Skip to main content

Using Quotations in your Essay

It is important to use evidence to support the arguments made in an essay. When a writer uses research in the writing, sometimes it is difficult to decide what should be quoted versus what should be paraphrased or summarized. It is beneficial to know the difference between quotations, paraphrases and summaries and when to use which in the writing.

When to use quotations:

It is important to make quotations work for the writing. They should not be the focus of the essay and should not overpower the writer’s words and ideas. It is also important to fit quotations properly into the essay and not simply drop them in to make the word count longer.

To quote or not to quote:

Only quote sentences that are concise, memorable, or authoritative. Anything that does not fit into these three categories should be paraphrased or summarized and properly cited.

Examples of what to quote:

Memorable Language:

“[T]he only thing we have to fear is fear itself...”

Roosevelt, F. D. (1933, March). Inaugural Address, Washington, D.C.

Authoritative Language (lend authority to your writing):

At two-tenths the speed of light, dust and atoms might not do significant damage even in a voyage of 40 years, but the faster you go, the worse it is—space begins to become abrasive. When you begin to approach the speed of light, hydrogen atoms become cosmic-ray particles, and they will fry the crew. ...So 60,000 kilometers per second may be the practical speed limit for space travel. (Asimov, 1996, p. 220)

Asimov, I. (1996). The relativity of wrong. New York, NY: Kensington Books.

Concise Language:

“To be, or not to be, that is the question” (3.1.55).

Shakespeare, W. (2003). Hamlet, prince of Denmark. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Quote language that is impossible for you to say in your own words because the quote is too memorable (famous), authoritative (well-known, expert, credible, etc.), or brief (if the words are changed, the paraphrase will be much longer than the original quote).