Using Quotations, Part II -->

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Using Quotations, Part II

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Good news! Quotes are not required in a study! But they can sometimes be potent statements in an argument. If you use them, however, use them sparingly. Walden puts a cap on quotes: No more than 10% of the words in a study can be quoted. (And even that rate might raise eyebrows.) We recommend following this guideline for course papers as well. Generally, paraphrasing or summarizing is preferred to using a quote. Quotations are very common—sometimes they are just the ticket, or, as Nik wrote last week, the icing on the cake—but proper application and style are a must.

Here’s a series of 10 tips, suggestions, and reminders about how best to use quotes.

Top 10 tips for using quotations

1. All quotations need quotation marks (" "). Readers need to know where your words end and where those of the quote begin and end.

2. All quotes need a citation that includes the source (author), year of publication, and page (or paragraph) on which the cited text appears. Sometimes a quote will span two pages; if so, include both pages.

3. Many students forget that readers need quotations to be introduced. (See No. 4 and 5 below.) Readers need to know that a quote is coming. In fact, the introduction typically constitutes the essence of the quote—that is, the claim you want to make—which you then support with the well-phrased quote.

4. In this way, quotes support claims rather than make them. (As implied below, part of the problem with using a quote to make a claim is that, without an introduction and explanation, the quote can be misunderstood.)

5. It’s not fair to readers to just drop a full-sentence quote into the middle of a paragraph to make a point. Even if it’s authoritative and brilliant, it’s jarring; it takes the reader out of the flow of your paragraph—in part because the quote is not in your own voice—and that can diminish your reader’s comprehension.

6. Rather than using full sentences, use only as much of a quotation as necessary to make your point and then carefully integrate the quote into your text (for example, making sure it fits the syntax of your own sentence). Put another way, a quote should fit seamlessly into your sentence.

7. As noted in No. 4, instead of using quotes to make a claim or point, quotes should be used to back up a point. Here are two other good uses: when you want to emphasize a point or when the quote is too complex to accurately paraphrase or is exceptionally well written!

8. After the quote has been introduced and after it has been carefully positioned in your sentence, it must then be explained, right away, including its significance in the context of the paragraph. If you don’t explain it, you are leaving it up to the readers to make their own interpretation—and they could be wrong. You must tell your readers what the quote means and why it is important.

9. Obviously, then, a quote cannot start or end a paragraph. Paragraphs must start with topic sentences and end with transition sentences.  

10. In sum, when you are considering using a quotation, first see if you can paraphrase or summarize it. If, however, a quote seems appropriate, then quote only what’s needed and take care to both introduce and explain it.

For examples of using quotations effectively, see our Using Evidence resource and pages 170-174 of the APA manual.

Other posts you might like:

Using Quotations, Part 1
Context, Context, Context!
WriteCast Episode 3: Creating a Successful Paragraph

Tim McIndooDissertation Editor Tim McIndoo, who joined Walden University in 2007, has more than 30 years of editorial experience in the fields of education, medicine, science and technology, and fiction. When it comes to APA style, he says, "I don't write the rules; I just help users follow them."

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