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Using Quotations Critically


Using references in a paper is a good way to build support for your argument; however, quotations are most valuable when used properly. Follow these tips to get the most out of your cited material. 

When to Quote a Reference

To Support Your Evidence on a Claim:

You will make certain claims to prove your argument, and using references will support the evidence you present for those claims. Quotes should not be used as claims themselves, but should reinforce what you are saying. 

When Something is Well-Written and Succinct: 

This type of quote might beautifully summarize your own argument, but it should never be used as a substitute for what you want to say. Always explain your own argument in your own words. 

To Address Specific Criticism:

Sometimes it is necessary to identify evidence and other opinions against your own claims. Using references can make these criticisms easier to identify and address. 

How to Quote a Reference

Prepare the Way!

When using a quote, it often helps to introduce the work you are referencing. This introduction might include the name of the author, the name of the work, or the subject of the reference. 

Don't Leave it Hanging!

After using a quote, explain in your own words the most important reference from the quote: what do you want your reader to understand from that quote? Work the quote back into your argument. Avoid using a quote to end a paragraph.

Don't Let it Speak for Itself!

Be critical in your use of a quote. A reference doesn't have to be aligned with your argument. Address the possible differences/criticisms. Why do you agree or disagree? Explaining and supporting why you disagree with a possible criticism may strengthen your own argument. 

Alternative Option: Paraphrasing

When something you wish to reference is long or wordy, you might be able to summarize the main points of the reference in your own words. It is important to keep the integrity of the reference by not mixing your own thoughts with the reference and to cite the reference appropriately. After the paraphrase, you should work critically with the material as you would with a quote.

Whether quoting or paraphrasing, ALWAYS include a citation when drawing on someone else's words or ideas!!!