Quotes in Academic Writing: How to Use Them Correctly?

Academic writing is often dry and boring. It’s one of students’ most common complaints about scholarly writing: It’s hard to read, full of complicated sentence structure, and can cause enormous headaches trying to wade through the sheer density of the text.

That said, there are some strategies that can make academic writing, particularly college and university essays, less of a chore to read. One of the most important strategies is to use quotations to break up the text, change up the tone, and provide additional perspectives that can keep the reader actively engaged.

However, many students aren’t sure how and when to use quotes in academic writing. So, in this article, we’ll take a look at some of the ways that you can use quotations in order to develop your writing and produce a stronger and more engaging essay.

Learn How to Start Using Quotes in Writing

Where, then, should you begin to put quotes in academic writing?

First, we need to understand exactly what we mean by quotations. On the one hand, this seems obvious: They are the exact words of someone else, which you present in your paper.

On the other hand, there are variations that can sometimes lead to confusion. Summaries and paraphrases are also popular ways to present information, and they often contain similarities to quotations and sometimes can include brief references to exact wording from the source (in quotation marks, obviously) within your own text.

For our purposes, we will consider quotations to be the exact words of a source, which are presented exactly as they are in the original.

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There are two ways to present quotations in an essay. The first is an interlinear quotation, which appears in a paragraph and is placed in quotation marks. This is the most common type of quotation and is generally reserved for quotations that contain fewer than forty words.

These quotations are presented as part of the paragraph and are run fluid with the rest of the text. The second type of quotation is a block quotation, and it is generally used for quotes that are longer than forty words.

This type of quotation is presented separately as a block of the text distinct from the surrounding text. In many writing styles, a block quote is set off either with lines skipped before and after or indenting of each line to mark it as distinct from the surrounding text.

Typically, it does not include quotation marks because the blocking signals that these are the words of someone else.

That leaves the next question: How do you use quotations correctly in an academic paper?

First, it’s important to recognize that many academic writing styles have guidelines about how much you are allowed to quote in a paper.

Key Quotation Rules in Academic Writing

There are a few key rules that will help you to keep everything in check:

  • Quote briefly. Quotations should be limited to no more than about 10-15% of a paper. An academic essay should be in your own words. After all, your instructor is looking to learn about what you know about a subject, not what other people have written about it. Your goal should be to have the majority of your paper be in your own words, so keep quotations down to a minimum whenever possible. Similarly, try to use as few of other people’s words as possible in a quote to get the point across. Quoting a sentence is better than quoting a paragraph.
  • Quote for impact. When you quote, you should be selecting words that have a powerful impact, not just words that take up space. A quotation, for example, should either say something in a better way than you could say yourself, provide a particularly insightful or entertaining way of making a point, or show the reader important wording that is vital for understanding the argument being made. In other words, you should be thinking of quotes as little bursts of color and interest that you can deploy strategically to redirect the audience’s attention.
  • Always cite your quotes. Quotations are great for sharing others’ points of view, but they are not effective if the reader doesn’t know who is speaking or why. When you use a quotation, it is important that you identify the speaker and the source prior to using a quotation and provide a full citation to document where you found the quotation so that your audience will be able to trace your sources and double-check your work. A failure to cite sources properly can put you in danger of plagiarism, which is a serious academic offence. 
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Do You Help with Writing Quotes?

The fear of plagiarism can make some students hesitant about using quotations, paraphrases, or summaries.

If you are one of those students who are uncertain about how to use quotations effectively, using academic writing services for online essay help can be an effective way to learn how to deploy quotations to support your essay.

The professional writers at a company like SmartWritingService create custom papers that show students the right way to develop an essay and support it with effective and engaging quotations.

As a bonus, you’ll not only see how to use quotations, you’ll also see the quotations that best support your specific essay topic because professional writers do original research to find the best quotes for any situation.

With so much to gain from professional academic writing services, you’ll never have to worry about finding or using quotes again.

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