Appendix B: Writing & Research Skills
What are Direct Quotes?
Direct quotes are portions of a text taken word for word and placed inside of a work. Readers know when an author is using a direct quote because it is denoted by the use of quotation marks and an in-text citation.
In his seminal work, David Bartholomae argues that “Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to invent the university for the occasion-invent the university…”(4).
Direct quotes might also be formatted as a “block quote,” which occurs if the borrowed language is longer than four (4) lines of text. In MLA, A block quote requires the author to indent the borrowed language by 1/2 an inch, place the citation at the end of the block, and remove quotation marks.
In his seminal work, David Bartholomae argues that
Every time a student sits down to write for us, he has to invent the university for the occasion-invent the university, that is, or a branch of it, like History or Anthropology or Economics or English. He has to learn to speak our language, to speak as we do, to try on the peculiar ways of knowing, selecting, evaluating, reporting, concluding, and arguing that define the discourse of our community. (4)
Be sure to be careful when directly quotes because failing to write the text exactly as it appears in the original text is not an ethical use of direct quotes. Also, failing to bracket the quote with quotation marks and/or citing it inside the text is also unethical and both mistakes are a form of plagiarism.
When Should I Use Direct Quotes?
Generally, direct quotes should be used sparingly because you want to rely on your own understanding of the material and avoid over-relying on another’s words. Over quoting does not reinforce your credibility as an author; however, you should use direct quotes when “the author you are quoting has coined a term unique to her or his research and relevant within your own paper”(The Owl of Purdue).
The Basics of Directly Quoting
The following are tips to apply when directly quoting material:
- All quoted material should be enclosed in quotations marks to set it off from the rest of the text. The exception to this is block quotes, which require different formatting.
- Quoted material should be an accurate word-for-word reproduction from the author’s original text. You cannot alter any wording or any spelling. If you must do so, you must use a bracket or an ellipsis (see number 2 in the section below).
- A clear signal phrase/attribution tag should precede each quotation.
- A parenthetical citation should follow each quotation.
The Hard Part of Directly Quoting: Integrating Quotes into Your Writing
You, as the author of your essay, should explain the significance of each quotation to your reader. This goes far beyond simply including a signal phrase. Explaining the significance means indicating how the quoted material supports the point you are making in that paragraph. Remember: just because you add a quote does not mean that you have made your point. Quotes never speak for themselves. How and why does that quoted material make the point you think it does? Here are some helpful phrases for explaining quoted materials. “X” is the author’s last name:
- (quoted material). What X’s point demonstrates is that . . .
- (quoted material). Here, X is not simply stating _______, she is also demonstrating __________.
- (quoted material). This is an example of _____ because _______.
- (quoted material). This statement clearly shows ______ because _______.
Sometimes, in order to smoothly integrate quoted material into your paper, you may need to remove a word or add a word to make the quote make sense. If you make any change to quoted material, it must be formatted correctly using an ellipsis or brackets:
- Use brackets [these are brackets] to change a word. “Inserting or Altering Words in a Direct Quotation” explains what brackets are and how to use them.
- Use an ellipsis (this is an ellipsis…) to indicate omissions. “Omitting Words from a Direct Quotation” explains what brackets are and how to use them.
When in doubt, strive to allow your voice—not a quote from a source—to begin each paragraph, precede each quote, follow each quote, and end each paragraph. Quotes that are integrated well into a paper allow you to control the paper. That is what a reader wants to see: your ideas and the way that you engage sources to shape and discuss your ideas.
This chapter contains material from “About Writing: A Guide” by Robin Jeffrey, OpenOregon Educational Resources, Higher Education Coordination Commission: Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development is licensed under CC BY 4.0
It also contains an excerpt from David Bartholomae’s “Inventing the University.”