How to Use Quotes in Essays: A Complete Guide

Essays have become the standard way that college and university instructors gauge their students’ understanding of course topics and the ability to synthesize information to develop strong and compelling arguments. But an essay isn’t simply an unbroken flow of the student’s own words.

Instead, essays are arguments created from the student’s analysis of outside facts and information.

Some of that information will be presented in the form of quotations from sources, to show how other people have spoken about the topic and to present essential information in the original language. But not every student knows the right way to use quotes to develop an essay.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the best practices for deploying quotations safely and effectively in your essay.

Tips and Tricks of Using Quotes in Essays

First, it’s important to know the difference between the three different ways to work with material from outside sources in your paper. What, exactly, is a quotation? A quotation is the direct words of your source, which you then repeat in your own paper with credit. It differs from the two other ways to use material, the paraphrase and the summary.

A paraphrase repeats the same information as your source but uses completely different words to do so. A summary is similar to a paraphrase in that it is written in your own words, but it is shorter and provides only a highlight of the essential point.

One big thing to watch out for when paraphrasing or summarizing is to avoid using too much of the original language or syntax of the original. That can be considered plagiarism, even with a citation. When you use a quotation in your essay, there are two ways to present a quotation.

The first is to place a quotation in “quotation marks.” These marks (“double” for U.S. writers, ‘single’ for U.K. writers) show which words are yours and which belong to your sources. This is the most common way to present a quotation and is appropriate for shorter quotations, typically forty words or less, though the exact length will depend on the style guide you are following.

The second way to present a quotation is as a block quote. This is for longer quotations of forty words or more. These stretches of text are presented as their own paragraphs, with each line indented a full half inch from the left margin to indicate these are not your own words.

In both cases, citations are required. That brings us to the next issue: how to cite quotations appropriately. As you might imagine, in an essay, you always need to cite your sources. Quotations are no different.

Every quotation requires an in-text citation or a footnote to document the source where you took the quotation. How you cite quotes will depend on the style guide you follow, so be sure to consult your style guide or your instructor before turning in your essay to make sure you have the right citation format.

However, the technical details of quoting are secondary to a more fundamental issue: When and how should you quote? Quotations should be used to bring in key information and opinions from sources, particularly when they are said so well there is no other way to express them.

You should avoid using quotations to report facts and information that you could summarize yourself, or which are expressed straightforwardly in a way that does not require us to hear the exact words of your source to understand or appreciate what was said.

Moderations Is A Key

The other major issue is knowing how much to quote. Generally speaking, your essay should be primarily in your own words.

Most style guides suggest that quotations should make up only around 10-15% of your overall paper, and that is a good rule of thumb to keep in mind as you write. If you use too many quotations, your paper is no longer your work, and you can risk losing credit, even if you cite all of your sources correctly.

Remember, your essay is your work and your readers will want to hear your ideas and opinions. If they wanted to read someone else’s, they’d be reading your sources. So, before using any quote ask yourself

  • Do you want to use this quote just to add to the word-count? Then, it is better not to use it.
  • Is this quote very widespread? If it sounds obvious, it doesn’t make your essay any better.
  • Does this quote strengthen your thesis statement? Make sure that chosen quotes support the main idea of your essay.
  • Did you spend less than 5 minutes to come up with this quote? If you have saved it for long just for this occasion, it is fine. But if it is the first quote in a Google search related to an essay topic, it is better to look for more elaborate options.

How to deal with essays in a hurry?

Correct usage of quotes is an important part of essay writing, but it is possible only when you have enough time for it. When you are overwhelmed with assignments, and the deadline is scarily close, you can concentrate neither on content nor on making your papers more meaningful with appropriate quotes.

Not to compromise on quality, you may choose to delegate some of your writing assignments to professional writers. Also, if you’re still not sure how to use quotes the right way in your essay, don’t leave it to chance.

professional essay service like SmartWritingService can help you with your writing. A company like this one has legit academic writers who can produce fast and reliable custom essays for students just like you. When you order professional writing services online, you’ll have the help of experts who understand your subject with a depth and detail that can’t be matched.

They are thoroughly familiar with the work that needs to be done, the research sources that will best meet your needs, and the right way to deploy quotations to support the essay at every step of the writing process.  


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