Basic Guidelines for the Use of Quotations

  • Use quotation marks to support, not make your argument.
  • When you incorporate quoted material into your own sentence, the combined product must be sound grammatically.
  • Never offer a quotation without offering your analysis/commentary/insight.
  • Do not use overlong quotations. Keep them as short as possible, using ellipsis if necessary.
  • Do not distort/hide the context of a quotation to make your argument.
  • Do quote phrases that are especially unique, powerful, and/or interesting. Paraphrase generic observations and quote powerful words and phrases.

Three Methods for Incorporating Quotations

As Part of the Sentence

Example: “There has to be a process in place that prevents someone from rejoining society if they’re still dangerous,” said Jeffrey Klein, a Democratic member of the New York State Senate who has pushed for civil confinement there.

Example: In announcing a deal with legislative leaders on Thursday, Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a Democrat, suggested that New York’s proposed civil commitment law would “become a national model."

With an Introduction

Example: Toni Morrison's character Twyla is self-conscious about her uniform and describes what she is wearing but also uses her description to show how she feels, and she says, "Nothing could have been less sheer than my stockings" (Morrison 215).

With a Colon

Example: "The Juniper Tree" portrays the stepmother as being pure evil: "Then the little boy came in at the door, and the Devil made her say to him kindly: 'My son, will you have an apple?' and she looked wickedly at him" (Grimm 17).

Using Signal Phrases

While it is necessary to introduce direct quotations in order to qualify them in relation to the rest of a paper, it is also necessary to introduce these quotations using a varied wording. It becomes monotonous if all the quotations in a paper are introduced with stock phrases: "this critic states" or "another critic says." A paper is much more interesting and cohesive if the introductory phrases, or "signal phrases," are varied.

Here are some possible signal phrases:
· According to Jane Doe, "..."
· As Jane Doe goes on to explain, "..."
· Characterized by John Doe, the society is "..."
· As one critic points out, "..."
· John Doe believes that "..."
· Jane Doe claims that "..."
· In the words of John Doe, "..."

Note that there exist fine shades of meaning between phrases such as "contend" and "argue" and large differences between ones such as "claim" and "demonstrate." Ask yourself questions as to whether the source material is making a claim, asserting a belief, stating a fact, etc. Then choose a verb that is appropriate for the source material's purpose.

Signal Phrase Words

acknowledges, adds, admits, affirms, agrees, argues, asserts, believes, claims, comments, compares, confirms, contends, declares, demonstrates, denies, disputes, emphasizes, endorses, grants, illustrates, implies, insists, notes, observes, points out, reasons, refutes, rejects, reports, responds, states, suggests, thinks, underlines, writes