quotation or phrase in quotation marks to indicate that it is not your language.

When writing direct quotations, you can use the source author’s name in the same sentence as the quotation to introduce the quoted text and to indicate the source in which you found the text. You should then include the page number or other relevant information in parentheses at the end of the phrase (the exact format will depend on the formatting style of your essay).

When should you use a direct quotation?

When writing papers that require the use of outside source material, it is often tempting to cite only direct quotations from your sources. If, however, this is the only method of citation you choose, your paper will become nothing more than a series of quotations linked together by a few connecting words. Your paper will seem to be a collection of others’ thoughts and will contain little thinking on your part. To avoid falling into this trap, follow a few simple pointers:

  • Avoid using long quotations merely as space-fillers. While this is an attractive option when faced with a ten-page paper, the overuse of long quotations gives the reader the impression you are not thinking for yourself.
  • Don’t use only direct quotations. Try using paraphrases in addition to direct quotations. To the reader, the effective use of paraphrases indicates that you took the time to think about the meaning behind the quotation’s words.
  • When introducing direct quotations, try to use a variety of verbs in your signal phrases. Don’t always rely on stock verbs such as “states” or “says.” Think for a little while about the purpose of your quotation and then choose a context-appropriate verb.

Quoting is using the EXACT wording  of the source material. Direct quotations should be used sparingly  to strengthen your own arguments and ideas.

Use quotes infrequently and only with good reason! 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 instances of people being taken in by fake news stories. “One voter from Mississippi said that he read about millions of illegal aliens voting in the 2016 primaries and thought it was true” (Myers).

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:

There are many instances of people being taken in by fake news stories.  In her Los Angeles Times article on how fake stories impact voters in America, Geena Myers identifies how one particular voter in the South “read about millions of illegal aliens voting in the 2016 primaries and thought it was true” (Myers).

In this revision, the source and the point the writer is trying to make with this evidence are much clearer.

Finally, try to qualify direct quotations in a novel or interesting manner. Depending on the system of documentation you’re using, the signal phrases don’t always have to introduce the quotation. For example, instead of writing:

“None of them knew the color of the sky” is the opening line of Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat” (339). This implies the idea that “all sense of certainty” in the lives of these men is gone (Wolford 18).

Try writing instead:

“None of them knew the color of the sky,” the opening line of Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat,” implies that “all sense of certainty” in the lives of these men is gone (Crane 339; Wolford 18).

The combination of these two sentences into one is something different. It shows thought on the writer’s part in how to combine direct quotations in an interesting manner.


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