Why Direct Quotes Can Spoil Your Paper

Throughout your academic career there will be many assignments that you will be required to complete. Each course that you take will have its own requirements and specifications for how the paper should be structured. There are many different types of papers, some will need to have citing and evidentiary proof, while others will be comprised of subjective thought and reason. When making an argument in any paper, the research that you supply to support your assertions, will be the cornerstone of how strong it is. Choosing the right type of evidence is crucial to getting the grade you desire.

What is a quote?

A quote is a phrase, sentence, or saying that someone else has said and is repeated elsewhere. When someone is asked a question and they supply an answer, if it is reported, or written down, it is considered a quote. When you are repeating what someone is saying in a paper it needs to be prefaced, and put into quotations to indicated that there is an originating author. It is referred to as a quote specifically because, when used, it must be put into quotation marks. Most often quotes are made by famous people. Often times quotes are also made by experts in a field, or people who are either knowledgeable, or exemplary, in a discipline. They are usually an authority on the subject which is why people care about what they have to say.

What is the difference between an indirect quote and a direct quote?

A direct quotation is when you use a word or phrase that a person directly says or speaks. They are the direct words that you hear someone speaking. An indirect quote is different because the words are used to describe something that another speaker has spoken. Direct quotes need to be in quotation marks, while indirect quotes do not need to be.
An example of a direct quote is
"I would like to go outside", said my father
An example of an indirect quote is
My father said that he would like to go outside
The difference between the two is where the information is coming from and who is speaking. Direct quotes are more useful to use as evidence in your writing because you are directly quoting an authority, otherwise it is just second hand information that has no direct proof of where it came from.

When is a quote useful?

A quote is useful when you are trying to add credence to your argument or statement. A quote can be used to strengthen your argument, it is like having another individual on your side. Quotes are most useful for persuasive pieces when you are trying to show someone your point of view, or to sway them to agree with you.

When is a quote not useful?

A quote is not useful when it comes from a source which is not credible. Not everyone is "quotable". If a person is not an authority, or someone who is worthy of listening to, then a direct quote from them will do nothing to further your point or argument. The credibility of the person you are quoting has a direct relation to how pertinent what they have to say will be to your paper. If you use someone who is not an authority, you are doing nothing for your case, in fact, you are showing that you don't really understand how a quotation is useful to your argument.
Other times when a quote can harm your paper is if you use it ineffectively, or out of context. When you quote someone you must take their entire quotation, not just the part which furthers your argument. Too many times people will take what someone has said out of context, that is, they will alter what the speaker says, or omit aspects of what is said, to change the meaning of what they meant. If you are going to quote someone, it is important to use the speech in its entirety, not just eh tidbits which serve your purpose.
Using quotes which don' t relate to your argument can harm it as well. If you use a quote that has nothing to do with the argument at all, it can make your writing random and in-concise, or concrete. Finding credible quotes to lend to your argument is crucial, anything that doesn't relate, or follow the argument you are making, is only distracting and will set your paper off course. If you distract the reader with a direct quote that doesn't work in your writing, you stand the chance of confusing, or irritating them.

Conclusion

Using the words of someone else can be very effective if it is done in the right way. A quote is called so because when you use the words of someone else you have to signal it in quotation marks. When you want to use what someone has said to further an argument that you are forming in your paper, be sure that whoever you are quoting is a credible source. Only use an authority figure to quote, otherwise the speech is completely unreliable and irrelevant.
All too often people will use the speech of someone else in an inappropriate way. Taking what someone has to say out of context, or not using the entirety of what they have to say is like cheating. If you want to use what someone has to say you have to take the good with the bad and present all that they have to say. Most importantly, if you are going to use a quote make sure that it is relative to your point and your argument. If it does nothing to add credence, or to strengthen your argument, it is just a distraction and of no use, in fact, it can really set the reader off course.
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Martha Buckly

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