Quoting

Quotation-MarksQuotation is presenting, within quotation marks, the exact words of the source text. The text should be reproduced exactly, including punctuation and capital letters. As with paraphrasing, whenever you quote directly from a source, you should include a citation that identifies the precise page or pages from which the quotation has been drawn.

In academic writing, students and even experienced scholars can end up relying too heavily on quoted material. An essay can easily become a string of quotations rather than a coherent whole in which the voice of the writer is present throughout. Thus it is generally better to paraphrase than to quote directly, or to do both, i.e. making a point in your own words and then supporting it with an authoritative quote. You should quote directly, rather than paraphrase, only when the author’s particular words convey content that would be lost if stated in other words.

Aim to use short quotations integrated into your own sentences. A common problem is that of the ‘dumped quote’, when a writer places a quote in the text without providing the reader with a context for the quoted material. As a result, the quote has no clear connection to the main idea or argument of the surrounding paragraph. For example,

Dumped Quote: People from all levels of society should have access to works of art. “When we ‘see’ a landscape, we situate ourselves in it. If we ‘saw’ the art of the past, we would situate ourselves in history. When we are prevented from seeing it, we are deprived of the history that belongs to us.”1

Integrated Quote: As a record of our shared history, art should be accessible to people from all levels of society. As John Berger explains, “[w]hen we ‘see’ a landscape, we situate ourselves in it. If we ‘saw’ the art of the past, we would situate ourselves in history. When we are prevented from seeing it, we are deprived of the history that belongs to us”.1

In the dumped quote, the connection between the first sentence and the quote which follows it is not very strong. In the integrated quote the topic sentence provides additional details which elucidate the writer’s argument or main idea.

The integrated quote is introduced with a signalling phrase that demonstrates to the reader how the quoted material relates to the writer’s main argument. In this case, the quote from Berger works to provide further details about the political and social importance of having access to works of art.

The quote is introduced by the reporting verb ‘explains’. The use of this reporting verb is important because it signals to the reader that the quoted material is intended to provide further details and support for the writer’s own argument.

  1. John Berger, Ways of Seeing (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), p.11.

Next section: referencing