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  • Suggested Ways to Introduce Quotations

Suggested ways to introduce quotations

When you quote another writer's words, it's best to introduce or contextualize the quote. 

How to quote in an essay?

To introduce a quote in an essay, don't forget to include author's last name and page number (MLA) or author, date, and page number (APA) in your citation. Shown below are some possible ways to introduce quotations. The examples use MLA format.

1. Use a full sentence followed by a colon to introduce a quotation.

  • The setting emphasizes deception: "Nothing is as it appears" (Smith 1).
  • Piercy ends the poem on an ironic note: "To every woman a happy ending" (25).

2. Begin a sentence with your own words, then complete it with quoted words.

Note that in the second example below, a slash with a space on either side ( / ) marks a line break in the original poem.

  • Hamlet's task is to avenge a "foul and most unnatural murder" (Shakespeare 925).
  • The speaker is mystified by her sleeping baby, whose "moth-breath / flickers among the flat pink roses" (Plath 17).

3. Use an introductory phrase naming the source, followed by a comma to quote a critic or researcher

Note that the first letter after the quotation marks should be upper case. According to MLA guidelines, if you change the case of a letter from the original, you must indicate this with brackets. APA format doesn't require brackets.

  • According to Smith, "[W]riting is fun" (215).
  • In Smith's words, " . . .
  • In Smith's view, " . . .

4. Use a descriptive verb, followed by a comma to introduce a critic's words

Avoid using says unless the words were originally spoken aloud, for instance, during an interview.

  • Smith states, "This book is terrific" (102).
  • Smith remarks, " . . .
  • Smith writes, " . . .
  • Smith notes, " . . .
  • Smith comments, " . . .
  • Smith observes, " . . .
  • Smith concludes, " . . .
  • Smith reports, " . . .
  • Smith maintains, " . . .
  • Smith adds, " . . .

5. Don't follow it with a comma if your lead-in to the quotation ends in that or as

The first letter of the quotation should be lower case.

  • Smith points out that "millions of students would like to burn this book" (53).
  • Smith emphasizes that " . . .
  • Smith interprets the hand washing in MacBeth as "an attempt at absolution" (106).
  • Smith describes the novel as "a celebration of human experience" (233).

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What this handout is about

Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. This handout will help you decide when and how to quote like a pro.

When should I quote?

Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have probably been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). And quotations are only one type of evidence: well-balanced papers may also make use of paraphrases, data, and statistics. The types of evidence you use will depend in part on the conventions of the discipline or audience for which you are writing. For example, papers analyzing literature may rely heavily on direct quotations of the text, while papers in the social sciences may have more paraphrasing, data, and statistics than quotations.

Discussing specific arguments or ideas

Sometimes, in order to have a clear, accurate discussion of the ideas of others, you need to quote those ideas word for word. Suppose you want to challenge the following statement made by John Doe, a well-known historian:

“At the beginning of World War Two, almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly.”

If it is especially important that you formulate a counterargument to this claim, then you might wish to quote the part of the statement that you find questionable and establish a dialogue between yourself and John Doe:

Historian John Doe has argued that in 1941 “almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly” (Doe 223). Yet during the first six months of U.S. involvement, the wives and mothers of soldiers often noted in their diaries their fear that the war would drag on for years.

Giving added emphasis to a particularly authoritative source on your topic.

There will be times when you want to highlight the words of a particularly important and authoritative source on your topic. For example, suppose you were writing an essay about the differences between the lives of male and female slaves in the U.S. South. One of your most provocative sources is a narrative written by a former slave, Harriet Jacobs. It would then be appropriate to quote some of Jacobs’s words:

Harriet Jacobs, a former slave from North Carolina, published an autobiographical slave narrative in 1861. She exposed the hardships of both male and female slaves but ultimately concluded that “slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.”

In this particular example, Jacobs is providing a crucial first-hand perspective on slavery. Thus, her words deserve more exposure than a paraphrase could provide.

Jacobs is quoted in Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

Analyzing how others use language.

This scenario is probably most common in literature and linguistics courses, but you might also find yourself writing about the use of language in history and social science classes. If the use of language is your primary topic, then you will obviously need to quote users of that language.

Examples of topics that might require the frequent use of quotations include:

Southern colloquial expressions in William Faulkner’s Light in August

Ms. and the creation of a language of female empowerment

A comparison of three British poets and their use of rhyme

Spicing up your prose.

In order to lend variety to your prose, you may wish to quote a source with particularly vivid language. All quotations, however, must closely relate to your topic and arguments. Do not insert a quotation solely for its literary merits.

One example of a quotation that adds flair:

President Calvin Coolidge’s tendency to fall asleep became legendary. As H. L. Mencken commented in the American Mercury in 1933, “Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”

How do I set up and follow up a quotation?

Once you’ve carefully selected the quotations that you want to use, your next job is to weave those quotations into your text. The words that precede and follow a quotation are just as important as the quotation itself. You can think of each quote as the filling in a sandwich: it may be tasty on its own, but it’s messy to eat without some bread on either side of it. Your words can serve as the “bread” that helps readers digest each quote easily. Below are four guidelines for setting up and following up quotations.

In illustrating these four steps, we’ll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quotation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

1. Provide context for each quotation.

Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing context for our above example, you might write:

When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression.

2. Attribute each quotation to its source.

Tell your reader who is speaking. Here is a good test: try reading your text aloud. Could your reader determine without looking at your paper where your quotations begin? If not, you need to attribute the quote more noticeably.

Avoid getting into the “he/she said” attribution rut! There are many other ways to attribute quotes besides this construction. Here are a few alternative verbs, usually followed by “that”:

Different reporting verbs are preferred by different disciplines, so pay special attention to these in your disciplinary reading. If you’re unfamiliar with the meanings of any of these words or others you find in your reading, consult a dictionary before using them.

3. Explain the significance of the quotation.

Once you’ve inserted your quotation, along with its context and attribution, don’t stop! Your reader still needs your assessment of why the quotation holds significance for your paper. Using our Roosevelt example, if you were writing a paper on the first one-hundred days of FDR’s administration, you might follow the quotation by linking it to that topic:

With that message of hope and confidence, the new president set the stage for his next one-hundred days in office and helped restore the faith of the American people in their government.

4. Provide a citation for the quotation.

All quotations, just like all paraphrases, require a formal citation. For more details about particular citation formats, see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . In general, you should remember one rule of thumb: Place the parenthetical reference or footnote/endnote number after—not within—the closed quotation mark.

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers, 11).

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”1

How do I embed a quotation into a sentence?

In general, avoid leaving quotes as sentences unto themselves. Even if you have provided some context for the quote, a quote standing alone can disrupt your flow.  Take a look at this example:

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

Standing by itself, the quote’s connection to the preceding sentence is unclear. There are several ways to incorporate a quote more smoothly:

Lead into the quote with a colon.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression: “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

The colon announces that a quote will follow to provide evidence for the sentence’s claim.

Introduce or conclude the quote by attributing it to the speaker. If your attribution precedes the quote, you will need to use a comma after the verb.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. He states, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

When faced with a twelve-foot mountain troll, Ron gathers his courage, shouting, “Wingardium Leviosa!” (Rowling, p. 176).

The Pirate King sees an element of regality in their impoverished and dishonest life. “It is, it is a glorious thing/To be a pirate king,” he declares (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

Interrupt the quote with an attribution to the speaker. Again, you will need to use a comma after the verb, as well as a comma leading into the attribution.

“There is nothing either good or bad,” Hamlet argues, “but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet 2.2).

“And death shall be no more,” Donne writes, “Death thou shalt die” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Dividing the quote may highlight a particular nuance of the quote’s meaning. In the first example, the division calls attention to the two parts of Hamlet’s claim. The first phrase states that nothing is inherently good or bad; the second phrase suggests that our perspective causes things to become good or bad. In the second example, the isolation of “Death thou shalt die” at the end of the sentence draws a reader’s attention to that phrase in particular. As you decide whether or not you want to break up a quote, you should consider the shift in emphasis that the division might create.

Use the words of the quote grammatically within your own sentence.

When Hamlet tells Rosencrantz that he “could be bounded in a nutshell and count [him]self a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2), he implies that thwarted ambition did not cause his depression.

Ultimately, death holds no power over Donne since in the afterlife, “death shall be no more” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Note that when you use “that” after the verb that introduces the quote, you no longer need a comma.

The Pirate King argues that “it is, it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king” (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

How much should I quote?

As few words as possible. Remember, your paper should primarily contain your own words, so quote only the most pithy and memorable parts of sources. Here are guidelines for selecting quoted material judiciously:

Excerpt fragments.

Sometimes, you should quote short fragments, rather than whole sentences. Suppose you interviewed Jane Doe about her reaction to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. She commented:

“I couldn’t believe it. It was just unreal and so sad. It was just unbelievable. I had never experienced such denial. I don’t know why I felt so strongly. Perhaps it was because JFK was more to me than a president. He represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

You could quote all of Jane’s comments, but her first three sentences are fairly redundant. You might instead want to quote Jane when she arrives at the ultimate reason for her strong emotions:

Jane Doe grappled with grief and disbelief. She had viewed JFK, not just as a national figurehead, but as someone who “represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

Excerpt those fragments carefully!

Quoting the words of others carries a big responsibility. Misquoting misrepresents the ideas of others. Here’s a classic example of a misquote:

John Adams has often been quoted as having said: “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.”

John Adams did, in fact, write the above words. But if you see those words in context, the meaning changes entirely. Here’s the rest of the quotation:

Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell.

As you can see from this example, context matters!

This example is from Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (Oxford University Press, 1989).

Use block quotations sparingly.

There may be times when you need to quote long passages. However, you should use block quotations only when you fear that omitting any words will destroy the integrity of the passage. If that passage exceeds four lines (some sources say five), then set it off as a block quotation.

Be sure you are handling block quotes correctly in papers for different academic disciplines–check the index of the citation style guide you are using. Here are a few general tips for setting off your block quotations:

  • Set up a block quotation with your own words followed by a colon.
  • Indent. You normally indent 4-5 spaces for the start of a paragraph. When setting up a block quotation, indent the entire paragraph once from the left-hand margin.
  • Single space or double space within the block quotation, depending on the style guidelines of your discipline (MLA, CSE, APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Do not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of the block quote—the indentation is what indicates that it’s a quote.
  • Place parenthetical citation according to your style guide (usually after the period following the last sentence of the quote).
  • Follow up a block quotation with your own words.

So, using the above example from John Adams, here’s how you might include a block quotation:

After reading several doctrinally rigid tracts, John Adams recalled the zealous ranting of his former teacher, Joseph Cleverly, and minister, Lemuel Bryant. He expressed his ambivalence toward religion in an 1817 letter to Thomas Jefferson:

Adams clearly appreciated religion, even if he often questioned its promotion.

How do I combine quotation marks with other punctuation marks?

It can be confusing when you start combining quotation marks with other punctuation marks. You should consult a style manual for complicated situations, but the following two rules apply to most cases:

Keep periods and commas within quotation marks.

So, for example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.”

In the above example, both the comma and period were enclosed in the quotation marks. The main exception to this rule involves the use of internal citations, which always precede the last period of the sentence. For example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries” (Poe 167).

Note, however, that the period remains inside the quotation marks when your citation style involves superscript footnotes or endnotes. For example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.” 2

Place all other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks) outside the quotation marks, except when they were part of the original quotation.

Take a look at the following examples:

I couldn’t believe it when my friend passed me a note in the cafe saying the management “started charging $15 per hour for parking”!

The coach yelled, “Run!”

In the first example, the author placed the exclamation point outside the quotation mark because she added it herself to emphasize the outrageous nature of the parking price change. The original note had not included an exclamation mark. In the second example, the exclamation mark remains within the quotation mark because it is indicating the excited tone in which the coach yelled the command. Thus, the exclamation mark is considered to be part of the original quotation.

How do I indicate quotations within quotations?

If you are quoting a passage that contains a quotation, then you use single quotation marks for the internal quotation. Quite rarely, you quote a passage that has a quotation within a quotation. In that rare instance, you would use double quotation marks for the second internal quotation.

Here’s an example of a quotation within a quotation:

In “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “‘But the Emperor has nothing on at all!’ cried a little child.”

Remember to consult your style guide to determine how to properly cite a quote within a quote.

When do I use those three dots ( . . . )?

Whenever you want to leave out material from within a quotation, you need to use an ellipsis, which is a series of three periods, each of which should be preceded and followed by a space. So, an ellipsis in this sentence would look like . . . this. There are a few rules to follow when using ellipses:

Be sure that you don’t fundamentally change the meaning of the quotation by omitting material.

Take a look at the following example:

“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus and serves the entire UNC community.”

“The Writing Center . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

The reader’s understanding of the Writing Center’s mission to serve the UNC community is not affected by omitting the information about its location.

Do not use ellipses at the beginning or ending of quotations, unless it’s important for the reader to know that the quotation was truncated.

For example, using the above example, you would NOT need an ellipsis in either of these situations:

“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus . . .”

The Writing Center ” . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

Use punctuation marks in combination with ellipses when removing material from the end of sentences or clauses.

For example, if you take material from the end of a sentence, keep the period in as usual.

“The boys ran to school, forgetting their lunches and books. Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

“The boys ran to school. . . . Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

Likewise, if you excerpt material at the end of clause that ends in a comma, retain the comma.

“The red car came to a screeching halt that was heard by nearby pedestrians, but no one was hurt.”

“The red car came to a screeching halt . . . , but no one was hurt.”

Is it ever okay to insert my own words or change words in a quotation?

Sometimes it is necessary for clarity and flow to alter a word or words within a quotation. You should make such changes rarely. In order to alert your reader to the changes you’ve made, you should always bracket the altered words. Here are a few examples of situations when you might need brackets:

Changing verb tense or pronouns in order to be consistent with the rest of the sentence.

Suppose you were quoting a woman who, when asked about her experiences immigrating to the United States, commented “nobody understood me.” You might write:

Esther Hansen felt that when she came to the United States “nobody understood [her].”

In the above example, you’ve changed “me” to “her” in order to keep the entire passage in third person. However, you could avoid the need for this change by simply rephrasing:

“Nobody understood me,” recalled Danish immigrant Esther Hansen.

Including supplemental information that your reader needs in order to understand the quotation.

For example, if you were quoting someone’s nickname, you might want to let your reader know the full name of that person in brackets.

“The principal of the school told Billy [William Smith] that his contract would be terminated.”

Similarly, if a quotation referenced an event with which the reader might be unfamiliar, you could identify that event in brackets.

“We completely revised our political strategies after the strike [of 1934].”

Indicating the use of nonstandard grammar or spelling.

In rare situations, you may quote from a text that has nonstandard grammar, spelling, or word choice. In such cases, you may want to insert [sic], which means “thus” or “so” in Latin. Using [sic] alerts your reader to the fact that this nonstandard language is not the result of a typo on your part. Always italicize “sic” and enclose it in brackets. There is no need to put a period at the end. Here’s an example of when you might use [sic]:

Twelve-year-old Betsy Smith wrote in her diary, “Father is afraid that he will be guilty of beach [sic] of contract.”

Here [sic] indicates that the original author wrote “beach of contract,” not breach of contract, which is the accepted terminology.

Do not overuse brackets!

For example, it is not necessary to bracket capitalization changes that you make at the beginning of sentences. For example, suppose you were going to use part of this quotation:

“The colors scintillated curiously over a hard carapace, and the beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello.”

If you wanted to begin a sentence with an excerpt from the middle of this quotation, there would be no need to bracket your capitalization changes.

“The beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.

Not: “[T]he beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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MLA Formatting Quotations

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MLA (Modern Language Association) style is most commonly used to write papers and cite sources within the liberal arts and humanities. This resource, updated to reflect the MLA Handbook (8 th ed.), offers examples for the general format of MLA research papers, in-text citations, endnotes/footnotes, and the Works Cited page.

When you directly quote the works of others in your paper, you will format quotations differently depending on their length. Below are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper. Please note that all pages in MLA should be double-spaced .

Short quotations

To indicate short quotations (four typed lines or fewer of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks. Provide the author and specific page number (in the case of verse, provide line numbers) in the in-text citation, and include a complete reference on the Works Cited page. Punctuation marks such as periods, commas, and semicolons should appear after the parenthetical citation.

Question marks and exclamation points should appear within the quotation marks if they are a part of the quoted passage, but after the parenthetical citation if they are a part of your text.

For example, when quoting short passages of prose, use the following examples:

When using short (fewer than three lines of verse) quotations from poetry, mark breaks in verse with a slash, ( / ), at the end of each line of verse (a space should precede and follow the slash). If a stanza break occurs during the quotation, use a double slash ( // ).

Long quotations

For quotations that are more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse, place quotations in a free-standing block of text and omit quotation marks. Start the quotation on a new line, with the entire quote indented 1/2   inch  from the left margin while maintaining double-spacing. Your parenthetical citation should come  after the closing punctuation mark . When quoting verse, maintain original line breaks. (You should maintain double-spacing throughout your essay.)

For example, when citing more than four lines of prose, use the following examples :

Nelly Dean treats Heathcliff poorly and dehumanizes him throughout her narration: They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room, and I had no more sense, so, I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it would be gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw's door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. Inquiries were made as to how it got there; I was obliged to confess, and in recompense for my cowardice and inhumanity was sent out of the house. (Bronte 78)

When citing long sections of poetry (four lines of verse or more), keep formatting as close to the original as possible.

In his poem "My Papa's Waltz," Theodore Roethke explores his childhood with his father:

The whiskey on your breath Could make a small boy dizzy; But I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy. We Romped until the pans Slid from the kitchen shelf; My mother's countenance Could not unfrown itself. (qtd. in Shrodes, Finestone, Shugrue 202)

When citing two or more paragraphs, use block quotation format, even if the passage from the paragraphs is less than four lines. If you cite more than one paragraph, the first line of the second paragraph should be indented an extra 1/4 inch to denote a new paragraph:

In "American Origins of the Writing-across-the-Curriculum Movement," David Russell argues,

Writing has been an issue in American secondary and higher education since papers and examinations came into wide use in the 1870s, eventually driving out formal recitation and oral examination. . . .

From its birth in the late nineteenth century, progressive education has wrestled with the conflict within industrial society between pressure to increase specialization of knowledge and of professional work (upholding disciplinary standards) and pressure to integrate more fully an ever-widening number of citizens into intellectually meaningful activity within mass society (promoting social equity). . . . (3)

Adding or omitting words in quotations

If you add a word or words in a quotation, you should put brackets around the words to indicate that they are not part of the original text:

If you omit a word or words from a quotation, you should indicate the deleted word or words by using ellipses, which are three periods ( . . . ) preceded and followed by a space. For example:

Please note that brackets are not needed around ellipses unless they would add clarity.

When omitting words from poetry quotations, use a standard three-period ellipses; however, when omitting one or more full lines of poetry, space several periods to about the length of a complete line in the poem:

Quoting and integrating sources into your paper

In any study of a subject, people engage in a “conversation” of sorts, where they read or listen to others’ ideas, consider them with their own viewpoints, and then develop their own stance. It is important in this “conversation” to acknowledge when we use someone else’s words or ideas. If we didn’t come up with it ourselves, we need to tell our readers who did come up with it.

It is important to draw on the work of experts to formulate your own ideas. Quoting and paraphrasing the work of authors engaged in writing about your topic adds expert support to your argument and thesis statement. You are contributing to a scholarly conversation with scholars who are experts on your topic with your writing. This is the difference between a scholarly research paper and any other paper: you must include your own voice in your analysis and ideas alongside scholars or experts.

