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Citation In An Essay Quote

Using literary quotations

Use the guidelines below to learn how to use literary quotations.


 

For further information, check out Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources, or you may wish to see when the Writing Center is next offering its workshop entitled Intro to Literary Analysis.

Incorporating Quotations

  • As you choose quotations for a literary analysis, remember the purpose of quoting.

  • Your paper develops an argument about what the author of the text is doing--how the text "works."

  • You use quotations to support this argument; that is, you select, present, and discuss material from the text specifically to "prove" your point--to make your case--in much the same way a lawyer brings evidence before a jury.

  • Quoting for any other purpose is counterproductive.

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Punctuating and Indenting Quotations

For the most part, you must reproduce the spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original exactly.

The following alterations are acceptable:

Changing the closing punctuation

You may alter the closing punctuation of a quotation in order to incorporate it into a sentence of your own:

"Books are not life," Lawrence emphasized.

Commas and periods go inside the closing quotation marks; the other punctuation marks go outside.

Lawrence insisted that books "are not life"; however, he wrote exultantly about the power of the novel.

Why does Lawrence need to point out that "Books are not life"?

Using the slash when quoting poetry

When quoting lines of poetry up to three lines long (which are not indented, see Indenting quotations), separate one line of poetry from another with a slash mark (see examples in Incorporating Quotations into Sentences).

Using Ellipsis Points for Omitted Material

If for the sake of brevity you wish to omit material from a quoted passage, use ellipsis points (three spaced periods) to indicate the omission.

(See this sample paragraph. The writer quoted only those portions of the original sentences that related to the point of the analysis.)

Using Square Brackets when Altering Material

When quoting, you may alter grammatical forms such as the tense of a verb or the person of a pronoun so that the quotation conforms grammatically to your own prose; indicate these alterations by placing square brackets around the changed form.

In the following quotation "her" replaces the "your" of the original so that the quote fits the point of view of the paper (third person):

When he hears Cordelia's answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters', her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

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Indenting Quotations

Prose or verse quotations less than four lines long are not indented. For quotations of this length, use the patterns described above.

Indent "longer" quotations in a block about ten spaces in from the left margin; when a quotation is indented, quotation marks are not used.

The MLA Handbook (1995) recommends that indented quotations be double-spaced, but many instructors prefer them single-spaced. The meaning of "longer" varies slightly from one style system to another, but a general rule is to indent quotations that are more than two (or three) lines of verse or three (or four) lines of prose.

Indent dialogue between characters in a play. Place the speaker's name before the speech quoted:

CAESAR: Et tu, Brute! Then, fall, Caesar!

CINNA: Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! (3.1.77-78)

For more information see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources - How to Quote a Source.

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Emphasizing Your Ideas

What to include in literary analysis

Take a look at this sample paragraph. It includes 3 basic kinds of materials:

  1. statements expressing the student's own ideas about the relationship Woolf is creating;

  2. data or evidence from the text in summarized, paraphrased, and quoted form; and

  3. discussion of how the data support the writer's interpretation.

The quotations are used in accordance with the writer's purpose, i.e. to show how the development of Mrs. Ramsey's feelings indicates something about her personality.

Should I quote?

Quoting is only one of several ways to present textual material as evidence.

You can also refer to textual data, summarize, and paraphrase. You will often want merely to refer or point to passages (as in the third sentence in the sample paragraph) that contribute to your argument.

In other cases you will want to paraphrase, i.e. "translate" the original into your own words, again instead of quoting. Summarize or paraphrase when it is not so much the language of the text that justifies your position, but the substance or content.

Quote selectively

Similarly, after you have decided that you do want to use material in quoted form, quote only the portions of the text specifically relevant to your point.

Think of the text in terms of units--words, phrases, sentences, and groups of sentences (paragraphs, stanzas)--and use only the units you need.

If it is particular words or phrases that "prove" your point, you do not need to quote the sentences they appear in; rather, incorporate the words and phrases into sentences expressing your own ideas.

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Maintaining Clarity and Readability

Introduce your quotations

Introduce a quotation either by indicating what it is intended to show or by naming its source, or both.

For non-narrative poetry, it's customary to attribute quotations to "the speaker"; for a story with a narrator, to "the narrator."

For plays, novels, and other works with characters, identify characters as you quote them.

Do not use two quotations in a row, without intervening material of your own.

For further information see Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Acknowledging Sources - How to Quote a Source.

Pay attention to verb tense

Tense is a tricky issue. It's customary in literary analysis to use the present tense; it is at the present time that you (and your reader) are looking at the text.

