How Do You Write An Essay About A Quote

For years your teachers have told you that if you borrow someone else’s exact words, you need to put quotations marks around those words. They also told you that you need to use quotations (as well as paraphrases and summaries) to support your research essay.

That’s all well and good. And it doesn’t seem too terribly hard to put quotation marks around a sentence or two and paste the quote into your paper, but it actually takes some skill to effectively use quotations.

But that’s why you’re here, right? To learn how to put a quote in your essay like a pro.

If you’re looking for a few useful tips, here’s what you should and shouldn’t do when quoting.

Don’t Quote Just for the Sake of Quoting

We all know you should use at least a few quotes to support your research essay, but you shouldn’t just throw them in because a research paper needs quotes.

Don’t pick a few random quotes from one of those quote websites (you know which sites I’m talking about).

Those random quotes from famous people—such as, “People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do,” by Isaac Asimov—sound cool, but unless you use them in the perfect context, they’re just filler. They aren’t credible research sources.

FYI: Even though beginning your introduction with a quotation can be an excellent strategy, random celebrity quotes aren’t the best choice for the opening lines of your paper.

Don’t pick random sentences from your sources, either. It can be tempting to quickly paste them in your paper and hope they (sort of) make sense.

Sure, there are times when you’ll get lucky and the quotes will pretty much work, but most times, they’ll be awkward quotes that don’t support your arguments.

How to Put a Quote in Your Essay Like a Pro

Now that you know what you absolutely should not do when quoting, you need to know what you should do. Ready to learn how to put a quote in your essay like a pro? Here are four tips to help you move from amateur to pro status.

Tip #1: Choose quotes wisely

Sure, it’s a heck of a lot quicker to pull any random quote and put it in your paper, but that doesn’t mean that you’ve chosen wisely. Quotes should support your arguments, so you need to find information from sources that actually do that.

Let’s look at an example. Say you’re writing an argument essay and are arguing that teens develop eating disorders because of societal and peer pressure.

To support this argument, you use the following quote: “10-15% of all Americans suffer from some type of serious eating disorder” (www.mirasol.net).

There are two reasons this quote doesn’t work.

Reason #1: The source isn’t the best choice for an academic research paper. This quote is taken from an eating disorder recovery center’s website. I’m not saying that the source isn’t accurate or credible. This may be a very well-respected and reputable center.

What I am saying is that this source isn’t the best choice for a research paper. When writing a research paper, you should use scholarly resources and look for quotes and statistics from research studies (rather than random websites).

Read 5 Best Resources to Help With Writing a Research Paper to learn more about selecting appropriate resources.

Reason #2: The quote doesn’t actually provide evidence to support the argument. In this example, the argument is that teens develop eating disorders due to societal and peer pressure. Thus, the quote should provide evidence of that.

Using a statistic to illustrate how many people suffer from eating disorders might be appropriate for general background information, but it doesn’t help explain why teens develop eating disorders.

Tip #2: Use signal phrases

One strategy you might consider when adding quotes in your paper is to use signal phrases. Signal phrases let readers know to expect a quote. They introduce the quote and provide context.

Think of them like traffic signals. Traffic lights signal drivers to stop, go, or slow down. They keep traffic moving.

Signal phrases in writing do the same thing. They tell readers to slow down and pay attention to the information that is to follow and keep the writing cohesive.

Here’s an example from a paper about distracted driving to help clarify. This writer uses “according to” as the signal phrase to introduce the quote:

Texting messaging has been around for dozen of years, but there was never a point where it was considered to physically provide harm to someone. However, as of today it has exceeded to a point where it is considered to be more dangerous than drinking and driving. According to the Department of Transportation, “approximately 3,092 people were killed in an additional 416,000 were injured due to distracted drivers in the year of 2010 alone” (Copeland, 2012).

In this example, the signal phrase lets readers know to expect a quote and provides context by stating that the information is taken from the Department of Transportation.

Tip #3: Seamlessly integrate quotes

Another strategy you might consider when adding quotes in your paper is to seamlessly integrate them in the middle of a sentence, much like you would a paraphrase.

In this case, the quote isn’t introduced by a signal phrase but is part of the sentence. Here’s an example from a paper about mandatory physical education in schools:

If a child spends at least five hours at school most of the week, isn’t P.E. the perfect time for students to get time for physical activity? However, when P.E. is given as an optional course or elective and not a required class, most students choose not to do it to avoid physical activity. Very few people know that “only six states—Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Illinois and Iowa—adhere to standards from the National Association of Sports and Physical Education that schoolchildren participate in 150 minutes a week of physical education. And just three states Delaware, Virginia and Nebraska have 20 minutes of mandatory elementary-school recess a day” (TIME.com).

