Writing about others work: using direct quotations
Help and advice
Direct quoting, paraphrasing, citing and referencing
- Quoting: copying the exact words of the original text, using quotation marks and the author's name (often from the source). This can be from a book or an article on a reading list.
- Paraphrasing: rephrasing and shortening the original text in your own words without using quotation marks, then writing the author’s surname, year of publication, and idea page number.
- Citing: writing the author’s surname, year of publication and page number to show where you found your direct quotation or paraphrased information.
- Referencing: refers to publications included in the bibliography.
Although it is usually better to paraphrase and cite the author, direct quotation can be used for defining and describing concepts using short phrases or compound nouns. Direct quotations are not often used at the beginning of a paragraph, instead they are often used inside the paragraph as evidence of reasoning and justification of an idea.
Direct quotation can be in the form of a part of a sentence directly copied from the source.
According to Gross it is (open direct quotation marks) ‘not only the vocabulary of a language that determines how and what we think and perceive, but also the grammar.’(close direct quotation marks) (1996,page 317).
The text copied exactly from the source should have quotation marks at the beginning and at the end. If you choose to use a direct quotation you must use the exact words in the original and write the text source or this will be considered plagiarism.
Direct quotation in an assignment
Do not read to collect quotes which sound good to you and sum up some disconnected thoughts which might lead to a conclusion. Try to work through your ideas and add connected support to your overall plan, structure and meaning by writing and thinking freely at first. Do not let a collection of quotes dictate the course of your writing.
- Do not think. ’That quote will look great in my essay. I must get it in somewhere, it’s bound to get some marks.’
- Think: 'I have a logical structure or argument to my essay and this quote will support one of my points really well'.
Using direct quotations
There are several possible reasons for using direct quotations in academic writing. Most commonly, they are used to provide an example or supporting evidence for ideas that you wish to include in your assignment. It is important to remember that the way direct quotations are used in academic writing varies greatly from subject to subject.
Students of History or English might use quotations in a very different way from students of Biology or Computing. Thus it is essential to consult your course handbook on style and learn from your markers feedback and to read around the subject; doing this will help you get a feel for the way in which direct quotation is used on your subject.
In many subjects, tutors often prefer students to paraphrase or summarise information from sources, rather than quoting directly. Putting something into your own words shows more effectively that you have understood it and synthesised the ideas. This means that if you do choose a direct quotation you need to have a good reason to use it and explain it well.
Linking direct quotations
Any quotations must follow logically from the preceding text. Your reader must not be left thinking, ‘what’s this quotation doing here?’ Additionally, it may be useful to comment on the quotation by extending the meaning of the quotation by adding more information linked to it.
But it is not only the vocabulary of a language that determines how and what we think and perceive, but also the grammar. In the Hopi language, no distinction is made between past, present and future; it is a (open direct quotation marks) ‘timeless language’ (close direct quotation marks), compared with English. In European languages, time is treated as an objective entity, as if it were a ruler with equal spaces or intervals marked off. There is a clear demarcation between past, present and future corresponding to three separate sections of a ruler.
Short direct quotations
Include short quotations, (normally less than three lines) in the run of text. Use quotation marks to separate the quotation from your own writing.
Furthermore it is (open direct quotation marks) 'not only the vocabulary of a language that determines how and what we think and perceive but also the grammar’ (close direct quotation marks) (Gross, 1996, p.317).
Longer quotations should be separated
Direct quotations of more than three lines should be separated from your text by leaving a lines space above and below and indenting the quote by one tab. Such indented quotes should also be single line spaced (unlike the rest of your text which is likely to be double or 1.5 line spaced. Longer quotations that have been indented do not need quotation marks.
Writing about Hopi, a native American language, Gross writes:
In the Hopi language, no distinction is made between the past, present and future; it is a timeless language’ compared with English, although it does recognise duration, ie. how long an event lasts. In European languages, time is treated as an objective entity (Gross, 1996, p. 317).
(end of indent)
The distinction drawn between the languages treatment of time is interesting and relevant to the argument because……
Omitting parts of the quotation
If you want you can omit parts of the quotation by writing three dots to show an ellipsis. This shows where you have cut the directly copied text and this is good as long as your omission does not change the meaning of the quote too much.
Gross (1996, p.137) points out that in the language it is (open direct quotation marks) ‘not only in the vocabulary…(dot dot dot), but also the grammar’ (close direct quotation marks) that influences how and what we understand.
Clarification of direct quotation
This is known as interpolation where you interject a few words to explain meaning in between words in a direct quote. You can put a few words or a word in square brackets to explain the direct quotes.
Gross emphasises the contrast: (open the direct quotation marks) ‘In the Hopi language, no distinction is made between past, present and future (open square brackets) [whereas] (close square brackets) in European languages …(dot dot dot) there is a clear demarcation between (open square brackets) [them] (close square brackets).’(close direct quotation marks) (Gross, 1996, p.317).
Gross, R. 1996).Psychology:the science of mind and behaviour (3rd ed.).London: Hodder & Stoughton