How to Quote a Source
Introducing a quotation
One of your jobs as a writer is to guide your reader through your text. Don't simply drop quotations into your paper and leave it to the reader to make connections.
Integrating a quotation into your text usually involves two elements:
A signal that a quotation is coming--generally the author's name and/or a reference to the work
An assertion that indicates the relationship of the quotation to your text
Often both the signal and the assertion appear in a single introductory statement, as in the example below. Notice how a transitional phrase also serves to connect the quotation smoothly to the introductory statement.
Ross (1993), in her study of poor and working-class mothers in London from 1870-1918 [signal], makes it clear that economic status to a large extent determined the meaning of motherhood [assertion]. Among this population [connection], "To mother was to work for and organize household subsistence" (p. 9).
The signal can also come after the assertion, again with a connecting word or phrase:
Illness was rarely a routine matter in the nineteenth century [assertion]. As [connection] Ross observes [signal], "Maternal thinking about children's health revolved around the possibility of a child's maiming or death" (p. 166).
Short direct prose
Incorporate short direct prose quotations into the text of your paper and enclose them in double quotation marks:
According to Jonathan Clarke, "Professional diplomats often say that trying to think diplomatically about foreign policy is a waste of time." 1
Longer prose quotations
Begin longer quotations (for instance, in the APA system, 40 words or more) on a new line and indent the entire quotation (i.e., put in block form), with no quotation marks at beginning or end, as in the quoted passage from our Successful vs. Unsucessful Paraphrases page.
Rules about the minimum length of block quotations, how many spaces to indent, and whether to single- or double-space extended quotations vary with different documentation systems; check the guidelines for the system you're using.
Quotation of Up to 3 Lines of Poetry
Quotations of up to 3 lines of poetry should be integrated into your sentence. For example:
In Julius Caesar, Antony begins his famous speech with "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears; / I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him" (III.ii.75-76).
Notice that a slash (/) with a space on either side is used to separate lines.
Quotation of More than 3 Lines of Poetry
More than 3 lines of poetry should be indented. As with any extended (indented) quotation, do not use quotation marks unless you need to indicate a quotation within your quotation.
Punctuating with Quotation Marks
With short quotations, place citations outside of closing quotation marks, followed by sentence punctuation (period, question mark, comma, semi-colon, colon):
Menand (2002) characterizes language as "a social weapon" (p. 115).
With block quotations, check the guidelines for the documentation system you are using.
Commas and periods
Place inside closing quotation marks when no parenthetical citation follows:
Hertzberg (2002) notes that "treating the Constitution as imperfect is not new," but because of Dahl's credentials, his "apostasy merits attention" (p. 85).
Semicolons and colons
Place outside of closing quotation marks (or after a parenthetical citation).
Question marks and exclamation points
Place inside closing quotation marks if the quotation is a question/exclamation:
Menand (2001) acknowledges that H. W. Fowler's Modern English Usage is "a classic of the language," but he asks, "Is it a dead classic?" (p. 114).
[Note that a period still follows the closing parenthesis.]
Place outside of closing quotation marks if the entire sentence containing the quotation is a question or exclamation:
How many students actually read the guide to find out what is meant by "academic misconduct"?
Quotation within a quotation
Use single quotation marks for the embedded quotation:
According to Hertzberg (2002), Dahl gives the U. S. Constitution "bad marks in 'democratic fairness' and 'encouraging consensus'" (p. 90).
[The phrases "democratic fairness" and "encouraging consensus" are already in quotation marks in Dahl's sentence.]
Indicating Changes in Quotations
Quoting Only a Portion of the Whole
Use ellipsis points (. . .) to indicate an omission within a quotation--but not at the beginning or end unless it's not obvious that you're quoting only a portion of the whole.
Adding Clarification, Comment, or Correction
Within quotations, use square brackets [ ] (not parentheses) to add your own clarification, comment, or correction.
Use [sic] (meaning "so" or "thus") to indicate that a mistake is in the source you're quoting and is not your own.
Notes1. "The Conceptual Poverty of U.S. Foreign Policy," Atlantic, September 1993, 55.
So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
- Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes.
- Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise ofdehumanization"; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
- Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure, by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University