Using Quotations in Your Essay
Borrowed from Dr. A. Wiley, winter 2011who borrowed it from L. Boyd, winter 1996.
We’ve discussed together the way that using other people’s thoughts or ideas to support your
own ideas is very much like standing on a stage with very smart people who agree with you, but
having only one microphone for the whole lot of you. Your job as the essay writer is to control
the mic: the reader should hear your voice most often, and they should see you handing the mic
off to another thinker and then taking it back whenever you include the voice of someone else in
your own essay.
Stay in Control of the Microphone
Too many quotations, too many voices, can overpower your own. Quotations should fit into
your argument, not appear out of thin air. They should be grammatically consistent with the
rest of your essay. If punctuation, pronouns, and verb tenses don't flow with your own words,
paraphrase and cite the needed material, or make minor changes within the quotation,
surrounding them with brackets [ ]. All quotations should be unobtrusive.
Quote only sentences, passages, or words that are especially succinct, memorable, or
powerful. Save direct quotations for brilliant comments, controversial statements, certain
statistics, and personal testimony that you believe will strengthen your argument.
If a quotation is long, or if you can say it better or more concisely, paraphrase it (restate it in
your own words).
Remember, you must indicate a source even when paraphrasing
paraphrasing to a minimum because it is your
argument, that counts to convince
Always integrate quotations into your text. NEVER DROP A QUOTATION IN YOUR ESSAY.