All your sources must relate to your thesis, or central argument, whether they are in agreement or not. It is a good idea to address all sides of the argument or thesis to make your stance stronger. There are two main ways to incorporate sources into your research paper.

Quoting is when you use the exact words from a source. You will need to put quotation marks around the words that are not your own and cite where they came from. For example:

“It wasn’t really a tune, but from the first note the beast’s eyes began to droop . . . Slowly the dog’s growls ceased – it tottered on its paws and fell to its knees, then it slumped to the ground, fast asleep” (Rowling 275).

Follow these guidelines when opting to cite a passage:

  • Choose to quote passages that seem especially well phrased or are unique to the author or subject matter.
  • Be selective in your quotations. Avoid over-quoting. You also don’t have to quote an entire passage. Use ellipses (. . .) to indicate omitted words. Check with your professor for their ideal length of quotations – some professors place word limits on how much of a sentence or paragraph you should quote.
  • Before or after quoting a passage, include an explanation in which you interpret the significance of the quote for the reader. Avoid “hanging quotes” that have no context or introduction. It is better to err on the side of your reader not understanding your point until you spell it out for them, rather than assume readers will follow your thought process exactly.
  • If you are having trouble paraphrasing (putting something into your own words), that may be a sign that you should quote it.
  • Shorter quotes are generally incorporated into the flow of a sentence while longer quotes may be set off in “blocks.” Check your citation handbook for quoting guidelines.

Paraphrasing is when you state the ideas from another source in your own words . Even when you use your own words, if the ideas or facts came from another source, you need to cite where they came from. Quotation marks are not used. For example:

With the simple music of the flute, Harry lulled the dog to sleep (Rowling 275).

Follow these guidelines when opting to paraphrase a passage:

  • Don’t take a passage and change a word here or there. You must write out the idea in your own words. Simply changing a few words from the original source or restating the information exactly using different words is considered plagiarism .
  • Read the passage, reflect upon it, and restate it in a way that is meaningful to you within the context of your paper . You are using this to back up a point you are making, so your paraphrased content should be tailored to that point specifically.
  • After reading the passage that you want to paraphrase, look away from it, and imagine explaining the main point to another person.
  • After paraphrasing the passage, go back and compare it to the original. Are there any phrases that have come directly from the original source? If so, you should rephrase it or put the original in quotation marks. If you cannot state an idea in your own words, you should use the direct quotation.

A summary is similar to paraphrasing, but used in cases where you are trying to give an overview of many ideas. As in paraphrasing, quotation marks are not used, but a citation is still necessary. For example:

Through a combination of skill and their invisibility cloak, Harry, Ron, and Hermione slipped through Hogwarts to the dog’s room and down through the trapdoor within (Rowling 271-77).

Important guidelines

When integrating a source into your paper, remember to use these three important components:

  • Introductory phrase to the source material : mention the author, date, or any other relevant information when introducing a quote or paraphrase.
  • Source material : a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary with proper citation.
  • Analysis of source material : your response, interpretations, or arguments regarding the source material should introduce or follow it. When incorporating source material into your paper, relate your source and analysis back to your original thesis.

Ideally, papers will contain a good balance of direct quotations, paraphrasing and your own thoughts. Too much reliance on quotations and paraphrasing can make it seem like you are only using the work of others and have no original thoughts on the topic.

Always properly cite an author’s original idea, whether you have directly quoted or paraphrased it. If you have questions about how to cite properly in your chosen citation style, browse these citation guides . You can also review our guide to understanding plagiarism .

University Writing Center

The University of Nevada, Reno Writing Center provides helpful guidance on quoting and paraphrasing and explains how to make sure your paraphrasing does not veer into plagiarism. If you have any questions about quoting or paraphrasing, or need help at any point in the writing process, schedule an appointment with the Writing Center.

Works Cited

Rowling, J.K. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.  A.A. Levine Books, 1998.

A Guide to Using Quotations in Essays

Quotations Add Credibility to a Persuasive Essay

  • Love Quotes
  • Great Lines from Movies and Television
  • Quotations For Holidays
  • Best Sellers
  • Classic Literature
  • Plays & Drama
  • Shakespeare
  • Short Stories
  • Children's Books
  • M.B.A, Human Resource Development and Management, Narsee Monjee Institution of Management Studies
  • B.S., University of Mumbai, Commerce, Accounting, and Finance

If you want to make an impact on your reader, you can draw on the potency of quotations. The  effective use of quotations  augments the power of your arguments and makes your essays more interesting.

But there is a need for caution! Are you convinced that the quotation you have chosen is helping your essay and not hurting it? Here are some factors to consider to ensure that you are doing the right thing.

What Is This Quotation Doing in This Essay?

Let us begin at the beginning. You have a chosen a quotation for your essay. But, why that specific quotation?

A good quotation should do one or more of the following:

  • Make an opening impact on the reader
  • Build credibility for your essay
  • Make the essay more interesting
  • Close the essay with a point to ponder upon

If the quotation does not meet a few of these objectives, then it is of little value. Merely stuffing a quotation into your essay can do more harm than good.

Your Essay Is Your Mouthpiece

Should the quotation speak for the essay or should the essay speak for the quotation? Quotations should add impact to the essay and not steal the show. If your quotation has more punch than your essay, then something is seriously wrong. Your essay should be able to stand on its own legs; the quotation should merely make this stand stronger.

How Many Quotations Should You Use in Your Essay?

Using too many quotations is like having several people shouting on your behalf. This will drown out your voice. Refrain from overcrowding your essay with words of wisdom from famous people. You own the essay, so make sure that you are heard.

Don't Make It Look Like You Plagiarized

There are some rules and standards when using quotations in an essay. The most important one is that you should not give the impression of being the author of the quotation. That would amount to plagiarism . Here are a set of rules to clearly distinguish your writing from the quotation:

  • You may describe the quotation in your own words before using it. In this case, you should use a colon (:) to indicate the beginning of the quotation. Then begin the quotation with a quotation mark ("). After you have completed the quotation, close it with a quotation mark ("). Here is an example: Sir Winston Churchill made a witty remark on the attitude of a pessimist: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
  • The sentence in which the quotation is embedded might not explicitly describe the quotation, but merely introduce it. In such a case, do away with the colon. Simply use the quotation marks . Here is an example: Sir Winston Churchill once said, "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."
  • As far as possible, you should mention the author and the source of the quotation. For instance: In Shakespeare ’s play "As You Like It," Touchstone says to Audrey in the Forest of Arden, "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." (Act V, Scene I).
  • Ensure that the source of your quotation is authentic. Also, verify the author of your quotation. You can do so by looking up the quotation on authoritative websites. For formal writing, do not rely on just one website.

Blend Quotations In

An essay can seem quite jarring if the quotation does not blend in. The quotation should naturally fit into your essay. No one is interested in reading quotation-stuffed essays.

Here are some good tips on blending in your quotations:

  • You can begin your essay with a quotation that sets off the basic idea of the essay. This can have a lasting impact on your reader. In the introductory paragraph of your essay, you can comment on the quotation if you like. In any case, do ensure that the relevance of the quotation is communicated well.
  • Your choice of phrases and adjectives can significantly boost the impact of the quotation in your essay. Do not use monotonous phrases like: "George Washington once said...." If your essay is written for the appropriate context, consider using emphatic expressions like: "George Washington rocked the nation by saying...."

Using Long Quotations

It is usually better to have short and crisp quotations in your essay. Generally, long quotations must be used sparingly as they tend to weigh down the reader. However, there are times when your essay has more impact with a longer quotation.

If you have decided to use a long quotation, consider paraphrasing , as it usually works better. But, there is a downside to paraphrasing too. Instead of paraphrasing, if you use a direct quotation , you will avoid misrepresentation. The decision to use a long quotation is not trivial. It is your judgment call.

If you are convinced that a particular long quotation is more effective, be sure to format and punctuate it correctly.   Long quotations should be set off as block quotations . The format of block quotations should follow the guidelines that you might have been provided. If there are no specific guidelines, you can follow the usual standard—if a quotation is more than three lines long, you set it off as a block quote. Blocking implies indenting it about half an inch on the left.

Usually, a brief introduction to a long quotation is warranted. In other cases, you might need to provide a complete analysis of the quotation. In this case, it is best to begin with the quotation and follow it with the analysis, rather than the other way around.

Using Cute Quotes or Poetry

Some students choose a cute quotation first and then try to plug it into their essay. As a consequence, such quotations usually drag the reader away from the essay.

Quoting a verse from a poem, however, can add a lot of charm to your essay. I have come across writing that acquires a romantic edge merely by including a poetic quotation. If you are quoting from poetry, keep in mind that a small extract of a poem, say about two lines long, requires the use of slash marks (/) to indicate line breaks. Here is an example:

Charles Lamb has aptly described a child as "A child's a plaything for an hour;/ Its pretty tricks we try / For that or for a longer space; / Then tire, and lay it by." (1-4)

If you use a single line extract of a poem, punctuate it like any other short quotation without the slashes. Quotation marks are required at the beginning and at the end of the extract. However, if your quotation is more than three lines of poetry, I would suggest that you treat it like you would have treated a long quotation from prose. In this case, you should use the block quote format.

Does Your Reader Understand the Quotation?

Perhaps the most important question you must ask yourself when using a quotation is: "Do readers understand the quotation and its relevance to my essay ?"

If the reader is re-reading a quotation, just to understand it, then you are in trouble. So when you choose a quotation for your essay, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is this too convoluted for my reader?
  • Does this match the tastes of my audience ?
  • Is the grammar and vocabulary in this quotation understandable?
  • How to Use Block Quotations in Writing
  • Definition and Examples of Direct Quotations
  • Definition and Examples of Quotation in English Grammar
  • Guidelines for Using Quotation Marks Correctly
  • What Is an Indentation?
  • How to Use Shakespeare Quotes
  • Practice in Using Quotation Marks Correctly
  • How To Write an Essay
  • The Five Steps of Writing an Essay
  • Difference Between "Quote" and "Quotation": What Is the Right Word?
  • Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
  • How and When to Paraphrase Quotations
  • Development in Composition: Building an Essay
  • Compose a Narrative Essay or Personal Statement
  • How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies

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How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps

How to use Quotes in an Essay

A quote can be an effective and powerful literary tool in an essay, but it needs to be done well. To use quotes in an essay, you need to make sure your quotes are short, backed up with explanations, and used rarely. The best essays use a maximum of 2 quotes for every 1500 words.

Rules for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes.
  • Quotes should be less than 1 sentence long.
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples.
  • Use Max. 2 Quotes for 1500 words.
  • Use page numbers when Citing Quotes.
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes.
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes.

Once you have mastered these quotation writing rules you’ll be on your way to growing your marks in your next paper.

How to use Quotes in an Essay

1. avoid long quotes.

There’s a simple rule to follow here: don’t use a quote that is longer than one line. In fact,  four word quotes  are usually best.

Long quotes in essays are red flags for teachers. It doesn’t matter if it is an amazing quote. Many, many teachers don’t like long quotes, so it’s best to avoid them.

Too many students provide quotes that take up half of a paragraph. This will lose you marks – big time.

If you follow my  perfect paragraph formula , you know that most paragraphs should be about six sentences long, which comes out to about six or seven typed lines on paper. That means that your quote will be a maximum of one-sixth (1/6) of your paragraph. This leaves plenty of space for discussion in your own words.

One reason teachers don’t like long quotes is that they suck up your word count. It can start to look like you didn’t have enough to say, so you inserted quotes to pad out your essay. Even if this is only your teacher’s perception, it’s something that you need to be aware of.

Here’s an example of over-use of quotes in paragraphs:

Avoid Quotes that are Too Long

Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors on economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student made the fatal mistake of having the quote overtake the paragraph.

Simply put, don’t use a quote that is longer than one line long. Ever. It’s just too risky.

Personally, I like to use a 4-word quote in my essays. Four-word quotes are long enough to constitute an actual quote but short enough that I have to think about how I will fit that quote around my own writing. This forces me to write quotations that both show:

  • I have read the original source, but also:
  • I know how to paraphrase

2. Do not use a Quote to that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph

These are three common but fatal mistakes.

Essay quotes that start sentences or end paragraphs make you appear passive.

If you use a quotation in an essay to start a sentence or end a paragraph, your teacher automatically thinks that your quote is replacing analysis, rather than supporting it.

You should instead start the sentence that contains the quote with your own writing. This makes it appear that you have an  active voice .

Similarly, you should end a paragraph with your own analysis, not a quote.

Let’s look at some examples of quotes that start sentences and end paragraphs. These examples are poor examples of using quotes:

Avoid Quotes that Start Sentences The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. “Children have the ability to learn through play and exploration. Play helps children to learn about their surroundings” (Malaguzzi, 1949, p. 10). Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Avoid Quotes that End Paragraphs Before Judith Butler gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex, men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time. “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Both these quotes are from essays that were shared with me by colleagues. My colleagues marked these students down for these quotes because of the quotes:

  • took up full sentences;
  • started sentences; and
  • were used to end paragraphs.

It didn’t appear as if the students were analyzing the quotes. Instead, the quotes were doing the talking for the students.

There are some easy strategies to use in order to make it appear that you are actively discussing and analyzing quotes.

One is that you should make sure the essay sentences with quotes in them  don’t start with the quote . Here are some examples of how we can change the quotes:

Example 1: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “children have the ability to learn through play and exploration.” Here, Malaguzzi is highlighting how to play is linked to finding things out about the world. Play is important for children to develop. Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Here, the sentence with the quote was amended so that the student has an active voice. They start the sentence with According to Malaguzzi, ….

Similarly, in the second example, we can also insert an active voice by ensuring that our quote sentence does not start with a quote:

Example 2: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice In 1990, Judith Butler revolutionized Feminist understandings of gender by arguing that “gender is a fluid concept” (p. 136). Before Butler’s 1990 book  Gender Trouble , gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex. Men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time.

In this example, the quote is not at the start of a sentence or end of a paragraph – tick!

How to Start Sentences containing Quotes using an Active Voice

  • According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “…”
  • Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) argues that “…”
  • In 1949, Malaguzzi (p. 10) highlighted that “…”
  • The argument of Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) that “…” provides compelling insight into the issue.

3. Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples

Earlier on, I stated that one key reason to use quotes in essays is so that you can analyze them.

Quotes shouldn’t stand alone as explanations. Quotes should be there to be analyzed, not to do the analysis.

Let’s look again at the quote used in Point 1:

Example: A Quote that is Too Long Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults.  “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors in economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student has included the facts, figures, citations and key details in the quote. Essentially, this student has been lazy. They failed to paraphrase.

Instead, this student could have selected the most striking phrase from the quote and kept it. Then, the rest should be paraphrased. The most striking phrase in this quote was “[poverty] is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761).

So, take that one key phrase, then paraphrase the rest:

Example: Paraphrasing Long Quotes Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. In their analysis, Mistry et al. (2016) highlight that there is a misconception in American society that hard work is enough to escape poverty. Instead, they argue, there is evidence that over 40% of people born in poverty remain in poverty. For Mistry et al. (2016, p. 761), this data shows that poverty is not a matter of being lazy alone, but more importantly  “a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  This implies that poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

To recap,  quotes shouldn’t do the talking for you . Provide a brief quote in your essay, and then show you understand it with surrounding explanation and analysis.

4. Know how many Quotes to use in an Essay

There’s a simple rule for how many quotes should be in an essay.

Here’s a good rule to follow: one quote for every five paragraphs. A paragraph is usually 150 words long, so you’re looking at  one quote in every 750 words, maximum .

To extrapolate that out, you’ll want a maximum of about:

  • 2 quotes for a 1500-word paper;
  • 3 quotes for a 2000-word paper;
  • 4 quotes for a 3000-word paper.

That’s the maximum , not a target. There’s no harm in writing a paper that has absolutely zero quotes in it, so long as it’s still clear that you’ve closely read and paraphrased your readings.

The reason you don’t want to use more quotes than this in your essay is that teachers want to see you saying things in your own words. When you over-use quotes, it is a sign to your teacher that you don’t know how to paraphrase well.

5. Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays

One biggest problem with quotes are that many students don’t know how to cite quotes in essays.

Nearly every referencing format requires you to include a page number in your citation. This includes the three most common referencing formats: Harvard, APA, and MLA. All of them require you to provide page numbers with quotes.

Citing a Quote in Chicago Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990, 136).

Citing a Quote in APA and Harvard Styles – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Citing a Quote in MLA Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 136).

Including a page number in your quotation makes a huge difference when a marker is trying to determine how high your grade should be.

This is especially true when you’re already up in the higher marks range. These little editing points can mean the difference between placing first in the class and third. Don’t underestimate the importance of attention to detail.

6. Don’t Italicize Quotes

For some reason, students love to use italics for quotes. This is wrong in absolutely every major referencing format, yet it happens all the time.

I don’t know where this started, but please don’t do it. It looks sloppy, and teachers notice. A nice, clean, well-formatted essay should not contain these minor but not insignificant errors. If you want to be a top student, you need to pay attention to minor details.

7. Avoid quotes inside quotes

Have you ever found a great quote and thought, “I want to quote that quote!” Quoting a quote is a tempting thing to do, but not worth your while.

I’ll often see students write something like this:

Poor Quotation Example: Quotes Inside Quotes Rousseau “favored a civil religion because it would be more tolerant of diversity than Christianity. Indeed ‘no state has ever been founded without religion as its base’ (Rousseau, 1913: 180).” (Durkheim, 1947, p. 19).

Here, there are quotes on top of quotes. The student has quoted Durkheim quoting Rousseau. This quote has become a complete mess and hard to read. The minute something’s hard to read, it loses marks.

Here are two solutions:

  • Cite the original source. If you really want the Rousseau quote, just cite Rousseau. Stop messing around with quotes on top of quotes.
  • Learn the ‘as cited in’ method. Frankly, that method’s too complicated to discuss here. But if you google it, you’ll be able to teach yourself.

When Should I use Quotes in Essays?

1. to highlight an important statement.

One main reason to use quotes in essays is to emphasize a famous statement by a top thinker in your field.

The statement must be  important. It can’t be just any random comment.

Here are some examples of when to use quotes in essays to emphasize the words of top thinkers:

  • The words of Stephen Hawking go a long way in Physics ;
  • The words of JK Rowling go a long way in Creative Writing ;
  • The words of Michel Foucault go a long way in Cultural Studies ;
  • The words of Jean Piaget go a long way in Education Studies .

2. To analyze an Important Statement.

Another reason to use quotes in essays is when you want to analyze a statement by a specific author. This author might not be famous, but they might have said something that requires unpacking and analyzing. You can provide a quote, then unpack it by explaining your interpretation of it in the following sentences.

Quotes usually need an explanation and example. You can unpack the quote by asking:

  • What did they mean,
  • Why is it relevant, and
  • Why did they say this?

You want to always follow up quotes by top thinkers or specific authors with discussion and analysis.

Quotes should be accompanied by:

  • Explanations of the quote;
  • Analysis of the ideas presented in the quote; or
  • Real-world examples that show you understand what the quote means.
Remember: A quote should be a stimulus for a discussion, not a replacement for discussion.

What Bad Quotes Look Like

Many teachers I have worked with don’t like when students use quotes in essays. In fact, some teachers absolutely hate essay quotes. The teachers I have met tend to hate these sorts of quotes:

  • When you use too many quotes.
  • When you use the wrong citation format.
  • When you don’t provide follow-up explanations of quotes.
  • When you used quotes because you don’t know how to paraphrase .

how to use quotes in an essay

Be a minimalist when it comes to using quotes. Here are the seven approaches I recommend for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes in Essays
  • Do not use a Quote that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples
  • Use a Maximum of 2 Quotes for every 1500 words
  • Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes


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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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  • How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA

Published on 15 April 2022 by Shona McCombes and Jack Caulfield. Revised on 3 September 2022.

