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SPARK: Quotations

A resource for students wanting to improve their academic and research skills.


Quoting directly from the sources you have read can be very effective in an essay. For example, direct quotations from other authors can lend authority to your support of a particular claim. Such quotations can also enhance the clarity and appeal of your paper. Even though these are good things, it's best to use direct quotations carefully. After all, your professor wants to know what you think, rather than what other people think.

Indirect quotation is an alternative strategy for bringing source material into an essay by means of summarizing and paraphrasing. Effectively summarizing an author’s ideas in your own words shows your instructor that you understand the author’s meaning. Summarizing in your own words how an author connects several ideas shows that you understand those connections.

Review the sections below to learn more about using direct and indirect quotations. Also refer to Using Direct Quotations located in Resources.

Direct Quotations

In general, direct quotation should be reserved for passages in the source material that add something to your essay that cannot be accomplished in other ways. The quoted passage may, for example, explain a concept in a particularly effective manner and your attempts to explain that concept might make it more difficult to understand. One exception to the general rule of using quotations sparingly involves situations in which you wish to make the author’s language choices a point of discussion in your essay – passages from a novel, for example.

When quoting directly, provide your reader with sufficient context from the source material so that they can understand how your quotation fits in with the rest of your paper, and how it enhances your own work. 

Direct quotations must be indicated by the use of quotation marks, and the source of the quotation must be cited. There are a variety of ways for noting the source of a quotation, and which method you use depends on the citation style your professor (or your discipline) has asked for. 


Indirect Quotations

Summaries and paraphrases of another author’s ideas can be introduced with phrases such as:

  • Griffin argues that …
  • Grewal claims that …
  • the author questions that …
  • the author complains that …, etc.

Summaries and paraphrases should not be constructed by simply substituting different words for, or changing the order of, the words that are used in your source. You should be able to identify important aspects of the author’s ideas and put them in your own words. One of the best ways to move away from the author’s wording is to move away from the source that you're referring to and trying to write down what their argument is in your own words. You can always change this if you did not succeed completely on your first try.  

Indirect quotations do not require quotation marks, but their origin must be acknowledged with appropriate citations. Citation is important in order to avoid giving the mistaken impression that the ideas discussed are yours and that you thought of them with no help from the outside source. This is normally considered cheating in an academic context.