Writing and Research
Home Page >> Information Sheets >> Quotation Information Sheet
Quotations are a necessary component of any research project. However,
Quotations, by their very nature, are somebody else's words, somebody else's style. You are writing YOUR paper, not creating a patchwork quilt of other people's papers. Everything that you write should be filtered through YOUR views and analysis. Every time you quote a source, you distract the reader from what YOU have to say.
Having said that, there are appropriate times to use quotations:
Always, Always, Always follow up a quotation with your own analysis and explanation of what that quotation means or added to your argument. NEVER expect the reader to understand the connection just because they've read the same quotation. Remember that each reader has the ability to interpret what they read differently. Just presenting the quote is NOT the same as explaining your analysis or meaning. In addition, the source of a direct quote should always be directly identified in the sentence, usually with an "according to" type of statement.
Henry David Thoreau, in "Civil Disobedience" says:
The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgement or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens.
Notice that since I quoted more than four typed lines, I had to indent each line one full inch, or double the normal paragraph indent. You DO NOT indent both sides. That used to be the format, but not any longer.
The quotation has to be the EXACT duplicate of the original if it is presented in quotation marks as a direct quotation.
Example: Henry David Thoreau once said , "The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies."
Thoreau is a long-winded guy. You might want to quote him, but not everything he said. Then you would use ELLIPSES (...) like such:
Henry David Thoreau once said , "The mass of men serve the state...as machines..."
Note that the ellipses show where you have eliminated part of the quote.
Anything NOT eliminated still needs to be quoted exactly as it was presented.
Thoreau's views on independence and self-will were very strong. He felt that any person who just did what they were told no matter what "command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt"
Notice that you don't have to just quote whole sentences. This particular use of a quote set up the quote and explained what it meant, then quoted just the pertinent parts. Basically the writer here has paraphrased part of the original, and quoted part of it. This is a much stronger use of a source than just a straight quote, as the writer has to better understand the material to be able to paraphrase it.
Remember that ALL quotes need to be preceded or followed immediately by an explanation IN YOUR OWN LANGUAGE of what that quote means and how it fits your argument. A direct quotation is NOT a replacement for proper analysis and explanation of source material.