- Basic in-text citation
- Quotes within your quotation
- Long Quotes
- Previously mentioned author
- Sources with more than one author
- Multiple sources by the same author
- Sources without an author
- Sources without pages
- Social Media
- A quote somebody else used
- Modifying quotes
WHY? As we’ve seen in our examples so far, using quotes, statistics, and various forms of evidence is an important part of writing. Not only does this lend ethos, clout, and support to your argument, but also most things we write about people have already written about and studied. We’re joining the conversation with our own perspective. It’s important to show we know a little something of what we’re talking about and that we’re building on that conversation.
HOW MUCH? When adding evidence to your writing it’s important to find the right balance. Too little and your argument can seem vague and unfounded. Too much and you lose control of your argument and your audience wonders why they’re reading your writing and not the writing you are quoting from. Remember, it’s still YOUR paper and you want to make sure to maintain YOUR voice and not be overpowered with your sources. Quotations and evidence should support your argument, not make it for you.
Think of it like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”:
Too hard: A paper overpowered with quotes and data is too hard — the argument and reasoning might be solid, but it won’t be that interesting or persuasive despite all that evidence and won’t effectively get your point across.
Too soft: A paper with too few quotes or not enough data will be too soft, vague, ineffective and can easily be torn apart.
Just Right: But a paper with just the right mix of quotes and evidence, of ethos, pathos, and logos, will be juuuust right. There’s no set rule on how many quotes you can have in a paragraph – and it will vary depending on your subject and the type of writing you are doing – but in most high school papers, about 2-3 quotes per paragraph should do it.
WHAT to use and what not to use:
Obviously you want the best support for your argument and should keep this in mind when choosing quotes and statistics, but what will best support your argument isn’t always clear to young writers. Think about what has the best logic and the most pop. As you are reading, annotate and keep note of stuff that sounds really smart, then when you go to do your own writing, choose from that list so you aren’t overwhelmed by all of your resources. Choose quotes and data that is succinct over stuff that’s wordy. Choose quotes and data that are interesting and insightful over stuff that most people know or accept already. Choose quotes and data that represent ideas that aren’t yours and that really need attribution. Let’s play a round of good quote, bad quote.
Quote Selection and Integration
Just like an unwanted glitter bomb or water balloon from a friend who’s not quite as funny as he thinks he is, you don’t want to just plop in quotes unexpectedly then run away.
“But all these quotes will make my paper so pretty!”
“Too much, Darnell, TOO. MUCH!!!”
Always set up your quotes with a topic sentence or claim and lead your audience into what you want them to glean from the quote. Then analyze – don’t just restate – the quote and tie it back to your topic sentence or claim. #warrant
Check out this example:
Most people have heard about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, that huge collection of plastic debris the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean, but it seems a lot of people write it off as being from the days before recycling was popular. The fact is, however, that plastic production and waste continues to grow exponentially “Virtually half of the plastic ever manufactured has been made in the past 15 years” (Parker 59). Just think about how long a plastic shopping bag is used for or how much plastic packaging was lying around your living room last Christmas morning. It’s everywhere! Yes, most American communities have recycling programs, but not everyone follows them and America only accounts for 4.29% of the world’s population (Migiro). This problem is growing fast.
|Notice I saved my quote and statistic for facts that really need backing up so it doesn’t look like I’m just pulling things out of my derriere, but I didn’t put excessive quotes about the Garbage Patch or recycling programs because that would be just TOO. MUCH!|
Let’s try that again. The previous example was a pretty simple summary of the issue but what information you include and how you include it can get more complicated as you add more detail. Your job is to select the quotes from your source that best support your point, not the whole thing.
How do I choose what to quote and integrate into my own writing? Start by thinking about what point you want your paragraph to make. That we should use less plastics in packaging? That other countries should step up their recycling game? That we should classify plastic as a hazardous material? That we should boycott Coke bottles?
Then once you have your focus, think about which part or parts go best with purpose. For example, let say you focus on the idea that other countries need better waste management. Take a look at another section of the National Geographic article that was quoted in the previous example. Highlight or underline what best goes with your new focus.
from “Plastic: We Made It. We Depend on It. We’re Drowning in It” by Laura Parker:
Six decades later, roughly 40 percent of the now more than 448 million tons of plastic produced every year is disposable, much of it used as packaging intended to be discarded within minutes after purchase. Production has grown at such a breakneck pace that virtually half the plastic ever manufactured has been made in the past 15 years. Last year the Coca-Cola Company, perhaps the world’s largest producer of plastic bottles, acknowledged for the first time just how many it makes: 128 billion a year. Nestlé, PepsiCo, and others also churn out torrents of bottles.
The growth of plastic production has far outstripped the ability of waste management to keep up: That’s why the oceans are under assault. “It’s not surprising that we broke the system,” Jambeck says. “That kind of increase would break any system not prepared for it.” In 2013 a group of scientists issued a new assessment of throwaway living. Writing in Nature magazine, they declared that disposable plastic should be classified, not as a housewife’s friend, but as a hazardous material.
