2.4: Quote to emphasize the writerly choices made in a text
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When a professor asks you to quote, they are asking you to you use the exact language from a source and place that language into your own paper. Careful copy the source’s original language word for word and put the words in quotation marks.
Ultimately, because you want to retain the powerful, specialized, or unique language of the original
If the original text is phrased in a way that is particularly powerful and paraphrasing it would be likely to weaken it, quoting is a good option. This is also true when the language of the original source is so special or unique that it can’t be reasonably rephrased.
Or, if you intend to response to both the language and the ideas of a source, quoting is a good option.
Direct quotation can demonstrate that existing authoritative sources support a point you are making. It can also present an opposing view to your own for you to then discuss. It can be useful to present opposing views as direct quotes to avoid the risk of personal bias affecting the language of a paraphrase.
Pro Tip: Cutting and Pasting
When you're reading online and you want to quote something, you can save yourself some time by Copy and Pasting.
Before you do anything else, put the quotation marks in your document.
Select a passage of text and right click on your mouse to open the copy and paste commands, or use the keyboard commands
Ctrl + C = Copy
Ctrl + X = Cut
Ctrl + V = Paste
Then, paste the quote directly in between the quotation marks. If you do this every time you copy and paste a quote into your document, you'll never have to worry about forgetting later where a quote started and ended.
It is generally a good idea to limit quotes—don’t rely too heavily on them in a paper. Remember that most of your paper should be in your own words and in your own voice. It’s also a good rule of thumb to avoid using unnecessarily long quotes. If a quote is longer than a sentence or two, it is a good idea to examine whether the full quote is needed or if a summary, paraphrase, or just part of the quote would get the job done.
Introduce the source
Many of the guidelines for incorporating quotation into your written work will look familiar if you have already read the summary and paraphrase sections of this text, but quotation does have some special rules.
Introduce the author and original text (and potentially context), just as you would for a summary or paraphrase. Often this introduction is only an introductory phrase, in which case it would be followed by a comma and the quote would begin immediately after this phrase as part of the same sentence. Some examples:
According to Amelia Smith, a researcher affiliated with Harvard, “[insert quote here].”
Harvard researcher Amelia Smith argues / explains / concludes / [other appropriate action word] "[insert quote here]."
When you introduce a quote, try to do it as smoothly as possible. No need to draw attention to the fact that you're quoting (the quotation marks will do that for you.) That means, don't quote like this:
There's a quote that comes from Amelia Smith's research. In this quote, she says, "[insert quote here]". What this quote means is . . .
Deliver the quote
After introducing the author and text, you will deliver the quote. This is often as simple as copying and pasting the relevant material from the original text. Direct quotes need to have quotation marks (“”) around them, the first quotation mark just before the first word of the quote and the end quotation mark just after the last word of the quote.
The only exception to the requirement of quotation marks is when using a block quote. A block quote is quoted material that takes up space on four or more consecutive lines of your paper. This kind of quote has a significantly different set of formatting rules, but should also be used very sparingly because it takes up so much valuable space in your paper. If you’re interested in learning more about what block quotes do differently, have a look at the “MLA Formatting Quotations” article from the Purdue OWL (at owl.english.purdue.edu); scroll down a bit to find the section titled “Long Quotations”.
Include a parenthetical citation (if appropriate) at the end of the quote. (To learn how to do this correctly, see the discussion of in-text citations later in this section.)
Add your thoughts
After delivering and citing the quote, you need to offer some sort of explanation that connects that the quote to your overall purpose in the essay and makes clear for a reader why you choose to use this quote at all. Make sure to explain
- What you want readers to understand about the words and ideas in the quote.
- How the quote helps you to make your argument.
Pro Tip: Quote or Paraphrase?
When you write that sentence after a quote that tries to explain the quote, you will often find that you've just paraphrased the quote. If that happens, just cut the quote. Either take it out entirely, or just incorporate the important phrases into your paraphrase
- Do you ever use air quotes or scare quotes? Try to develop an explanation of how they are similar to the use of quotes in academic writing?
[Adapted from The Word on College Reading and Writing (Babin, et al)]