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Integrating Quotes into Your Writing

Writing assignments are primarily about your thoughts, but quotes can help support your argument.  Once you have chosen appropriate quotes to include in your writing assignment, you will need to think about how to most effectively use them.  To get started, try this exercise:

1. Take out all the quotes you chose from your Double Entry Notebook and/or Quotation-Comment-Question Worksheet

2. Open up the Quote Generating Worksheet, and fill in the fields like this:

 

Author and Page Quote What It Means How It Relates
Matt Richtel (no page) 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. Working on multiple tasks at the same time can compromise our ability to focus on just one. It provides evidence that seemingly inborn traits like the ability to focus might in fact be produced by technology. Technology doesn’t just define the era – it defines the people living in that era.

 

You now have all the elements you need to use this quote as evidence supporting your argument!

Remember, every quote needs to be surrounded by your interpretation—that’s how you make the quote work for you. You can rearrange the information in your Quote Generating Worksheet in any number of ways, but one good technique is to start with What It Means (usually a summary or paraphrase of the quoted material), then insert the Quote followed by the Author and Page in the correct citation style for your paper, then interpret the quote by telling your reader How It Relates to your own argument. So the quote used in the model worksheet might look like this:

  • Working on multiple tasks at the same time can compromise our ability to focus on just one. According to journalist Matt Richtel, “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” (n.p.). This implies that seemingly inborn traits like the ability to focus might in fact be produced by technology. Technology doesn’t just define our era—it defines the people living in our era.

Notice how I surrounded the quote with my own interpretation. I introduced the quoted material with the name of the author, separated the quote from the rest of the sentence with a comma, retained the capitalization in the original quote, used double quotation marks to indicate quoted material, included the in-text citation in parentheses after the closing quotation mark (in this case, because it’s an online source, there isn’t any page—“n.p.” stands for “no page,” and it’s what we use in place of a page number if none is available), and I placed the final punctuation mark (the period) after the in-text citation.

If you only want to use part of the quote, you can integrate it into the grammatical structure of your sentence, like this:

  • Working on multiple tasks at the same time can compromise our ability to focus on just one. Richtel reports that scientists now say “our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information” from new technologies of communication (n.p.). This implies that seemingly inborn traits like the ability to focus might in fact be produced by technology.

Notice the differences between the separated quotation format and the integrated quotation format. I did not separate the quote with a comma, the first letter of the quoted material is lowercase (if I had used the beginning of the sentence, I would have changed the initial letter to lowercase and indicated the change with brackets, like this: “[s]cientists say”), and I included the in-text citation before the period at the end of the sentence. Because this is the second time I’ve mentioned Matt Richtel, I refer to him by his last name only.

Want more info? Try these resources:

  • Learn about proper MLA formatting or APA formatting through the Purdue Online Writing Lab.
  • Learn about signal phrases–the words you use to transition into and out of quoted material–in a  handout created by the 2009-2010 writing fellows.
  • Another helpful resource is this handout about “The Quote Sandwich” created by Amy Leonard at De Anza College.

Also, remember that there are three ways to incorporate source material into your writing: quotes, paraphrases, and summaries.

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