Guidelines for Incorporating Quotes
Incorporating Outside Sources
Quoting from outside sources is an important part of academic writing because it puts you into the scholarly conversation and makes your own ideas and your paper more credible. Using quotes is a great way for readers to “hear” the expert voices talking about your writing topic.
When quoting, focus on (a) introducing the quote, (b) explaining its relevance, and (c) citing the sources—both in your writing and in formal citations. This form is known as the ICE method.
The ICE Method
When including outside sources in your writing, follow the ICE method:
- I: Introduce
- C: Cite
- E: Explain
Use this method when inserting direct quotations as well as when you’re paraphrasing or summarizing the ideas of another.
Introduce the Source
Introduce the source by giving your reader any information that would be useful to know: Who said it? Where did this idea come from? When was it said? Here are some examples of how to introduce a source:
- In her essay, “The Crummy First Draft,” Lekkerkerk (2014) argues that…
- Michandra Claire Jones (2015), celebrated poet and author, wrote that…
- In the textbook, Information Literacy, Mossler (2015) states…
After introducing the quote, be sure that you use a signal verb to indicate that the source’s words are next. In the third example above, you can see that "states" has been used to signal the source’s words. Other signal verbs include:
Cite the Source
When citing outside sources, you are required to include: the author(s)' last name(s); the date of publication; and, for direct quotations, the page number on which the quoted passage appears. If there is no page number, use the paragraph number to indicate the location of the quotation.
Precisely how do you insert this required information into your writing? You have two options. The first is to include the full or last name(s) of the author(s) directly in a sentence, and the year of publication in parentheses just following the name(s). If directly quoting, include at the end of your sentence the page number where the quotation can be found. Here are some examples:
- Johansson (2009) says he believes that scholars...OR
- Norman Johansson (2009) says, “Scholars should pursue PhDs” (p. 167).
Your second option is to include all of the required information in parenthesis at the end of the sentence. Here are some examples:
- Research suggests that graphic warnings on cigarette packages promote smoking cessation (Smith, 2015).OR
- According to one research study, “In the year following the introduction of graphic warnings…” (Smith, 2015, p. 16).OR
- Marcus explains that smoking can be deterred by “carefully placed warnings with disturbing imagery included” (Tomlinson, 2008, p. 16).
Notice in the above examples that quotation marks always have a beginning and end, occurring immediately before the first word of the quotation and immediately after the last word. Periods are always placed after the end-of-sentence parentheses, as in (p. 132).
After introducing and citing the passage, you will need to explain the significance: How might this author’s idea relate to my thesis? How does this data add to what I am trying to prove in this paragraph? Why am I putting this quotation in my paper? What am I trying to show here? Never leave any room for interpretation. It is your responsibility as the writer to interpret the information for your reader and identify its significance. Remember, a quote does not speak for itself or prove anything on its own. That is your job!
Here is an example of an explanation that would be appropriate to accompany the Mack quotation above: Judge Mack viewed juveniles as children first. He envisioned a system that would protect and give treatment to these young offenders so that they could become productive adults, and saw no place for criminal responsibility and punishment within this system.
Now, here is an example of the ICE method at work in a paragraph:
In the beginning stages of the juvenile justice system, it operated in accordance to a paternalistic philosophy. This can be understood through the published words of Judge Julian Mack, who had a hand in the establishment of the juvenile justice system. In 1909, he stated that this system should treat juveniles “as a wise and merciful father handles his own child” (as cited in Scott & Steinberg, 2008, p.16). Judge Mack viewed juveniles as children first. He envisioned a system that would protect and give treatment to these young offenders so that they could become productive adults, and saw no place for criminal responsibility and punishment within this system.
Five Tips for Effective Quoting
While quoting from reliable sources is an important part of writing a research-based paper, some students can become too reliant on quotes to do the work for them, over-running their papers with other peoples’ words. The purpose of quoting is to include an expert’s voice that is unique and different from your own in order to support your ideas.
Here are five key tips for effectively incorporating quotes into your writing:
- Make Quotes Count. You should quote sparingly, so make sure the quotes you include are impactful and approach the subject in a way that you might not. Part of quoting is “capturing” someone else’s voice and unique expression of an idea. If you could summarize the information and lose none of its meaning, then do that. But if you feel like the expert says it best, then quote the expert.