In recent years the surge in production has been driven largely by the expanded use of disposable plastic packaging in the growing economies of Asia—where garbage collection systems may be underdeveloped or nonexistent. In 2010, according to an estimate by Jambeck, half the world’s mismanaged plastic waste was generated by just five Asian countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.
“Let’s say you recycle 100 percent in all of North America and Europe,” says Ramani Narayan, a chemical engineering professor at Michigan State University who also works in his native India. “You still would not make a dent on the plastics released into the oceans. If you want to do something about this, you have to go there, to these countries, and deal with the mismanaged waste.”
OK, but those underlined parts are still pretty big. If you really, really, need all of it you can use a block quote like we just did (start quotes over four lines on a fresh line with an additional ½” margin and no quotation marks). You can summarize or paraphrase parts. Or, you can use an ellipsis (three periods separated by a space) to eliminate parts that are too long, confusing, or less relevant to your argument.
So you might say:
Asia has driven most of the mismanaged plastic waste in recent years as their consumption has far outstripped their underdeveloped or nonexistent garbage collection. “’Let’s say you recycle 100 percent in all of North America and Europe,’ says Ramani Narayan, a chemical engineering professor at Michigan State University who also works in his native India. ‘You still would not make a dent on the plastics released into the oceans’” (Parker 59).
Or to use an ellipsis:
“In recent years the surge in production has been driven largely by the expanded use of disposable plastic packaging in the growing economies of Asia—where garbage collection systems may be underdeveloped or nonexistent. [ . . . ] ‘Let’s say you recycle 100 percent in all of North America and Europe,’ says Ramani Narayan, a chemical engineering professor at Michigan State University [ . . . ] “You still would not make a dent on the plastics released into the oceans‘” (Parker 59).
Quote Integration, It’s Like Good Highlights
You’ve selected and trimmed your quotes, now let’s talk about how to work them into your writing smoothly without losing your natural voice. Good quote integration is like good highlights: it flows and works with your natural hair, highlighting its good qualities. Bad highlights? Well, not only do they look bad and chunky, but they make your hair frizzy and out of control and work against its natural strengths.
You really want to make sure you work in those quotes carefully – so get out your combs and gloves and let’s do it right! Good quote integration will make your paper lively and healthy and beautiful! Awkward quote integration can make your writing dull, drab, boring, and, well, awkwaaaaard!
Time for another round of good quote, bad quote:
In-Text Citations Technical Stuff:
Super Important Caveat!!!: While the following covers the vast majority of situations you will encounter, the types of sources we use is constantly changing and expanding. If you encounter a situation or source not addressed here, check Modern Languages Association (MLA) or Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab.
Basic in-text citation:
MLA in text citations (also known as parenthetical citations) are quite simple. In most situations all you have to do is put the author and page number in parentheses after the quote or paraphrase, like so:
If you have quotation marks within your quotation
(if you are quoting a story that has dialogue in it, for example) use single quotation marks.
If a quotation is more than four lines, omit the quotation marks, start on a new line, increase the left margin by 1/2” and cite at the end, like so:
Line breaks in poetry should be indicated by a slash, like so:
Often times citing a play is the same as citing anything else: author and page #
Buuuuuut, if you are quoting from a play listed with act, scene, and line, (as Shakespeare and classical drama usually is) cite with ACT (Roman numeral). scene (lowercase Roman numeral). lines:
|Note, you can often leave off Shakespeare in your in-text citations, (because, you know, he’s Shakespeare. Everyone knows Shakespeare) unless it’s not obvious, like quoting one of his more obscure plays or if you haven’t established you’re talking about Shakespeare.|
When citing from the Bible, include what version you are using in italics, then the book of the Bible (no italics) followed by chapter and verse. Like this
If you’ve already mentioned the author
and it’s clear from your writing, just put the page number.
If your source has more than one author,
just add an and.
If you are quoting from a source without pages,
like a website, all you need is the author’s last name (See previous example). If, however, your web source does have page numbers, like many PDFs out there, use the page numbers.
(see previous example)
If your source doesn’t list an author,
put the title in parenthesis (long titles can be shortened). Basically, whatever comes first in your works cited entry should be in the parentheses. This way your in-text citation directs the reader to the works cited entry simply and easily.
|Remember: Shorter works like articles, poems, short stories or songs get quotation marks, but longer works like books, plays, and films get italics.|
If you use more than one work by the same author,
add a shortened version of the title:
|Note, in this example we are assuming the author has been mentioned and is obvious. If the example had more works with different authors, keeping the last name could become necessary.|
If films get the title in parentheses, what about social media like YouTube or Twitter? Same concept – whatever comes first in your citation should be what goes in parenthesis. In social media like Twitter, that’d be the username. Remember this example?
Citing Indirect Sources:
Sometimes you’ll encounter a statement quoted in something else, now what? You can try to find the original source that the author got the quote from, or add “qtd in” to your citation like so:
Sometimes it’s best to change small things within a quote, such as changing verb tense or clarifying an ambiguous pronoun, or using an ellipsis to shorten things. If you change something within a quote, put square brackets around it. This is a way of signaling to the reader that you have changed these things for clarity and they weren’t part of the original quote.