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 • Research and the Research Paper
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  Home > InfoWrite > Research and the Research Paper > Using Direct Quotations
 

InfoTrac College Edition

Using Direct Quotations

Although direct quotations should be used sparingly, they serve an important purpose in developing a research paper.

Use direct quotes:

  1. When presenting a significant thought by an authority
  2. When the material is unique and memorable
  3. When the idea conflicts with the mainstream of thought
  4. When presenting statistics and technical data
  5. When the original statement is well-written and more compelling than a summary or paraphrase
  6. When readers may question a controversial point of view

Blending Quotations With Commentary

Quotations should be blended into your text to prevent awkward transitions and confusion. Avoid "hanging quotations" that are not linked to your writing:

In the 1950s the Hollywood studios were threatened by the advent of television and loss of their right to own theaters. Leading screenwriters were blacklisted as Communists. "These were the dark days of American film" (Smith 10). But Technicolor and other special effects were seen as ways of winning back audiences and increasing profits.

Link quotations to your text:

In the 1950s the Hollywood studios were threatened by the advent of television and loss of their right to own theaters. Leading screenwriters were blacklisted as Communists. Jane Smith recalled, "These were the dark days of American film" (10). But Technicolor and other special effects were seen as ways of winning back audiences and increasing profits.

Editing Direct Quotes

Using direct quotations can present problems. In some instances the full quotation contains extraneous information or makes references not explained in the immediate text. You can delete unnecessary information by using ellipsis -- three periods indicating where words or phrases have been eliminated:

Original Text:

Franklin Roosevelt, who served as governor of New York before becoming president, used Al Smith's New York Plan as a model for the New Deal. - Nelson Jones

Edited Quotation:

Nelson Jones observed, "Franklin Roosevelt . . . used Al Smith's New York Plan as a model for the New Deal."

In editing quotations, make sure you do not distort the writer's meaning by eliminating negatives or qualifying remarks. It would be not be ethical to shorten the statement "We should only as a last resort wiretap citizens" to "We should . . . wiretap citizens."

Inserting Words Into Direct Quotations

You can insert words into direct quotations to clarify points or prevent confusion:

Original Text:

Frank King had orchestrated fund raising for the NAACP in New York and Philadelphia. Though an outspoken opponent of segregation in the South, King did not endorse using confrontational tactics such as demonstrations. King considered the Montgomery bus boycott a mistake. - Carmen Wilson

Quoting the last line might naturally lead readers to assume that Wilson's quote refers to Martin Luther King. To prevent confusion, you can insert words or phrases in brackets:

According to Wilson, "[Frank] King considered the Montgomery bus boycott a mistake."

According to Wilson, "King [no relation to Martin Luther King] considered the Montgomery bus boycott a mistake."

Altering Quotations

You can alter the wording of a direct quotation for grammatical reasons, changing verbs from singluar or plural or from past to present to prevent errors or awkward shifts. Changes are indicated by using brackets:

Original Text:

Poe, Melville, and Whitman are among the greatest American writers. - Karen Wong

Wong noted that "Poe . . . [is] among the greatest American writers."

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From The Sundance Reader, Third Edition, Web Site by Mark Connelly.