Using Quotations

An empty box with quotation marksQuotations are another way to integrate source information into your paragraphs, but you should use them sparingly.

How do you know when you should use quotations in your essay? Essentially, quotations should function to support, comment on, or give an example of a point you are making in your own words. And, of course, you should keep in mind that quotes should be kept to a minimum. A good “rule” to remember is that you only want to use a quote when it’s absolutely necessary, when your source puts something in a way that just needs to be put that way or when you need a quote from an expert to support a point you have already made.

You should also remember that you don’t want to use quotations to make your point for you. Readers should be able to skip the quotations in your paper and still understand all your main points. This means, after each quote, you have to provide analysis for that quote. This works well if you follow the MEAL Plan. The idea is to help your audience gather the meaning from the quote you want them to gather. It’s your job as a writer to make the quote meaningful for your audience.

Integrating quotations smoothly and effectively is one sign of a truly polished writer. Well-chosen and well-integrated quotations add strength to an argument. But many new writers do not know how to do the choosing and integrating effectively. The following guidelines will help make your quotations operate not as stumbling blocks to a reader, but as smooth and easy stepping-stones through the pathways of your paper.

When to Use Quotes

Use quotations in the following situations:

  • When the wording is so specific to the meaning that you cannot change the wording without changing the meaning.
  • When the wording is poetic or unique, and you want to maintain that unique quality of wording as part of the point you are making. This guideline may also apply when the wording is highly technically-specific.
  • When you are doing a critical/literary analysis of a text.
  • When you want to maintain the specific authority of the words of a well-known or highly-reputable author in order to add to the credibility of your own argument.
  • In most other cases, you should use your own words, a summary, or a paraphrase of your source, to make your point.

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