Tips on Introducing Quotes
General Principles Writers use quotations for a variety of purposes: to argue with another author’s definition of a term, to provide statistical evidence or testimony to validate a claim; to present the reader with a statement we wish to refute or discuss in detail. If writers overdo and include too many quotations in a research essay, readers will form the negative impression that the authors of those sources are more authoritative than the writer of the research paper. Often the voices of those authorities drown out the writer’s voice, in a sense taking over authorship of the paper. Writers should use direct quotations only when the source’s words are particularly relevant, powerful, and/or an extremely representative example of that specific author’s thinking. A good policy is to use short quotes (no more than 25 words) and otherwise summarize or paraphrase sources whenever possible. When summarizing, however, be sure to represent the author accurately and fairly. If you must use a longer quotation (longer than 40 words in APA style or longer than four lines in MLA), follow the rules for formatting a blocked quote. When quotations are included, they should be an integral part of the text—a vital part of the discussion. Some warning signs that indicate a writer has lost control of his/her quotes include the following: The Salting Syndrome: If a reader can remove the quotes that have been “sprinkled” through the paper and still understand the essay, then the quotes are not an integral part of the essay and do not further the argument. The Weak Weave: If the reader sees only glimpses of a writer’s voice used to introduce long quotations from others, he/she will assume the writer has lost control over the text and could become frustrated over not reading any original commentary. The Overpowering Opinion: If each paragraph begins with a quotation, the writer’s voice will be lost as the powerful opinion of an “expert” occupies the slot in...
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