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8.1: An Overview of Quotations

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    Citation Needed
    Figure 8.1 Citation Needed

    One of the most important skills you can develop as a student is the ability to use outside sources correctly and smoothly. Academic knowledge builds on the knowledge of others. When we cite others through our quotations and paraphrases, we start with ideas established by others and build upon them to develop our own ideas.

    What is a Quotation?

    A quotation is one way you may make use of a source to support and illustrate points in your essay. A quotation is made up of exact words from the source, and you must be careful to let your reader know that these words were not originally yours. To indicate your reliance on exact words from a source, either place the borrowed words between quotation marks or if the quotation is four lines or more, use indentation to create a block quotation.

    Once you have determined that you want to use a quotation, the following strategies will help you smoothly fit quotations into your writing. We will discuss these strategies in more detail later in this chapter.

    • Signal phrases help you integrate quoted material into your essay.
    • Quotations must be made to work within the grammar of your sentences, whether you are quoting phrases or complete sentences.
    • Quotations must be properly punctuated.
    • Quotations must contain a citation.

    When Should I Quote?

    Quote when the exact wording is necessary to make your point. For example, if you were analyzing the style choices in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, you would quote because it would be important to illustrate the unforgettable language or to use exact wording in a discussion of word choice and sentence structure. You would also quote if the exact wording captures information, tone, or emotion that would be lost if the source were reworded. Use quotations to assist with conciseness if it would take you longer to relate the information if you were to put it into your own words. Finally, if you cannot reword the information yourself and retain its meaning, you should quote it.

    Source: It has begun. It is awful—continuous and earthquaking.

    Quoting to preserve emotion: One nurse described an exchange between the two sides as “awful—continuous and earthquaking” (Burton 120).

    How Long Should a Quotation Be?

    Quote only as many words as necessary to capture the information, tone, or expression from the original work for the new context that you are providing. Lengthy quotations actually can backfire on a writer because key words from the source may be hidden among less important words. In addition, your own words will be crowded out. Never quote a paragraph when a sentence will do; never quote a sentence when a phrase will do; never quote a phrase when a word will do.

    Source: It has begun. It is awful—continuous and earthquaking.

    Quoting everything: One nurse described an artillery exchange between the two sides. She wrote, “It has begun. It is awful—continuous and earthquaking” (Burton 120).

    Quoting key words: One nurse described an artillery exchange between the two sides as “awful—continuous and earthquaking” (Burton 120).

    Contributors and Attributions

    Adapted from Let's Get Writing (Browning, DeVries, Boylan, Kurtz and Burton). Sourced from LibreTexts, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

    Public Domain Content

    Laurie Cubbison et al.,CC-0.

    Image Credits

    Figure 8.1 “Citation Needed,”, Wikimedia, CC-BY 2.0.

    8.1: An Overview of Quotations is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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