Quoting means copying a passage of someone else’s words and crediting the source. To quote a source, you must ensure:

  • The quoted text is enclosed in quotation marks (usually single quotation marks in UK English, though double is acceptable as long as you’re consistent) or formatted as a block quote
  • The original author is correctly cited
  • The text is identical to the original

The exact format of a quote depends on its length and on which citation style you are using. Quoting and citing correctly is essential to avoid plagiarism , which is easy to detect with a good plagiarism checker .

How to Quote

Table of contents

How to cite a quote in harvard and apa style, introducing quotes, quotes within quotes, shortening or altering a quote, block quotes, when should i use quotes, frequently asked questions about quoting sources.

Every time you quote, you must cite the source correctly . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style you’re using.

Citing a quote in Harvard style

When you include a quote in Harvard style, you must add a Harvard in-text citation giving the author’s last name, the year of publication, and a page number if available. Any full stop or comma appears after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

Citations can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in brackets after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) . Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510) .

Complete guide to Harvard style

Citing a quote in APA Style

To cite a direct quote in APA , you must include the author’s last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use ‘p.’; if it spans a page range, use ‘pp.’

An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative. In a parenthetical citation , you place all the information in parentheses after the quote. In a narrative citation , you name the author in your sentence (followed by the year), and place the page number after the quote.

Punctuation marks such as full stops and commas are placed after the citation, not within the quotation marks.

  • Evolution is a gradual process that ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (Darwin, 1859, p. 510) .
  • Darwin (1859) explains that evolution ‘can act only by very short and slow steps’ (p. 510) .

Complete guide to APA

Make sure you integrate quotes properly into your text by introducing them in your own words, showing the reader why you’re including the quote and providing any context necessary to understand it.  Don’t  present quotations as stand-alone sentences.

There are three main strategies you can use to introduce quotes in a grammatically correct way:

  • Add an introductory sentence
  • Use an introductory signal phrase
  • Integrate the quote into your own sentence

The following examples use APA Style citations, but these strategies can be used in all styles.

Introductory sentence

Introduce the quote with a full sentence ending in a colon . Don’t use a colon if the text before the quote isn’t a full sentence.

If you name the author in your sentence, you may use present-tense verbs, such as “states’, ‘argues’, ‘explains’, ‘writes’, or ‘reports’, to describe the content of the quote.

  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • In Denmark, a recent poll shows that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that support for the EU has grown since the Brexit vote: ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Introductory signal phrase

You can also use a signal phrase that mentions the author or source but doesn’t form a full sentence. In this case, you follow the phrase with a comma instead of a colon.

  • According to a recent poll, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • As Levring (2018) explains, ‘A membership referendum held today would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ (p. 3).

Integrated into your own sentence

To quote a phrase that doesn’t form a full sentence, you can also integrate it as part of your sentence, without any extra punctuation.

  • A recent poll suggests that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (Levring, 2018, p. 3).
  • Levring (2018) reports that EU membership ‘would be backed by 55 percent of Danish voters’ in a referendum (p. 3).

When you quote text that itself contains another quote, this is called a nested quotation or a quote within a quote. It may occur, for example, when quoting dialogue from a novel.

To distinguish this quote from the surrounding quote, you enclose it in double (instead of single) quotation marks (even if this involves changing the punctuation from the original text). Make sure to close both sets of quotation marks at the appropriate moments.

Note that if you only quote the nested quotation itself, and not the surrounding text, you can just use single quotation marks.

  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘ ‘ Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, ‘ he told me, ‘ just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had ‘ ‘ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘”Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had “  (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway introduces his narrative by quoting his father: ‘“Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had”’ (Fitzgerald 1).
  • Carraway begins by quoting his father’s invocation to ‘remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had’ (Fitzgerald 1).

Note:  When the quoted text in the source comes from another source, it’s best to just find that original source in order to quote it directly. If you can’t find the original source, you can instead cite it indirectly .

Often, incorporating a quote smoothly into your text requires you to make some changes to the original text. It’s fine to do this, as long as you clearly mark the changes you’ve made to the quote.

Shortening a quote

If some parts of a passage are redundant or irrelevant, you can shorten the quote by removing words, phrases, or sentences and replacing them with an ellipsis (…). Put a space before and after the ellipsis.

Be careful that removing the words doesn’t change the meaning. The ellipsis indicates that some text has been removed, but the shortened quote should still accurately represent the author’s point.

Altering a quote

You can add or replace words in a quote when necessary. This might be because the original text doesn’t fit grammatically with your sentence (e.g., it’s in a different tense), or because extra information is needed to clarify the quote’s meaning.

Use brackets to distinguish words that you have added from words that were present in the original text.

The Latin term ‘ sic ‘ is used to indicate a (factual or grammatical) mistake in a quotation. It shows the reader that the mistake is from the quoted material, not a typo of your own.

In some cases, it can be useful to italicise part of a quotation to add emphasis, showing the reader that this is the key part to pay attention to. Use the phrase ’emphasis added’ to show that the italics were not part of the original text.

You usually don’t need to use brackets to indicate minor changes to punctuation or capitalisation made to ensure the quote fits the style of your text.

If you quote more than a few lines from a source, you must format it as a block quote . Instead of using quotation marks, you set the quote on a new line and indent it so that it forms a separate block of text.

Block quotes are cited just like regular quotes, except that if the quote ends with a full stop, the citation appears after the full stop.

To the end of his days Bilbo could never remember how he found himself outside, without a hat, a walking-stick or any money, or anything that he usually took when he went out; leaving his second breakfast half-finished and quite unwashed-up, pushing his keys into Gandalf’s hands, and running as fast as his furry feet could carry him down the lane, past the great Mill, across The Water, and then on for a mile or more. (16)

Avoid relying too heavily on quotes in academic writing . To integrate a source , it’s often best to paraphrase , which means putting the passage into your own words. This helps you integrate information smoothly and keeps your own voice dominant.

However, there are some situations in which quotes are more appropriate.

When focusing on language

If you want to comment on how the author uses language (for example, in literary analysis ), it’s necessary to quote so that the reader can see the exact passage you are referring to.

When giving evidence

To convince the reader of your argument, interpretation or position on a topic, it’s often helpful to include quotes that support your point. Quotes from primary sources (for example, interview transcripts or historical documents) are especially credible as evidence.

When presenting an author’s position or definition

When you’re referring to secondary sources such as scholarly books and journal articles, try to put others’ ideas in your own words when possible.

But if a passage does a great job at expressing, explaining, or defining something, and it would be very difficult to paraphrase without changing the meaning or losing the weakening the idea’s impact, it’s worth quoting directly.

A quote is an exact copy of someone else’s words, usually enclosed in quotation marks and credited to the original author or speaker.

To present information from other sources in academic writing , it’s best to paraphrase in most cases. This shows that you’ve understood the ideas you’re discussing and incorporates them into your text smoothly.

It’s appropriate to quote when:

  • Changing the phrasing would distort the meaning of the original text
  • You want to discuss the author’s language choices (e.g., in literary analysis )
  • You’re presenting a precise definition
  • You’re looking in depth at a specific claim

Every time you quote a source , you must include a correctly formatted in-text citation . This looks slightly different depending on the citation style .

For example, a direct quote in APA is cited like this: ‘This is a quote’ (Streefkerk, 2020, p. 5).

Every in-text citation should also correspond to a full reference at the end of your paper.

In scientific subjects, the information itself is more important than how it was expressed, so quoting should generally be kept to a minimum. In the arts and humanities, however, well-chosen quotes are often essential to a good paper.

In social sciences, it varies. If your research is mainly quantitative , you won’t include many quotes, but if it’s more qualitative , you may need to quote from the data you collected .

As a general guideline, quotes should take up no more than 5–10% of your paper. If in doubt, check with your instructor or supervisor how much quoting is appropriate in your field.

If you’re quoting from a text that paraphrases or summarises other sources and cites them in parentheses , APA  recommends retaining the citations as part of the quote:

  • Smith states that ‘the literature on this topic (Jones, 2015; Sill, 2019; Paulson, 2020) shows no clear consensus’ (Smith, 2019, p. 4).

Footnote or endnote numbers that appear within quoted text should be omitted.

If you want to cite an indirect source (one you’ve only seen quoted in another source), either locate the original source or use the phrase ‘as cited in’ in your citation.

A block quote is a long quote formatted as a separate ‘block’ of text. Instead of using quotation marks , you place the quote on a new line, and indent the entire quote to mark it apart from your own words.

APA uses block quotes for quotes that are 40 words or longer.

Cite this Scribbr article

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McCombes, S. & Caulfield, J. (2022, September 03). How to Quote | Citing Quotes in Harvard & APA. Scribbr. Retrieved 14 November 2023, from

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how to state quotes in an essay

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Words that introduce Quotes or Paraphrases


Remember that you are required to cite your sources for paraphrases and direct quotes. For more information on MLA Style, APA style, Chicago Style, ASA Style, CSE Style, and I-Search Format, refer to our Gallaudet TIP Citations and References  link.

Words that introduce Quotes or Paraphrases are basically three keys verbs:

  • Neutral Verbs( here )
  • Stronger Verbs( here )
  • Inference Verbs( here )

Neutral Verbs: When used to introduce a quote, the following verbs basically mean “says”

Examples of Neutral Verbs

The author  says. The author  notes. The author  believes. The author  observes. The author  comments. The author  relates. The author  declares. The author  remarks. The author  discusses. The author  reports. The author  explains. The author  reveals. The author  expresses. The author  states. The author  mentions. The author  acknowledges. The author  suggests. The author  thinks. The author  points out. The author  responds. The author  shows. The author  confirms.

Sample Sentences

  • Dr. Billow  says  that being exposed to television violence at a young age desensitizes children to violence in real life (author’s last name p.##).
  • As the author  notes , “In an ideal classroom, both gifted children and learning disabled children should feel challenged” (p.##).
  • Burdow  believes  that being able to write using proper English grammar is an important skill (author’s last name p.##).
  • Dr. Patel  observes  that “most people tend to respond well to hypnotherapy” (p. ##).
  • We see this self doubt again in the second scene, when Agatha comments , “Oh, times like this I just don’t know whether I am right or wrong, good or bad” (p. ##).
  • Goeff then relates  that his childhood was “the time he learned to live on less than bread alone” (p. ##).
  • The author declares , “All people, rich or poor, should pay the same taxes to the government” (p. ##).
  • Godfried remarks , “Ignorance is a skill learned by many of the greatest fools” (author’s last name p.##).
  • The article discusses the qualities of a good American housewife in the 1950s (author’s last name p.##).
  • After the war is over, the General reports that “It seemed a useless battle to fight even from the start” (p.##).
  • Danelli explains , “All mammals have hair” (p.##).
  • The author reveals his true feelings with his ironic remark that we should “just resort to cannibalism to defeat world hunger” (p. ##).
  • Forton expresses disapproval of the American welfare system (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • The author states that “More than fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce” (p. ##).
  • He also mentions , “Many children grow up feeling responsible for their parents’ mistakes” (p. ##).
  • Jones acknowledges that although the divorce rate is increasing, most young children still dream of getting married (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • The author suggests that we hone our English skills before venturing into the work force (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • The author thinks that the recent weather has been too hot (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • Folsh points out that there were hundreds of people from varying backgrounds at the convention (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • Julia Hertz responded to allegations that her company was aware of the faulty tires on their cars (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • His research shows that 7% of Americans suffer from Social Anxiety Disorder (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • Jostin’s research confirmed his earlier hypothesis: mice really are smarter than rats (author’s last, year, name p. ##).

Stronger Verbs: These verbs indicate that there is some kind of argument, and that the quote shows either support of or disagreement with one side of the argument.

Examples of Stronger Verbs The author agrees . . .The author rejects . The author argues . The author compares . (the two studies) The author asserts . The author admits . The author cautions . The author disputes . The author emphasizes . The author contends . The author insists . The author denies . The author maintains . The author refutes . The author claims . The author endorses .

Sample Sentences MLA Style

  • Despite criticism, Johnston agrees that smoking should be banned in all public places (author’s last name p.##).
  • The author argues that “subjecting non-smokers to toxic second-hand smoke is not only unfair, but a violation of their right to a safe environment” (p.##).
  • Vick asserts that “cigarette smoke is unpleasant, and dangerous” (p.##).
  • The author cautions that “people who subject themselves to smoky bars night after night could develop illnesses such as emphysema or lung cancer” (p.##).
  • Rosentrhaw emphasizes that “second-hand smoke can kill” (p.##).
  • Still, tobacco company executives insist that they “were not fully aware of the long term damages caused by smoking” when they launched their nationwide advertising campaign (author’s last name p.##).
  • Though bar owners disagree, Johnston maintains that banning smoking in all public places will not negatively affect bar business (author’s last name p.##).
  • Jefferson claims that banning smoking in public places will hurt America’s economy (author’s last name p.##).
  • Johnson refutes allegations that his personal finances have been in trouble for the past five years (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • Whiley rejects the idea that the earth could have been formed by a massive explosion in space (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • Lucci compares the house prices in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • Although they have stopped short of admitting that smoking causes cancer in humans, tobacco companies have admitted that “smoking causes cancer in laboratory rats” (p. ##).
  • For years, local residents have been disputing the plans to build a new highway right through the center of town (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • Residents contend that the new highway will lower property values (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • The Department of Transportation denies claims that the new bridge will damage the fragile ecosystem of the Potomac River (author’s last name, year, p. ##).
  • Joley endorses the bridge, saying “our goal is to make this city more accessible to those who live outside of it” (p. ##).

Inference Verbs: These verbs indicate that there is some kind of argument, and that the quote shows either support of or disagreement with one side of the argument. Examples of Inference Verbs The author implies . The author suggests . The author thinks . Sample Sentences MLA Style

  • By calling them ignorant, the author implies that they were unschooled and narrow minded (author’s last name p.##).
  • Her preoccupation with her looks suggests that she is too superficial to make her a believable character (author’s last name p.##).
  • Based on his research, we can assume Hatfield thinks that our treatment of our environment has been careless (author’s last name p.##).

One phrase that is often used to introduce a quotation is: According to the author, . . .

  • According to the author, children with ADD have a shorter attention span than children without ADD (author’s last name, year, p. ##).


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How to Use a Quote in an Essay

Benjamin Oaks

Table of Contents


MLA in-text citation how-to

You can take a quote from different sources of information, such as books, magazines, websites or printed journals. Using quotes in an essay serves three goals:

  • Present additional evidence to support your point of view or oppose a claim or idea;
  • Help a reader better understand a topic under analysis;
  • Strengthen your argumentation on a topic using another writer’s eloquence.

Since quotes are mostly used in Humanities, you’ll have to follow MLA citation referencing guidelines. The Modern Language Association citation manual implies two types of quotes – short and long.

  • Short quote – Is less than 4 lines of typed text and can be embedded directly into a sentence;
  • Long quote – Is more than 4 lines of typed text and requires a separate content block in an essay without quotation marks.

Writing college essays, the recommendation is to use short quotes.

Parenthetical citation

Referring to the works of other authors in-text is done using a parenthetical citation . Such a method implies the author-page style of quoting. For example:

When it comes to writing, King suggests: “Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.” (5)

Given the MLA in-text citation already contains King’s last name, you shouldn’t mention it in the parenthesis. If the author’s name isn’t mentioned in-text, it has to be specified in a parenthetical citation.

When it comes to writing, there’s a quote I like the most: “Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read. I know of no shortcuts.” (King 5)

According to MLA guidelines, at the end of the essay, there has to be the Works Cited page . It contains the full reference featuring author’s full name, the full title of the source, the volume, the issue number, the date of publishing, and the URL (if the source was found online). Here’s an example of the full referencing in the Works Cited:

King, Larry L. “The Collection of Best Works.” Oxford University Press, vol. 2, no. 3, Jan.-Feb. 2017,

How to start an essay with a quote?

Starting an essay with a quote is a matter of controversy. Experts in the pro camp suggest that a quote at the beginning of an essay helps make a powerful statement right from the start. Moreover, an interesting, captivating quote grabs the reader’s attention right from the start.

Experts from the against camp suggest that when you begin an essay with a quote, you miss on the opportunity to present your own take on the subject matter. In their opinion, when writing the introduction, you have to rely only on your words. Whereas quotes are most useful in the main body, serving as an additional argumentation. In conclusion, a quote can be placed, too.


How to use quotes in the middle of an essay?

Main Body is the place you’re meant to state a quote or two, depending on the length of a paper. A standard 5-paragraph essay will imply you to use 2-3 quotes in the main body. More quotes aren’t necessary for such a short assignment. Two quotes in the main body will do just fine.

In the main body paragraph, a quote is placed in the middle of the passage . First, you introduce a focal sentence of a paragraph highlighting your point of view regarding a topic. After that, you provide the evidence data and argumentation, among which is a relevant quote. And finally, you smoothly transit to the next body paragraph or the conclusion. Here’re three examples of how to present a quote in one of the main body paragraphs.

Accurate integration of a citation in a text is key. Or the whole passage will sound off.

People who want to become a writer don’t really need any piece of advice. “Those (…) who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”

College essay quotes have to be naturally embedded in a text .

People who want to become a writer don’t really need any piece of advice: “Those (…) who know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”

There’s also the way to write an essay with quotes in the smoothest way possible.

People who want to become a writer don’t really need any piece of advice. They simply “know that they really want to do this and are cut out for it, they know it.”

See how organically a quote is inserted in a sentence? That’s the best-case scenario of using a quote in a sentence.

How to end an essay with a quote?

Sometimes, ending an essay with a quote is better than merely restating your thesis statement. Citations can be taken from both primary and secondary sources. Good quotes to end an essay might be of your course professor’s. According to essay writing websites , quotations taken from the words of subject authorities and thought leaders will do great, too.

A quote ending an essay helps meet 5 objectives:

  • Provide a solid closure to your essay;
  • Fortify your point of view;
  • Give one final argument in favor of your thesis statement;
  • Establish your authority on a topic;
  • Helps your essay stand out.

Having a quotation at the end of an essay gives a good chance to score an “A”.

15 tips for using quotations in an essay

  • Look up quotes in academic sources in the first place;
  • Rely on the printed matter rather than internet sources;
  • Avoid citing information from Wikipedia;
  • Give context to every quotation you use;
  • Always use quotation marks to avoid plagiarism-related troubles;
  • Explain why the quote you’re about to use in a text is important;
  • Seek to integrate quotes smoothly in a sentence for the best effect;
  • Each quotation has to be attributed to the original source using parenthesis;
  • Gather 10-15 quotes relevant to your topic and then sift through 5 quotes that will serve you best;
  • Use the exact wording, punctuation, capitalization and sentence structure as in the original;
  • Watch your punctuation when using quotes in a sentence;
  • Avoid misquotations, as it’s a sign of a careless attitude towards the assignment;
  • Use an ellipsis (…) to withdraw a part of a quote you don’t actually need;
  • Try to use short quotes rather than long;
  • Avoid quoting quotes, as it’s where students make mistakes most often.

5 motivational quotes for essay writing

Mask Group

Inspiration is a staple in every great writer’s routine. As a student, you might find drawing inspiration a bit too difficult. Here’re a couple of inspiring essay motivation quotes to help you break through the writer’s block. Or you can buy argumentative essay if doing the task yourself isn’t an option.

