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Quotes Essay Format

Body paragraphs in academic essays contain evidence that supports debatable main ideas that appear in topic sentences, and responsible writers make sure to introduce, cite, and explain quotes and paraphrases used as evidence.

INTRODUCE: Introduce all your quotes using introductory phrases.  Here are some examples:

  • According to Michael Smith, “you should use the author’s first and last name when you cite that author for the first time in your paper” (1).
  • As Smith explains, “you can introduce your quotes with a number of different phrases” (1).
  • Smith suggests that “if the introduction to your quote isn’t a dependent clause, it doesn’t need to be followed by a comma” (1).
  • Smith observes the following in his article: “When you use a colon to introduce a quote, you need a complete sentence preceding the colon” (1).

CITE: Provide appropriate parenthetical citations for all quotes and paraphrases (but not summaries).  Check the appropriate style guide for guidelines, e.g. MLA, APA, and Chicago.  Here are some guidelines for MLA style citation:

  • If the author’s name appears in the introduction to the quote or in the paraphrase, it doesn’t have to appear in the parenthetical reference, as the citations above illustrate.
  • If the author’s name does not appear in the introduction to the quote, the name must appear in the parenthetical reference.  See the following example of a cited paraphrase:

Some professors at UM take points off of your final paper grade if you don’t cite paraphrased or quoted material correctly (Smith 1).

EXPLAIN: Make sure to explain your quotes.  Provide analysis that ties them back to your main idea / topic sentence.  In other words, comment on the evidence in order to incorporate it into the argument you’re making. 

Here’s an example of a whole academic body paragraph that illustrates ICE: introduction, citation, and explanation:

Despite their competence as readers and writers, these young teachers have just begun to understand and participate in the changing ecology of literacy described above, particularly in adopting a view that digital writing is worthy of attention in schools. Grabill and Hicks argue that “[u]sing ICTs (Information Communication Technologies) isn’t enough; critically understanding how these writing technologies enable new literacies and meaningful communication should also be a core curricular and pedagogical function of English education” (307). While our experience as teacher educators, especially in the context of Kristen’s course, shows us that adopting this perspective is difficult, we feel that there are compelling social reasons to do so.

(Sample paragraph taken from page 62 of Turner, Kristen Hawley, and Troy Hicks. “‘That’s not Writing’: Exploring the Intersection of Digital Writing, Community Literacy, and Social Justice.” Community Literacy Journal 6.1 (2011): 55-78. Print.)


Activity: With a partner, work to fix the introductions and citations in the paragraph below.

Don DeLillo characterizes the American National Identity as consumerism. The Gladneys are DeLillo’s depiction of the typical American consumerist family. “That night, a Friday, we gathered in front of the [television] set, as was the custom and the rule, with take-out Chinese.” (DeLillo 64) In this excerpt DeLillo ritualizes the process of a family night around the television. DeLillo does not simply state that this is a tradition passed down through culture, rather by using the word ‘rule’ he is invoking a moral imperative that elevates the event from a cultural phenomenon to a religious ritual. In another instance where consumerism is ritualized Jack is watching his daughter Steffie sleep when, “She uttered two clearly audible words, familiar and elusive at the same time, words that seemed to have a ritual meaning, part of a verbal spell or ecstatic chant. Toyota Celia (DeLillo 148).” This quotation shows that not only is consumerism an external ritual but it also permeates our unconscious to the point that we imitate commercials in our sleep.

Integrating the words or ideas from another source is a big part of academic writing. Students must be careful not only to avoid plagiarism, but also to enable readers to fully understand your use of a quote or a paraphrase from a source.

Never insert a quote or a paraphrase abruptly into your writing without first introducing the quote (or paraphrase), citing it, and explaining it This means that you will never begin or end a paragraph with a quote. This method is often referred to as the ICE method of integrating quotes: Introduce, Cite, and then Explain.

  • Introduce. When introducing your quote, you will provide the context of this quote as well as show the source of the quote. The quote cannot do the work for you; you must provide your reader with some idea of why you have chosen to use this quote. You should also tell your reader who is speaking or where this quote came from and the relationship this person or source has to the point you are making. That is, why should your reader take this quote seriously? Is the speaker or the source an authority on the topic?

    Here is an example:

    In the beginning stages of the juvenile justice system, it operated in accordance to a paternalistic philosophy.   This can be understood through the published words of Judge Julian Mack, who had a hand in the establishment of the juvenile justice system. In 1909, he stated...

    This provides the reader with some context, or the points that you are making by including this quote.

