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Quatation In Research Paper

How to Quote a Source

Introducing a quotation

One of your jobs as a writer is to guide your reader through your text. Don't simply drop quotations into your paper and leave it to the reader to make connections.

Integrating a quotation into your text usually involves two elements:

  • A signal that a quotation is coming--generally the author's name and/or a reference to the work

  • An assertion that indicates the relationship of the quotation to your text

Often both the signal and the assertion appear in a single introductory statement, as in the example below. Notice how a transitional phrase also serves to connect the quotation smoothly to the introductory statement.

Ross (1993), in her study of poor and working-class mothers in London from 1870-1918 [signal], makes it clear that economic status to a large extent determined the meaning of motherhood [assertion]. Among this population [connection], "To mother was to work for and organize household subsistence" (p. 9).

The signal can also come after the assertion, again with a connecting word or phrase:

Illness was rarely a routine matter in the nineteenth century [assertion]. As [connection] Ross observes [signal], "Maternal thinking about children's health revolved around the possibility of a child's maiming or death" (p. 166).


Formatting Quotations

Short direct prose

Incorporate short direct prose quotations into the text of your paper and enclose them in double quotation marks:

According to Jonathan Clarke, "Professional diplomats often say that trying to think diplomatically about foreign policy is a waste of time." 1

Longer prose quotations

Begin longer quotations (for instance, in the APA system, 40 words or more) on a new line and indent the entire quotation (i.e., put in block form), with no quotation marks at beginning or end, as in the quoted passage from our Successful vs. Unsucessful Paraphrases page.

Rules about the minimum length of block quotations, how many spaces to indent, and whether to single- or double-space extended quotations vary with different documentation systems; check the guidelines for the system you're using.


Quotation of Up to 3 Lines of Poetry

Quotations of up to 3 lines of poetry should be integrated into your sentence. For example:

In Julius Caesar, Antony begins his famous speech with "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; / I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" (III.ii.75-76).

Notice that a slash (/) with a space on either side is used to separate lines.

Quotation of More than 3 Lines of Poetry

More than 3 lines of poetry should be indented. As with any extended (indented) quotation, do not use quotation marks unless you need to indicate a quotation within your quotation.


Punctuating with Quotation Marks

Parenthetical citations

With short quotations, place citations outside of closing quotation marks, followed by sentence punctuation (period, question mark, comma, semi-colon, colon):

Menand (2002) characterizes language as "a social weapon" (p. 115).

With block quotations, check the guidelines for the documentation system you are using.

Commas and periods

Place inside closing quotation marks when no parenthetical citation follows:

Hertzberg (2002) notes that "treating the Constitution as imperfect is not new," but because of Dahl's credentials, his "apostasy merits attention" (p. 85).

Semicolons and colons

Place outside of closing quotation marks (or after a parenthetical citation).

Question marks and exclamation points

Place inside closing quotation marks if the quotation is a question/exclamation:

Menand (2001) acknowledges that H. W. Fowler's Modern English Usage is "a classic of the language," but he asks, "Is it a dead classic?" (p. 114).

[Note that a period still follows the closing parenthesis.]

Place outside of closing quotation marks if the entire sentence containing the quotation is a question or exclamation:

How many students actually read the guide to find out what is meant by "academic misconduct"?

Quotation within a quotation

Use single quotation marks for the embedded quotation:

According to Hertzberg (2002), Dahl gives the U. S. Constitution "bad marks in 'democratic fairness' and 'encouraging consensus'" (p. 90).

[The phrases "democratic fairness" and "encouraging consensus" are already in quotation marks in Dahl's sentence.]


Indicating Changes in Quotations

Quoting Only a Portion of the Whole

Use ellipsis points (. . .) to indicate an omission within a quotation--but not at the beginning or end unless it's not obvious that you're quoting only a portion of the whole.

Adding Clarification, Comment, or Correction

Within quotations, use square brackets [ ] (not parentheses) to add your own clarification, comment, or correction.

Use [sic] (meaning "so" or "thus") to indicate that a mistake is in the source you're quoting and is not your own.



1. "The Conceptual Poverty of U.S. Foreign Policy," Atlantic, September 1993, 55.


Why Use Sources at All?

When writing a text that includes sources, you need to quote the sources you are working with.  Writers use quotes for several reasons: to assert facts; as a voice that adds authority or color to an assertion being made; and most importantly, to avoid plagiarism.

Below are three different quotation formats and guidelines to follow when using them.  The three quotation formats include direct quotation, block quotation, and summary/paraphrase.

Direct Quotations

What is a direct quote?  A direct quote is an exact, word for word copy of the original source.  For example, “In a paper analyzing primary sources such as literary works, you will use direct quotation extensively to illustrate and support your analysis” (Aaron 257).  This quote comes from the source exactly as the author had written it.  A direct quotation usually corresponds exactly to the source's spelling, capitalization and interior punctuation.

Direct quotes must use a lead-in or tag phrase.  In other words, direct quotes must be attached to your own writing.  If you look at the above direct quote, you will notice the phrase “For example,” which is enough to satisfy the lead-in requirement.  When attributing a quote to an author in your text, the following verbs will prove helpful: notes, argues, observes, writes, emphasizes, says, reports, suggests, claims, and comments.  Generally speaking, you should cite the author by last name only—as Brand, not Michael Brand or Mr. Brand.

Using brackets and ellipses in direct quotations--Sometimes you may have to alter the direct quotation in order clarify any unclear pronoun usage (such as “he” or “she”—who are “they”?), to match the grammar of your lead-in sentence, or to eliminate unnecessary information.  To change the grammar, wording, and to eliminate superfluous information, use what is called ellipses (three periods, …) to indicate missing material, and brackets [] to indicate changed or added material.  It is academically dishonest to alter the meaning of a sentence to match your argument using these methods.  Use brackets and ellipses to alter form without misrepresenting the original quotation’s content.  When using direct quotations, consider the following example.

     Shapiro implies blame when he says, “the issue is a complex one, and [Mapplethorpe] is the best example of…the abuse of civil liberties” (199).

In the previous example, the bracketed information replaces the otherwise unclear pronoun “he” in the original quote and irrelevant material is replaced by the ellipses.  Note that the omission of information still provides a sentence that is grammatically correct.

Block Quotations

What is a block quote?  A block quote is similar to a direct quote except that it is four or more lines in length.  When a quote becomes four or more lines in length in your essay, the quote should be set off from your text  (see the example below).  MLA conventions state that the block quote should be double-spaced and indented ten spaces from the margin.  Also, the period that is usually placed after the parentheses is omitted.  It is important to understand that block quotes should not be used to pad papers for length.  Again, misusing block quotes will detract from your credibility as a writer.  Note that block quotes do not use quotation marks to set them off from your text since the indentation signifies to your reader that the quoted material is not your own.  When using block quotations, use the following example as a model.

     The trickster figure, while crucial to Native American mythos, also surfaces in African-American mythology.  In explaining folkloric representations of the devil, Hurston emphasizes that

…he is not the terror that he is in European folklore.  He is a powerfultrickster who often successfully competes with God.  There is a strong suspicion that the devil is an extension of the story makers while God is the supposedly impregnable white masters…. (306)

In this statement, Hurston suggests that African-American storytellers identify strongly with the trickster figure.  It is this identification that helped keep the idea of pride and rebellion alive during the hardships of slavery.

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