Building an Essay from Sources: Quoting Made Easy

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  • Building an Essay from Sources:
  • Quoting Made Easy
  • Edited by R.R. Barstack and Jennifer Glass
  • Your essays must be your own words with your own thoughts and your own voice. However, quoting sources in your essays:
  • What the sources do for you
    • adds authority to your essays by illustrating
    • that you are presenting informed opinions
    • and/or shows your reader exactly
    • how you arrived at a particular
    • thought of your own.
  • In fact, academic essays are usually comprised of three components:
  • your own thoughts about something you have read or an issue you are studying
  • quotes from outside sources
  • “ ”
  • Most of your essay is in your own words, but you use quotes to:
  • Support your own thinking
  • Illustrate your own thinking
  • Prove that you are correct
  • Or reveal that an opposing point of view is
  • flawed
  • You can actually follow a very simple pattern:
  • The introduction generally will not have a quote in it; it will be entirely your own words.
  • After that, you will start every paragraph with your own words.

You can actually follow a very simple pattern:

  • And finally, you can conclude each paragraph with a reflection of your own showing how the quote works to support your point.
  • For the second or third sentence of a paragraph, you will use a well-integrated quote to illustrate or prove the topic sentence of that paragraph.
  • A couple of rules of thumb:
  • Do not start a paragraph with a quote.
  • Do not end a paragraph with a quote.
  • Use only one or two fairly short quotes per paragraph.

Some examples of signal phrases with author speech tags

  • According to Jane Doe, "..."
  • As Jane Doe emphasizes, "..."
  • Characterized by John Doe, the society is "..."
  • John Doe believes that "..."
  • Jane Doe claims that "..."
  • Jane Doe implies that "..."

List of Speech Verbs

  • acknowledges, adds, admits, affirms, agrees, argues, asserts, believes, claims, comments, compares, confirms, contends, declares, demonstrates, denies, disputes, emphasizes
  • endorses, grants, illustrates, implies, insists, notes, observes, points out, reasons, refutes, rejects, reports, responds, states, suggests, thinks, underlines, writes
  • A well-integrated quote is a lot like a sandwich (or a P.I.E.):
  •  On top = a sentence that is your own thought setting the context for the quote that you intend to use to illustrate a point. Context can be the lead-in to a quote.
  • Filling = the quote (with author tag/signal phrase) to back up your thought.
      • Bottom = a sentence of your own that reflects back on the quote.

Paragraph Example:

  • Midway into his famous “I Have a Dream” speech before 100,000 rapt listeners on a scorching hot day on the Washington Mall, King answered critics, who asked why he was not satisfied with the civil rights gains at the time, by detailing a litany of unjust public behavior towards Negroes, ranging from police brutality to disenfranchisement at the voting both. “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream,” he sang out in his preacher’s voice (304). It was this stunning metaphor of running water and others like it that catapulted King into national respect and prominence.

Context? What’s that?

  • Providing context when introducing a quote means including information about when/where we are in the plot or development of the story, epic, novel, play etc.
  • Example: As the soldiers in the city of war fight with one another, “Hate [is] there with Confusion among them, and Death the/destructive” (18.535-6).

Context, Continued

  • Providing context does NOT mean including the line numbers in your sentence! The reader should be able to follow your analysis WITHOUT having the text in front of him or her.
  • No-No Example: In Book 18, Lines 18.535-6, Homer writes, “Hate [is] there with Confusion among them, and Death the/destructive” (18.535-6).

Let’s back up a bit:

  • How do you know what to quote?

Rule One: Quote Sparingly

  • If you have something that is longer, break it up with signal phrases and author tags, so the reader knows why you are quoting it.
  • Xxx xxx xxxx,” the author wrote, offering justification for his actions. “Xxx xxx xxxx,” he added.

Rule Two: Quote Just the Good Stuff

  • examples of powerful diction or imagery
  • especially clear explanations stated by authorities
  • controversial arguments in the speaker’s/writer’s own words

If You Absolutely MUST Use a Longer Quote

  • Use a BLOCK QUOTE format for more than two lines from a poem or more than three from a work of prose.
  • Begin quote as a new line of text.
  • Indent 1” from left margin.
  • No quotation marks
  • Parenthetical citation goes outside final punctuation within quote.

Block Quote Example

  • In his poem “The Problem," Ralph Waldo Emerson explores the inner philosophical struggle of a religious yet unorthodox man:
  • I like a church;I like a cowl;
  • I love a prophet of the soul;
  • And on my heart monastic aisles
  • Fall like sweet strains, or pensive smiles: Yet not for all his faith can see
  • Would I that cowlëd churchman be. (1- 7)

Quoting from a Poem

  • When you quote lines from a poem, indicate a line break with a slash /
  • Example: Homer describes that in the city of peace there are “marriages…and festivals./They [are] leading the brides along the city from their maiden chambers” (18. 491-2) to a joyous celebration.

Notice the In-Text Citation Format for the Iliad!

  • Example: Homer describes that in the city of peace there are “marriages…and festivals./They [are] leading the brides along the city from their maiden chambers” (18. 491-2) to a joyous celebration.
  • (Book#.Line #’s)
  • If you do NOT mention Homer’s name in
  • your sentence : (Homer Book#.Line#’s)

And for Auden?

  • Because “The Shield of Achilles” is a shorter poem with no books or chapters within it, simply cite the line number(s).
  • Example: The wartime setting depicted on Auden’s shield is “[a] plain without a feature, bare and brown” (9).
  • If you do NOT mention Auden’s name in your sentence : (Auden Line #’s)

Did you notice the … and [ ] in the examples?

  • Use ellipses (…) to indicate that you have left out words within a line/sentence.
  • However, you do not need to use ellipses at the beginnings or ends of quotes.
  • Use brackets [ ] to indicate that you have made a slight change to the original quote.

More on Using Brackets

  • What kinds of small changes might you need to make to an original quote?
  • * verb tense—We use present tense to write about events and characters in literature
  • * pronouns—We may want to change “I” to “he,” for example, when quoting a character.
  • * capitalization/use of lower case


  • Keep your quotes short.
  • Just quote the good stuff.
  • Lead into and/or or out of all quotes. No floating quotes allowed!
  • Do not start paragraphs with quotes.
  • Do not end paragraphs with quotes.

Let’s Practice Before We Begin Editing Your Paragraphs

  • Correct the following sentences so that the quotes are better integrated and properly cited.
  • In line 15 of the poem, Auden portrays the soldiers an robotic. “Without expression, waiting for a sign.”
  • In line 615 of Book 18 of the Iliad, Homer writes: “She like a hawk came sweeping down” to collect the glorious shield.

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