When to Use a Quotation
Use a Quotation when…
- You want to demonstrate the credibility of your own ideas by showing how the experts concur with your ideas
- The idea is expressed particularly well by the author
- The language used by the author is powerful, memorable, or eloquent
- You wish to go into the ideas of the expert in more detail
Do not use a quotation for factual or statistical information.
- If it is unique or specialized information, you need to cite it.
- If it is information that is widely known in the area of study (common knowledge) no citation is needed. However, you may need to verify your information by checking a variety of sources.
- If you’re not sure whether the information is common knowledge or not, err on the side of caution and provide a citation.
Short quotations are integrated into the text, with a brief introduction. The introduction and quote can both be in the same sentence.
Example: Beiser points out that immigrants to Canada do not usually “form new political parties to promote their interests” (47).
You may choose to introduce a quote with a complete sentence first.
Example: Warlick suggests that today’s students use information differently than in the past. “Our children seem especially immune to and oblivious of the unprecedented changes happening around us. At the same time, they seem to exemplify the new way of viewing the world through information” (Warlick 9).
Provide a more detailed introduction for longer quotations. Presumably you have used the longer quote because of the complexity of the idea: you need to provide more information about how this quote aligns with your own argument.
Some educational commentators attempt to escape from the challenges, uncertainties, and stresses of today’s schools by retreating to the past, a past of endless “good ole days” that have been idealized, romanticized, and perfectly polished. Speaking from a broader perspective, Margaret MacMillan argues that it is this same kind of escapist mentality that accounts in part for the recent resurgence of interest in history:
History . . . can also be an escape from the present. When the world is complicated and changing rapidly, not necessarily for the better, it is no surprise that we look back to what we mistakenly think was a simpler and clearer world. Conservatives dream of small towns painted by Norman Rockwell, where children played innocently in their gardens with no grown-up predators to disturb them, where men and women were comfortable in their roles, and where the sun shone on day after day of happiness. Leftists hearken back to the glory days when the union movement was strong and the bosses were on the run.
(Margaret MacMillan, The Uses and Abuses of History, 16)
Useful words for introducing a quotation:
Learn more about citing your sources and formatting quotations in the Style Guides section of this website.
Find Out More
- University of Toronto Writing Lab: Using Quotations