6e- Quoting, Paraphrasing, and Documenting Source Material

The pur­pose of using quo­ta­tions from oth­er authors is not to pro­vide “proof” of what you say, but rather to sit­u­ate your own work with­in a cer­tain aca­d­e­m­ic con­ver­sa­tion.  It is also impor­tant to note some guide­lines for actu­al­ly incor­po­rat­ing these quo­ta­tions into the body of your text. The fol­low­ing con­trived exam­ple presents a way of begin­ning a para­graph that works through one idea:

In Mak­ing Up Titles, Susan Gen­try argues (or use any active descrip­tive verb that might work here such as explains, asserts, illus­trates, sug­gests, defines, states, explores, chal­lenges) some sort of an idea that should be sum­ma­rized from the book.

Once you have this sort of intro sen­tence or so, then you enter into the quo­ta­tion. You can do so with a short­er quo­ta­tion:

Gen­try states, “In this day and age…..” (74).

Or, you may have a longer quo­ta­tion (more than 25 words) in which case you set up the quo­ta­tion (all indent­ed but still dou­ble-spaced) with a colon (such as I con­tin­ue to do on this page):

Gen­try states:

In this day and age there are many quo­ta­tions we may slip into our writ­ing in order to fill space.  How­ev­er, rather than think­ing of quo­ta­tions as a way of fill­ing space, you need to con­scious­ly con­sid­er the quo­ta­tion as a bit of writ­ing with a pur­pose.  As a result, you need to care­ful­ly choose the quo­ta­tions you use, mak­ing sure to nev­er assume that there is one great, or best quo­ta­tion out there. (74)

Fol­low­ing the quo­ta­tion, be it long or short, you’ll need to EXPLAIN what’s being said and then enter a dis­cus­sion of the idea with respect to a spe­cif­ic exam­ple or your research project over­all. Though the con­tent of the para­graph bit below is weak (as it is all made up)  but the for­mat may give you an idea of HOW to be think­ing about how to be think­ing about work­ing with quo­ta­tions.

Here, Gen­try explains that we are being asked to search for quo­ta­tions that may be rel­e­vant to our top­ics, even though we may not feel con­fi­dent with respect to selec­tion. Selec­tion, she main­tains, is a part of trust­ing the process. Writ­ers do not look for the per­fect quo­ta­tions; they do not exist.  Rather, an adept and con­fi­dent writer can use almost any quotation–within reason–to make his/her point as long as the focus of the essay is clear. It is only when the author doesn’t real­ly know what they want to say or how to say it that quo­ta­tions become sil­ly and irrel­e­vant, rather than smart and inte­gral to the larg­er focus of the piece.

Notice the length of dis­cus­sion. As a rule of thumb–a real­ly rough rule–you want to have your dis­cus­sion be at least two, and prob­a­bly clos­er to three times as long as the quo­ta­tion you use. For exam­ple, if your quo­ta­tion is about two sen­tences, than your dis­cus­sion real­ly should be at least four sen­tences in length. This doesn’t mean you should count sen­tences, it means you can use visu­al, as well as lin­guis­tic cues to help you deter­mine whether you’ve spent enough time talk­ing about the idea at hand. Again, this is a guide­line, not a hard and fast rule. So let the words flow before you wor­ry about how many of them there are.

OK, so here’s what the para­graph looks like when it is all put togeth­er:

In Mak­ing Up Titles, Susan Gen­try argues (or use any active descrip­tive verb that might work here such as explains, asserts, illus­trates, sug­gests, defines, states, explores, chal­lenges) some sort of an idea that should be sum­ma­rized from the book.  Gen­try states:

In this day and age there are many quo­ta­tions we may slip into our writ­ing in order to fill space.  How­ev­er, rather than think­ing of quo­ta­tions as a way of fill­ing space, you need to con­scious­ly con­sid­er the quo­ta­tion as a bit of writ­ing with a pur­pose.  As a result, you need to care­ful­ly choose the quo­ta­tions you use, mak­ing sure to nev­er assume that there is one great, or best quo­ta­tion out there. (74)

Here, Gen­try explains that we are present­ly being asked to search for quo­ta­tions that may be rel­e­vant to our top­ics, even though we may not feel con­fi­dent with respect to selec­tion. Selec­tion, she main­tains, is a part of trust­ing the process. Writ­ers do not look for the pre­fect quo­ta­tions; they do not exist.  Rather, an adept and con­fi­dent writer can use almost any quotation–within reason–to make his/her point as long as the focus of the essay is clear. It is only when the author doesn’t real­ly know what they want to say or how to say that quo­ta­tions become sil­ly and irrel­e­vant, rather than smart and inte­gral to the larg­er focus of the piece.

