How to Introduce a Quote in an Essay

This article explains the methods of introducing your quote in an essay. It doesn’t deal with the way you need to cite them, which requires the author’s name, the year of publication, the page number, etc.

In short, to introduce a quote, you can:

  • Use a complete sentence
  • Integrate the quote in your writing with your own words
  • Use an introductory word or phrase

Further in this article, we discuss each of these methods and give a few examples of quote introduction.

Quotations are an excellent way to strengthen your thesis statement or support your argument, given that you provide sufficient analysis afterward. It also shows how well you have done your homework and researched the topic. Normally, the process can be divided into three parts:

  1. Making a statement
  2. Introducing a quotation
  3. Analyzing

Note: For an APA and MLA Style guide, read our article — How to Cite Sources in Essays.

As for other types of academic writing, there are exceptions. But, before delving deeper, let’s revise the basics.

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How to Use Quotation Marks (Inverted Commas)

If you’re not paraphrasing (which we will also discuss), you must put quotation marks around the quote. They are used to indicate the information taken from a source with no alterations.

There are a few differences between the American and British styles of using inverted commas.

StyleOutsideInsideCommaPeriod
AmericanDoubleSingleInsideInside
BritishSingleDoubleOutsideOutside

American:

As Freeman reported, “Van Dusen could be heard being outraged, ‘I can’t believe she said, “Can you help me?”!’”

British:

As Freeman reported, ‘Van Dusen could be heard being outraged, “I can’t believe she said, ‘Can you help me?’!”’

Exception: in APA and MLA styles, the last punctuation mark goes after the citation information given in parentheses.

APA example:

Taylor (2016) thinks the response to punishment is anger: “Punishment, especially if its justice is doubtful,…coarsens the human soul and hardens it” (p.72).

MLA example:

Spencer defines social evolution as a “transition from a state of relative uncertainty, incoherence, and homogeneity to a state of relative certainty, connectedness, and versatility” (54).

In terms of punctuation, you can introduce a quote with:

  1. A comma, if you use signal verbs like “says,” “states,” “explains,” etc. (See the full list in the next chapter)
  2. A colon, if you use a complete sentence before inserting the quotation.
  3. No marks, if you use words like “that,” “as,” or if you seamlessly integrate the quotation or its parts in your text.

What introductory words can I use for quotations?

Apart from the standard words like “believes” or “notes,” you can use dozens of synonyms as quote starters. But, be careful as each of those conveys its own connotation, so you might find it tricky to pick the right word. The word examples below are generally placed after the phrase “the author” or the author’s last name. We show the usage after the list.

VERBSSYNSYNSYNSYNSYNSYNSYNSYN
Announceclaimmentionnotepoint toreferremarkreportstate
Answerreactreplyrespondretort
Approveacceptacknowledgeadmitagreeallowconfirmendorsepraise
Arguedisagreedisapprovedisputeobjectopposeprotesturge
Askbegdemandexploreinsistinvestigatepleadquestionrequest
Assumehypothesizeimagineimplyinferspeculatetheorizethinkwonder
Callbranddesignatelabelnamestamptagtitle
Decideagreeconcludejudgeopt fortake a stand
Denounceaccuseblamecensurecondemncorrectcriticizeslandervilify
Denydeclinerefuserefutereject
Describecharacterizecompareexpressformulatereport
Discussanalyzecomment onconcludedebateevaluatereviewsuggesttalk about
Explainclarifydefinedemonstrateelaborateexpoundillustratemake clearportray
Informacquaintadvisecautioninstructnotifyreassurewarn
Repeatrehashreiteraterestateretell
Sayallegeassertassertcommentenouncepronouncespeakvoice
Showdisplayemphasizeexposeindicatemanifestnotepoint outreveal
Tellcitenarratequotereportreview

Another popular way of introducing a quotation in an essay is using the phrase “according to.”

According to Harlow (2006), nominalists “denied the existence of a single Divine entity …, oriented researchers away from theological problems, and considered natural phenomena the subject of scientific knowledge” (p.22).

