1. When to quote:
In the first place, the general convention in the sciences and social sciences is that we use direct quotations as little as possible. Whenever possible, paraphrase your source. The exception is when the source is so eloquent or so peculiar that you really need to share the original language with your readers. (In the humanities, direct quoting is more important--certainly where you are talking about a literary source. There the original language IS the object of study very often.)
2. Explaining your quotation:
When you do quote directly, you still need to discuss the quotation and not ask it to stand on its own. Remember that each reader puts a somewhat different spin on it, brings to it different knowledge and experience. Branda Spatt in Writing from Sources says, "Once you have presented a quotation, it is usually not necessary to provide an exact repetition of the same idea in your own words, making the same point twice. Instead, FOLLOW UP A QUOTATION WITH AN EXPLANATION OF ITS RELEVANCE TO YOUR PAPRAGRAPH OR AN INTERPRETATION OF ITS MEANING ..." (96).
3. Incorporating quotations into your text:
When you do quote directly, you need to make the quotation part of YOUR text. That means that you need to build a sentence around your quotation. What you CANNOT do is simply allow a quotation to stand on its own as a sentence in your text.For example, I wish to use the following sentence in my text: "The citation provides an important link between your thoughts and those of your source" (Spatt 93).
One way is to do what I've done here; i.e., announce the quotation in a complete sentence ("I wish to use the following sentence in my text") followed by a colon. That requires that the text I'm quoting is also a complete sentence.
An alternative is to write my own sentence and incorporate all or part of the original, as in:Brenda Spatt writes that "[t]he citation provides an important link between your thoughts and those of your source" (93).
Citing the author in your text links "your thoughts and those of your source" (Spatt 93).
I hope these comments are helpful. Brenda Spatt is actually an excellent source on this. Her book is in our library.
Last updated December 21, 2003.
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