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Writing Program

Guide for Quoting

Dominique Battles, English

Quoting Sources

Treat textual quotations like guests within your paper:  introduce them to you reader, let them speak, acknowledge them by responding to what they've said, and then give them credit for what they've said by citing them.  A guest who is not introduced, listened to, or acknowledged has no clear place at the party, or in your paper.  This process of including quotations is sometimes called "nesting."  Here are some simple ways to nest your quotes:

  1.  Introduce quotations with phrases such as:
  • According to X,...
  • X states...
  • In her article on the subject, X claims...
  • X insists upon this when he writes...
  • The poet indicates...
  • Refuting this opinion, X states...
  • Corroborating such claims, X discovered that...
  •  
  1.  Ways to let your quotations speak:
  • Quoting only those words/phrases/passages that directly support your argument.  It may be a terrific quote, but not actually pertain to the point you're trying to make.  A good tactic involves lining up all relevant quotations (with page numbers) for each point before you ever start writing.
  • Selective quoting: whereby you quote only single words and phrases within your text, so that these words and phrases become part of your sentence.  Ex.  Graff and Birkenstein speak of the "evolving" and "messy" nature of writing (44).
  • Block quoting:  whereby you select a longer passage (over three lines of text) and set it apart from your main paragraph by indenting.  Ex.  In composing this fine handout, I have consulted Graff and Birkenstein, who advise students:

"Before you can select appropriate quotations, you need to have a sense of what you want to do with them - that is, how they will support your text at the particular point where you insert them.  Be careful not to select quotations just for the sake of demonstrating that you've read the author's work; you need to make sure they support your own argument "(43).

  1.  Acknowledge and respond to your quotations with phrases like:

In other words, X believes...

Essentially, X agrees with Y in terms of...

In making this comment, X urges us to...

The essence of X's argument is that...

Thus, the poet draws attention to...

X, therefore, corroborates the opinion that...

  1.  Some standard ways to give your quotations credit for what they've said by citing them (ask your instructors for the particular style they want you to use):
  • Footnote/Endnote (Chicago style):  Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say:  The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (New York:  W.W. Norton & Co., 2014), 43-44. 
  • In-text citation (MLA style):  (Graff 43). 
  • In-text citation (APA style):  (Graff, 2014, p. 43).
  • Bibliography:  listing all works you've used in writing the paper.
  • Works Cited:  listing only those works you actually quote in the paper.

 

Put it all together:

Literary scholar L.F. Casson [introduces the guest], however, judges the heroine more harshly in saying "Melidor ceases to be the conventional romantic heroine of rather shrewish temper" (Casson 65). [allows the guest to speak, and gives the guest credit for his idea]  While it is true that Melidor fulfills the common function of the romance heroine in mediating between, and reconciling, feuding men, the particular style in which she does this places her among Scottish women. [responds to what the guest has said, and ties it to my argument that the heroine is a Scottish woman]

Your Turn:

Take a single paragraph of your paper, and, using the methods detailed above, integrate quotations from one of your sources into the paragraph.  Be sure that the quotations support your particular point.   

Adapted from Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein, They Say, I Say:  The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (New York:  W.W. Norton & Co., 2014)