When to Use Quotes

Obviously, you should not just randomly insert quotations here and there in your essay. That will make no sense and confuse your reader. Keep this in mind when choosing a direct quote:

Pick a quotation that supports your argument and convinces your reader. Usually, it is the results of credible research, an opinion of a subject matter expert, or confirmed statistics. You can also quote from the text you’re reviewing or critiquing to back up your opinion.

Don’t leave a quotation without proper analysis. Your analysis must connect the excerpt you use to your argument or idea. Can’t explain how a quote related to the point you’re making? Then just don’t include it in your essay!

Don’t abuse direct quotations and insert them sparingly. Essays are always about showing your point of view. A maximum of one quote per paragraph is the unspoken rule you must remember here. If you still think you need to include another citation, paraphrase.

Note: Don’t start or end a paragraph with a quote!

You need to be careful when using quotes because your tutor wants to see how you understand the topic, not those ten field experts you have cited.

Introducing a Short Quote

Signal words or phrases:

In his book, Winstanley (2009) says, “With developed eidetic memory, a person can ‘see’ a missing object down to the smallest detail” (p.13).

A full-sentence introduction:

According to Jung (1997), these spheres are essentially opposites: “The unconscious is like a reflection of a mountain in a lake, a mirror image, the back of the conscious … the unconscious is regarded as performing a compensatory function” (p.298).

Seamless quote integration:

The difference between rational and irrational functions is that the former “base their modus operandi on the judgment of the mind,” whereas the latter — “on the sheer perception” (Jung, 1998, p.720).

Introducing a Block Quote

According to the APA Style manual, block (long) quotes are those that take over four lines of printed text in your essay and don’t need quotation marks. But, always check what formatting style you must use as the definition varies.

Such excerpts might help you add more depth to your essay. However, block quotations require you to elaborate more on the post-analysis. Take a look at some examples:

The methods for curing patients in the medieval and early modem time periods would probably be considered torture today:

The hospital regime was a mixture of punishment and religious devotion—chains, manacles, locks, and stocks appear in the hospital inventory from this time. The shock of corporal punishment was believed to cure some conditions, while isolation was thought to help a person “come to their senses.” (“From Bethlehem”)

Introducing Paraphrases and Summaries

When you restate the information from a source in your own words instead of citing a quote from an article, you don’t need to put quotation marks. But don’t forget to specify all the necessary details after the passage and to provide the analysis of the paraphrase or summary.

Original:

“Every bit of incoming information presents a choice: whether to pay attention, whether to reply, and whether to factor it into an impending decision. But decision science has shown that people faced with a plethora of choices are apt to make no decision at all” (Begley 30).

Summary:

More options make it harder for people to make a decision, Begley argues (30).

Paraphrase:

We have to process all the data we receive and figure out what to do with it, from ignoring it to using it for a decision (Begley 30). Too much of this can leave us unable to decide, “decision science” says (30).

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CONTINUE

Can I alter quotes?

Yes, you can shorten the original passage if you think you can omit some information. This practice is highly welcomed because the shorter the quote, the better. To cut out a non-essential part, you can replace it with an ellipsis; however, you must follow several rules:

  • Don’t place an ellipsis if you use only a short phrase from the source.
  • Don’t omit information if its absence distorts the original meaning of the quote.
  • Put a period before the ellipsis if you skip one or more sentences.

Wilde absolutizes art, affirming its dominant position in the world: “A great artist invents a type, and Life tries to copy it … Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it but molds it to its purpose” (11).

You can also use square brackets to show that you changed or added some words. That is necessary if you need some previous context to understand the meaning of the quote or if you want to make sure that pronouns agree with their antecedents.

Taylor reports, “He [Jonathan] tried to persuade me of his innocence, but all the evidence was against him” (55).

As Robert Ballard recounts, “It [the final resting place of the RMS Titanic] is a quiet and peaceful place—and a fitting place for the remains of this greatest of sea tragedies to rest” (Eckholm).

When you include a poem, show where the line breaks by using a slash (/).

Heaney directly compares poetry writing to the digging his ancestors did: “Between my finger and my thumb / The squat pen rests. /I’ll dig with it” (line 29-31).

The list of references

  1. Suggested Ways to Introduce Quotations — Columbia College
  2. Words That Introduce Quotes or Paraphrases — Gallaudet University
  3. Integrating Quotes — Ashford University

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