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Use Quotations English Essay Help

How to Use Quotes Effectively

 

Most, if not all, of your college professors will require you to use research material as a vital component of your writing.  However, this process is not as simple as cutting and pasting sentences (or even worse, paragraphs) from the original texts into your essay.  You need to do more than just parrot information; simple cutting and pasting resorts in an incoherent flow of information in which the diction becomes nearly schizophrenic—literally, a confusion of voices.  Technically, an isolated quotation is called a “free-standing quote.”  It is essential, therefore, for you to integrate quotations into your writing so that the essay flows as smoothly as possible. 

 

Let’s say you have to write an essay on creativity for your Introduction to Psychology course, and you have decided to make creative writing your focus.  While you were researching, you came across a certain quote that you feel would work effectively in a paragraph in which you analyze the relationship between creativity and perceptiveness. 

 

Before you try to place the quote in your essay, you need to understand two things: what the quote literally means and how the quote will fit with the context of your paragraph and essay.  The quote will not help your essay if you are unsure of its specific meaning, so be sure to understand any complex vocabulary or ideas.  Second, the placement of quotes should not be haphazard; you should have a definite, specific purpose for placing each quote.  Without such a purpose, your essay will seem random, a quality  successful writing does not possess.

 

Here is an original quote and three ways to incorporate it into your text.

 

Being a good poet makes you a good psychologist, it is suggested, one capable of “profound insight,” but being a good psychologist doesn’t seem to make people good poets. 

 


 

1.  Use a simple introductory phrase.

 

According to Adam Phillips, the former Principal Child Psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital in London and the author of many influential books on psychoanalysis, “being a good poet makes you a good psychologist […] but being a good psychologist doesn’t seem to make people good poets” (4).  [MLA]

 

According to Phillips (2001), “being a good poet makes you a good psychologist […] but being a good psychologist doesn’t seem to make people good poets” (p. 4). [APA]

 

Here we’ve used a simple “according to” phrase to introduce the quote, and we’ve used ellipses with brackets to use part of quote that we may find most emphatic.  Note the ellipses are in brackets.  Any change you make to the original quote, changes of verb tense, capitalization, etc, need to be bracketed.  Also, you do not need to introduce or end your quotes with ellipses; they are only used with quotes to indicate omitted information in the middle.  In addition to citing our source, we have also qualified our author.  Rather than just providing the name, we have provided relevant context, which strengthens our essay by providing credibility. 

 


2.  Use an independent clause and a colon.

 

Creativity is ripe with paradox.  For example, artists often have a complex understanding of human nature while those who have studied  human nature often have no artistic ability: “Being a good poet makes you a good psychologist, it is suggested, one capable of ‘profound insight,’ but being a good psychologist doesn’t seem to make people good poets” (Phillips 4).  [MLA]

 

Creativity is ripe with paradox.  For example, artists often have a complex understanding of human nature while those who have studied  human nature often have no artistic ability: “Being a good poet makes you a good psychologist, it is suggested, one capable of ‘profound insight,’ but being a good psychologist doesn’t seem to make people good poets” (Phillips, 2001, p 4).  [APA]

 

The key here is to make sure you have a complete sentence (independent clause) preceding the quote.  If you do not have an independent clause before the quote, the sentence is a fragment.

 


3.  Incorporate the quote into the context of your sentence.

 

While “being a good poet” may turn an otherwise uneducated person into “a good psychologist,” the authors of many scholarly texts would not be able to craft a metaphor if their lives depended on it (Phillips 4).  [MLA]

 

While “being a good poet” may turn an otherwise uneducated person into “a good psychologist,” the authors of many scholarly texts would not be able to craft a metaphor if their lives depended on it (Phillips, 2001, p 4).  [APA]

 

 

 

This technique is the most sophisticated, but it also has potential for mishap: be sure to make all your verb tenses and pronouns consistent.  If the quote uses a plural verb while your sentence has a singular subject, your sentence will be incorrect grammatically.  Either use brackets to change certain parts of the original quote, or change your sentence to match the quote.  Either way, consistency is the goal.

 

 


 

Those are three different ways in incorporating quotations into the flow of your essay (thus avoiding the weakness of free-standing quotes).  Which of the three ways is the best?  A well-written documented essay will have examples of all three types, depending on the context of the quote.

 

You should also be aware of block quotes.  Any quote that fills more than three lines of your paper needs to be offset (blocked) from the rest of your essay. 

 

As a final note, always remember to cite the quotes correctly with parenthetical citations and a works cited page.

 

 

Phillips, Adam.  “Poetry and Psychoanalysis.”  Promises, Promises: Essays on Psychoanalysis and Literature.  New York: Basic, 2001. 1-34.  [MLA]

 

Philips, A. (2001).  Poetry and psychoanalysis.  Promises, promises: Essays on psychoanalysis and literature (pp 1-34). New York: Basic.  [APA]

 

Using Short Quotations: One of the most useful skills you can develop is to learn how to embed short quotations within the body of your own text, weaving seamlessly between your argument and the material to which you are referring. The following example might serve as some sort of a model for this practice:

Venus and Adonis, published by Richard Field in 1593 and addressed to "the Right Honourable Henry Wriothesly, Earl of Southampton," begins by immediately invoking its own Ovidian context through an epigraph from the Amores: "Let base-conceited wits admire vile things, / Fair Phoebus lead me to Castilian springs" (Roe, 78). While hymning the classical Muses remains a conventional enough way to begin a poem, John Roe has suggested that one might well interpret Shakespeare's tag as a conscious "signalling [of] the rarefied eroticism that is to follow" (Roe, 78).

Editing Quotations: Sometimes it is necessary to emend or edit quotations. When this is the case, use square brackets to signal the changes you have made. The only exception to this rule is with ellipses. The following example should make things clearer:

According to William Bradford, "[Morton] employed some of [the Indians] to hunt and fowl for him . . . [But] when they saw the execution a piece would do, and the benefit that might come by the same, they became mad . . . . accounting their bows and arrows but baubles in comparison of them" (Bradford, 189).

In this extract the words replaced by those in square brackets are "he," "them" and "So as when." The writer has altered these terms in order to make the quote fit the context of her argument (where the identity of those represented by these pronouns is not certain) and to alter the sense so as to prevent the cuts signalled by her ellipses from making Bradford's prose incoherent. The ellipses let the reader know that some text has been omitted at this point. Use three dots (. . .) to signal a cut within a single sentence and four (. . . .) to signal that the cut runs over a period in the original text. If your ellipsis starts at the end of a complete sentence, use the following procedure: "The instructor's lecture on the Enlightenment was boring. . . . and I didn't understand what he meant by tabula rasa." In this example, the original sentence finished after "boring" and an edit was made after the period and before "and." The three dots signal that "and I didn't understand . . ." is part of the next full sentence after "boring."

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