- Copy Quotes Correctly. It is important to be accurate when you are quoting – the whole point of quoting is to exactly represent another person’s words. Be careful to copy the quote correctly, and if you need to change anything, do so by indicating that you are changing something. If you need to insert a word, for instance, use brackets, like this: “In this quote [the author] states that people always rise to the occasion.” If you need to delete a word or phrase, use ellipses to represent this deletion, like this: “In this quote…people always rise to the occasion.”
- Your Words First. Because you are writing the paper, your words should begin and end it – this goes for the paragraphs as well as the whole paper. Avoid beginning paragraphs with a quote – start with your idea and create a topic sentence. Additionally, avoid ending paragraphs with a quote – you may analyze a quote prior to the end of the sentence, and conclude that its meaning informs your point. Use your words first – quotes should be working for you, not the other way around.
- Keep Quotes Short. Quoting sources should not be a tactic to fill space on the page. Not only should your paper be written in your own words, but the amount of space given to others’ words should be brief. As a general rule of thumb, no more than 15% of your entire paper should be quoted material. Achieve this general goal by using only a few quotes, and keeping those few quotes as brief as 1–2 sentences.
- “Block” Long Quotes. When your paper necessitates it, you may use a longer quote. In this case, “longer” quotes consist of four or more lines, or approximately 40+ words. When you have a quote of this length, you format it differently in your paper than just incorporating it into the normal sentence structure. Long quotes must be made into “blocks” – a visual indicator that this is a long quote. In order to create this block, indent all the lines twice, but keep the double-spacing.
Here’s an example of creating a block quotation:
Sometimes peoples’ viewpoints can be surprising. According to Robert Coles in his 1989 book, The Call of Stories,
On the way home Daddy became an amateur philosopher; he said God chooses some people to be rich, and that’s how it is, and you have to settle for your luck, and ours isn’t all that good, so that’s too bad, but if you just smile and keep going, then you’ll be fine; it’s when you eat your heart out that you can get in trouble. (41)
NOTE: When you create a block quotation, you do two things differently than if you’re incorporating shorter quotes into your sentence regularly.
- First, you do not encase the quote in quotation marks – the indentation replaces the quotation marks.
- Second, you punctuate the quoted material with a period before the parenthetical citation – with no ending punctuation after the parentheses.
- leaves us with
- points to
- tells us
- wants to
- I: Introduce speaker and why he is an authority on this topic.
- C: Quote material along with citation.
- E: Explain who this quote is coming from as well as his relationship or authority on the topic.
How much should I quote?
The focus of your essay should be on your understanding of the topic. If you include too much quotation in your essay, you will crowd out your own ideas. Consider quoting a passage from one of your sources if any of the following conditions holds:
- The language of the passage is particularly elegant or powerful or memorable.
- You wish to confirm the credibility of your argument by enlisting the support of an authority on your topic.
- The passage is worthy of further analysis.
- You wish to argue with someone else’s position in considerable detail.
Condition 3 is especially useful in essays for literature courses.
If an argument or a factual account from one of your sources is particularly relevant to your paper but does not deserve to be quoted verbatim, consider
- paraphrasing the passage if you wish to convey the points in the passage at roughly the same level of detail as in the original
- summarizing the relevant passage if you wish to sketch only the most essential points in the passage
Note that most scientific writing relies on summary rather than quotation. The same is true of writing in those social sciences—such as experimental psychology—that rely on controlled studies and emphasize quantifiable results. (Almost all of the examples in this handout follow the MLA system of citation, which is widely used in the humanities and in those social sciences with a less quantitative approach.)
Visit our handout on paraphrase and summary.
Why is it important to identify my sources?
Quotations come from somewhere, and your reader will want to know where. Don’t just parachute quotations into your essay without providing at least some indication of who your source is. Letting your reader know exactly which authorities you rely on is an advantage: it shows that you have done your research and that you are well acquainted with the literature on your topic.
In the following passage, the parenthetical reference to the author does not adequately identify the source:
The ancient Greeks never saw a need to justify wars that were waged outside the walls of the city state. “Hence we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war, together with the first notion that there are just and unjust wars” (Arendt 12). Yet the Roman conception of a just war differs sharply from more modern conceptions.
