14.5: Using quotes

Almost every essay uses some type of quotation so it is important to know how to correctly include them in your essay whether it involves how to cite the author or how to use direct or indirect quotes or even how to work with long quotes or a quote that you want to weave into a sentence. The next few sections cover all those areas and will use the Harvard Referencing System for examples that are used.

Before covering these areas, here are some things to remember about how to use quotations as part of your essay strategy so that they add to your convincing argument rather than distract and confuse:

  • Use quotations to support an idea rather than to just put them here and there within your essay just to fill space or word count. Make sure it links to your own writing and become seamless.
  • Quote credible people within the field of study to offer a convincing argument.
  • Keep quotations as succinct as possible. Long quotations tend to be frowned upon. However, do not cut it so short that it removes the context.
  • Be sure to understand the quote before including it to make sure it makes sense with what you are trying to say. If you don't understand it, most likely your reader won't either.

Embed the quote into your essay so that you introduce and analyse it both before and after the quote. A big no-no is to just start a paragraph with a direct quote because it is not supporting anything and has no introduction to help the reader with context.

Chapter 14 contents:

14.5.1: Citing the author

Whenever you use an author’s direct words or even use their ideas, you must cite that author or authors. The proper way to cite the author is to list their last name, date of publication of the idea or words, and the page reference. It would look like this:

Author’s words or ideas here (Author’s Last Name, Date: Page Number(s)).

You can also cite the author in the text by saying: Author (Date) reported….., or you can say Author (Date: Page Number) reported……

If there are two authors it would be: Author 1 and Author 2 (Date) concluded…….

If there are more than two authors, it is best to shorthand it by saying Author 1 et al. (Date) said……

Don’t force the author’s name into the sentence if it doesn’t make sense as you can always follow the first format by including it in the parentheses at the end of the sentence.

Sometimes, it is not an author but an organisation that you are quoting like NHS, etc. Unless the organisation does list an author as part of the source, which you would then use, you will need to list the organisation. Spell it out rather than abbreviating it the first time you use the organisation within your essay to help you reader understand who you are referencing.

There are other cases that involve clearly citing secondary sources like this:

Author (Date) said…………(cited in Author, Date: Page Number).

If it turns out that the author is not clearly indicated, then you will need to list it as Anon., or if there is no publication date, then you will state no date.

Page numbers can be done different ways:

  • (2012: 1-2)
  • (2012: p.1-2)
  • (2012, p1-2)
  • (2012: pp1-2)

This is important to check with your tutor or university handbook to identify which format you should use in citing authors.
When it comes to page numbers on a website, it’s not easy to know, so this is where line numbers are often used.

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14.5.2: Direct quotes

A direct quote is when you use the author’s words exactly as they have used them in the source material, taking the original text exactly as it was and inserting it in your essay. When you do this, you must ensure you have copied exactly, word for word and even down to the punctuation.

It is important to minimise the use of direct quotations because the purpose of an essay is to use your critical thinking skills to create the argument and quotes are only there to supplement or build your argument.

To use direct quotes, you should start off with a way of introducing it:

  • Author states that…
  • The following quote illustrates this when it says….
  • According to…..
  • Author argued that

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14.5.3: Indirect quotes

  • Besides quoting directly, you can also paraphrase authors or summarise their ideas. Here is the difference between paraphrasing and summarising:
    • Paraphrasing: You put a passage of an author’s work into your own words in a way that condenses the original, but this still means that you will need to list the author’s name, date, and the page number since it relates to a specific idea.
    • Summarising: You take out everything except the main idea, making this even briefer than paraphrasing. It still requires a full reference with author’s name, date, and page number. If it covers several pages or a whole chapter, you can list these instead of just the one page number.

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    14.5.4: Integrating quotes in your essay

    The best way to use quotes is to do so in a way that integrates it smoothly into what you have written so that it feels like part of your essay rather than someone else’s work. It’s important here to make sure that the direct or indirect quote is relevant and you have not misinterpreted it.

    If the quote contains less than twenty words, it can be integrated into your sentence with quote marks without having to start a new line or indent the quote. You may need to adapt the quote to make sure it works in terms of grammar and context, which would mean having to use square brackets where you have created clarification and removed words.

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    14.5.5: Long quotes

    Sometimes, the quotes you want to use in your essay will be longer than 20 words, which means that you will need to introduce it with a colon, remove quote marks, and then indent the quote. Before you just start resorting to quotes this long, you need to ask yourself if it really contributes to the essay argument. If you do still want to use it, there are two options to consider:

    1. Use the quote as it is: This means that you cannot shorten the quote without losing its meaning or confusing the reader. It is important to keep it all in for maximum effect.
    2. Shorten the quote: You can consider that some of the words may be unnecessary so these can be removed by replacing them with three dots (an ellipsis) if they are in the middle of the sentence or four dots if they are at the end of a sentence.

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    14.6: Reference list

    At the end of your essay, you will need to list all of the sources you used in your essay. This is very important to your essay as it shows all the references and information you used to validate your argument. It is important to also list these so that the reader has all the information they need to go find these sources themselves if they need to consult them or want to verify anything.

    While there may be some specific instructions from your tutor or university, which you should always check first, there are some general rules about your reference list:

    • It always goes at the end of your essay but before any appendices that you may have included.
    • The list is alphabetised by the author’s last name.
    • Do not separate books, journals, and websites from each other unless specifically requested to do so.
    • Ensure that you have followed the specified reference style provided by your university or tutor.

    Use space between each reference on the list for readability purposes.

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    14.7: Bibliography versus reference list

    Students often get confused about the differences between bibliographies and reference lists. Here are some facts about each so you can understand the differences and understand that you are usually asked to do one or the other:

    Bibliography Reference List
    • Contain all the sources that you have used whether they are directly cited or not in the essay.
    • Includes sources that you read and where you considered certain ideas.
    • Sometimes an annotated bibliography is requested in which case you are creating a list of sources and generating a summary about each of the sources.
    • Also known as lists of works cited (in the MLA reference style).
    • A complete list of sources that have been cited directly in the essay, including books, websites, journals and images.
    • There is an in-text citation for every entry in the reference list.

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    Chapter 14: In summary

    Think about the answers to these questions as you review what you learned in this chapter about referencing and referencing styles:

    • Why is referencing so important?
    • What is the difference between a bibliography and a reference list?
    • What is a direct quote versus an indirect quote?
    • What are in-text references?
    • What are endnotes and footnotes?
    • What is included in a referencing style?
    • What are some of the main referencing styles and the differences between them?
    • How do you know which referencing style to use?
    • What are some of the things to remember about using quotes?

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