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This video will reinforce the concepts from Chapter 3 of
They Say/I Say: “As He Himself Puts It.”
Before you use quotations in your essay,
you need to determine why you are using them.
The primary reason is to give support to and prove your points.
These are the details that will show your claims are correct.
Also, quotations make it clear that you understand the author’s point of view.
This is important because sometimes you will need to distinguish
between the author’s viewpoint and your own.
In order to fulfill these roles, quotations need to be
placed carefully in a body paragraph.
Generally, paragraphs for an argumentative essay will include three parts:
a topic or claim sentence, the body or illustration section, and the explanation.
The claim sentence establishes the primary point of the paragraph
—what you will prove.
The illustration section uses detailed support and evidence to prove this point.
Then, the explanation establishes why that point is important
in the context of the overall argument.
When following this model, it is clear that quotations fit
in the illustration section, not the other two.
This mean that any quotation you use should be sandwiched
in the middle of the paragraph.
One problem often seen in student writing is what Graff and Birkenstein
call Hit and Run Quoting.
Let’s look at an example of this.
One strength of Dalrymple’s argument is his consideration
of the natural human response to obedience.
“To oppose authority is always romantic and principled,
to uphold it prosaic and cowardly.” We see this in our everyday lives
and in the example of the woman on the plane.
If you haven’t already read Dalrymple’s article,
this paragraph probably doesn’t make much sense.
The author has not given us—the readers—
enough context to fully understand his or her point.
This quotation is not connected to the overall argument.
To avoid this problem, we will follow four steps
each time we use a quotation: signal phrase, quotation,
in-text citation, and explanation.
Let’s see how these steps can transform the previous paragraph.
First, a signal phrase is necessary to let the reader know that
someone else said the words that follow.
Some common examples include
According to the author
—as the author states
—and in this article, the author claims.
See your textbook for more options.
Remember that it is important to use variety
in order to keep your readers’ attention.
Let’s begin our revision with something simple:
According to Dalrymple,
Next, you should include the quotation itself.
You must use the exact wording from the original
and put quotation marks at both the beginning and end.
Here we see steps one and two together.
Because this quotation is a little abstract,
it may be helpful to revise the signal phrase.
This version establishes that Dalrymple wrote the article
but is commenting on other people.
Next, insert the in-text citation.
This will tell the reader where you found the quotation
by noting the author and page number at the end of the sentence.
The basic format is (lastname page number).
Note that the period is after the citation.
If the author has been named in the signal phrase,
only put the page number in parentheses.
Online sources generally do not have page numbers
(unless it is a PDF), so only include the author’s lastname.
Here are two variations of in text citation for our sample quotation.
The first uses a basic citation; the second has the author
mentioned in the signal phrase.
Note that in both the period is after the citation.
The final component is the explanation sentence.
This explains why the quote is important or gives your interpretation.
Note that you are not simply restating the quotation.
Instead, you are guiding your reader toward what you see as the correct interpretation.
A basic example would be: In other words.
See the textbook for more templates and again,
use a variety in your essay.
Here is an explanation sentence for our sample quotation.
Note that this clarifies some of the complex ideas and contextualizes the quotation.
Here is the final version of the paragraph with the revisions.
One strength of the argument is the attention to the natural human response
to obedience. Dalrymple maintains that for most people,
“To oppose authority is always romantic and principled,
to uphold it prosaic and cowardly” (235). In making this comment,
he argues that people are hardwired against authority without considering
its possible positive impacts. We see this in our everyday lives and in
the example of the woman on the plane. By acknowledging our natural
human response, Dalrymple creates a firm foundation for his argument.
Note that it better explains the points and gives the reader a clear context for the quotation.
Although these examples followed the same model,
you do have several options for ways to insert a quotation.
Here are four:
Begin with the signal phrase
Move the signal phrase to the end of the sentence.
Note that if you do this, the citation remains at the end of the entire sentence.
The signal phrase can interrupt the quotation.
Sometimes this is awkward, so I don’t recommend this option be used often.
Finally, the quote can flow naturally within the sentence.
If you use this option, make sure the sentence is still grammatically correct.
Occasionally, you will find some quotations that require
adjustment before they fit with your point.
Here are two ways to use punctuation to modify the quotation.
First, you can use brackets to clarify words in the quotation.
For example, you could find a quotation like this:
They used a bureaucracy and a media machine,
and finally, people just like me and you.
If you haven’t read the article, you have no idea who “they” are.
This pronoun needs to be further clarified.
To do so, put the clarification in brackets.
By specifying that “they” are Hitler and King Leopold,
the author makes this quotation much stronger.
Sometimes, a quotation will include extra information
or an authorial aside that is not relevant to your point.
In this case, you can use an ellipsis to remove those words.
For example, you may want to use this quotation:
We—and by this I mean you and I—are deeply evil.
The author’s clarification of “we” may not be necessary for your point.
You can remove the phrase and replace it with an ellipsis.
Be aware that removing words can alter the meaning.
Only remove those words that are truly not necessary for the author’s point.
Use these concepts to fully integrate quotations into your essay.
Doing so will strengthen your arguments and add depth and complexity to your writing.