When you are making decisions about how to integrate quotations into your essay, you might imagine that you are reading the essay out loud to an audience. You would not read the parenthetical note. Without some sort of introduction, your audience would not even know that the statement about Roman antiquity was a quotation, let alone where the quotation came from.
How do I introduce a short quotation?
The following offers just one way of introducing the above quotation:
The ancient Greeks never saw a need to justify wars that were waged outside the walls of the city state. As Hannah Arendt points out in On Revolution, “we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war, together with the first notion that there are just and unjust wars” (12). Yet the Roman conception of a just war differs sharply from more modern conceptions.
Since the quotation is relatively short, the brief introduction works.
You could, however, strengthen your analysis by demonstrating the significance of the passage within your own argument. Introducing your quotation with a full sentence would help you assert greater control over the material:
The ancient Greeks never saw a need to justify wars that were waged outside the walls of the city state. In On Revolution, Hannah Arendt points to the role the Romans played in laying the foundation for later thinking about the ethics of waging war: “we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war, together with the first notion that there are just and unjust wars” (12). Yet the Roman conception of a just war differs sharply from more modern conceptions.
In these two examples, observe the forms of punctuation used to introduce the quotations. When you introduce a quotation with a full sentence, you should always place a colon at the end of the introductory sentence. When you introduce a quotation with an incomplete sentence, you usually place a comma after the introductory phrase. However, it has become grammatically acceptable to use a colon rather than a comma:
Arendt writes: “we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war . . .”
If you are blending the quotation into your own sentence using the conjuction that, do not use any punctuation at all:
Arendt writes that “we must turn to Roman antiquity to find the first justification of war . . .”
If you are not sure whether to punctuate your introduction to a quotation, mentally remove the quotation marks, and ask yourself whether any punctuation is still required.
Finally, note that you can deviate from the common pattern of introduction followed by quotation. Weaving the phrases of others into your own prose offers a stylistically compelling way of maintaining control over your source material. Moreover, the technique of weaving can help you to produce a tighter argument. The following condenses twelve lines from Arendt’s essay to fewer than two:
What Arendt refers to as the “well-known realities of power politics” began to lose their moral legitimacy when the First World War unleashed “the horribly destructive” forces of warfare “under conditions of modern technology” (13).
What verbs and phrases can I use to introduce my quotations?
Familiarize yourself with the various verbs commonly used to introduce quotations. Here is a partial list:
argues writes points out concludes comments notes maintains suggests insists observes counters asserts states claims demonstrates says explains reveals
Each verb has its own nuance. Make sure that the nuance matches your specific aims in introducing the quotation.
There are other ways to begin quotations. Here are three common phrasings:
In the words of X, . . .
According to X, . . .
In X‘s view, . . .
Vary the way you introduce quotations to avoid sounding monotonous. But never sacrifice precision of phrasing for the sake of variety.
Visit the U of T Writing Website’s page on verbs for referring to sources.
How do I introduce a long quotation?
If your quotation is lengthy, you should almost always introduce it with a full sentence that helps capture how it fits into your argument. If your quotation is longer than four lines, do not place it in quotation marks. Instead, set it off as a block quotation:
Although Dickens never shied away from the political controversies of his time, he never, in Orwell’s view, identified himself with any political program:
The truth is that Dickens’ criticism of society is almost exclusively moral. Hence his lack of any constructive suggestion anywhere in his work. He attacks the law, parliamentary government, the educational system and so forth, without ever clearly suggesting what he would put in their places. Of course it is not necessarily the business of a novelist, or a satirist, to make constructive suggestions, but the point is that Dickens’ attitude is at bottom not even destructive. . . . For in reality his target is not so much society as human nature. (416)
The full-sentence introduction to a block quotation helps demonstrate your grasp of the source material, and it adds analytical depth to your essay. But the introduction alone is not enough. Long quotations almost invariably need to be followed by extended analysis. Never allow the quotation to do your work for you. Usually you will want to keep the quotation and your analysis together in the same paragraph. Hence it is a good idea to avoid ending a paragraph with a quotation. But if your analysis is lengthy, you may want to break it into several paragraphs, beginning afresh after the quotation.
Once in a while you can reverse the pattern of quotation followed by analysis. A felicitously worded or an authoritative quotation can, on occasion, nicely clinch an argument.