“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.”

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

“Making people believe the unbelievable is no trick; it’s work . … Belief and reader absorption come in the details: An overturned tricycle in the gutter of an abandoned neighborhood can stand for everything.”

“To defend what you’ve written is a sign that you are alive.”

Many times life catches us off balance. Lots of written homework. Tight schedule. Sudden illness. Personal matters. Writer’s block. An instructor returned the essay for revisions. At the moments like these, it’s always a good idea to have someone to cover your back. GradeMiners can always write you a new essay, rewrite an existing draft, perform an ending an essay with a quote, or proofread your text for mistakes, typos, as well as correct the use of quotations. Let us know if you need anything, and we’ll help you out!

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  • The Basics of In-Text Citation | APA & MLA Examples

The Basics of In-Text Citation | APA & MLA Examples

Published on March 14, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on August 23, 2022.

An in-text citation is a short acknowledgement you include whenever you quote or take information from a source in academic writing. It points the reader to the source so they can see where you got your information.

In-text citations most commonly take the form of short parenthetical statements indicating the author and publication year of the source, as well as the page number if relevant.

We also offer a free citation generator and in-depth guides to the main citation styles.

Generate accurate citations with Scribbr

Table of contents, what are in-text citations for, when do you need an in-text citation, types of in-text citation, frequently asked questions about in-text citations.

The point of an in-text citation is to show your reader where your information comes from. Including citations:

  • Avoids plagiarism by acknowledging the original author’s contribution
  • Allows readers to verify your claims and do follow-up research
  • Shows you are engaging with the literature of your field

Academic writing is seen as an ongoing conversation among scholars, both within and between fields of study. Showing exactly how your own research draws on and interacts with existing sources is essential to keeping this conversation going.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

An in-text citation should be included whenever you quote or paraphrase a source in your text.

Quoting means including the original author’s words directly in your text, usually introduced by a signal phrase . Quotes should always be cited (and indicated with quotation marks), and you should include a page number indicating where in the source the quote can be found.

Paraphrasing means putting information from a source into your own words. In-text citations are just as important here as with quotes, to avoid the impression you’re taking credit for someone else’s ideas. Include page numbers where possible, to show where the information can be found.

However, to avoid over-citation, bear in mind that some information is considered common knowledge and doesn’t need to be cited. For example, you don’t need a citation to prove that Paris is the capital city of France, and including one would be distracting.

Different types of in-text citation are used in different citation styles . They always direct the reader to a reference list giving more complete information on each source.

Author-date citations (used in APA , Harvard , and Chicago author-date ) include the author’s last name, the year of publication, and a page number when available. Author-page citations (used in MLA ) are the same except that the year is not included.

Both types are divided into parenthetical and narrative citations. In a parenthetical citation , the author’s name appears in parentheses along with the rest of the information. In a narrative citation , the author’s name appears as part of your sentence, not in parentheses.

Note: Footnote citations like those used in Chicago notes and bibliography are sometimes also referred to as in-text citations, but the citation itself appears in a note separate from the text.

An in-text citation is an acknowledgement you include in your text whenever you quote or paraphrase a source. It usually gives the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number of the relevant text. In-text citations allow the reader to look up the full source information in your reference list and see your sources for themselves.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

Check if your university or course guidelines specify which citation style to use. If the choice is left up to you, consider which style is most commonly used in your field.

  • APA Style is the most popular citation style, widely used in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • MLA style is the second most popular, used mainly in the humanities.
  • Chicago notes and bibliography style is also popular in the humanities, especially history.
  • Chicago author-date style tends to be used in the sciences.

Other more specialized styles exist for certain fields, such as Bluebook and OSCOLA for law.

The most important thing is to choose one style and use it consistently throughout your text.

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Updated 30/12/2020

  • What Are Quotes?
  • Why Use Quotes?
  • What You Want To Quote
  • How Much You Want To Quote
  • How That Quote Will Fit into Your Essay
  • There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks
  • Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences
  • How To Find Good Quotes

1. What Are Quotes?

Quotations, better known by their abbreviation ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, and provides solid evidence for your arguments. The discussion on quotations in this study guide can be applied to all three areas of study in the VCAA English course which have been explained in detail in our Ultimate Guide s to VCE Text Response , Comparative and  Language Analysis .

A quotation is the repetition of a group of words taken from a text by someone other than the original author. The punctuation mark used to indicate a repetition of another author’s work is presented through quotation marks. These quotation marks are illustrated by inverted commas, either single inverted commas (‘ ’) or double inverted commas (“ ”). There is no general rule in Australia regarding which type of inverted comma you must use for quotations. Single inverted commas are preferred in Australia as they follow the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either style, just be consistent in your essays.

2. Why Use Quotes?

The usage of quotations in essays demonstrates:

  • Your knowledge of the text
  • Credibility of your argument
  • An interesting and thoughtful essay
  • The strength of your writing skills.

However, quotations must be used correctly, otherwise you risk (and these frequent mistakes will be discussed in detail later):

  • Irrelevant quotations
  • Overcrowding or overloading of quotations
  • Broken sentences

How You Integrate a Quote into an Essay Depends on Three Factors:

  • What you want to quote
  • How much you want to quote
  • How that quote will fit into your essay.

3. What You Want To Quote

As you discuss ideas in a paragraph, quotes should be added to develop these ideas further. A quote should add insight into your argument; therefore, it is imperative that the quote you choose relates intrinsically to your discussion. This is dependent on which aspect of the text you are discussing, for example:

  • Description of theme or character
  • Description of event or setting
  • Description of a symbol or other literary technique

Never quote just for the sake of quoting. Quotations can be irrelevant  if a student merely adds in quotes as ‘sentence fillers’. Throwing in quotations just to make your essay appear more sophisticated will only be more damaging if the quotation does not adequately reinforce or expand on your contention. Conversely, an essay with no quotations will not achieve many marks either.

4. How Much You Want To Quote

A quotation should never tell the story for you. Quotations are a ‘support’ system, much like a back up for your ideas and arguments. Thus, you must be selective in how much you want to quote. Generally speaking, the absolute minimum is three quotes per paragraph but you should not  overload  your paragraphs either. Overcrowding your essay with too many quotations will lead to failure to develop your ideas, as well as your work appearing too convoluted for your assessor. Remember that the essay is  your  piece of work and should consist mainly of your own ideas and thoughts.

Single Word Quotations

The word ‘evaporates’, used to characterise money and happiness intends to instill the idea that happiness as a result of money is only temporary. (VCAA ‘Can Money Buy Happiness’ Language Analysis)

Single worded quotations can often leave the largest impression on the assessor. This is because you are able to demonstrate that you can focus on one word and develop an entire idea around it.

Phrase Quotations

Sunil Badami ‘still found it hard to tie my Indian appearance to my Australian feeling', showing that for Sunil, his culture was not Indian, but Australian due to his upbringing. ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia )

A phrase quotation is the most common quotation length you will use in essays.

Long Quotations

The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening, I felt the press of their ghosts. I realised then that I had begun to step small and carry myself all hunched, keeping my arms at my sides and my elbows tucked, as if to leave room for them.’ ( Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks )

Long quotations comprise of more than one sentence – avoid using them as evidence. Your assessor will not mark you highly if the bulk of your paragraphs consists of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations to less than 2 lines on an A4 writing page. If you have a long quotation you wish to use, be selective. Choose only the important phrases or key words, and remove the remaining sentence by replacing it with an ellipsis (…).

Here is the same example again, with the student using ellipsis:

The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as she felt ‘the press of their ghosts…[and] begun to step small and carry myself all hunched…as if to leave room for them.’ ( Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)

In this case, we have deleted: ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening’ and ‘I realised then that I had’ by using an ellipsis – a part of the quotation that is not missed because it does not represent the essence of the student’s argument. You would have noticed that a square bracket ([  ]) was used. This will be discussed in detail under  Blending Quotes.

5. How That Quote Will Fit into Your Essay

You must never take the original author’s words and use them in your essay  without  inserting them in quotation marks. Failure to do so leads to ‘plagiarism’ or cheating. Plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. You must make sure that you use quotation marks whenever you use evidence from your text.

The following is plagiarism:

Even a single flicker of the eyes could be mistaken for the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.  (1984, George Orwell)

Using quotation marks however, avoids plagiarism:

Even ‘a single flicker of the eyes’ could be mistaken for ‘the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.’  (1984, George Orwell)

There are serious consequences for plagiarism. VCAA will penalise students for plagiarism. VCAA uses statistical analysis to compare a student’s work with their General Achievement Test (GAT), and if the cross-referencing indicates that the student is achieving unexpectedly high results with their schoolwork, the student’s school will be notified and consequential actions will be taken.

Plagiarism should not be confused with:

  • ‍ Paraphrasing : to reword or rephrase the author’s words
  • ‍ Summarising: to give a brief statement about the author’s main points
  • ‍ Quoting : to directly copy the author’s words with an indication (via quotation marks) that it is not your original work

Blending Quotations

You should always aim to interweave quotations into your sentences in order to achieve good flow and enhanced readability of your essay. Below is a good example of blending in quotations:

John Proctor deals with his own inner conflict as he is burdened with guilt and shame of his past adulterous actions. Yet during the climatic ending of the play, Proctor honours his principles as he rejects signing a false confession. This situation where Proctor is confronted to ‘sign [himself] to lies’ is a stark epiphany, for he finally acknowledges that he does have ‘some shred of goodness.’ ( The Crucible, Arthur Miller)

There are three main methods in how you can blend quotations into an essay:

1. Adding Words

Broken sentences  are a common mistake made when students aim to integrate quotations into their sentences. Below are examples of broken sentences due to poor integration of a quotation:

‘Solitary as an oyster’. Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. ( A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Never write a sentence consisting of  only  a quotation. This does not add insight into your argument, nor does it achieve good flow or readability.

Scrooge, ‘solitary as an oyster’, is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

This example is better, however the sentence is still difficult to read. In order to blend quotations into your sentences, try adding in words that will help merge the quotation and your own words together:

Described as being as ‘solitary as an oyster’, Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Scrooge is depicted as a person who is ‘solitary as an oyster’, illustrating that he is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Tip: If you remove the quotation marks, the sentence should still make sense.

2. Square Brackets ([   ])

These are used when you need to modify the original writer’s words so that the quotation will blend into your essay. This is usually done to:

Change Tense

Authors sometimes write in past  (looked) , present  (look)  or future tense  (will look) . Depending on how you approach your essay, you may choose to write with one of the three tenses. Since your tense may not always match the author’s, you will need to alter particular words.

Original sentence: ‘…puts his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’ ( Cosi, Louis Nowra)

Upon seeing Lewis upset, Roy attempts to cheer him up by ‘put[ting] his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’. ( Cosi, Louis Nowra)

Change Narrative Perspective

The author may write in a first  (I, we) , second  (you)  or third person  (he, she, they)  narrative. Since you will usually write from an outsider’s point of view, you will refer to characters in third person. Thus, it is necessary to replace first and second person pronouns with third person pronouns. Alternatively, you can replace first and second person pronouns with the character’s name.

The original sentence: ‘Only now can I recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that I, through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept…’  (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)

When Keller was finally ready to share his brutal past with Paul, the latter disregarded the maestro, as he was too immersed in his own adolescent interests. However, upon reflection, Paul realises that ‘only now can [he] recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that [he], through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept’.  (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)

Insert Missing Words

Sometimes, it may be necessary to insert your own words in square brackets so that the quotation will be coherent when incorporated into your sentences.

The original sentence: ‘His heels glow.’ ( Ransom, David Malouf)

Achilles, like Priam, feels a sense of refreshment as highlighted by ‘his heels [which] glow.’ ( Ransom, David Malouf)

It is important to maintain proper grammar while weaving in quotations. The question is: does the punctuation go inside or outside the final quotation mark?

The rule is: If the quoted words end with a full stop (or comma), then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks.

Original sentence: 'Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

Punctuation inside:

During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

Punctuation outside:

During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres’. ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

6. There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks

Title of text.

When including the title of the text in an essay, use single quotation marks.

Directed by Elia Kazan, ‘On The Waterfront’ unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. ( On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)

Alternatively, you can underline the title of the text instead of using single quotation marks. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.

Quotation Within a Quotation

When you quote the author who is quoting someone else, then you will need to switch between single and double quotation marks. You firstly need to enclose the author’s words in single quotation marks, and then enclose the words they quote in double quotation marks. If you're following the American standard, you'll need to do this the opposite way - that is, using double quotation marks for the author's words and and then single quotation marks for the quote. We recommend sticking to the preferred Australian style though, which is single and then double.

Original sentence: ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)

Sunil’s unusual name leads him to believe that it is ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)

As you can see, the student has quoted the author’s words in single quotation marks. The dialogue used by the author is surrounded by double quotation marks. This demonstrates that the dialogue used in the text still belongs to the author.

Using Quotations to Express Irony

When you wish to express irony, you use quotation marks to illustrate that the implied meaning of the actual word or phrase is different to the normal meaning.

As a young girl, Elaine is a victim of Mrs Smeath and her so called ‘friends’. Her father’s interest in insects and her mother’s lack of housework presents Elaine as an easy bullying target for other girls her age who are fit to fulfill Toronto’s social norms. ( Cat’s Eye,  Margaret Atwood)

In this case, ‘friends’ is written in inverted commas to indicate that Elaine’s peers are not truly her friends but are in fact, bullies.

7. Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences

1.  Does the quote blend into my sentence?

2.  Does my sentence still make sense?

3.  Is it too convoluted for my readers to understand?

4.  Did I use the correct grammar?

8. How To Find Good Quotes

Tip One: Do not go onto Google and type in 'Good quotes for X text', because this is not going to work. These type of quotes are generally the most famous and the most popular quotes because, yes they are good quotes, but does that necessarily mean that it's going to be a good quote in your essay? Probably not. But why? Well, it's because these quotes are the most likely to be overused by students - absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. You want to be unique and original. So, how are you going to find those 'good quotes'? Recognise which quotes are constantly being used and blacklist them. Quotes are constantly used in study guides are generally the ones that will be overused by students. Once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the more popular or famous ones. Tip Two: Re-read the book. There is nothing wrong with you going ahead and finding your own quotes. You don't need to find quotes that already exist online or in study guides. Go and find whatever gels with you and whatever you feel like has a lot of meaning to it. I had a friend back in high school who was studying a book by Charles Dickens. I haven't read the book myself, but there was a character who couldn't pronounce the letter S, or he had a lisp of some sort. What my friend did was he found this one word where, throughout the entire book, the guy with the lisp only ever said the S one time and that was a massive thing. So, he used that. This is something that is really unique and original. So, go ahead and try to find your own quotes. Tip Three: Realise that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. Yes, the main character does often have good quotes associated with whatever they're saying, but just know that you do have minor characters who can say something really relevant and have a really good point too. Their quote is going to be just as strong in your essay as a main character's quote, which will probably be overused and overdone by so many other students. Tip Four: Develop a new interpretation of a famous or popular quote. Most of the time, the really popular quotes are analysed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or offer a different interpretation, then this is automatically going to create a really good quote that's going to offer a refreshing point of view. For example, if we look at The Great Gatsby , one of the most famous quotes that is constantly being used is, 'He found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.' What most people will do is they will analyse the part about the 'grotesque thing a rose', because that's the most significant part of the quote that stands out. But what you could do instead, is focus on a section of that quote, for example the 'raw'. Why is the word raw being used? How does the word raw contribute extra meaning to this particular quote? This way you're honing in on a particular section of the quote and really trying to offer something new. This automatically allows you to investigate the quote in a new light. Tip Five: Just remember that the best quotes do not have to be one sentence long. Some of the best quotes tend to be really short phrases or even just one particular word. Teachers actually love it when you can get rid of the excess words that are unnecessary in the sentence, and just hone in on a particular phrase or a particular word to offer an analysis. And also, that way, when you spend so much time analysing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the text and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point. Those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts!

Need more help with quotes? Learn about 5 Ways You're Using Quotes Wrong .

Resources for texts mentioned/referenced in this blog post:

Comparing: Stasiland and 1984 Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: Cosi (ebook)

Cosi By Louis Nowra Study Guide

Cosi Study Guide

Growing Up Asian in Australia Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: On the Waterfront (ebook)

A Killer Text Guide: Ransom (ebook)

Ransom Study Guide

The Crucible by Arthur Miller Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: The Crucible (ebook)

‍ The Crucible and Year of Wonders Prompts

Comparing: The Crucible and Year of Wonders Study Guide

The Great Gatsby Study Guide

‍ A Killer Text Guide: The Secret River (ebook)

The Secret River by Kate Grenville Study Guide

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how to state quotes in an essay

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"You're not answering the prompt"

"You're going off topic"

Then you're not alone! If you struggle to understand and stay on topic, learn how to answer the prompt every time with our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

how to state quotes in an essay

Text Response can be difficult because there are many different aspects of the text you need to discuss in an intellectual and sophisticated manner. The key points you need to include are stated in the VCAA Text Response criteria as shown below:

  • the ideas, characters and themes constructed by the author/director and presented in the selected text
  • the way the author/director uses structures, features and conventions to construct meaning
  • the ways in which authors/directors express or imply a point of view and values
  • the ways in which readers’ interpretations of text differ and why.

We have explored some of the different criterion points in past blog posts, but this time we’ll be focusing on number 3,

the ways in which authors/directors express or imply a point of view and values.

Views: How the author  sees  something

  • Perspective
  • Way of thinking
  • Observation

Values: How the author  thinks  about something

In VCE, simply exploring themes and character development is not enough to score yourself a higher-graded essay. This is where discussion on ‘views and values’ comes in. Essentially this criterion urges you to ask yourself, ‘what are the author’s beliefs or opinion on this particular idea/issue?’ All novels/films are written to represent their author’s views and values and, as a reader it is your job to interpret what you think the author is trying to say or what they’re trying to teach us. And it’s not as hard as it seems either. You’ve instinctively done this when reading other books or watching movies without even realising it. For example, you’ve probably walked out of the cinemas after thoroughly enjoying a film because the ideas explored sat well with you, ‘I’m glad in  Hunger Games  they’re taking action and rebelling against a totalitarian society’ or, ‘that was a great film because it gave insight on how women can be just as powerful as men!’ Therefore, it is possible in this case that the author of this series favours the disintegration of tyrannical societies and promotes female empowerment.

Views and values are also based on ideas and attitudes of when it was written and where it was set – this brings both social and cultural context into consideration as well. Issues commonly explored include gender roles, racial inequality, class hierarchy, and more. For example, Margaret Atwood’s  Cat’s Eye , is set during the 20th century and explores feminism through women’s roles during World War II while Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights  depicts the divide between social classes and challenges the strict Victorian values of how society condemns cross-class relationships, in particular between Catherine and Heathcliffe.

Questions to ask yourself when exploring views and values:

  • Is the author supporting or condeming/critising this idea?
  • Through which literary devices are they supporting or condemning/critising the idea?
  • Which characters represent society’s values? Which ones oppose them? Do we as readers favour those that represent or oppose society’s values?
  • Does the author encourage us to support the morals and opinions displayed by the characters or those supported in that setting/time?

