How to Handle Quotes in a Paper Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). How to set up and follow up a quotation In illustrating these four steps, we’ll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quotation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
1. Provide context for each quotation.
Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing context for our above example, you might write: When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression. 2. Attribute each quotation to its source.
Tell your reader who is speaking. Here is a good test: try reading your text aloud. Could your reader determine without looking at your paper where your quotations begin? If not, you need to attribute the quote more noticeably. Avoid getting into the “he/she said” attribution rut! There are many other ways to attribute quotes besides this construction. Here are a few alternative verbs, usually followed by “that”:
3. Incorporate a part of the author’s sentence in your sentence.
Throughout history there have been forceful quotes: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers 11). 4. Provide a citation for the quotation
All quotations, just like all paraphrases, require a formal citation also called an attribution. In general, you should remember one rule of thumb: Place the reference after—not within—the closed quotation mark. One example is above, another is below.
Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers 11). 5. Lead into the quote with a colon.
The colon announces that a quote will follow to provide evidence for the sentence’s claim.
Throughout history there have been forceful quotes: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers 11). 6. Introduce or conclude the quote by attributing it to the speaker.
If your attribution precedes the quote, you will need to use a comma after the verb.
Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers 11). 7. Keep periods and commas within quotation marks but the final period comes after the attribution. According to Professor Jones, Lincoln “feared the spread of slavery,” but many of his aides advised him to “watch and wait” (Jones). Place all other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks) outside the quotation marks, except when they were part of the original quotation. Sources: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Writing Center
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