Resources for Learning

Quotations in an Academic Paper

 Why use a quote in your paper? Quotes, used correctly, add drama and authority to your paper. They give the reader a glimpse of the scholarly or disciplinary literature that bears on your topic. Your ability to select and skillfully use quotes makes you a more credible witness to the scholarly conversation on the topic of your paper, even if you are not yet an authority on the topic.

When to use a quote: Paraphrase an author in your own words when you want to convey and summarize a complex point, show a consensus among several sources, or give necessary background before you lead the reader to your conclusions. Use a quote when the author’s words are so concise or appropriate to your argument that you cannot improve on them or because the author’s credentials add special import to his/her statement. Excessive quoting weakens the effect.

How to use a quote: There are two aspects of quoting a source that need attention. First, the function of a quote must be carefully considered. A quote is but one method of achieving your goal for the paper and is not a substitute for the idea development, argumentation, and language you must create as the writer of your paper. The function of a quote is to provide background for your argument, support your argument, or initiate a debate that relates to your argument. Using a quote shows that you have closely read and understand the sources you are citing. Avoid thinking that quotations state the right answers and that you only have to choose between agreeing or disagreeing with them.

The other key aspect to quoting sources is the form quotes should take. Professional style guidelines (e.g. APA, MLA, CMS) will vary slightly in this area, but the following practices are common in all styles.

What to DO with Quotes

Frame your quote: Clearly identify who you are quoting, preferably in the same sentence as the quote. Follow the quote with a sentence or two that reveals the significance of the quote, in a specific context. The example below shows proper framing:

        In their article, “Are Multi-hospital Systems More Efficient?” economists Dranove, Durkac, and Shanley write that although “the conventional wisdom is that horizontal mergers will generate efficiencies in the production of services, surprisingly little systematic evidence exists to support this view.”3 The three researchers address this gap in the research with their study of Californian hospital systems in the 1980s and 1990s. They show that horizontal integration improves efficiency in marketing systems more than it improves production services. This finding has consequences for hospitals whose primary concern is to improve production services. 

Size your quote: Quotes should not exceed several lines or 40 + words in your text. Longer quotes should be offset in single-spaced, indented paragraphs. They still require framing, as above.

Punctuate your quote: As you add a quote to your paper, check with the style guide you are using for all of the punctuation—quotation marks, commas, periods, dashes, capitalization, italics, brackets, etc.—around and within each quote. Letters and punctuation within the quote should be identical to the riginal unless you must omit or change them for fluency. The punctuation of quotes in indented, block quotes will differ from that used with quotes the running text.

What NOT TO DO with Quotes

The following quote has numerous flaws in it. It does not clearly show the source of the quote, the quote itself is too long and is miscopied, and it lacks a frame to integrate it into the student’s paragraph. The punctuation errors and vague pronoun use add to the confusion. The result is a quote that doesn’t advance the student’s argument.

Some professors resent the fact that the students take up their precious time: time that could be better used for research. Page Smith writes about how some of his colleagues go out of their way to avoid their students. They go as far as making strange office hours to avoid contact. “There is no decent, adequate, respectable education, in the proper sense of that much-abused word, without personal involvement by a teacher with the needs of and concerns of his/her students is at odds with the everyday reality confronting university professors in the United States.

Another way to misuse quotations is to fail to indicate direct quotes. This is called a misuse of sources if done in ignorance of quoting conventions or plagiarism if it is intentional. Skilled readers often know when a writer is using someone else’s words without proper citation. The underlined phrases sound like direct quotes from the previously noted source, particularly as they lacks the errors of grammar, diction, spelling, and punctuation found in the neighboring phrases.

The types of students that follow sports and they are likely to be in the social circles that the athletes move in identify more closely with their colege and are more competative then the students that do not attend the games (McDonald 128). This competitive nature is not only seen on the sports field, but also in other social circumstances. Also, for many of the athletes their success on the sporting field will also increase their attractiveness for the opposite sex including cheerleaders and non- sporting males and females, which we must remember may put a strain on thier academic studies.

Writing handbooks and websites frequently advise students to “avoid plagiarism” in academic writing. When you know how to properly introduce and attribute quotations you are using quotes to your advantage rather than avoiding a pitfall. Quoting and citing material in your paper adds excitement and authenticity and makes you a more credible source by association with respected authorities. Make your paper original and convincing by using the words of others sparingly, appropriately, and respectfully.