Here’s a sample discussion on the author’s views and values:

‘…Dickens characterises Scrooge as being allegorically representative of the industrial age in which he lived. Scrooge describes the poor as ‘surplus population’, revealing his cruel nature as he would rather they die than having to donate money to them. Dickens critiques the industrial revolution whereby wealth lead to ignorance towards poor as the upperclassmen would easily dismiss underclassmen, feeling no responsibility to help them as they believed they were of no use to society. ‘ ( A Christmas Carol,  Charles Dickens)

Here’s a list of some sample essay prompts you may get in regards to exploring ‘views and values’:

  • ‘Cat’s Eye shows us that society’s expectations are damaging to women.’ To what extent do you agree? ( Cat’s Eye , Margaret Atwood)
  • ‘Bronte criticises the social class conventions of her time as she demonstrates that those in the lower classes can succeed.’ ( Wuthering Heights,  Emily Bronte)
  • ‘Social criticism plays a major role in A Christmas Carol.’ ( A Christmas Carol,  Charles Dickens)
  • ‘Hamid shows that it is difficult to find our identity in modern society, with the ever-changing social and politics surrounding us.’ ( The Reluctant Fundamentalist , Mohsin Hamid)
  • ‘In  Ransom  Malouf depicts war as the experience of grief, loss and destructive waste. The event of war lacks any heroic dimension. Discuss.’ ( Ransom,  David Malouf)


Margo Channing played by Bette Davis

As the protagonist of the movie, Margo Channing is a genuine and real actress raised by the theatre since the age of three. She is a vulnerable character who openly displays her strengths and weaknesses; Mankiewicz showcasing the life of a true actress through her. Initially, we see Margo as mercurial and witty, an actress with passion and desire (not motivated by fame but the true art of performing). She is the lead in successful plays and with friends like Karen and Lloyd to rely on and a loving partner, Bill, it seems that she has everything.

how to state quotes in an essay

However, Margo’s insecurities haunt her; with growing concerns towards her identity, longevity in the theatre and most importantly her relationship with Bill. Eventually, in a pivotal monologue, Margo discusses the problems that have been plaguing her. She battles with the idea of reaching the end of her trajectory, the thought that ‘in ten years from now – Margo Channing will have ceased to exist. And what’s left will be… what?’ By the end of the movie, Margo accepts the conclusion of her time in the theatre and understands that family and friends are what matters most, not the fame and success that come with being an acclaimed actress.

Eve Harrington played by Anne Baxter

Antagonist of All About Eve , Eve Harrington (later known as Gertrude Slojinski) is an egotistical and ambitious theatre rookie. With a ‘do-whatever-it-takes’ attitude, Eve is first introduced to the audience as a timid and mousy fan (one with utmost dedication and devotion to Margo). However, as the plot unfolds, Eve’s motive becomes increasingly clear and her actions can be labelled as amoral and cynical, as she uses the people around her to climb the ladder to fame.

Margo is her idealised object of desire and from the subtle imitations of her actions to infiltrating and betraying her close circle of friends, Eve ultimately comes out from the darkness that she was found in and takes Margo’s place in the theatre. Mankiewicz uses Eve’s character to portray the shallow and back-stabbing nature of celebrity culture; Eve’s betrayal extending beyond people as she eventually turns her back on the world of theatre, leaving Broadway for the flashing lights of Hollywood.

how to state quotes in an essay

Addison DeWitt played by George Sanders

how to state quotes in an essay

The voice that first introduces the audience to the theatre, Addison DeWitt is a cynical and manipulative theatre critic. Despite being ambitious and acid-tongued, forming a controlling alliance with Eve, Addison is not the villain.

The critic is the mediator and forms a bridge between the audience, the theatre world, and us; he explains cultural codes and conventions whilst also being explicitly in charge of what we see. Ultimately, Addison is ‘essential to the theatre’ and a commentator who makes or breaks careers.

Bill Simpson played by Gary Merill

how to state quotes in an essay

Bill Simpson is the director All About Eve does not focus on Bill’s professional work but rather places emphasis on his relationship with Margo. He is completely and utterly devoted to her and this is evident when he rejects Eve during an intimate encounter. Despite having a tumultuous relationship with Margo, Bill proves to be the rock; always remaining unchanged in how he feels towards her.

Karen Richards played by Celeste Holmes

Wife of Lloyd Richards and best friend and confidante to Margo Channing, Karen Richards is a character who supports those around her. During conversations she listens and shares her genuine advice, acting as a conciliator for her egocentric friends. Unfortunately, Karen is also betrayed by Eve, used as a stepping stone in her devious journey to fame.

how to state quotes in an essay

Lloyd Richards played by Hugh Marlowe

Successful playwright and husband to Karen Richards, Lloyd Richards writes the plays that Margo makes so successful. However, as Margo grows older in age, she begins to become irrelevant to the plays that Lloyd writes. Subsequently, this causes friction between the two characters and Mankiewicz uses this to show the audience the struggles of being an actress in the theatre; whilst also adding to the Margo’s growing concern towards her age.

Lloyd is unwilling to change the part for Margo and thus Eve becomes a more attractive match for the part. An unconfirmed romance between the budding actress and Lloyd also adds to the drama within All About Eve .


Birdie played by Thelma Ritter

A former vaudeville actress (which means that she acted in comic stage play which included song and dance), Margo’s dresser and close friend, Birdie is not afraid to speak the truth. Initially she sees right through Eve’s story and she warns Margo to watch her back. Despite not being in much of the movie, Birdie’s critical eye is a foreshadowing for the audience towards what is to come.

how to state quotes in an essay

Max Fabian played by Gregory Ratoff

Producer in the theatre, Max Fabian is involved in theatre just to ‘make a buck’. He is a hearty character who adds comic relief to a dramatic plot.

how to state quotes in an essay

Miss Claudia Caswell played by Marilyn Monroe

Aspiring actress, Miss Caswell is seen briefly throughout the movie to show the audience the shallow nature of the world of show business. Unlike Eve, she relies on her appearance to ‘make’ it rather than talent; as seen during her encounter with Max and the unsuccessful audition that followed.   

Phoebe played by Barbara Bates

The next rising star to follow in Eve’s footsteps, Phoebe is featured at the end of the film. In this scene there is a foreshadowing of the future, which suggests a repeat of the past, thus, making Phoebe an interesting character to observe. She is a manufactured construction of an actress and illustrates how replaceable a character is in the world of theatre.

Authorial intent is without a doubt one of the most important parts of any analytical essay in VCE English because talking about it is what offers the deepest level of analysis and shows the examiners that you have thought deeply about the text at hand. If you can discuss authorial intent effectively, you’ll be able to show that you have a solid understanding of what you are talking about and that you’re not working exclusively with surface-level ideas.

What Is Authorial Intent?

When we talk about authorial intent, what is really being referenced is the author’s reason for writing their piece in the way that they have and what messages they are trying to convey. Essentially, it’s what your teacher wants you to think about when they ask you things like “why is the door red?”. More generally speaking, why has the author made a point of telling us as readers the weather at that time? Why has that character been given that particular line of dialogue? Why have they brought in that specific tone for this part of the text? These are all the kinds of questions that you should be asking yourself when you’re reading through material that you have to analyse.

You might also hear authorial intent talked about as the writer’s ‘views and values’ . If you’re unsure what views and values actually mean, you can kind of think of it as though the ‘views’ are how the author sees something and the ‘values’ are how the author thinks about something. Essentially, their opinions and perspectives are their views, whereas their morals and principles are their values. These two elements will often be central to the overall intention behind writing their text.  

Why Is Authorial Intent Important?

Authorial intent plays a major role in your interpretation of the text; if you can’t figure out what the intent is, you will often miss out on key points and messages throughout the text. If you are lucky, the author will make it really clear to you as a reader what their intent is; however, this often is not the case. That being said, whether their intent is stated or implied doesn’t matter - there will always be something there for you to talk about.

How To ‘Find’ Authorial Intent in the Text: Key Identifiers To Look Out For

If you come across a text that makes it a little bit more difficult to discern what the author is actually trying to say, a good place to start is to look at the context behind the piece of writing. 

The time period the novel/movie/play is set in is often a good indicator of what the author is saying. The author will often be using their text as a means by which they can comment on or critique one or more elements of that society, or perhaps as a metaphor for events that are occurring at the time the text is/was written. Alternatively, they may be portraying their view about the events that actually occurred during that time. For example, if you have a text that is set in the Georgian era, it is likely that the author’s message has something to do with colonialism or imperialist mindsets (zeitgeists) because this was a very dominant theme in that society. 

Some other reasons you might consider an author having could include: 

  • to highlight the importance of something
  • to criticise a behaviour or mindset
  • to ridicule certain actions
  • to warn against something
  • to discourage people from doing something
  • to convey certain political messages or controversial opinions

Realistically there is a broad range of things that the author could be saying, it's your job to pinpoint what that really is. 

Once you’ve determined what it is the author is generally talking about, you then need to start thinking about the way that this has been represented. This is where you start to bring in the characters, the events, the dialogue, the inner monologues. Basically, you start looking for the elements that the author has added, not necessarily for a story-telling purpose but, more so, to convey their views and values through the text. This isn’t always going to jump right out at you so there may be a bit of deeper thinking involved. 

Another good place to start is to try to identify the central themes of a text. This might be something like ‘Judgement’, ‘Redemption’, ‘Guilt’, etc. The author wouldn't have made these themes so relevant if they didn't have anything to say about them. Once again, this is where you look at the quotes, the setting, the characters and other features (as mentioned before) just with a more theme-focused approach. 

Useful Vocabulary & Sentence Examples 

When you come to actually putting together a paragraph, it is really important that you don’t forget to include authorial intent at some stage (at least once per paragraph). If you work with a TEEL structure (watch from 05:10) as the baseline, these kinds of comments about the author’s intent would usually be located within the ‘explanation’ section. A good way to double-check that you’ve incorporated authorial intent is to go back through your paragraph and make sure that the author’s name is in there somewhere. If you’ve talked about authorial intent you likely will have said something like:

‍ ‘In doing so, (Author) condones the (whatever it is they condone).’

Sentence Templates

Below are some sample sentence structures that you might think about using throughout your essays. Obviously, the particular vocabulary will vary depending on what your text is and which message you are talking about, but these are good as a guide.

  • Through (example from text) AUTHOR (offers, provides, asserts) a (condemnation, evaluation…) of (idea, theme, concept, action…)
E.g. Through emphasising the internal struggle faced by Rooke during the floggings, Grenville offers a condemnation of the Empire’s heinous approach to loyalty, as the threat of ‘wirling at the end of the rope’ essentially forces individuals to value duty over conscience. (The Lieutenant)
  • In doing so, AUTHOR (establishes, condemns, reveals…)
E.g. In doing so, Miller reveals the self-destructive nature of religious extremism in breeding instability and conflict. (The Crucible)
  • (scene, event…) allows AUTHOR to (suggest, convey, assert,…) that 
E.g. Her sorrowful pleas that ‘she beg me to make charm’, fraught with grammatical errors, allow Miller to saliently illustrate the gulf that exists between the vulnerable outcasts such as Tituba and more privileged individuals within a community, in this case, Reverend Parris. (The Crucible)
  • AUTHOR’s depiction of (character) as (courageous, morally conscious, selfish…) emphasises their belief that…
E.g. Ham’s depiction of Teddy as a morally conscious and genuine individual emphasises her belief that it is possible to transcend the social codes enforced by one’s community. (The Dressmaker)
  • AUTHOR’s suggestion that… (serves as a reminder, highlights, emphasises the importance of…)
E.g. Euripides’ blatant suggestion that the fate of most of these women is in servitude and sexual slavery is a damning reminder that the victims of war are not just those killed during the conflict. (Women of Troy)
  • (Hence, thus, as a result…) AUTHOR asserts that… 
E.g. Thus, Euripides asserts that victory in war ultimately proves futile as loss will inevitably be suffered somewhat equally by both sides. (Women of Troy)
  • Evident through AUTHOR’s (characters’ actions/dialogue/section of text…) is the idea that…
E.g. Evident through Miller’s depiction of the struggles faced by Goody Osburn and Goody Good is the idea that where geographical isolation and strict moral codes render a community intolerant, the marginalisation and ostracisation of those who do not fit the societal mould is inevitable. (The Crucible)
  • Through (action, quote, scene…) AUTHOR seeks to…
E.g. Through highlighting the harm which can result from individuals utilising their power to manipulate situations, Ham seeks to expose the damages caused by ignoring the truth, particularly when done so for personal benefit. (The Dressmaker)

If you’ve gotten to this point then hopefully that means that you are starting to get a better understanding of what authorial intent actually is, the thought processes that go into finding it and why it is such a useful and important element to analyse. Most importantly, I hope that you can at least start recognising the way that the author’s voice comes through in the particular texts that you are studying, and that you can start looking at including some of those observations and ideas when you're writing your responses.

Authorial Intent is an aspect that's going to be relevant to Text Response & Comparative for the most part, but it's also handy to understand for Language Analysis !

Stories We Tell is a different beast to anything many of you will have encountered previously in your English studies. This blog is a continuation of the above Stories We Tell YouTube video so make sure you watch it first!

With interviews, archival footage, extradiegetic film and sound elements alongside recreated scenes, the documentary can seem very overbearing and convoluted upon first viewing. However, once you have a holistic understanding of the text a plethora of opportunity for high-level analysis and discussion presents itself. Stories We Tell is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

To begin, watch our introduction covering background and themes below:

Video Transcription

Stories We Tell centres around director Sarah Polley attempting to piece together her family history. While she endeavours to understand who her mother Diane was and finally learn the identity of her biological father, Director Polley also poses a number of questions to viewers surrounding the nature of the truth and the importance of stories in our lives. The film is comprised of interviews with Diane’s loved ones, home movies from the Polley family, extra-diegetic newspaper clippings, recreated Super 8 footage and excerpts from other productions - all of which contribute to Sarah’s inquisition into the notion of truth, and demonstration that how a story is told can shape how it is received.

NB: I have used ‘Sarah’ when discussing Sarah Polley as a character, and ‘Polley’ when describing her as the director.

The idea of the truth, and what comprises it is a constant question being answered through the documentary. Before exploring Polley’s depiction of the truth, it’s important that we fully understand what the truth is. One definition characterises it as the burden of confirming with fact or reality, and with this in mind it becomes easier to appreciate and analyse the intricacies of Stories We Tell . Polley creates a distinction between universal truths - which are accepted by all as fact, and subjective truths which can vary on individual interpretations. For example, Michael conflicts with the rest of the family while discussing his relationship with Sarah after Diane’s passing. Mark details Michael’s obsession with “playing solitaire” , Susy depicts the house as one of “complete and utter disuse” , while Joanna observed him “smoking all day” and perceived Sarah as “just a little kid who nobody was looking after.” Michael, however, has fond memories of his time spent with Sarah - he believed he was “lucky to have her to look after as well as himself” , called their time together a “great period” - eventuating in him feeling “closer to [Sarah] than any of the other children.” ‍

Individual recollections of Michael’s actions and demeanor during this period belong to each storyteller, and form the basis for what they consider to be the ‘truth’ regarding Michael and Sarah’s relationship. By presenting contrasting accounts of the same event, Polley reveals her stance on the idea of truth - being that it is entirely subjective and open to interpretation, centred around the perceptions of each individual at any moment in time. It is entirely possible that Michael did “smoke all day” and feel a sense of increased “close[ness]” with Sarah, but due to the variability of the human memory, this is impossible to state with any certainty - illustrating the fallible nature of universal truths. ‍


Stories and how they are told are a constant factor during the documentary - beginning with the title, ‘ Stories We Tell’ and concluding with Geoff’s admission that he and Diane did sleep together during their days acting in Montreal. For example, Polley’s use of the inclusive ‘we’ signifies her interest in storytelling on a grand scale; not merely the stories she unravels onscreen. As a result, one can argue that her purpose for the documentary extends far beyond the action captured onscreen and in fact involves Polley encouraging others to share their own stories - enabling them to “create shape out of mess” as she has done through the presentation of her own family story.

By placing Geoff’s confession at the conclusion of the documentary (and casting doubt on all of the discoveries she has made throughout Stories We Tell) Polley emphasises how storytelling allows a “clearer picture” of the past to develop - as he had previously denied any sexual history with Diane, labelling them just friends. As such his admission of a relationship with her symbolises the manner in which the truth can be “refracted” over time, leading to many “shifts and fictions” while clouding “what really happened.” Therefore, Polley reveals how storytelling can provide some semblance of closure to us, in a world where the truth is “ephemeral” and “difficult to pin down.”

While Polley undoubtedly utilises Stories We Tell to express her views on truth and storytelling, fundamentally it remains a story of the Polley family, and what holds it together. The narrative begins with the ‘storytellers’ providing loving, yet somewhat conflicting recollections of Diane as Polley seeks to understand who she was. Family members buoyantly describe her as “infectious” and “enthusiastic” , while friends paint a more mysterious picture of Diane as a “woman of secrets” , alluding to her alleged infidelity. The closeness of the Polley family is evident throughout their discussion of Diane’s first marriage, universally criticising the outcome of the court case in which she was labeled “ unrepentant ” for “ allow[ing] her desire for a career to overtop her “domestic duties” - resulting in Diane losing custody of John and Susy, which proved to be a major strain on Diane and the family.

Despite this closeness, Mark expresses his disappointment in Diane following the confirmation of Harry being Sarah’s father - detailing the she “broke the rules” and “broke a kind of taboo” when she had the affair. This is the only real example of any member of the family disapproving of Diane’s past - indicating Polley’s desire to demonstrate that families are not perfect, and bring their own faults and shortcomings. In spite of this, however, their care the family shows for one another is clearly demonstrated through their interviews with Polley, highlighting to the audience that by staying close, families can better cope with the trauma of losing a loved one and in time, be able to honour their memory by sharing their stories.

Putting it all together

While analysing the themes in isolation can provide a good foundation for success studying Stories We Tell , looking at how they interact and interrelate enables students to demonstrate their higher-order skills. Truth, storytelling and family are intrinsically linked - for example: Polley’s presentation of conflicting accounts and recollections of Diane demonstrates the complexity of her family, while showcasing her stance on the inability of individuals to find universal truths. As a result of this, the importance of storytelling is highlighted as a means to provide some understanding of our past - and how it affects us in the present and shapes who we are. Including different interpretations of the text and the context in which Polley grew up and created the text can also help to improve your writing to A+ standard - and this will be covered in the blog post that acts as a continuation of this video! *end video*

Following on from the video, the content below is an expansion upon Stories We Tell .

Author views and values

One of the golden rules of A+ essay writing is to understand that everything contained within the text is seen to be a deliberate choice by the author. With this in mind, we can start considering how Polley’s choice to include certain snippets or position footage in a particular way highlights her views.

The truth is ephemeral - can it ever be known?

Throughout Stories We Tell , Polley continually emphasises the impossibility of knowing a truth with absolute certainty. Her stance is shaped by the clouded nature of her paternity and family history, exemplified within the text by the varying accounts of Diane’s personality. Portraying her as “infectious” and “enthusiastic”, Polley captures Diane dancing - cleverly lighting up her face, thus symbolising her warm nature. However, juxtaposing this is Deidre’s assertion that Diane was a “woman of secrets” - bolstered by Polley’s recreation of a covert phone call in which Diane ponders the identity of Sarah’s biological father. Through her presentation of contrasting recollections of her mother, Director Polley showcases the relativity of truth within her own family, inviting the audience to question the meaning of truth in their own lives, highlighting that “you can never get to an answer.” As a result, Stories We Tell predominantly displays the impossibility of one knowing a singular truth.

