When and Why Should I Quote?
Using quotes, and knowing how to use them well, is an important part of academic writing. This quote will help you be able to know when to use quotes, and when to use them more effectively.
As discussed in the section on Summary, quote when you need to rely on the voice of a writer in order to help prove your point, or when you need the language of the text. First, try to see if you can say it better or more simplistically. If you can't, then it might be time to use quote.
When using quotes, though, balance is imperative. You don't want to use too much of a quote (or too much of a series of quotes) because you don't want to lose your own voice. On the other hand, you don't want to use too little of a quote, such that the ideas aren't coming through fully.
A good rule of thumb for quotes is as follows:
Try to spend the same amount of space in a paper talking about a quote as you do with the actual quote itself. If you have a quote that's one line, spend one line talking about it. If you have a quote that's five lines, spend five lines talking about it. If you find that you can't discuss the quote for that amount of space, you might need to find a way to cut down the quote.
Finally, it's important for a quote to function within the parameters of your own voice. A quote should not act outside your voice; it should be part of your argument, and part of your voice. See the other sections of this research guide for more on these points!
Strategies for Using Quotations In-Text
Acknowledge sources in your text, not just in citations:
“According to Lewis” or “Whitney argues.”
Use a set-up phrase, and splice the most important part of quotations in with your own words:
According to Paul McCartney, “All you need is love.”
Or phrase it with a set-up:
Patrick Henry’s famous phrase is one of the first American schoolchildren memorize:
“Give me liberty, or give me death.”
Anytime you use a quote, cite your source after the quotation:
Maxine Greene might attribute this resistance to “vaguely perceived expectations; they
allow themselves to be programmed by organizations and official schedules or forms” (43).
Use ellipses to shorten quotations:
“The album ‘OK Computer’ …pictured the onslaught of the information age and a young
person’s panicky embrace of it” (Ross 85).
Use square brackets to alter or add information within a quotation:
Popular music has always “[challenged] the mores of the older generation,” according to
According to Janet Gardner in her book Writing About Literature, there are three ways that we tend to use quotes:
Gardner advocates that we stay away from “floating quotations,” use at least an “attributed quotation,” and use “integrated quotations” as much as possible
You will recognize a floating quotation when it looks as though the writer has simply lifted the passage from the original text, put quotations around it, and (maybe) identified the source.
Doing this can create confusion for the reader, who is left to guess the context and the reason for the quote.
This type of quoting reads awkward and choppy because there is no transition between your words and the language of the text you are quoting.
Example of a Floating Quotation; text taken from All She was Worth, by Miyuki Miyabe
Both Honma and Kyoko were rejected and looked down upon by Jun and Chizuko’s family when entering into marriage with their respective partners. “About her cousin – Jun’sfather – and his family: what snobs they were, with fixed ideas on education and jobs” (Miyabe 17).This passage shows that Honma and Kyoko were both being judged by their future in-laws by superficial stipulations.