Manage Sources and Quotations :

Researching Your Topic

Previous Page

Manage Sources and Quotations :

Whether you are working in an academic setting or a professional one, your readers will want to sense from the way you handle your sources that you have done responsible research. How you handle those sources depends in part on whether you are writing a piece of popular appeal (such as a magazine article) or a piece of academic interest (such as a term paper).

Informal Citations :

Writers of books, magazine articles or newspaper columns usually cite their sources informally. For example, the columnist William Raspberry might mention a government report he read recently and name the agency that published it, but he might not bother to give the date or location of the report. Another magazine author might cite statistics on the growth of legalized gambling revenues for the last five years but not give the source of that statistic. These authors assume their readers will accept their claims as sound ones.

Formal Citations :

In an academic paper, your instructor wants all the facts that are connected with your claims and part of your responsibility is to learn how to present those facts. You're obligated to leave a careful and accurate trail so that readers can follow the path of evidence you're presenting and verify that evidence if they wish. You also need to name your sources so readers can judge for themselves what interests those sources might represent. If you were citing the statistic about the increase in legalized gambling, you would need to present the information like this:

In an article in the Autumn 1999 issue of the Wilson Quarterly, Professor Jane Smith says that between 1994 and 1999 legalized gambling revenues in the United States nearly doubled, from $10 billion to about $20 billion annually.

Then you would give a full citation for the article in the Works Cited portion of your paper so the reader could easily find the article if he or she chose to.

When you attribute opinions or theories to an organization or movement, you need to specify the group that has expressed those opinions or theories. You might write,

The communitarian movement, as described by its founder Amitai Etzioni in his forthcoming book, The Golden Rule: Community and Morality in a Democratic Society, holds that there are four basic principles of social justice: equality, mutuality, stewardship and inclusion.

You would then include full information about Etzioni's book in your Works Cited page.

Direct Quotations :

Give the exact source of every direct quotation. You can do this with footnotes, endnotes or parenthetical notes within your paper, depending on the style your instructor specifies. Integrate quotations of three or four lines or less into the body of your paper, using terms of attribution such as asserts, claims, argues, writes and so on and enclosing the integrated quotations in quotation marks.

Indent longer quotations and type them without quotation marks.

For example:

In Great Books, David Denby says,

Accepting death in battle as inevitable, the Greek and Trojan aristocrats of the Iliad experience the world not as pleasant or unpleasant, nor as good or evil, but as glorious or shameful. We might say that Homer offers a conception of life that is noble rather than ethical-except that such opposition is finally misleading. For the Greeks, nobility has an ethical quality. You are not good or bad in the Christian sense. You are strong or weak; beautiful or ugly; conquering or vanquished; living or dead; favored by gods or cursed.

In student papers, quotations like these should be double-spaced so they're easy for the instructor to read. Notice that indented quotations put the parenthetical citation outside the final punctuation mark.

If you omit something from a quotation, you must insert ellipsis marks within square brackets [ ... ] to indicate that something has been left out.

For instance:

After all, Western literature begins with a quarrel between two arrogant pirates over booty. At the beginning of the poem, the various tribes of the Greeks [ ... ] assembled before the walls of Troy are on the verge of disaster. Agamemnon, their leader, the most powerful of the kings, has kidnapped and taken as a mistress from a nearby city a young woman, the daughter of one of Apollo's priests. Apollo has angrily retaliated by bringing down a plague on the Greeks.

Of course, your omission must not alter the sense of a quotation.

Finally, give additional information in brackets for any term within the quotation that needs further explanation or for any other kind of interpolation or substitution:

The crux of the poem [the Iliad] comes in Book IX well before Achilles reenters the war. As the Trojans await at their night fires, ready to attack at dawn, the Greeks, now in serious trouble, send three ambassadors to Achilles with promises of gifts. The three warriors [ ... ] beg Achilles to give up his anger. This is what they offer: tripods, cauldrons, horses, gold, slave women, [ ... ] and even the return of Achilles' slave mistress whom Agamemnon swears he has never touched. What more can Achilles ask for? (Denby 48)

Use Quotations Sparingly :

Don't overload your paper with quotations. You don't want your paper to look as if you patched it together from other people's ideas instead of giving your own opinions and interpretation.

Each quotation should be used for a definite reason:

  • To support an important point you are making

  • To illustrate a particular writer's point of view

  • To cite examples of experts' contrasting opinions

  • To illustrate the flavor or force of an author's work

  • To give an example of the author's style

  • Usually you'll do better to summarize an opinion or point of view rather than illustrate it with a quotation, particularly if the quotation would be long. Readers tend to skim over long quotations because they want to find out what the author herself is saying. Assuming you can do the original justice in a succinct summary, that's the preferable course of action.

    To continue the section on Researching Your Topic,

    1. Set up a general search strategy

    2. Use primary and secondary sources

    3. Do original research

    4. Make a research outline for using the library and the Web

    5. Find things out for yourself

    6. Be open to serendipity

    7. Take notes

    8. Manage sources and quotations

    9. Manage and evaluate electronic sources
    Successful Writing Index | Manage Sources and Quotations to HOME PAGE

    Follow These Links!