by Timothy McAdoo
A good quote can make your paper more interesting, lend credence to your arguments, and add variety to the tone and style of your paper.
But before you simply copy and paste, consider these four key points:
1. Be purposeful.
In researching your topic, you’ll read and absorb much more information than you could ever hope to restate verbatim in your paper. Most of this you’ll paraphrase (and cite accordingly!) or combine to form original ideas. But sometimes you’ll want to quote an original source.
Why quote rather than paraphrase an idea? A direct quote can be much more powerful. Maybe the original author is preeminent in the field, thus his or her quote lends instant gravitas to your argument. Maybe he or she coined a phrase that’s now ubiquitous in the research, and you’re quoting the earliest original use. Or maybe the original author just captured an idea so clearly and succinctly that you want to share the exact wording with your readers. Consider the impact you want the quote to have on your reader.
2. Be precise.
Once you’ve included the quotation, check and recheck the source material against what you’ve keyed in your paper. It’s easy to drop a word, insert a typo, or omit punctuation. We all know that one misplaced comma can make a world of difference (just ask that panda who eats, shoots and leaves)!
Also, be sure the author’s intent is not misrepresented. A sentence removed from the original context can sometimes be misunderstood. Read your quote with an objective eye and decide whether (a) more context is needed or (b) paraphrasing might be called for.
3. Cite your source.
Proper citation is essential. Always cite the author, date, and page or page range for direct quotes. For online sources where page numbers are not applicable, use paragraph numbers if they are visible or cite the heading and the number of the paragraph following that heading so your reader can find the quote in context.
4. Use the proper format.
Formatting the quotation is more than just an arbitrary means of ensuring consistency. It serves as a flag to the readers, telling them that something about the quote is significant or that you’ve altered or omitted some of the text. APA’s formatting recommendations are meant to provide a means of easily indicating how and why you’ve made alterations to a quote.
The quotation needs to be true to the original, but you also want it to work for you, to support your argument.
Let’s look at an example:
|Smith (2009) also dabbles in hyperbole, saying, “Random Explosions 2: Revenge of the Dialogue is the worst movie in the history of time [emphasis added]. . . . it’s [sic] promise of dialogue is a misnomer of explosive proportions” (p. 13).
As you can see, even though I’ve made three separate formatting notations (added emphasis, ellipses points to indicate omitted text, and “sic” to indicate the typo), the original quote remains clear. With this formatting I've also clarified what aspect of the quotation I want the reader to focus on.
Finally, quotes of 40 or more words should be in block form, sans quotation marks.
I’ve simply touched on the APA formatting possibilities here. The APA Publication Manual includes detailed instructions on pp. 170–174. What are your thoughts on APA’s quotation guidelines?