Using Quotations in your essay English Ms. Haslach

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Using Quotations in your essay


Ms. Haslach
Quotes should blend in with the rest of your writing. Below is one example to demonstrate how you can include quotations in a way that flows with the rest of your writing. Remember that you not only need to introduce a quote to prepare a reader for how to read a quote – or for what to notice in a quote; you also need to explain and analyze a quote AFTER you present it.

• Great Expectations reminds the reader that nothing is more important than family and friendship and that forgiveness is an important part of all relationships. It is only after Pip has treated his uncle, Joe, badly that he realizes how much he loves Joe. Luckily, Joe loves Pip so much that he’s willing to forgive Pip. Pip expresses his appreciation for Joe’s forgiveness when he says, “Joe was like a rock on the shore, and after I had wandered far into the ocean depths, he was there for me. He loved me no matter what” (299). This metaphor of Joe as a rock emphasizes that Joe is so reliable and is always there for Pip.

• We can all relate to Pip’s teenage selfishness. Pip expresses the fact that he can only think about himself when he says, “How could I care about anyone else when I had my own problems to consider?” (236).


1. TOPIC SENTENCE of your paragraph (what the paragraph will be about). It is like a mini-thesis. This is one point of your argument, your opinion.

2. CONTEXT of the quote (where in the story do these words appear? What is the situation in which it is said? etc.).

3. INTRODUCTION to the quote. Tell us who says it. The author? The narrator? A specific character? To whom is the quote addressed? About what are they speaking (if it isn't self-explanatory). Use a comma before the quote, or a colon if the introduction of the quote is a complete sentence in itself.

4. THE QUOTE ITSELF followed by a page number in parentheses.

5. EXPLANATION AND ANALYSIS of the quote*. Tell why it is important and how it relates to your thesis. Be specific about what in the quote, which words, lead you to that conclusion. Be thorough and logical.

*Most of your paragraphs should be spent analyzing, using your own words to explain how and why the quote you used supports your topic sentence and your thesis. In analytical essays, your analysis is the heart of the paper.
Example of this paragraph structure:
(step 1) Once Pip is exposed to the upper class life of Miss Havisham, he begins to reject his family. (step 2) After a visit to Satis House with Joe, (step 3) he admits, (step 4)"it is a most miserable things to feel ashamed of home" (120). (step 5) Pip feels guilty that he is embarrassed by Joe's behavior and the way in which he's been raised. Although he is in love with Estella and wants desperately to be a gentleman, he wishes he did not have such shame about his background.
This is a very basic paragraph; you may need both more of an introduction to set up the quote and more explanation and analysis.
Dos Don’ts

Do put double quotation marks around quotes – they’re clearer to see than single ones and they don’t look like lost apostrophes.

Don’t ever say: ‘And I quote…’ You should not use the “I” pronoun in a persuasive essay, and the phrase is cliché.

Do quote accurately. If you can’t remember the quotation properly, don’t use it.

Don’t ever say: ‘The writer quotes…’ The writer doesn’t quote, that’s what YOU do!

Do comment on words you quote.

Don’t quote huge lengthy passages and then think you’ve worked miracles. As a rule of thumb, there should be at least twice as many of your words commenting on the quotation, as there is in the quotation.

Using Quotations in Your Essay –some helpful hints

1. Introduce the quotation with your own words and integrate it grammatically into the sentence.

NO: In this study, children were taught effective ways to deal with confrontations through role playing. "They showed a significant increase in coming up with relevant solutions to interpersonal problems" (103).

YES: In this study, children were taught effective ways to deal with confrontations through role playing: " They showed a sign ificant increase in coming up with relevant solutions to interpersonal problems " (103).

BETTER YET: In this study, children who were taught effective ways to deal with confrontations through role playing "showed a significant increase in coming up with relevant solutions to interpersonal problems " (103).
2. Reproduce the exact wording, punctuation, capitalization and spelling of the original, including errors. Supplementary information should be enclosed in square brackets if within the quotation or in parentheses if after the quotation.

Enclose in square brackets comments of your own added to clarify information or pronouns in the original.