Subjective truths can be found

Continuing the theme of ambiguity within her synthetic documentary, Sarah Polley demonstrates that individuals can develop their own interpretations of the truth, in spite of her stance on the validity of singular truths. Within Stories We Tell, Polley illustrates this by depicting the contrasting recollections of Michael’s relationship with Sarah as a child. Supporting Joanna’s assertion that Sarah was “just a little kid that nobody was looking after”, Polley ironically captures a full shot of Michael in the middle of the couch, portraying him as a distinctive presence in the scene in spite of Joanna’s belief that Michael isn’t present in Sarah’s life. Conversely, Michael recalls his time with Sarah as “a great period in [his] life” - a claim reinforced by Polley, via recreated Super 8 footage of the pair assembling a snowman, symbolising their construction of a new beginning following Diane’s death. Through this interaction, Polley portrays Michael as a compassionate and loving father - juxtaposing this with Joanna’s description, revealing to her audience the ability of individuals to find subjective truths - encouraging them to do so in their own lives in spite of searching for universal truths.

The importance of stories

Building on her depiction of the truth as fallible, Polley thus emphasises our need to tell stories, illustrating how they allow one to better understand themselves, their families and the world around them. Within Stories We Tell, unearthing the ‘story’ of Diane takes centre stage for a majority of the production, and Polley hints towards this goal via her inclusion of Bon Iver’s folk ballad Skinny Love. The line “pour a little salt, we were never here” plays on the use of salt to heal wounds - implying that the storytellers aim to ‘heal’ their pain felt from Diane’s death via telling “the whole story” they have developed from their memories of her. Moreover, the phrase “who the hell was I” addresses Polley’s attempt to “form [Diane]” by piecing together the various second hand accounts and layers of connected stories from her loved ones - allowing her to ascertain a clearer understanding of her family history. Polley utilises stories to “[clear] up...the smoke” in her past,” praising the idea that such tales shed a light on areas of confusion and uncertainty - while also allowing one to “[cope]” and make sense of their heritage. Through her demonstration that stories enable individuals to move past the “small and large details that vary”, Polley prompts the audience to seek more information about their own families, and relay their own family stories.

Throughout the documentary, Polley demonstrates, both explicitly and implicitly, a number of her inherent values. Drawing upon these, referring to them in your essays and (most importantly!) connecting them to your analysis of the text is a great way to get ahead of the pack and maximise your marks both in your sac and the exam.

NB: Much of the excerpts contained here are analysing specific scenes/motifs, and then linking such thinking to the theories listed below. I found this to be a coherent and structured way of including this deeper level of thinking in the publication of my own essays!

Feminist lens on the social values of 1960’s Canada

how to state quotes in an essay

By depicting extradiegetic footage of Diane singing Ain’t Misbehavin, Director Polley provides a feminist commentary on the dominant social values of 1960’s Canada; the lyrics “I walk the streets to balance the sheets” and “what is an honest girl to do” metaphorically representing the perception of Diane by the court and wider society - denied “custody” of her children due to her “adultery.”

how to state quotes in an essay

By inserting a newspaper clipping criticising Diane’s choice to let her “desire for a career” to supercede her “domestic duties”, Polley illustrates the difficulties faced by aspirational women in such a restrictive society - condemning the treatment of her mother while calling on female viewers to continually campaign for equality of opportunity in their societies.

Outlining the fact that Diane was not considered “ladylike”, Polley sardonically ridicules the “controlling” nature of such rigid gender stereotypes and their effect on Diane losing her children - exhibiting her desire to empower her female audience to “save [themselves]” from similar situations and “ma[ke] a choice to live.”

Postmodernist interpretation of the truth

As I’ve discussed at length in this blog post, Polley continually reminds us as an audience that the truth is not set in stone and is in fact a flexible, relative concept. Such a line of thinking directly correlates to the postmodernism literary theory - notable for being hostile to absolutes such as truth, and not creating a text in isolation. ‍

Polley continually blurs the line between fact and fiction within Stories We Tell - an ode to the postmodernist school of thought she is following. Depicting recreated Super-8 footage capturing herself directing the actress Rebecca Jenkins who ‘plays’ the ‘role’ of the younger Diane, Polley seeks to somewhat deceive her audience as to what is real and what is derivative - prompting the audience to “consider what was real and what wasn’t… in their own minds.” As a result, she seeks to promote the validity of the postmodernist critical theory, prompting philosophical discussions between individuals about the variability of memory and whether any absolute truths can ever be truly known.


Another feature of postmodernism in literature is the relationship between one text to another. In her creation of Stories We Tell , Sarah Polley exacerbates this relationship, including a number of extradiegetic elements such as newspaper clippings, emails, songs and segments from other productions in order to add greater meaning to the documentary. For example, Polley presents her email exchange with Harry, illustrating her desire for the story to include “everyone’s point of view”, as it is only then that the “whole picture” can be established. While reciting the email aloud, Polley delicately pauses when articulating that the story must include “[her] experience, [Harry’s] experience” and her “family’s [experience]”, emphasising her desire to give “equal weight” to all versions of the story.

Different Interpretations

In my experience studying the text, this documentary can be interpreted two ways:

1. as a self-reflective memoir following the journey of Sarah finding her father and gaining a more mature understanding of her mother, or;

2. A philosophical and, at-times political commentary on the way stories are told and the nature of truth. Both interpretations (and others you find or develop through your own viewing) are great to use in your writing, just ensure that they are relevant to the specific prompt/idea you are discussing!

Let's dive into each a little further:

1. Stories We Tell is a commentary on how stories are told - specifically, how the way a story is told can shape how it is received and the meaning one can draw from it

Upon first glance this point may seem rather convoluted, and several viewings of the text are necessary to fully engage with this line of thinking. Essentially, this centres around the idea that the different forms, mediums and extradiegetic elements present in the documentary can significantly influence how we as an audience react to the story that is being told.

The best way to explain this is to acknowledge the level of credibility and the associations attached to each individual medium used to tell the story.

For example, what impact does the newspaper clipping (detailing her custody battle and fight for equality in a restrictive society) have on our sympathy for Diane? Does the sense of credibility and validity drawn from an upstanding publication such as a newspaper elicit a greater sense of trust and acceptance of fact from viewers - therefore making us as an audience more inclined to view her in a positive light? Conversely, are viewers more accepting of Diane’s affair with Harry following testimony from those who witnessed her unhappiness with Michael first hand - her friends and family?

Moreover, in spite of her declaration that “equal weight” will be given to all experiences, does Polley’s use of Michael as narrator and his constant presence in the formal setting of a recording studio provide his version greater significance than Harry’s - who notwithstanding his involvement in the story as Sarah’s biological father, is resigned to providing his interview somewhat informally in a home setting, in the same vein as the rest of the storytellers?

Feel free to apply this line of thinking to other aspects of the text - such a deeper engagement with the philosophical ideas of the text are far more likely to score highly, as opposed to shallow pieces that merely discuss the storytellers in isolation - and not what they represent.

2. Stories We Tell is a commentary on the ephemeral nature of truth

The notion of truth seems to be just as much of a theme through this blog as it is in the documentary!

This is for good reason, however, as I found this to be the primary theme running through Stories We Tell , through the journey to discover Sarah’s paternity, the affair and conflict over whose story it is to tell. Truth affects a number of other ideas within the texts, such as storytelling, intertextuality, the variability of memory, production and identity - thus, using the ephemeral nature of the truth to explain why certain ambiguities exist in Harry’s “faulty” recollections, for example is an excellent way to show a greater depth of understanding of the interrelationships in the documentary.

Essay Topic Breakdown

Essay topic from the 2018 vcaa exam:.

“To save all hurt, why not leave things as they are?”

Why does Sarah not “leave things as they are?”

Initial thoughts:

This prompt does not ask you to discuss a specific theme or character - instead it guides you toward providing an analysis on Sarah Polley’s purpose for creating Stories We Tell. While authorial intent should always be included in any text response essay, it is essential that the purpose is central in response to this type of prompt - essentially, providing points of discussion as to why Sarah is unable to “leave things as they are.”

Essay Plan:

1. Unable to leave things as they are - wanted to question the concept of traditional family structures, by contrasting the influence of biological connections and emotional relationships on her development.

I discussed the effect of both Harry and Michael on Sarah’s development - concluding that while both of them had a significant role to play in her becoming the woman she is today, Michael’s influence was significantly stronger. Polley implies this by giving him a greater voice in the documentary through his role as the narrator.

2. Unable to leave things as they are - wanted to comment on the ephemeral nature of the truth in our lives.

Central to this paragraph is Polley’s use of recreated Super-8 footage. Using three prime examples (the opening scene with Diane and Michael crossing the bridge, Polley directing the actress that ‘plays the role’ of Diane in recreated footage, and the staging of Diane’s funeral) I aim to display Polley’s postmodern perspective on the truth and how this is conveyed through her deliberate creation of Stories We Tell.

3. Unable to leave things as they are - Emphasise the importance of storytelling in our lives to gain some understanding of the past.

Due to her depiction of the truth as a “mystery of nothingness”, Polley highlights the role that stories play in our lives. Within Stories We Tell, Polley attempts to understand herself by recreating Diane’s story on screen - allowing her to create “shape out of mess” and form a clearer picture of how she became who she is. Moreover, Polley also reveals how stories enable individuals to maneuver through the “wreckage” of the truth and “recreate the past.”

Stasiland and 1984 are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.

‍ 1. Introductions

Stasiland is a memoir-style recollection of the author Anna Funder’s encounters with people affected by the years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), or when Germany was divided into east and west. It marries the author’s personal growth and development during her period of research with the personal histories of those who acted as both perpetrator and victim of the regime’s atrocities. The result is an emotional and deeply human perspective of this heavily-documented period of history which delves into the lasting yet often invisible marks the GDR left on those it touched.

1984 is on the surface the dystopian narrative of the struggles and ultimate downfall of a man named Winston who lives in the depressingly grungy and hopeless world of Big Brother and The Party. In a more profound sense, however, it is author George Orwell’s warning concerning the possibilities inherent in the development of totalitarianism and how these might come to damage the human race.

how to state quotes in an essay

3. Character Analysis and Comparison

When comparing the characters presented in these two texts, it is important to remember that Orwell’s are fictional and Funder’s are her retellings of real people’s stories. Take care to avoid discussing Funder’s characters as constructions, and focus instead on how she has chosen to portray them.

how to state quotes in an essay

4. Sample Paragraphs

Prompt: Discuss the different ways in which the authors of Stasiland and 1984 explore the intricacies of state power and knowledge.

Sample Introduction

When significant knowledge in any form is gained, it follows that it can be used in any way an individual or group sees fit. Stasiland and 1984 both show that the same piece of information can be used in drastically different ways to suit the purpose of that information’s owner. In both texts, we can observe this in many areas: mass surveillance for security or espionage purposes, recordkeeping to retain the truth or warp it, and medical or physiological advancements used to solve humanity’s problems or deliberately harm and deform people. Such examples force us to consider two well-known maxims, and to decide between the bliss of ignorance and the power of knowledge.

Sample Body Paragraph

In theory, mass surveillance has many benefits; it could be used to prevent criminal activity such as large-scale terrorist attacks and ensure the happiness and wellbeing of citizens. However, it is almost never associated with anything positive. In George Orwell’s 1984 , we are introduced to his hypothesis concerning what it would be like if it were to become developed to its full extent. The concept can be divided into three levels; firstly there is the obvious, external activities that we observe in both texts, which include mail screening, a military or gendarme presence in the streets and a network of informers. Secondly there is the introduction of the state into the home, which is achieved by The Party mainly through the telescreen, the most prominent and sinister instrument of mass surveillance in Oceania which gives total access to individual behaviour in the privacy of the home. While Winston seems to have found a loophole in this area by being ‘able to remain outside the range of the telescreen’, The Party carries its mass surveillance to the truest sense of the expression by extending it to a seemingly impossible third level, which introduces the state into ‘the few cubic centimetres inside [the] skull’. Interestingly, while the Thought Police cannot truly ‘see’ what is inside someone’s head, they can still control it; as long as people think that someone can see their thoughts, they will censor them themselves. This shows that the beauty of mass surveillance is that it does not actually have to be universal or all-encompassing to be successful. This is why the Stasi did not need to go to the lengths of The Party to achieve a similar result; the people merely need to believe that it is so on the basis of some evidence, and through this they can be controlled. Ultimately, mass surveillance can never be anything but destructive for this reason; it could put a complete halt to all terrorist plots and it would still act against the people by insidiously forcing them to censor their own thoughts out of fear.

Sample Conclusion

Both Stasiland and 1984 show absolutely that knowledge is a fundamental and intrinsic part of power, as it cannot exist without knowledge. While it is true that knowledge can be held without exercising it in some external display of power, it always shapes the person who holds it in ways both subtle and direct. Knowledge can therefore be seen as similar to Pandora’s Box; once it exists in a mind, it alters it, and the actions it prompts depend only on the desires and will of that mind .

In order to properly understand either of these texts, you’ll need to put on your history hat. Both of them are very firmly rooted in historical events, and to get a good grasp on what they really mean, you need to understand these events. You should research communism and socialism fairly extensively as well as the GDR, but you don’t need to sit for hours and write a book on the subject. All you need to do is trawl through Wikipedia for half an hour, or as long as it takes to get a sense of the subject. They key is to not ignore things that you don’t understand; if you see terms like ‘Eastern Bloc’ or ‘Marxism’ or ‘The Iron Curtain’ and you’ve got no idea what they are, research them! Even terms that you might believe you’re familiar with, like ‘Communism’ could also use a refresher.

The other main point is that 1984 particularly deals very heavily in ideological and philosophical argument. Orwell constructed the events of the plot as one giant hypothetical situation, so try and think to yourself – could that really happen? Is that really possible, or is this whole thing just plain silly? Remember that this text is much, much more than a simple narrative, and address it as such

Want to download this study guide? Click the button below!

[Video Transcription]

Most people commonly mistake Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing, and an array of other names) as just two Text Responses rolled into one essay. They think that Comparative is Text Response, except that instead of writing about one text, you’re writing about two.

And boy are they wrong.

Most people are also aware that the main difference is that Comparative looks at similarities and differences between the two texts. However, this is where the challenge begins.

As you study your texts in detail, you’ll come to realise that the majority of students keep using the same old examples – example X for similarities, and example Y for differences.

To stand out from hundreds of other students studying the same texts, you need a strategy. You need something that will wow your examiners and will catapult you to the top of the VCE cohort.

*Drum roll*

Introducing you to my golden rule, the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT STRATEGY!

This strategy is simple. It’s simple to understand and it’s simple to incorporate into your essays. Its beauty is that despite its simplicity, it’ll advance your essay beyond the average English student. All my students who have applied this strategy have seen their English scores improve by at least one grade (from B+ to an A, or from an A to A+).

Let me explain.


The word, ‘convergent’ means coming closer together . When we start looking for similarities in Comparative, keep this word CONVERGENT in mind. Having CONVERGENT at the forefront of your mind will ensure that you are always aware of the fact that your examples are never the same. Notice how the blue arrows never touch:

how to state quotes in an essay

Sometimes, students fall into the trap of referring to examples in each text as the ‘same,’ but this won’t ever happen to you if you keep CONVERGENT in mind. No two texts are ever exactly the same, no two examples are exactly the same , so avoid falling into this trap. 

Instead, you’ll be using phrases like: "similarly to Text 1, Text 2 also…" or "likewise, in Text 2….’"

Awesome! So this is the simple part done. Let’s move onto the most powerful part of this strategy - DIVERGENT.


The word ‘divergent’ means developing in different directions. We can use the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy for any example you include in your essay. Since no examples from two texts are exactly the same, this means there is always an opportunity for you to first compare the similarities, then compare the differences.

Rather than just a simple ‘on the other hand’ or ‘however’, which you probably have written a dozen times, and felt like you’re repeating yourself, we show you advanced ways to DIVERGE as in this example for Photograph 51 and The Penelopiad:

In The Penelopiad , the resigned way in which Penelope confides in the reader alludes definitively to the ‘overlooked woman’ stereotype being, in fact, a very well-used one. Atwood (the author of The Penelopiad ) does, however, accord some power to Penelope by ensuring that she alone tells her own story, a privilege which is not given to Rosalind in Photograph 51 .

See how in this example, we don’t even use the overused comparative words such as ‘however’ or ‘on the other hand’ which can make a comparative feel simple. Instead, we show you unique ways to compare the two texts so that your essay stands out amongst all the others that are just using the same old words and methods to compare.

If you’ve ever received feedback that you needed to ‘elaborate,’ ‘go into more detail,’ or needed ‘more analysis ’ in your essays, this strategy will help eliminate those criticisms. It will also show your teacher that you are comfortable writing an in-depth analysis using fewer examples (because you’ll be spending more time on each example - firstly by discussing a similarity, then a difference), rather than swamping your essay with as many examples as possible because you barely have anything to say about each one.

Too many students miss out on the opportunity to elaborate or expand on an example because they only write about either the similarity or the difference. But with the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy, we can see that no matter what example you choose from each text, there is always an opportunity to discuss both similarities and differences . This is an extremely powerful approach to comparative because it enables you to spend time comparing, rather than getting lots of examples of for one text in the first half of your body paragraph, slapping in an ‘on the other hand’ in the middle, then lots of examples for the second text in the second half of the body. I see students doing this all the time, pretending to compare these examples when they’re not - you know what I mean right? We’ve all been there once or twice - so you’re not alone in doing this if you’ve tried in the past. The thing is, with examiners, in particular, they’re really good at noticing when a paragraph looks like it’s a comparison, rather than a truly in-depth comparison between the two texts.

That’s why in my How To Write A Killer Comparative , I show you how to use CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT in multiple essay examples across many text pairs. It’s not just about one way of comparing similarities too, it’s all the different ways to can discuss ‘similarities’ - what I mean is, it can be easy to slip into a template of ‘similarly to text A, text B does this by…’ but in this study guide, written by myself, and study scorers who have achieved 50 in English , we show you how to unique discuss comparisons. We also show you how to advance your comparative discussion through Advanced Essay Paragraph Structures which truly showcase the power of the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy.

how to state quotes in an essay


How to Write a Killer Comparative Ebook

A Killer Comparative Guide: The Crucible and The Dressmaker

A Killer Comparative Guide: I am Malala and Pride

A Killer Comparative Guide: The 7 Stages of Grieving and The Longest Memory

A Killer Comparative Guide: Ransom and The Queen


The Ultimate Guide To VCE Comparative

‍ Reading and Comparing essays

‍ How to get A+ in Reading and Comparing

Compare the Pair: A guide to Structuring a Reading and Comparing essay

how to state quotes in an essay

Have you ever come out of an exam or test and felt like you’ve nailed it? I’m guessing after you come out of that exam room, you and your friends crowd around the building screaming out the answers you got for each question or the types of ideas you came up with from the prompt given. But then results day arrive…and you’re sitting at your desk anxiously waiting for the teacher to hand you your paper. As soon as they place the test paper on your desk, you remain sitting there just staring at it, deciding whether or not to flip it around and see your score. Get it over and done with you think in your head, but your arms don’t move an inch. You just sit there for some time staring at it, and praying a little on the inside that it’s the score you want. Finally, you build enough courage to turn around the paper and BAM! It hits you. The score was way below the expectations you set for yourself, or maybe even the standards others have set for you.

What is it that you usually do when you come across such a situation?

From my observations and experiences, there are generally 4 main types of reactions people have – the complainer (the person who’s never satisfied with anything), the one who has no care in the world, the silent sufferer (the person who is disappointed with the score but does nothing to change it) and the calm one (the ideal level we all aspire to reach).

how to state quotes in an essay

So here I give you 8 tips/suggestions to help you get you through what you may call ‘failure’:

DON’T ALLOW THE SCORE TO DEFINE YOU! I’m sure you’ve heard so many people tell you that you are more than just one score. And let me tell you that they’re absolutely right! That one test score won’t make so much of a difference in the long run. It may trigger some unsettling emotions throughout the day, but it’s not going to matter in a year.

