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From Reading to Writing: Quotation-Comment-Question (Q-C-Q)

Like the DEN Worksheet, the Q-C-Q Worksheet is designed to help you move from reading a text to writing about it. It is most helpful for writing a reading response essay or a discussion board post, though you can adapt it to any assignment. It is designed to slow down your reading process and record your thoughts while you are having them so that when you sit down later to write, you have a record of the ideas that the reading evoked in your mind.

It has three simple steps. Begin reading and when you find a quotation that feels important to you, pause your reading process and:

1. Jot down (or cut and paste) the exact quotation on the left side of the Q-C-Q Worksheet labeled Quotation.

2. Take a moment to comment on why it seems important to you and write a phrase or sentence or two in the middle Comment area. Consider one of the following:

  • What does this make you think of?
  • Do you agree or disagree and why?
  • How does this relate to the theme of the class or class discussion?
  • Any reflections?
  • Is it surprising and why or why not?

3. Then move straight away to the Question section on the right and consider:Then continue reading the article, stopping to add to the worksheet other Quotations, Comments and Questions.

  • Is there something here you do not understand (words, ideas, etc.)?
  • Is there a question you would like to pose to the author?
  • Does the quotation make you question any ideas or assumptions?

When you are finished you will have a record of the most important quotations to you and your thoughts on them. When you sit down to write, you automatically have a place to begin. But how, you ask, do I actually begin using these quotations to write?

C-Q-C: Context—Quotation—Comment

One way to begin writing is to consider using a quotation from your worksheet (be sure to copy the author’s words exactly as they appear and cite accordingly). In order to do that, you must first provide a context for the quotation. Hence, we move from Q-C-Q (Quotation, Comment, Question) to C-Q-C (Context, Quotation, Comment). Hopefully these acronyms will help you remember to always introduce your quotation with a signal phrase after setting up some contextualization. For example, let’s say your Q-C-Q looks like this:

 

Quotation Comment Question
“Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.” (Richtel, n.p.) I think this means that working on multiple tasks at the same time can compromise our ability to focus on just one. This seems true to me. What does that then mean for our culture? What will happen if we can’t focus as well as we used to?

 

  • Provide Context: Use a signal phrase to first introduce the quotation. A signal phrase mentions the author and sometimes the title of the article, essay or book. For example, the text in green below:

Matt Richtel reports in his article “Attached to Technology and Paying a Price” that “Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information” (2010, n.p.).

This is the minimum amount of context you need to provide. However, to make your writing even stronger, you could add more to your contextualization, such as:

In his New York Times article “Attached to Technology and Paying a Price,” Matt Richtel discusses the effects of technology on the people who use it. He writes, “Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information” (2010, n.p.).

  • Above you have the Context and Quotation, so all that is left is for you to Comment, which is actually the most important step. This comment will hopefully lead you in a direction that will advance your essay, providing a ground to build on. Here is an example, in green type:

In his New York Times article “Attached to Technology and Paying a Price,” Matt Richtel discusses the effects of technology on the people who use it. He writes, “Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information” (2010, n.p.). This implies that traits like the ability to focus are in fact changing because of technology, raising important questions about the future of our culture.

  • Now you are no longer facing a blank page. Return to your Q-C-Q Worksheet for other quotations and ideas.

NEXT: Choosing Appropriate Quotes

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