There is some flexibility in the rule that block quotations are for passages of four lines or more: a shorter passage can be represented as a block quotation if it is important enough to stand on its own. For example, when you are quoting two or more lines of poetry, you will probably want to display the verse as it appears on the page:
In the opening heroic couplet of The Rape of the Lock, Pope establishes the unheroic nature of the poem’s subject matter:
What dire offense from amorous causes springs,
What mighty contests rise from trivial things. (1-2)
If you choose to integrate verse into your own sentence, then use a slash surrounded by spaces to indicate line breaks:
In Eliot’s The Waste Land, the symbols of a mythic past lie buried in “A heap of broken images, where the sun beats, / And the dead tree gives no shelter, the cricket no relief” (22-23).
How do I let my reader know I’ve altered my sources?
If you need to alter your quotations in any way, be sure to indicate just how you have done so. If you remove text, then replace the missing text with an ellipsis—three periods surrounded by spaces:
In The Mirror and the Lamp, Abrams comments that the “diversity of aesthetic theories . . . makes the task of the historian a very difficult one” (5).
If the omitted text occurs between sentences, then put a space after the period at the end of sentence, and follow that by an ellipsis. In all, there will be four periods. (See Orwell on Dickens, above.)
Many people overuse ellipses at the beginning and end of quotations. Use an ellipsis in either place only when your reader might otherwise mistake an incomplete sentence for a complete one:
Abraham Lincoln begins “The Gettysburg Address” with a reminder of the act upon which the United States was founded: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation . . .” (1).
Do not use an ellipsis if you are merely borrowing a phrase from the original:
In “The Gettysburg Address” Abraham Lincoln reminds his listeners of the principles that had inspired the creation of “a new nation” (1).
If you need to alter or replace text from the original, enclose the added text within square brackets. You may, for example, need to alter text to ensure that pronouns agree with their antecedents. Do not write,
Gertrude asks her son Hamlet to “cast your nighted colour off” (1.2.68).
Square brackets allow you to absorb Gertrude’s words into your own statement:
Gertrude asks her son Hamlet to “cast [his] nighted colour off” (1.2.68).
Alternatively, you can include Gertrude’s original phrasing in its entirety as long as the introduction to the quotation is not fully integrated with the quotation. The introduction can be an independent clause:
Gertrude implores her son Hamlet to stop mourning the death of his father: “cast your nighted colour off” (I.ii.68).
Or it can be an incomplete sentence:
Gertrude implores her son Hamlet, “cast your nighted colour off” (1.2.68).
How is punctuation affected by quotation?
You must preserve the punctuation of a quoted passage, or else you must enclose in square brackets any punctuation marks that are your own.
There is, however, one important exception to this rule. You are free to alter the punctuation just before a closing quotation mark. You may need to do so to ensure that your sentences are fully grammatical. Do not worry about how the original sentence needs to be punctuated before that quotation mark; think about how your sentence needs to be punctuated. Note, for example, that if you are using the MLA system of referencing, a sentence always ends after the parenthetical reference. Do not also include a period before closing the quotation mark, even if there is a period there in the original. For example, do not write,
According to Schama, Louis XVI remained calm during his trial: “The Terror had no power to frighten an old man of seventy-two.” (822).
The period before the closing quotation mark must go:
According to Schama, Louis XVI remained calm during his trial: “The Terror had no power to frighten an old man of seventy-two” (822).
However, if you are using footnotes, the period remains inside the quotation mark, while the footnote number goes outside:
According to Schama, Louis XVI remained calm during his trial: “The Terror had no power to frighten an old man of seventy-two.”1
In Canada and the United States, commas and periods never go outside a quotation mark. They are always absorbed as part of the quotation, whether they belong to you or to the author you are quoting:
“I am a man / more sinned against than sinning,” Lear pronounces in Act 3, Scene 2 (59-60).
However, stronger forms of punctuation such as question marks and exclamation marks go inside the quotation if they belong to the author, and outside if they do not:
Bewildered, Lear asks the fool, “Who is it that can tell me who I am?” (1.4.227).
Why is Lear so rash as to let his “two daughters’ dowers digest the third” (1.1.127)?
Finally, use single quotation marks for all quotations within quotations:
When Elizabeth reveals that her younger sister has eloped, Darcy drops his customary reserve: “‘I am grieved, indeed,’ cried Darcy, ‘grieved—shocked'” (Austen 295).