Look at the score you got and then just put it at the back of your mind. Just don’t think too much about it in class. It may stress you out even more, cause you to divide your attention between what the teacher is saying and your own thoughts. Dwelling on what you cannot change, especially if it concerns the past is the worse idea and a better option would be to distract yourself with happy thoughts (obviously not while you’re supposed to be listening to your teacher).

Talk to your teacher and ask them why you have attained this particular score. By having a one-on-one conversation with them you can tell them why you thought you did better or where you believe you’ve missed marks. I’m sure they’ll be willing to help you out. If not, you could sit down and chat with another teacher about the test and get their feedback on it. Collecting feedback from various teachers (or even friends, tutors, etc.) can be useful in knowing which areas you need to improve on most.

Try to consider the concept of failure as your ‘First Attempt In Learning.’ Learn from your mistakes by re-evaluating your previous approach to the question, or the ideas and evidence you put out there. Look at where you lost the marks and redo the test if possible. Get it remarked by your teacher or even a friend. Keep going and don’t give up!

Avoid talking to those ‘stuck up’ students. You should most definitely distance yourself from people who make you feel uncomfortable or lower your self-esteem. It may seem tough at first, especially since you may be confined together in the same school or even classroom, but it’s to the benefit of your mental health. To do this, you could not sit next to them class or just let them know that you’re not comfortable with sharing your scores with them and would rather talk about other topics.

Make more friends! (just exclude those who were mentioned previously). Create study groups and revise together before a test or exam. Ask them about how they study for the specific subject or area of study and if you can read some of their work to get an idea of to how approach specific questions.

Be flexible and adaptable! Once you know that you’ve made a mistake, don’t make it again. Change up specific parts of your answer where you lost marks or just change the entire answer completely to fulfil the criteria. For example, when it comes to English, examiners are always advising students to not go into the exam with memorised responses. By going into the exam with memorised responses, you’re not going to be able to modify or mould your response to fit the specific prompt in front of you, costing you the marks you want. Just have ideas and evidence in mind that you know you can use when relevant rather than spilling unnecessary quotes here and there.

Balance is key. Wise advice that I received from one of my teachers in year 12 was to study a bit of every subject on the days you plan to study. Don’t cram and only focus on one subject a week before the SAC. If having a structured routine doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to ditch the timetable you have created yourself and just go with the flow. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just know when you should study

Finally, my last message to you all is to just take it easy, stay on a pace that works for you. Don’t stress too much about a score that’s not going to matter in the long run, and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to those around you. ☺

Burn out. According to my good friend Wikipedia,  ‘ burnout  is a psychological term that refers to long-term exhaustion and diminished interest in work.’  It’s a phase that most of us are used to hearing throughout our VCE years, especially as workload intensifies in the lead up to the VCAA examinations. Today I will be sharing something much more personal on VCE Study Guides, because I want you to avoid the same mistakes that I made when I was in VCE. Even though I was quite successful with my ATAR score, there are some study habits that I look back upon and I think to myself, ‘why didn’t I do that differently?’.

I suffered from severe burnout in the last month prior to my VCE exams.

Here’s the primary reason why I burnt out: I was too hard on myself. My exam study plan was rather ridiculous and unattainable. My target was to do  at least  one essay per day from the start of Term 4. In fact, in my September holidays I did not just one essay a day, but often two or three! Sheesh! No wonder I burnt out. I found that over the next few weeks, I started to repeat a lot of similar essay prompts, I would write the same phrases or quotes over and over again, and I personally think that this hindered my development because I was starting to regurgitate everything I had done so far, rather than pushing forward and writing with new ideas and thoughts.

And it wasn’t just English. I was lucky (or was it perhaps unluckiness in disguise?) enough to get my hands on all past sample exams produced by VCAA and other VCE companies for Mathematical Methods, Specialist Maths and Chemistry. And when I say all, I mean I had exams dating back from 1997. Yeah. I made it a mission to do one exam everyday for these subjects and boy did that take its toll on me. You might be thinking – ‘this girl is crazy!’ or ‘how can anyone do that?’. And if you have developed an intense exam study plan just like this but are doing just fine, then I applaud you. I really do! Because I know that for a lot of people, it’s simply way too draining and exhausting. I felt like I had to complete all my resources but in the end, it was simply  counterproductive  for me.

I ended up hardly touching English during the final 2 weeks before exams because I simply had enough. I felt as though I had hit a brick wall and no matter how much more writing I did, I probably wouldn’t improve any further. Some of you (especially the Psychology students) may know of the ‘plateau effect’. I had basically hit this point (or should I say,  flat period ?) and I’m sure that many of you reading this will understand or have even reached this plateau yourselves. Below I have quoted James Hayton, a PhD and thesis writing coach on what it means to plateau:

…you can’t improve without practicing- but not all practice is equally effective in improving your writing skill and simply engaging in the activity of writing on a frequent basis is not enough.

The learning curve and the plateau

If you started playing tennis every day, you would probably improve quite quickly in the first few weeks. But if you continued to play every day without adapting your training, your rate of improvement would slow to the point where you are no longer improving with practice.

The same is true of many skills. You can drive a car every day without becoming a better driver, you can go to the gym every day without becoming stronger and you can write every day without becoming a better writer.

The relationship between practice and skill is not linear. You may experience a rapid improvement early, but this improvement slows and your skill level reaches a plateau. This is known as the  learning curve .

how to state quotes in an essay

Sometimes your skill level can even decline with practice, so it’s important to understand how to practice well. To read more click  here .

As you can see, studying more or studying harder does not equal more success or a better ATAR score.

When you organise a study plan, be smart about it. So my biggest tip is this: don’t feel compelled to write one or more essays everyday. This is  so  not the way to go. Strategically, I think the best approach is be time-efficient. In the last week before the exam, I simply stopped doing any essay writing and just wrote plans for prompts I hadn’t seen before.Work on topics that you haven’t dealt with before, because at least then you can apply your skills. Try not to do too much repetition. Repetition is good for drilling ideas into your head, but it can be problematic if it becomes rote-learning (this applies to other subjects too). Some of my most successful students did just two essays a week, and on other days they would write plans, or simply broke their essay up and wrote a paragraph a day. If you can’t even do that, and you feel like you’ve really hit that brick wall and can’t go any further then  take a break . It might seem like you’re wasting time, but if you spend a day off in the sun, or even just going out to eat lunch with family or friends, you will notice the difference as you come back to study with a more refreshed mind and positive attitude.

If you didn't already know, I have a YouTube channel. Here's a video below where I talk about 'burn out' a little more...

I hope through sharing my experience I’ve been able to help you feel less ‘guilty’ if you haven’t done as much English study as you would like today. Remember to s tudy smarter, not harder.  Good luck for your exams!

Can you believe that the eagerly awaited July holidays are finally here? It’s a bit scary to think that this marks the half-way point until end of year exams. We all know that the VCE year travels on too quickly, leaving us feeling that there is always too little time, and too much to do! As time ticks away and end-of-year exams draw closer, it is important to make efficient use out of your mid-year holidays. Listed below are 5 ideas that you might like to take onboard:

  • Take a break!  It’s pretty clear that during holidays you’re  supposed  to be on a holiday. However, with ongoing VCE stresses, you might feel inclined to continue studying throughout your 2 or 3 week mid-year break. It’s a great idea to keep up your studies, just make sure that you do give yourself a chance to rest and recover, or you may risk getting ‘burnt-out’. Try to catch up with friends, have a good night out or whatever activity that will give you a few good hours of relaxation and fun!
  • Revise.  While it’s important to have a break, these few weeks can be vital for your studies. Rather than putting everything aside until the end of the year, it is a good opportunity for you to revise your previous unit work. During this time, you should focus any weak areas and aim to strengthen them. By adopting this method, you have a greater chance of making major improvements compared to smaller improvements when revising the areas you are already skilled in.
  • Study ahead.  Familiarising yourself with the topics coming up can give you an advantage over other students who see topics for the first time in-semester. If the topics are based on work you’ve done previously in year 11 or even the first half of year 12, it may be useful for you to review that work so that you are prepared for the coming unit.
  • Look into university preferences.  The July / August period is a busy time to think about your future. University preferences are due, and many of you will be participating in the Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test (UMAT). Since the next couple of months will be hectic, you don’t want to rush any decisions regarding career, course, and university. If you get serious these holidays and do some research into what path you’d like to take in the future, it will be less stressful for you when you start school again. If you're unsure about your university preferences, watch my tips in the video below!

  • Prepare for English.  If you haven’t read or watched your texts for the next unit, this is the time to do so. It’s always best to read just for reading sake the first time round, and at a pace that you’re happy with. This gives you the chance to soak up some knowledge on characters, plots and themes so that when your teacher begins discussions in class, you’ll already have a head start.

Depending on how you like to study, your approach to these holidays may be different to others. However, the take home message is to ensure you have a well-deserved break while still maintaining a healthy level of study. These few weeks can really make a difference in your VCE studies, so do what you think will help you improve the most. That’s all today, enjoy your holidays!

2022 Update: Check out our TikTok and YouTube channel for the latest GAT updates and how you can succeed even without study!

Part 1: Why the GAT Matters and How To Use It to Your Advantage

The General Achievement Test (GAT) is a 3 hour assessment based on your general knowledge ranging from English, mathematics and humanity topics. The general vibe seen from the majority of VCE students is that they aren’t really too sure why they have to take part in this ‘exam’ and as a result, most have little care for it. However, the GAT is an important component in the VCE assessment process. Let’s see why:

1. Standardising how teachers grade your SACs between different schools

Have you ever talked to your friend from another school and realised how unfair it was that their SAC length for the same assessment was twice the amount of time you had for your SAC? Or that perhaps they received the English prompt a week prior to the SAC, rather than during the SAC like you did? Well, this type of this discrepancy can be compensated by the GAT as it helps to eliminate any biases from school to school. This means that ultimately, when SAC marks contribute to your overall study score, you can be sure that your grades have been fairly compared to all other VCE students across the state. This also means that as a whole cohort, the students undertaking VCE at your school should all try to do their best because a better outcome will reflect better on the school’s grading system.

2. Ensuring that your exam marks at the end of year reflect your level and skills

All end-of-year papers are checked twice by two different assessors who independently give you a score for your exam. Now if they both give you a similar score then great, your exam has been marked. If not, a third assessor will then look at your exam in order to reach an agreement. Then, there is a last check against your GAT mark. If it so happens that your exam mark is much lower than what your GAT mark anticipated you to obtain – in other words, if you received a high GAT mark which demonstrates your strong skills in English, mathematics, science or humanities depending on the subject in question, then the paper will be reassessed again. So, if you do well in the GAT and receive an excellent score and for some reason you under-perform in the exam, then the GAT mark can help lift up your score. If your GAT mark is relatively low, then it probably can’t help you, despite you receiving an unexpected low exam grade. Thus, the GAT mark will only ever help you, it can never bring your mark down. That’s another reason why you should try to do well.

3. Derived Examination Score (DES)

Some students apply for a DES when they experience hardship during their VCE exam period such as personal trauma or an accident. In such situations, the GAT is compared with their exam mark to see whether or not the student demonstrated their full potential or if they under-performed because of their current situation. Again, if the student received a lower exam mark but has a high GAT score, it can mean that perhaps the student didn’t do as well as they could have, and thus, their grade may be boosted upwards. Many students believe that they are immune to anything happening to them before or during the exams, but you never know. You may as well take advantage of what VCAA is offering you – basically a ticket to a better ATAR if you’re ever in need.

Now knowing all this, it is often said that there is no preparation required for the GAT. Of course, if you are the type who would like to fit in some practice before the real thing, then have a look at the  GAT archive  available on the VCAA website. While you may not need to ‘study’ for the GAT, it is definitely worth knowing how you can best approach the examination in order to maximise your score outcome.

Part 2: How To Perform Well in the GAT (Without Study)

In Part 1 above we discussed why it’s important to aim for your best in the GAT, so now we’ll discuss  how  you can actually go about doing this. As you know, there are two writing components in the GAT – Writing Tasks 1 and 2, as well as 70 multiple choice questions (MCQ). This post will break down both the writing components and offer you handy tips on how you should approach these tasks in order to maximise your GAT score and potentially increase your overall ATAR.

Organising your time:

VCAA suggests 30 minutes for both Writing Tasks 1 and 2 leaving the remainder of your time for 70 multiple choice questions. If you are happy with this approach then by all means go for it. However, considering that English is definitely in your top 4 subjects that contribute significantly to your ATAR, it is worth investing more of your time on the Writing Tasks. Generally, most students spend around 1 minute per multiple choice question which should therefore, only take around 70 minutes to complete the MCQ section. If we bear in mind that some MCQs will be more complex than others, say we dedicate an extra 20 minutes for MCQ, meaning that you should complete the whole MCQ section in around the 90 minutes mark. This means that you can spare an extra 45 minutes for both Writing Tasks, which is definitely worth the investment since you’ll have the chance to write more thoughtful and lengthy pieces. Strategically, this is a good approach for any student studying an English subject – which is well, everyone.

Writing Task 1: 

What is it.

Writing Task 1 usually presents you with one or several images along with an abundance of information about a particular topic – don’t be surprised if you don’t know much or anything in regards to the topic chosen either. Over the past few years, content that has popped up in the GAT includes Mt. Everest, wolves, the ocean and more. Below is an image of what you should expect:

how to state quotes in an essay

Instructions for Writing Task 1:

'Consider the information on these two pages. Develop a piece of writing presenting the main information in the material. You should not present an argument. Your piece will be judged on:

• how well you organise and present your understanding of the material,

• your ability to communicate the information effectively, and

• how clearly you express yourself.'

What is it really asking you to do?

To write a creative piece utilising the information available in Writing Task 1. When students read the instructions, they find that it is rather vague and therefore, they aren’t too sure on how to tackle the writing piece. The worst thing to do, which unfortunately a lot of students fall into the trap of doing, is to simply write a long-winded essay literally regurgitating the information from the GAT sheet. Instead, in order to demonstrate fantastic organisational skills and ‘communicate the information effectively’, you should aim to create something unique and interesting – for example, for the 2013 GAT on the topic of radios, you could take on a radio host persona or perhaps the persona of someone working behind the scenes at the radio station. This will be an excellent way of executing your writing piece.

Over on my post, Reading My 10/10 Marked CREATIVE GAT Essay | Part 1, I show you exactly how I approached Task One in my trial GAT. I scored a 10/10 and show you my full essay, so I recommend taking a look!

Want to watch this advice? See this video below:

Writing Task 2:

Writing Task 2 consists of four statements on a contentious issue. Some of the issues raised in the past have included: are the elderly wiser than the young?, Who are our heroes?, Whether or not material possessions leads to happiness and more. Below is an example from the 2013 GAT:

how to state quotes in an essay

Instructions from Writing Task 2:

'Consider the statements below. Based on one or more of the statements, develop a piece of writing presenting your point of view. Your piece of writing will be judged on:

• the extent to which you develop your point of view in a reasonable and convincing way, and

• how effectively you express yourself.'

To write a persuasive piece debating the topic using one or more of the statements to support your opinion. This means that you can either choose to focus on one of the statements and base your entire contention on that one statement, or alternatively, choose two or more statements as a basis for different arguments (if you wanted to write from a more balanced point of view). Options on how to present the piece include: opinion article, speech, blog post, etc. Remember to include language techniques such as rhetorical questions and inclusive language, as this is expected in a persuasive piece. It’s also a good idea to include examples from current affairs, events or people in history, or even your own personal experiences to add some extra flavour to your piece.

Remember that the GAT can only help you improve your VCE mark, it can never bring you down – so make the effort and try your best! Good luck!

So…you’ve just begun the school year and you’re feeling pretty excited about English. You’re determined to put aside all distractions this year and to only focus on studying, studying and studying. But…the minute you sit down at your desk, you find that your mind goes completely blank and that you are left only with one dreadful question: What now?

If this sounds all too familiar to you, you are definitely not alone. English can often make you feel like you don’t even know where to start. So, here is a quick guide that can help you to plan out your year, to break free from procrastination and to find some sparks of motivation when you feel like there is simply no road ahead.

‍ Step 1: Read Your Text !

This may seem like the most obvious step, but it can make all the difference when done thoughtfully and thoroughly. One thing that VCAA English examiners always look for when reading text responses is in-depth knowledge and understanding of the text, and the best way to develop and gain this knowledge is to read, read, and read again! Try to treat your text like a blank map, full of unexplored territories and winding roads that are there for you to uncover each time you read the text.

When you read your text for the first time, look out for the major roads and landmarks; the setting and premise, the plot, the characters, the broad ideas, the authorial voice and style etc. Once you’ve gotten a good grasp of the major elements of your text, read it again, and focus on adding more detail to your map; fleshing out characters, understanding their motives, understanding the author’s purpose, and underlining key quotations and particular passages that encompass a broader idea. If you’re a forgetful person like me, you might find it helpful to note down some key observations as you go and to create a summary you can always refer back to throughout the year.

Step 2: Read Around Your Text  

While reading and rereading your text will definitely help you to know your text in and out, in order to fully tick the box of knowledge and understanding, it is also important to read around the text; to understand the context of when and why the text was written, for whom it was written, and the impact the text has had on both its original audience and its audience today. Especially for texts that are rooted in history, like The Women of Troy or Rear Window , understanding context and background information is essential in understanding the text itself. After all, Rear Window just wouldn’t be Rear Window if it weren’t for the McCarthyistic attitudes that were so prevalent at the time, and The Women of Troy would have been a far more different play had it not been written during wartime. Each text is a product of both its creator and its time, so make the effort to research the writer, playwright or filmmaker , and the historical, cultural, social and political context of your text.

When doing your research, it can be helpful to use a set of questions like the one below as a guideline, to ensure that the information you’re finding is always relevant.

  • Who is the writer/playwright/filmmaker?  
  • Who is the audience?
  • When/where was your text written?
  • When/where is your text set?
  • Why was your text written?
  • What is the style/genre of your text?

Step 3: Study Your Text

Here’s where it gets a bit more difficult. Now that you’ve drawn out your map, and dotted it with various landmarks, rivers and roads, it is time to actually use your map to go somewhere; to make use of all the knowledge and background information you have gathered so that you can begin to analyse and dissect your text in greater detail. Studying a subject with as large of a cohort as VCE English can oftentimes mean that ideas are recycled and exams are repetitive, so in order to distinguish yourself from the pack, try to look for ways to craft your own original path ; a view of the text that is distinctly your own, instead of following others. The best way to do this is to do a bit of thinking at home; to create your own original set of notes and observations and to spend time analysing each section of your text in greater detail than you may have done in class.

Constructing a notes table like the one below can help you greatly in sorting and fleshing out your ideas, and, when done consistently throughout the year, can save a lot of time and effort when it comes to studying for the exam!

The Women of Troy Notes Table:

how to state quotes in an essay

Step 4: Target Your Study to Your SAC’ve made it all the way to your SAC. You may be feeling nervous at this point, even a little burnt out, but there is no need to worry. Studying for your SAC simply requires a bit of adjusting to your normal studying routine; changing it up so that instead of simply brainstorming ideas, you’re actually using these ideas in topic sentences, and instead of collating a list of quotes, you’re embedding these quotes into a practice paragraph. These are all examples of targeted study: taking all the information you’ve gathered on your text, all the notes you’ve made, and all the work you’ve done in class, and putting it into practice. 

