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OWL - Online Writing Lab: Quotations

Collection of short tutorials created by ASC, the Academic Support Center staff, to help students successfully execute the writing requirements at Louisville Seminary.

Why Quote?

When you use the exact words of someone else in your papers, you need to include them into your essays in such a way that the text flows smoothly. When you don't, the quotes seem to be "just thrown in" and the text seems choppy and interrupted.

Remember to use the words of others sparingly because this is your paper with your own point of view and not just a synopsis of what others have said.

Ask yourself these questions if you are considering using a direct quotation:

  • Are the author's words so impressive or so unique that I couldn't express those ideas as well with my own words?
  • Is the author's language so succinct that it would take me twice as many words to explain the same thought?
  • Is the terminology so precise that I could not explain the meaning?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then include the quotation into your text.

How to.

 Use the present tense when presenting ideas even if they were actually made in the past. Called the "historical present", this convention is used because the readers, in effect, are continuing to read the material so the text is still "alive."
    • An example from a paper about Luke might be: 
      In Luke 12:27-32, the writer affirms "Fear not, little flock; for it is your father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."
    • In most cases you should present a quote exactly as the author wrote it. However, occasionally you might need to alter the quote in order for it to fit into the context of your paper, change verb tense, insert explanations, or replace a pronoun with the proper name. In these cases you should mark any such changes with brackets ( [ ] ). 

      If you leave out part of a quotation because of length or the information is not relevant to your paper, mark the omissions with ellipsis points. If the omission is a few words but less than a complete sentence, use three points ( . . . ). Use four points to indicate the omission of more than a full sentence.

      An example from a paper about when Martha was upset that her sister Mary was not helping to prepare for Jesus' visit Martha said, "Lord . . . . Tell [Mary] to come and lend me a hand" Luke 10:38. In this case several sentences are left out of the quotation (shown by the ellipses), and consequently the writer needed to include Mary's name (the brackets).

    • Periods and commas belong inside the ending quotation mark; question marks and exclamation points go outside the ending quotation mark unless they are part of the quoted text.

      Example:
      Matthew 10:20 says that "it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

  • Quoted text less than 4 lines or about 40 words go within quotation marks with the text. Quotations longer than this are set off from the text by being indented on the left side and single-spaced. You will not need quotation marks for the longer quoted material.

Incorporating Quotes

How to incorporate a direct quote within the text

Ask yourself these questions if you are considering using the words of another instead of summarizing the information in your own words.

  1. Are the author's words so impressive or so unique that I couldn't express those ideas as well?
  2. Is the author's language so succinct that it would take me twice as many words to explain the same thought?
  3. Is the terminology so precise that I could not explain the meaning?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then include the quotation into your text.

IQI--Introduce, Quote, Interpret

Now that you've decided to include the words of another in your paper, make sure that you incorporate them in such a way that they enhance your ideas and are understood by the reader.

1. Introduce the quoted material by telling the reader some information about the writer: name (the first time an author is referred to use first and last names. After that, use only last the name). Add some perinent information about the author to give credibility:  medieval mystic....

2. Include the quotation. Be sure to include the words within double quotation marks. Always include the page number where the quotation is located.

Chapter 5 in Kate Turabian’s A Manual for Writers explains the use of quotations in great detail but there are some general guidelines. If you're using footnotes or endnotes, the superscript number (I) goes outside the period and quotation marks (i.e. ." I). If you utilize the parenthetical style of documentation, the page number is included after the quotation mark, inside the parenthesis, and within the sentence (i.e. "(3).)

Pages 95-98 in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association contain the AP guidelines for including quotations. In general, include the page number inside the parenthesis within the sentence (i.e. (p. 102) ). If you have not given the author's name within the text, include the author's last name, year, and page number inside the parenthesis (i.e. Mapes, 1902, p. 102).

3. Always include a "coming-away" observation after the quoted material to interpret those ideas. This serves three essential functions: to explain the meaning of the quoted words; to restore your authority; and to reestablish your voice. Never assume the reader will understand the quotation or how those words relate to your points. Your words and your ideas are what are important-not some else's thoughts.

Example from a paper:
In Numbers 27:7 the Lord says, " What Zelophehad's daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance." God's brief ruling in favor of the daughters should remind us today that in the "Court of Justice" the disenfranchised deserve a hearing.