But events in a narrative or drama take place in a time sequence. You will often need to use a past tense to refer to events that took place before the moment you are presently discussing:

When he hears Cordelia's answer, Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to "mend [her] speech a little." He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters', her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

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Documenting Quotations

Follow your course instructor's guidelines for documenting sources. If your instructor hasn't told you which system to use to document sources, ask.

Keep in mind that when you are writing a paper about the same text and quoting from the same edition that everyone else in the class is, instructors will often allow you to use informal documentation. In this case just include the page number in parentheses after the quotation or reference to the text. To be sure, though, you should ask your course instructor.

The documentation style used in this pages is that presented in the 1995 MLA Handbook, but other style systems are commonly used. The Writing Center has information about the rules of documentation in general and about a number of the most common systems, such as APA, APSA, CBE, Chicago/Turabian, MLA, and Numbered References.

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Formatting Direct Quotations Properly in MLA Format

View Worksheet

Using direct quotations involves using the exact words of others in your paper, and under the MLA format, you must format quotations differently depending on their length.

Short quotations are less than four lines of prose or three lines of verse (poetry)
Long quotations are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse (poetry) and include multi-paragraph quotes.

In addition, you might sometimes need to add words to direct quotations for clarity, or omit words that are unnecessary from the quotation. In MLA format, certain formatting rules apply in these situations.

Short direct quotations in MLA format

Short direct quotations include prose that is no more than four lines or verse that is no more than three lines. To format these correctly in MLA format, there are a few rules you must follow.

  • Enclose the direct quotation in quotation marks.
  • Reference the original author or title (if no author) and page number or line number (verse).
  • Place punctuation after the parenthetical citation.
  • Place questions marks or exclamation points that are part of the quote inside the quotation marks; place them outside if not part of the original author’s words.
  • Include complete reference to the source on Works Cited page.

Examples:

  • According to Spools, sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (289).
  • Sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289).
  • Some say that sustainable weight loss is only possible through “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289), but other researchers disagree that this level of vigilance is necessary.
  • Is sustainable weight loss possible without engaging in “continued dieting, regular exercising and vigilant monitoring of body weight” (Spools 289)?

Short quotations that consist of verses from poetry are handled a little differently.

Breaks are notated with a “/,” and a space appears before and after the slash mark. In addition, the line of the verse is used instead of a page number for the parenthetical citation (unless the poem is quoted in a secondary source). Keep the capitalization of each line of verse intact after the slash mark.

Example:

  • Silverstein ends with “For the children, they mark, and the children, they know / The place where the sidewalk ends” (15-16).

Long direct quotations in MLA format

Long direct quotations consists of quotations that are longer than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, and the MLA format dictates how these are presented.

  • Use a free-standing block of text (block quote).
  • Omit the quotation marks.
  • Start the direct quotation on a new line.
  • Indent one inch from the left margin.
  • Indent the first word of paragraphs ONLY if quoting multiple paragraphs.
  • Use double spacing in the quotation.
  • Include parenthetical citation after the ending punctuation.

Examples:

Fitness and health guru Jillian Michaels stresses the importance of believing in yourself.

If you are citing poetry, maintain the original formatting to the best of your ability. Use poetry line numbers unless you are quoting something quoted in another source.

In his poem “The Sphinx,” Ralph Waldo Emerson personifies the sphinx as many different pieces of nature, and this shows the transcendental ideals Emerson often touted.

Uprose the merry Sphynx,

And crouched no more in stone,

She melted into purple cloud,

She silvered in the moon,

She spired into a yellow flame,

She flowered in blossoms red,

She flowed into a foaming wave,

She stood Monadnoc’s head. (120-128)

Showing changes to direct quotations in MLA format

Sometimes when you use direct quotations, you might need to add a word or words for clarity or omit portions of the quotation to shorten it or make it work within the context of your words. When this is necessary, you must show changes with brackets [ ], and show omissions of text with an ellipsis […].

When using brackets, place the words you add between the brackets.

  • According to Putz, “Some people [who are trying to lose weight] try one fad diet after another with little success because these diets do not promote sustainable or ongoing weight loss” (98).

When using an ellipsis to show the omission of words, put a space before and after it.

  • According to Jillian Michaels, success is within reach when you “Have establishment in yourself; trust in the significance of your life … [because] destiny is awaiting you (285).

Direct quotations should stay a small part of your research paper. Paraphrasing and summarizing information into your words is a larger part of including information from your sources. Understanding [URL]direct quotations versus indirect quotations[/writing-resources/punctuation/direct-versus-indirect-quotations] is important in presenting information.