Targeted study could be done in the form of an essay plan, or unpacking an essay question  

As an example, I've unpacked an essay prompt below using LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:

Step 1: A nalyse Step 2: B rainstorm Step 3: C reate a Plan

The Prompt:

‘I ask you not to hate me. With the greatest reluctance / I must tell you the news…’ Euripides softens the brutality of the Greeks’ behaviour through his characterisation of Talthybius.

Step 1: Analyse 

  • This is an example of a quote-based prompt ( learn about the 5 different prompt types here )
  • Bold keywords from the prompt: ‘I ask you not to hate me . With the greatest reluctance / I must tell you the news…’ Euripides softens the brutality of the Greeks’ behaviour through his characterisation of Talthybius.
  • ‍ To what extent do you agree? This part is asking me to adopt a specific viewpoint, whether you agree, disagree or are somewhere in between. 

Step 2: Brainstorm 

Unpack the keywords in the topic: 

  • 'not to hate me' , 'greatest reluctance' – Talthybius’ desire to be liked, his understanding of the actions of Greeks
  • Softens the brutality – Talthybius serves as the opposing force to the Greeks’ brutal behaviour, makes the Greeks more sympathetic
  • Characterisation – Talthybius’ personality, behaviour, actions, language

Step 3: Create a Plan 

Contention: While Talthybius is used by Euripides to evoke some sympathy for the Greeks, ultimately, he serves to exacerbate the cruelty of the Greeks’ actions and the devastating consequences of their fall from a civilised, sacred people to a bestial, impulse-driven group of men.

Paragraph 1: Certainly, amongst his peers which are excoriated by Euripides for their cruel, unfeeling behaviour, Talthybius is depicted to be the most humane of the Greeks due to his conflicted nature, evoking sympathy amongst the audience, and reinstating some humanity to the Greeks’ otherwise sullied reputation.

Targeted study could also be done in the form of unpacking quotes, and analysing their significance

‍ We can also use the ABC steps here. For example:

  'Like the mother bird to her plundered nest, my song has become a scream'

Step 1: Analyse

Demonstrates the dehumanisation of the Trojan women, and the heinous, beastly actions of the Greek men, who, like their 'war machine' description, have subverted all that is natural to become violent, and all that is beautiful to become grotesque 

Step 2: Brainstorm

  • 'Mother bird' - animal imagery, maternalistic
  • 'My song has become a scream' - demonstrates devastation, contrast between melody to dissonance 

Embed the quote into a sentence, e.g.:

Euripides’ description of Hecuba as a 'mother bird' at her 'plundered nest' demonstrates the innately maternal nature of her character through animal imagery, while also emphasising the vulnerability of the Trojan women, who have been reduced to defenceless prey as a result of the Greeks’ predatory and beastly behaviour. 

Planning essays and breaking down prompts/quotes are extremely time-efficient ways to approach your texts and SACs. Rather than slaving away for hours and hours writing full essays, these simpler forms of targeted study can and will save you the burnout and will get you feeling confident faster.

Only move on to writing a full practice essay or some practice paragraphs once you feel you have a good in-depth understanding of how to plan an essay and once you have already naturally memorised some important quotes that you can use in your essay ( learn how to embed your quotes like a boss here ). Remember, quality over quantity, so spend your time before your SAC revising thoughtfully and carefully, targeting your revision, and taking things slowly, rather than robotically churning out essay after essay.

Step 5: Embrace the Exam!

The end of every VCE English journey is the highly anticipated, dreaded and feared English exam. Now, while you may be reading those words with a horror movie soundtrack playing in your mind, the English exam, despite being a gruelling 3 hours of essay-writing, really isn’t as horrific as it sounds. Preparing for it is also much less intense than you might think it to be, because essentially, from the very first time you read your text, you will have already begun preparing for the exam. All that is left to do before the English exam is to polish up on some of your weaknesses identified in your SACs, to look over all the notes and information you have gathered throughout the year, to freshen up on essay writing and essay planning , and to do a couple of practices, so that you can feel as ready as you can for the real thing.

In particular, I found that in the leadup to my English exam, studying with my friends and peers was not only a welcome stress reliever, but a really good way to expand my own knowledge by helping others and being helped myself. Having your peers review your essays and helping to give feedback on theirs is always an excellent way to improve your own essay-writing skills, and, a great way to provide good constructive criticism is to follow the GIQ rule (I’m not sure if this is a real rule…but it works!)

  • What was GOOD about the piece? e.g. Your sentences flow really well, and you embed quotes into sentences phenomenally!
  • ‍ What could be IMPROVED? e.g. Perhaps adding a couple of sentences elaborating on this idea could make your essay even better!
  • ‍ What QUESTIONS do you have about the piece? e.g. I don’t really understand this sentence, what were you trying to say here?

Hopefully, these tips will be able to help you out throughout the year in staying motivated and feeling okay about English! Remember, this is just here as a guide to help you, and not a strict regimen to follow, because everyone studies differently, and has different goals in English.

However, now that you have a clearer pathway and plan for learning your texts in-depth, what’s next? Well, it’s pretty important that you learn about the different areas of study so that you understand how you’ll actually apply all of your new-found text knowledge to each of your SACs and the exam. Our Ultimate Guide to Text Response and Ultimate Guide to Comparative give you a full rundown of what is required in these two areas of study (where you will have to learn specific texts) so I would highly recommend having a read! 

Although clarity in expression takes priority, employing sophisticated vocabulary will win you major points with the examiner. Essays with a (healthy) level of adornment tend to demonstrate greater control of language and insight, giving the piece a perceptive and erudite aspect. Nevertheless, trying to employ new vocabulary seamlessly in your essay can be tough- rather than swapping random words in and out of your essay post-mortem, adapting your vocabulary bank to your own writing style can make the process a lot less jarring.

Finding the right bank for you

The conditions of your vocabulary bank should be suited to your specific needs. A focus on a need or theme enables more visible connections within the vocabulary bank. Having those connections will make it easier to 'memorise' new terms. Instead of compiling a dense 20-page glossary, try breaking your vocabulary bank up into smaller, specific sections.


For example, if you're hoping to find new verbs to express the author's intention :

  • Expressions used in previous essays

The author argues

The author shows  

The author criticises

The author supports

  • Branch off 'argue' (Fervent tone):

contends, asserts, posits, proffers…

Branch off 'shows' (Neutral tone):

demonstrates, exposes, elucidates, delineates, explicates…

Branch off 'criticises' (Negative tone):

condemns, denigrates, lampoons, parodies…

Branch off 'supports' (Positive tone):

praises, endorses, exalts, lauds…

From storage to use

After clarifying their definitions, try using some of your new words in a sentence or a paragraph, relating to either your texts or language analysis. You can also extend your vocabulary bank by adapting the words to different sentence structures:

The author criticises the superficiality of our consumerist culture.


The author condemns the superficiality of our consumerist culture.

In a condemnatory tone, the author delineates the ostentation of our consumerist culture.

The author argues that gender is an arbitrary concept.

The author asserts that gender is an arbitrary concept.

Asserting that gender is an arbitrary concept, the author explicates the categorist nature of human understanding.

Using convoluted expressions can be fun or exasperating! Whilst demonstrating extensive vocabulary may raise your mark, the key is to ensure harmony between your words and your understanding.

Get exclusive weekly advice from Lisa, only available via email.

Power-up your learning with free essay topics, downloadable word banks, and updates on the latest VCE strategies.

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How to Quote and Cite a Play in an Essay Using MLA Format

Last Updated: October 12, 2023

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been viewed 373,395 times.

MLA (Modern Language Association) format is a popular citation style for papers and essays. You may be unsure how to quote and cite play using MLA format in your essay for a class. Start by following the correct formatting for a quote from one speaker or from multiple speakers in the play. Then, use the correct citation style for a prose play or a verse play.

Template and Examples

how to state quotes in an essay

Quoting Dialogue from One Speaker

Step 1 Include the author and title of the play.

  • For example, if you were quoting a character from the play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, you would write, In Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , the character Honey says...

Step 2 Name the speaker of the quote.

  • For example, if you are quoting the character George from the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, you would write, “George says,…” or “George states,…”.

Step 3 Put the quote in quotation marks.

  • For example, if you are quoting from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? , you would write: Martha notes, "Truth or illusion, George; you don’t know the difference."

Step 4 Put slashes between verse lines.

  • For example, if you were quoting from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure , you would write: Claudio states “the miserable have no other medicine / But only hope.”

Quoting Dialogue from Multiple Speakers

Step 1 Put a blank space between the body of your paper and the first line.

  • You do not need to use quotation marks when you are quoting dialogue by multiple speakers from a play. The blank space will act as a marker, rather than quotation marks.

Step 2 Indent the speaker names 1 inch (2.54 cm) from the left margin.

  • MARTHA. Truth or illusion, George; you don’t know the difference.
  • GEORGE. No, but we must carry on as though we did.
  • MARTHA. Amen.

Step 3 Indent the dialogue ¼ inch (0.63cm) from the left margin.

  • Verse dialogue is indented 1 ¼ inch (3.17cm) from the left margin.

Step 4 Include the stage directions.

  • RUTH. Eat your eggs, Walter.
  • WALTER. (Slams the table and jumps up) --DAMN MY EGGS--DAMN ALL THE EGGS THAT EVER WAS!
  • RUTH. Then go to work.
  • WALTER. (Looking up at her) See--I’m trying to talk to you ‘bout myself--(Shaking his head with the repetition)--and all you can say is eat them eggs and go to work.

Citing a Quote from a Prose Play

Step 1 Put the citation in the text using parentheses.

  • If you are quoting dialogue from one speaker, place the citation at the end of the quoted dialogue, in the text.
  • If you are quoting dialogue from multiple speakers, place the citation at the end of the block quote.

Step 2 Cite the author’s name.

  • For example, you may write: “(Albee…)” or “(Hansberry…)”

Step 3 Note the title of the play.

  • For example, you may write, “(Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ...).”
  • If you have mentioned the title of the play once already in an earlier citation in your essay, you do not need to mention it again in the citations for the play moving forward.

Step 4 Include the page number and the act number.

  • For example, you may write, “(Albee 10; act 1).
  • If you are including the title of the play, you may write: “(Albee, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 10; act 1).”

Citing a Quote from a Verse Play

Step 1 Place the citation in-text.

  • For example, if the quote appears in act 4, scene 4 of the play, you will write, “(4.4…)”.

Step 3 Include the line number or numbers.

  • For example, if the quote appears on lines 33 to 35, you will write, “(33-35).”
  • The completed citation would look like: “(4.4.33-35)”.

Expert Q&A

Christopher Taylor, PhD

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Cite Sources in Chicago Manual of Style Format

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About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

To quote and cite a play in your essay using MLA format, start by referencing the author and title of the play in the main body of your essay. Then, name the speaker of the quote so it’s clear who’s talking. For example, write, “In Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the character Honey says…” After introducing the quote, frame the dialogue with quotation marks to make it clear that it’s a direct quote from a text. If your dialogue is written in verse, use forward slashes to indicate each line break. For more tips from our English co-author, including how to quote dialogue between multiple speakers in your essay, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Casting vet tess sanchez pivots to writer with collection of personal essays.

The former Fox exec and wife to 'New Girl' star Max Greenfield will write with humor about her messy shift from “working mom-boss" to "her actor-husband’s plus-one,” per the publisher.

By Lacey Rose

Executive Editor, Television

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Tess Sanchez

Tess Sanchez has found her next act.

The former Fox casting exec is set to publish a book of essays, which she’s titled We’re Going In A Different Direction . The collection has her recasting herself, in this case from “working mom-boss” to “her actor-husband’s plus-one,” according to the publisher.

The news comes three-plus years after Sanchez’s executive VP position was eliminated at Fox. In serving some 11 years at the company, she became the longest-tenured senior programming exec and the only woman of color among the network’s top creative execs.

During that time, Sanchez oversaw casting for such series as 9-1-1, Empire, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Mindy Project. Prior to Fox, she worked independently and for the WB, where she had a hand in shows including Felicity, Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The essay collection was sold on exclusive submission to executive editor Pamela Cannon at Gallery Books. The deal was brokered by Andy McNicol at AM Studio for World Rights and Jason Weinberg Untitled Entertainment. 

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NFL host Charissa Thompson says she didn't fabricate sideline quotes by players or coaches

Thompson originally said on podcast she 'would make up the report sometimes'.

how to state quotes in an essay

Social Sharing

Fox Sports and Amazon host Charissa Thompson took to social media on Friday to clarify her comments on a podcast earlier this week that she "would make up" sideline reports during NFL games.

Thompson, who hosts Fox's "NFL Kickoff" show and Amazon Prime Video's "Thursday Night Football" coverage, said in a post on Instagram that she did not fabricate quotes from players or coaches, and that she would report her observations on the sidelines.

"Working in the media I understand how important words are and I chose wrong words to describe the situation. I'm sorry. I have never lied about anything or been unethical during my time as a sports broadcaster," Thompson wrote.

"In the absence of a coach providing any information that could further my report I would use information that I learned and saw during the first half to create my report. For example if a team was 0 for 7 on third down, that would clearly be an area they need to improve on in the second half. In these instances I never attributed anything said to a player or coach."

Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Friday that he had not heard a reporter fabricate any quotes by him.

"I'm sure it'd be boring if they fabricated what I had to say. Don't all laugh at one time, guys," he said.

Minnesota Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell, who worked as a sideline reporter for San Diego State football games in his first post-NFL job in 2012 once he was done playing, said he has always tried to be accommodating to reporters in that role.

"I don't know much about what's transpired. I just know that every interaction I've ever had has been professional and really the questions have been thought-provoking and really something that hopefully provided some bonus for the TV broadcast during the game," O'Connell said. "I can't always give all the information, but I think it's important to be honest and articulate and make sure that you're putting some thought into the things that you say so hopefully that message gets delivered to our fan base."

Thompson did NFL and college football sideline reporting for Fox Sports and the Big Ten Network in 2008 and '09. Since then she has mainly handled in-studio hosting duties for ESPN, FS1, Fox and Amazon.

Thompson's appearance on 'Pardon My Take'

Thompson said on an episode of the "Pardon My Take" podcast released Wednesday that "I would make up the report sometimes because, A, the coach wouldn't come out at halftime or it was too late and I was like, I didn't want to screw up the report, so I was like, `I'm just gonna make this up."'

On a 2022 podcast, Thompson and Fox's Erin Andrews both said there were times when they paraphrased what coaches told them at halftime.

  • Star Bengals QB Joe Burrow out for season with wrist injury
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Thompson's comments drew widespread condemnation, including by other sideline reporters. ESPN "Monday Night Football" reporter Lisa Salters posted on social media Thursday night that she was "shocked, disappointed and disgusted."

Salters added: "Trust and credibility. They mean everything to a journalist. To violate either one — in any way — not only makes a mockery of the profession, but is a disservice to players, coaches and, most importantly, to fans."

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John F. Kennedy (left) with his brother Robert, 1957.

How JFK’s Secrets Fed Conspiracy Culture

The contrast between the president’s idealistic public image and his own clandestine methods helped make his assassination an emblem of distrust in government..

Listen to article

(7 minutes)

The assassination of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, remains America’s ur-conspiracy—a source of continuing skepticism about the possibility of official truth for both the left and the right. Sixty years later, it’s time to acknowledge that a major reason for this enduring suspicion is Kennedy himself.

Contrary to the image that he and his allies worked so hard to promote while he was alive, JFK was a man of secrets, and when he died he was engaged in many active conspiracies, both small and large. None of them was responsible for his death, but each would entail a cover-up to protect his legacy. And these cover-ups had a deeply negative effect on the American public’s trust in government, including its ability to get to the bottom of what really happened in Dallas in 1963.

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  1. How to Quote

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  2. Suggested Ways to Introduce Quotations

    How to quote in an essay? To introduce a quote in an essay, don't forget to include author's last name and page number (MLA) or author, date, and page number (APA) in your citation. Shown below are some possible ways to introduce quotations. The examples use MLA format. 1. Use a full sentence followed by a colon to introduce a quotation. Examples:

  3. How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Pictures)

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  5. Quoting, Paraphrasing, & Summarizing

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  6. MLA Formatting Quotations

    Below are some basic guidelines for incorporating quotations into your paper. Please note that all pages in MLA should be double-spaced. Short quotations To indicate short quotations (four typed lines or fewer of prose or three lines of verse) in your text, enclose the quotation within double quotation marks.

  7. Quoting and integrating sources into your paper

    Important guidelines. When integrating a source into your paper, remember to use these three important components: Introductory phrase to the source material: mention the author, date, or any other relevant information when introducing a quote or paraphrase. Source material: a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary with proper citation.

  8. PDF how to use quotes in your essay

    Quotes help support your argument, thesis or the point you are making in your essay. They also help you express an expert's point of view. They can come from your class readings or articles you find outside of class. They should only be used when absolutely necessary. How Much to Quote As little as possible.

  9. Using Quotations

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  10. How to punctuate quotations in an essay

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  11. Using Quotations in Essays

    A good quotation should do one or more of the following: Make an opening impact on the reader Build credibility for your essay Add humor Make the essay more interesting Close the essay with a point to ponder upon If the quotation does not meet a few of these objectives, then it is of little value.

  12. How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps (2023)

    To use quotes in an essay, you need to make sure your quotes are short, backed up with explanations, and used rarely. The best essays use a maximum of 2 quotes for every 1500 words. Rules for using quotes in essays: Avoid Long Quotes. Quotes should be less than 1 sentence long. Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples.

  13. How to Put a Quote in Your Essay Like a Pro

    How to Put a Quote in Your Essay Like a Pro Now that you know what you absolutely should not do when quoting, you need to know what you should do. Ready to learn how to put a quote in your essay like a pro? Here are four tips to help you move from amateur to pro status. Tip #1: Choose quotes wisely

  14. How to Quote

    To cite a direct quote in APA, you must include the author's last name, the year, and a page number, all separated by commas. If the quote appears on a single page, use 'p.'; if it spans a page range, use 'pp.' An APA in-text citation can be parenthetical or narrative.

  15. Words that introduce Quotes or Paraphrases

    Words that introduce Quotes or Paraphrases are basically three keys verbs: Neutral Verbs ( here) Stronger Verbs ( here) Inference Verbs ( here) Neutral Verbs: When used to introduce a quote, the following verbs basically mean "says" Examples of Neutral Verbs The author says. The author notes. The author believes. The author observes.

  16. Using Quotes in an Essay: Ultimate Beginner's Guide

    Using quotes in an essay serves three goals: Present additional evidence to support your point of view or oppose a claim or idea; Help a reader better understand a topic under analysis; Strengthen your argumentation on a topic using another writer's eloquence.

  17. How to Introduce a Quote in an Essay

    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.

  18. The Basics of In-Text Citation

    Revised on August 23, 2022. An in-text citation is a short acknowledgement you include whenever you quote or take information from a source in academic writing. It points the reader to the source so they can see where you got your information. In-text citations most commonly take the form of short parenthetical statements indicating the author ...

  19. How to Quote a Quote?

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  20. Quotations

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  21. How To Embed Quotes in Your Essay Like a Boss

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  22. How to Cite an Article in an Essay? (APA and MLA)

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  23. 5 Ways to Quote and Cite a Play in an Essay Using MLA Format

    2. Cite the author's name. Note the author's full last name first in the citation. For example, you may write: " (Albee…)" or " (Hansberry…)". 3. Note the title of the play. After the author's last name, put in a comma. Then, write the title of the play you are quoting in italics.

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