Tips for Effectively Integrating Quotations:
Limit your use of quotations. Spend more time interpreting and analyzing than merely citing quotations and examples.
Don’t assume that quotations are self-sufficient and prove your point automatically. In other words, don’t drop a quotation in a paragraph without explaining it. You need to analyze it thoroughly in your own words, explaining why it is important. You may need to clarify a point or define a key term in the quotation. As a general rule, each quotation should be followed by at least several sentences of analysis.
It helps to provide your reader with an additional sentence of your own that refers to, explains, or clarifies the other source. After providing the quotation, paraphrase, or summary from the source, add your own editorial comment. The three-step process will look like this:
Example: Michael Levin argues, “There are situations in which torture is not merely permissible but morally mandatory” (8). This comment exemplifies Levin’s belief in torture as a legitimate punishment for perpetrators of certain crimes.
Follow through by interpreting the relevance of a quotation to your topic and thesis. It is not necessary to recap what has already been said in the quotation. Neither is it necessary to use phrases like “Weisman is saying in this quotation that….,” which are obvious and redundant. Instead, illuminate the importance of the quotation to the thesis, to your topic.
Effectively assimilate, introduce, and integrate quotations into your own writing. Use lead-in phrases that signal a quotation and orient the reader on the context of the quotation. Avoid using obvious and unnecessary cues like “This quotation is saying that…”
Be discrete and selective when using quotations. Don’t quote a paragraph from a text when a single sentence contains the heart of what you need. Don’t quote a whole sentence when you can simply integrate a few words into one of your own sentences.
Give the whole story. Be careful of altering the context of a quotation by pulling out portions of it and leaving out the context within which the quotation is situated. Be true, in other words, to the author’s intentions.
Integrate quotations into sentence structures. Here’s how:
1) Use a colon when a quotation is introduced by an independent clause (a sentence that is complete with a defined subject and predicate part).
Judith Ortiz Cofer tells us: “It was as if the heart of the city map were being gradually colored in brown—café- con-leche brown. Our color” (156).
2) A comma follows an introduction that offers the quotation:
On writing, Amy tan says, “I use them all---all the Englishes I grew up with” (38).
3) Use no punctuation with the word “that.”
Comparing our minds to the ocean, Steven King says that “I think that our minds are the same nutrient bath all the way down to the bottom, and different things live at different levels” (20).
4) Quotations should be placed at different parts of your sentences. This keeps adds variety to your writing.
“I preferred, much preferred, my version,” Maya Angelou writes in “The Angel of the candy counter” (145).
Bell hooks tells the reader that “As I wrote, I felt that I was not concerned with accuracy of detail as I was with evoking in writing a state of mind, the spirit of a particular moment” (164)—a good lesson for all writers of autobiography.
In “Judgment of the Birds,” Loren Eiseley explains: “It is commonplace of all religious thought, even the most primitive, that the man seeking visions and insight must go apart form his fellows and live for a time in the wilderness" (105).
A Note on Long Quotations…
Use long quotations only when necessary. Never use these as “filler.” If the text is important enough to quote in full, you should be able to follow through with four to five lines of interpretation and analysis.
Long quotations are handled a bit differently than short ones. We place quotations longer than four typed lines in a free-standing block of typewritten lines. Remember to keep your entire essay double spaced. We omit quotation marks; this feels unnatural, but it is part of MLA style. Start the quotation on a new line, indenting one inch from the left margin. Your parenthetical citation should come after the closing punctuation mark. When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks.
Click here for OWL Online Writing Lab’s great example of a long quotation. Scroll down a bit, and you’ll find it.