Return­ing to Martyna’s essay for anoth­er exam­ple, you can see, once again, a quo­ta­tion choice need not be com­plex, or lengthy in order to be effec­tive.  The key is in how it is pre­sent­ed and then used in the essay:

In Pol­ish Songs and Dances, Ada Dziewanows­ka explains that, “Danc­ing the native dances of Poland is just one of the many ways that we become clos­er to our Pol­ish her­itage” (36.)  Although this quo­ta­tion refers to Pol­ish cul­ture more, it can also make peo­ple think about their own cul­ture and what they can do to become clos­er to their own her­itage.  Since I became a mem­ber of Wici, a Pol­ish Song and Dance Com­pa­ny, I have become clos­er to my Pol­ish roots.  I already knew about my country’s his­to­ry and tra­di­tions from the Pol­ish schools I attend­ed on Sat­ur­days, when I was younger.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I real­ly didn’t know about the Pol­ish folk dances and the clothes peo­ple wore back then.  When I became a mem­ber of Wici four years ago, I felt like I was expe­ri­enc­ing some­thing new.

Though it may have been most evi­dent to use the quo­ta­tion as “proof” of what Mar­ty­na asserts—that there is a con­nec­tion between danc­ing and heritage—she instead uses this quo­ta­tion to move clos­er toward her objec­tive: to encour­age the per­son­al con­nec­tion with one’s her­itage.  She sug­gests that the read­er con­sid­er this quo­ta­tion in a broad­er sense than just being about Pol­ish cul­ture, encour­ag­ing the read­er to think about their own expe­ri­ence as she pro­vides tes­ti­mo­ny of her own con­nec­tion to her Pol­ish her­itage through dance.

In addi­tion to choos­ing this para­graph as an exam­ple of use of a sim­ple quo­ta­tion as a way of devel­op­ing dis­cus­sion, this exam­ple also acknowl­edges the idea that sec­ondary research can and often does guide a person’s thoughts.  It very well could be that Mar­ty­na came up with the idea that there is a con­nec­tion between dance and Pol­ish her­itage with­out hav­ing first read the work by Dziewanows­ka. It real­ly doesn’t mat­ter whether Mar­ty­na bor­rowed this idea and that it helped guide her through her research, or whether she sub­se­quent­ly came across an idea that sim­ply sup­port­ed her asser­tion after she cre­at­ed her focus state­ment.  What mat­ters is that, for what­ev­er rea­son, she was able to choose and then use a quo­ta­tion in a man­ner that did not stand as “proof” of her focus, but s a way of fur­ther devel­op­ing dis­cus­sion per­tain­ing to her stat­ed objec­tives, those con­cern­ing influ­enc­ing the read­er to think about and per­haps even act upon locat­ing a way in which they might con­nect with their own her­itage.

To Review:

  1. Don’t air drop quo­ta­tions-make sure they are sit­u­at­ed with respect to their source. Intro­duce them, com­ment on them, make con­nec­tions to expand your dis­cus­sion.  Review the made-up exam­ple, as well as that pulled from Martyn’as paper above.  It might also be help­ful to look for use of sec­ondary source quo­ta­tions in the four papers pro­vid­ed in this text­book.
  2. Don’t try to jam your quo­ta­tions at the end of the paper. Use them ear­li­er, rather than lat­er, and don’t squish them togeth­er.  Again, a cou­ple well thought out, and con­scious­ly used and placed quo­ta­tions are more effec­tive than mul­ti­ple, seem­ing­ly unre­lat­ed, jux­ta­posed ideas.
  3. Use quo­ta­tions as a way of set­ting up or dis­cussing an exam­ple. They should lead and guide, not stand as evi­dence. That is, the quo­ta­tions from oth­er sources ARE NOT proof, they are ideas that rein­force YOUR asser­tion, your focus.
  4. Look for the quo­ta­tions after you’ve cho­sen your exam­ples, but BEFORE you have draft­ed the paper. Have them ready to use when you need them.
  5. Remem­ber, books and arti­cles don’t say, dis­cuss, present, etc. Authors do. Use author names to ref­er­ence their work.
  6. Work your dis­cus­sion around cool quo­ta­tions. If you find some­thing cool and it seems relat­ed, it prob­a­bly is. The chal­lenge will be in mak­ing this rela­tion­ship clear to the read­er. And that’s what it is a RELATIONSHIP.