He felt that "it [the essay] should be analytical rather than descriptive."
3. Separate longer quotations from the text.

Use quotation marks and include within the text four lines or fewer of prose or three lines or fewer of poetry (use a slash (/) with a space on each side to signify the end of each line of poetry).

Set off from the body of your text five lines or more of prose or four lines or more of poetry. Indent ten spaces, omit quotation marks, and use double spacing. These quotations are most often introduced by a colon.
Smith explains the use of essay-writing terminology:
An assignment which asks you to do some library research to write on
a topic may be called an essay, a paper, a research essay, a research
paper, a term assignment, or a term paper. The terminology is not
necessarily consistent: a term paper may tend to be a longer paper
written in advanced courses, but not necessarily. You may be assigned
a specific topic or asked to choose your own from subjects relevant
to the course. (225)

  1. Omitting words or phrases from quotations

Ellipses indicate that some unnecessary words have been left out of a quotation. We use ellipses when we want to make a quotation fit more seamlessly with the flow of our essay.

    • There are spaces between each period

  • When you quote just a word or a short phrase, no ellipsis is necessary

  • Also, do not use an ellipsis to indicate that you have left out the beginning of a sentence; only missing words from the end or somewhere in the middle of a sentence need to be indicated with an ellipsis.

ORIGINAL: The shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain and she saw the river through the trees.
SMOOTHLY INTEGRATED QUOTATION: Hemingway uses the image of a momentary darkness to suggest the woman's growing disillusionment. After her quarrel with the man, "[t]he shadow of a cloud moved across the field of grain[ . . .]." (21). A similar shadow gradually develops over their relationship.
ORIGINAL: That look of seeing into things, of seeing through a thing to something else, was in the eyes of the sheriff's wife now.
SMOOTHLY INTEGRATED QUOTATION: Mrs. Peters sometimes appears to be almost supernatural. For example, Glaspell describes her "look of seeing into things, of seeing through a thing to something else[ . . .]." (333). However, this "look" really demonstrates a sense of intuition rather than any magical powers.

  1. Changing or adding words within a quotation

Use brackets to indicate any changes you make to quotations while fitting them into your sentences (for reasons of style, verb tense, or general understanding). Look again at the above change of the original word "she" to "[Dee]." Here's another example:

ORIGINAL: "You don't have to call me by it if you don't want to," said Smith.

The new and supposedly improved Dee tells her mother that she doesn't "'have to call [Dee] by [her new name] if [she doesn't] want to'" (234).

This quotation is technically correct (notice also the correct use of single quotation marks for dialogue), but three changes within such a short quotation render it a bit awkward. In general, if you have to change more than two items in a short quotation, it's better to find another way to write it. One way is just to paraphrase it (to paraphrase is to restate someone else's words in your own words, without quotation marks).

Review: Using Quotations in Your Essay

Borrowed from L. Boyd, winter 1996.

  • Your essay is your argument; your own voice, words, ideas comprise the “meat” of the essay.

  • Too many quotations, too many voices, can overpower your own.

  • Quotations should fit into your argument, not appear out of thin air.

  • They should be grammatically consistent with the rest of your essay.

  • If punctuation, pronouns, and verb tenses don't flow with your own words, paraphrase and cite the needed material, or make minor changes within the quotation, surrounding them with brackets [ ]. All quotations should be unobtrusive.

  • NEVER SIMPLY DROP A QUOTATION IN YOUR ESSAY! In other words, you must use your own words to introduce a quotation. The good old standby--So-and-so said, "blah blah blah"--is the very least you can do. Even better is when you can use some select words and phrases from a quotation and integrate them into a sentence of your own (always putting those words or phrases in quotation marks, though).

Maintaining a smooth sentence style

Use quotations as a tool, an illustration. Your own writing should do the “heavy lifting” in terms of making an insightful statement.

While both these examples integrate quotations in a structurally sound manner, the second version shows the author’s own words as more interpretative:
At one point the mother says, "I used to think [Dee] hated Maggie, too" (233),

is not as good an integration as this:

At one point the mother admits that she "used to think [Dee] hated Maggie, too" (233).

Sources: for additional information, please see the following sites:




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