When it comes to writing research papers
, quoting primary and secondary sources is a must. Whether you're including dialogue from a novel to support your thesis or citing ideas from a journal article to prove a point, direct quotes are a requirement in most critical essays
. But while we all know that we need to use quotes (often that's even stated directly in the directions for an assignment), knowing how to correctly integrate those quotes into your text can present a challenge.
What's a Quote?
It sounds like a stupid question, but if we're going to talk about integrating quotes into an essay, we need to know what exactly a quote is. For our purposes here, a quote is a direct, word-for-word copy of text from a work written by somebody else. When writing essays
, quotes have to be set inside quotation marks with the source cited in the main body of the paper, usually either in parenthesis or in a foot/endnote. If you lift other people's work word-for-word and don't put it in quotes, it's plagiarism.
When to Quote?
Students often want to be on the safe side of plagiarism rules, so they go overboard putting all kinds of stuff in quotes that doesn't really need to be. The guidelines for choosing when to use a quote vary from field to field and from assignment to assignment, but here are a few general rules that will help you determine when it's necessary to include other's direct words.
Common knowledge does not have to be included in quotation marks. This includes things like dates, names, well-known scientific theories, and historical facts. Even though you might have found that information in a particular book or article
, you don't need to give the reader that information. If it's a fact that everybody accepts and that can be found in any common textbook, then you can just state it as such. Remember, quotes are for original work that needs to be credited to a particular author; information like the birthday of Abraham Lincoln or the name of the author of Crime and Punishment
doesn't belong to anyone in particular.
Text from novels, plays, poems, and short stories
When you're using the exact wording from a piece of fiction in an essay
, it should be placed in quotation marks.
Generally, statistics or scientific results do not need to be included in quotation marks. Instead, you can include the numbers in the main text along with a citation for their source.
Original ideas or results
If you want to quote somebody's original ideas, then you need to give them credit, but this don't have to be direct quotation. Often other people's ideas or research results can just be paraphrased, which will keep your paper from looking like a big mess of quotation marks. This is especially true in the sciences, where results and conclusions are almost always paraphrased and condensed to save space, but it's also the case in the humanities and social sciences as well. However, if the original author made his point in a way that's difficult for you to paraphrase or if the language he uses is important, then it's acceptable to include his words as a quotation.
Once you've collected the quotes you need for your paper, it's time to write. But while you may just want to plunk those sentences down into your work and be done, there's actually an art to smoothly integrating quotes into the main body of your paper. Here are a few guidelines that will make your writing both grammatically correct and easy to read.
Don't leave your quotes naked
The number one rule of quote integration is that quotes should never stand alone. Instead, they should be incorporated into a sentence that introduces the quote and usually provides some sort of context.
Early in the novel, the narrator, Nick Carraway, expresses his feelings for Gatsby. "If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him."
Early in the novel, the narrator, Nick Carraway, expresses his feelings for Gatsby when he says, "If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him."
In the first example, the quote is a sentence all by itself, but in the corrected sentence it's joined with the preceding sentence. Introducing quotes this way doesn't have to be complicated. Sometimes all you have to do is use a tag like "He said" or "The author believes" in front of your quote to form a complete sentence. These are known as attributive tags because they separate the quote from your own words and attribute it to somebody.
Nick is drawn to Gatsby's parties. "In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."
Nick is drawn to Gatsby's parties. He describes how "In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars."
Make sure your sentences make sense
One way to check your writing to ensure quotes are integrated smoothly is to try reading them without the quotation marks. If they still makes sense, then you've done a good job.
Nick is sorry to leave Jordan. He is "Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away."
Nick is sorry to leave Jordan. He is "Angry, and half in love with her," and tells that reader that "tremendously sorry, I turned away."
Notice that in the first example, if we read it like a sentence without quotation marks, it's doesn't sound right-He is angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, I turned away-because He is the subject of the first half of the sentence, then it becomes I. When we break up the quote into two sections with two different introductions, it makes more sense.
You may also sometimes need to change tenses or conjugations within quotes in order to make them work in your sentence. When that's the case, just enclose any changes you make with brackets so the reader knows you've fiddled with the text.
Nick is sorry to leave Jordan. He is "Angry, and half in love with her, and tremendously sorry, [he] turned away."
Don't be repetitive
Just like you don't want to use the same sentence structure throughout your paper, you also want to mix up how you integrate quotes. Just saying "he said" and then "she said" for an entire essay might not make your paper grammatically incorrect, but it's likely to bore your audience.
Cut the junk
Despite how much you'd like to add a whole bunch of extra words to your paper, there are actually very few occasions when it's appropriate to use a quote that's more than a few lines long. So, if you find yourself with a really long quote, try to cut out sections that you don't need. If you want to cut portions out of the middle, use an ellipses (three periods that, among other things, indicate that text is missing) in brackets.
Nick says of Gatsby, "If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life, as if he related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away. This responsiveness had nothing to do with that flabby impressionability which is dignified under the name of the 'creative temperament'-it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again."
Nick says of Gatsby, "If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, [...] it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness as I have never found in any other person."
Notice than when words are cut from the end of the quote an ellipsis isn't necessary.
Be mindful of punctuation
Mixing periods, parenthesis, and quotation and question marks at the end of a sentence can lead to confusion. Style guides vary on how exactly you're supposed to punctuate the end of quotes, but in general the rule for sentences that will end with a parenthetical citation is "quotation mark-parenthesis-punctuation."
Nick shows Gatsby a great deal of sympathy when he notes that "The loneliest moment in someone's life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly" (Fitzgerald, p. 119).
When the sentence doesn't end with a parenthetical citation-for example, if you're using footnotes or endnotes instead-then the punctuation usually goes inside the quotation mark. In British English, however, the period follows the quotation mark.
Nick says, "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall."
Nick says, "Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall".
Also note that you should always use a comma after attributive tags.