    This part provides the reader with who this quote is coming from as well as his relationship or authority on the topic.


    After including the source of the quote, be sure that you use a signal verb to indicate that the source’s words are next. In the example above, you can see that "he stated" has been used to signal the source’s words. Other signal verbs include:


    addsremarksexclaimsannouncesrepliesclaims
    commentsrespondsestimateswritespoints outpredicts
    arguessuggestsproposesdeclarescriticizesproclaims
    notescomplainsobservesthinkspresentsconcludes

    For other options, see our list of signal verbs.


    Templates for introducing quotations:

    X states, "...."
    As the prominent philosophy X puts it, "...."
    According to X, "...."
    X himself writes, "...."
    In her book,...., X maintains that "...."
    In the article,....., X claims that "...."
    In X's view, "...."
    X agrees when she writes, "...."
    X disagrees when he writes, "...."
    X complicates matters further when she writes, "...."

  • Cite. Directly after your quote, you will need to provide the in-text citation. For APA format, this includes the author’s last name only, the year of the publication, and the page number (or paragraph number if there is no page number listed).

    Here is an example:
    In 1909, he stated that this system should treat juveniles “as a wise and merciful father handles his own child” (as quoted in Scott and Steinberg, 2008, p. 16).

  • Explain. After the quote, you will need to explain the significance of the quote. How might it relate to your thesis? Your reader should not have to interpret the quote and what it means or how it helps to support the point you are trying to make. Never leave any room for interpretation. It is your responsibility as the writer to interpret the quote for your reader and provide the significance.

    Using the same quote as above, here is an example of the ICE method: Judge Mack viewed juveniles as children first. He envisioned a system that would protect and give treatment to these young offenders so that they could become productive adults, and saw no place for criminal responsibility and punishment within this system.

    Now, if we look at each step together, this is what we see:

    In the beginning stages of the juvenile justice system, it operated in accordance to a paternalistic philosophy. This can be understood through the published words of Judge Julian Mack, who had a hand in the establishment of the juvenile justice system. In 1909, he stated that this system should treat juveniles “as a wise and merciful father handles his own child” (Scott and Steinberg, 2008, p.16). Judge Mack viewed juveniles as children first. He envisioned a system that would protect and give treatment to these young offenders so that they could become productive adults, and saw no place for criminal responsibility and punishment within this system.

    Context

    Whose words these are and why he is an authority on this topic.

    Quoted material along with citation.

    This part provides the reader with who this quote is coming from as well as his relationship or authority on the topic.

  • Quote the Good Stuff. Beware of using quotations that do not mean anything or add substance to your essay.

    If a source says something so well that you couldn't possibly change it, use it!

    If a source backs up a point you made, use it!

    If you understand what a source is saying, use it! You will have to analyze it later, so understanding it will help you.

  • Avoid Over-quoting. Remember "less is more." Do not pad your essay with other people's ideas.

  • Keep Quotations Short. Keep your quotations 1–2 sentences long or use a few key words/phrases. If you need it all, turn the quotation into a "block quotation," but use them sparingly! "Block" the quotation if it's more than 40 words long. Block the quotation by having it start on a new line and in the same position as a new paragraph.

    Example (Note: Block quotations should not be double–spaced):

    In the chapter "Chicken Man," McBride (1997) narrated his rebellion as a teenager with honesty but without remorse:

    I was obviously hiding, and angry as well, but I would never admit that to myself. The marvelous orchestrated chaos that Mommy had so painstakingly constructed to make her house run smoothly broke down when Daddy died, and Mommy was in no fixing mood. (p. 140)

  • Copy Quotations Correctly. Misspellings and use of incorrect grammar when it's obvious that the source couldn't have made those mistakes affects your own credibility as a writer. Accuracy indicates care for one's work.

    Use brackets when you alter a word or phrase from the quotation. Example: Picciano (2001) stated, "[Distance learning] technologies [have] certain benefits and certain limitations and, as indicated earlier, a best technology does not yet exist" (p. 61).

    Use an ellipsis when you omit words or phrases from the quotation. Use an ellipsis with brackets [...] when you omit an entire sentence. Example: When Fuller (2005) returns home, she explained, "...I was dislocated and depressed" (p. 72).

  • Do Not Start a Paragraph with a Quotation. A paragraph should begin with your ideas. The first sentence of a paragraph is known as the topic sentence or assertion, both of which support the focus of the essay. In turn, the quotation supports the topic sentence.

  • Do Not End a Paragraph with a Quotation. Always conclude the paragraph with your ideas. The last sentence should be part of your analysis of the quotation.

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