Quoting from Sources

What is it?

A quotation repeats some of another person’s words, enclosing them in "quotation marks" to indicate they are not yours. Quotation marks work like a code--they tell the reader that the language between them was, unless otherwise indicated, copied exactly from a source.

In contrast, a paraphrase uses an idea from someone else, expressing it in your words. Paraphrases are not enclosed in quotation marks.

In all of the examples on this page, the quotations are cited in MLA style, but the basic methods for using quotations are the same in all styles.

How to use quotations

  • Use quotations to demonstrate a point you are making. Introduce the idea, integrate the quote, and then explain the quote with your analysis.
  • Choose to quote because you like the way a source has worded the information. If the wording is not notable, use a paraphrase.
  • Do not let quotations overwhelm your paragraphs.
  • Avoid using quotations in the topic or conclusion sentence.

In this example of a paragraph with quotations from a primary source, quotations are integrated smoothly and balanced with an appropriate amount of analysis:

In Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery, the adult characters firmly believe that personality characteristics are inherited, whereas Emily struggles against this assumption because she wants to be an individual. Emily's mother was a Murray, and the Murrays are all proud of their lineage and the characteristics said to be hallmarks of the Murray character. Emily's mother, however, married a Starr, a man whose background is seen as beneath the Murrays' level. Aunt Elizabeth's views on the intractability of inherited traits are shown when she says, "What's bred in the bone comes out in the flesh" (Montgomery 39). In other words, she thinks that Emily has no choice but to manifest the traits she has gotten from her parents. Unfortunately for Emily, too many of these traits are seen  as "Starr," not "Murray" traits. Aunt Elizabeth wants to break this "ill-bred" child of her Starr habits (Montgomery 26), but Emily does not want to be seen as just a product of her parentage. She exclaims to the gathering of her Murray relatives, "You make me feel as if I was made up of scraps and patches!" (Montgomery 29). Throughout the novel, Emily fights to express her individuality against those who want to define her by where she has come from.

In this example of a paragraph with quotations from a secondary source, the quotations are used to expand upon and support the paragraph's ideas:

In a time of increasing industrialization and urbanization, roles of all members of society were changing rapidly. Many men now left the house to work, and more children were in school due to compulsory education laws. While rural women still had farm work and working-class women worked outside the home, middle- and upper-class women found themselves at home with little to contribute to the family’s income. In her book The Fasting Girl, Michelle Stacy explains that roles changed as women were expected to become “the primary emotional and physical caretakers of their families” (25). Artists of the day, such as Mary Cassatt, show this idealized picture of motherhood, portraying "the intimate bond shared between this mother and her child" in paintings (Tatar). Even as much as women were supposed to find this new role wholly fulfilling, not all did. Some women did begin to work outside the home for political causes such as promoting women’s suffrage or ending child labor. This first wave of feminism provided an outlet for some frustrated women. The common illnesses and complaints of the day show that many other women focused their unhappiness inward, to the point of making themselves ill, or appear ill. In fact, according to one historian, "Women during this time were deemed to be highly susceptible to becoming mentally ill as they did not have the mental capacity of men, and this risk grew greatly if the woman attempted to better herself through education or too many activities" (Frick). Disorders such as dyspepsia, hysteria, brain fever, and "the vapors" were applied mostly to women, or, in some cases, exclusively to women.