In this example, the writer uses the phrase “very few people know that” to begin the sentence. The quote simply becomes part of the writer’s sentence.

Tip #4: Cite appropriately

Whenever you use information from a source, you need to cite it appropriately in order to avoid plagiarism.

In other words, all paraphrases, summaries, and quotes from your research need both an in-text citation and a Works Cited (if you’re citing in MLA format) or a References page (if you’re citing in APA format).

Remember, in-text citations have different requirements depending on citation style, so make sure you’re using the correct format.

Here are two quick examples:

MLA citation: In-text citations should contain the author’s last name and page number where quote or information appears. Example: (Smith 450).

APA citation: In-text citations should contain the author’s last name and year of publication, with a comma between the two, and page number if a direct quote. Example: (Smith, 2016, p. 450). Not a direct quote? Use (Smith, 2016).

If you need a little more help with citation styles, check out these resources:

Pro Status

Now that you’ve mastered how to put a quote in your essay, you’re officially a pro. Keep in mind, though, that being a professional takes lots of hard work and practice, so here’s another resource to help keep your skills sharp: how to punctuate quotes correctly.

I’ll leave you with an inspirational quote from one of those quote websites I mentioned earlier:

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” —Benjamin Franklin

You’ve already taken the first step in preparing by reading about and (hopefully) practicing how to put a quote in your essay.

Now, take the next step: send your paper to a Kibin editor to make sure your paper makes the grade.

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

LEO: Literacy Education Online

Writing a Reaction or Response Essay


Reaction or response papers are usually requested by teachers so that you'll consider carefully what you think or feel about something you've read. The following guidelines are intended to be used for reacting to a reading although they could easily be used for reactions to films too. Read whatever you've been asked to respond to, and while reading, think about the following questions.

  • How do you feel about what you are reading?
  • What do you agree or disagree with?
  • Can you identify with the situation?
  • What would be the best way to evaluate the story?

Keeping your responses to these questions in mind, follow the following prewriting steps.


Prewriting for Your Reaction Paper

The following statements could be used in a reaction/response paper. Complete as many statements as possible, from the list below, about what you just read.

My Reaction to What I Just Read Is That . . .

I think that

I see that

I feel that

It seems that

In my opinion,

Because

A good quote is

In addition,

For example,

Moreover,

However,

Consequently,

Finally,

In conclusion,

What you've done in completing these statements is written a very rough reaction/response paper. Now it needs to be organized. Move ahead to the next section.


Organizing Your Reaction Paper

A reaction/response paper has an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.
  • The introduction should contain all the basic information in one or two paragraphs.

    Sentence 1:This sentence should give the title, author, and publication you read.

    Sentence 2, 3, and sometimes 4:

    These sentences give a brief summary of what you read (nutshell)
    Sentence 5:This sentence is your thesis statement. You agree, disagree, identify, or evaluate.


  • Your introduction should include a concise, one sentence, focused thesis. This is the focused statement of your reaction/response. More information on thesis statements is available.
  • The body should contain paragraphs that provide support for your thesis. Each paragraph should contain one idea. Topic sentences should support the thesis, and the final sentence of each paragraph should lead into the next paragraph.

    Topic Sentence
    detail -- example --quotation --detail -- example -- quotation -- detail -- example -- quotation -- detail -- example --quotation
    Summary Sentence


    You can structure your paragraphs in two ways:

    OR

    Author
    in contrast to
    You

  • The conclusion can be a restatement of what you said in your paper. It also be a comment which focuses your overall reaction. Finally, it can be a prediction of the effects of what you're reacting to. Note: your conclusion should include no new information.

    More information on strategies for writing conclusions is available.


Summary

In summary, this handout has covered prewriting and organizing strategies for reaction/response papers.
  • Prewriting
    • Read the article and jot down ideas.
    • How do you feel about what was said?
    • Do you agree or disagree with the author?
    • Have you had any applicable experience?
    • Have you read or heard anything that applies to this what the writer said in the article or book?
    • Does the evidence in the article support the statements the writer made?
  • Organizing
    • Write the thesis statement first.
    • Decide on the key points that will focus your ideas. These will be your topic sentences.
    • Develop your ideas by adding examples, quotations, and details to your paragraphs.
    • Make sure the last sentence of each paragraph leads into the next paragraph.
    • Check your thesis and make sure the topic sentence of each paragraph supports it.

Return to the Write Place Catalogue

For questions and suggestions, please e-mail us at leolink@stcloudstate.edu.


© 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 The Write Place

This handout was written by Kathleen Cahill and revised for LEO by Judith Kilborn, the Write Place, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN, and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/reaction.html

Updated: 6 April 1999


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