WHY AND WHEN DO WE USE DIRECT QUOTES?
Remember, direct quotations are not to replace your own words; they enhance your own arguments and ideas. Paraphrasing can replace a quote, but if the ideas are not your own, they must still be cited.
There are several reasons we might need to use direct quotes in a paper.
- Textual evidence: Often, when we are writing a paper, we will need to use a piece of textual evidence to help strengthen our argument. We may need to search an article or story for a quote. This quote becomes a piece of evidence that helps prove our case.
Nick feels sorry for Tom. He says, “I shook hands with him; it seemed silly not to, for I felt suddenly as though I were talking to a small child.”
It was not enough to simply say that Nick felt sorry for Tom. We had to use a quote to show that Nick felt sorry for Tom. The quote is our evidence.
- Data or specialized knowledge: We may find ourselves using specialized knowledge when writing a paper. In this case, we might have to quote an expert witness, someone who has knowledge an average person does not have.
According to an article in New Scientist, of individuals surveyed “who watched three hours or more of television around the age of 22, 17 per cent went on to commit an aggressive act, compared with no one in the group watching less than an hour a day” (Davis 34).
If we were to simply state that watching a lot of television makes women aggressive, it would sound like nothing more than our opinion. The expert witness backs up our case. It makes our argument stronger.
- Direct quote from a speech or interview: Sometimes, we may be required to interview someone or quote a speech. During the interview or speech, the speaker may say something interesting or memorable. In this case, we will want to quote the speaker directly.
In his Inaugural Address, President John F. Kennedy challenged, “[a]sk not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”
This is a memorable and powerful quote. If we simply wrote that President Kennedy told Americans to think about how they could serve their country, the impact of the words would be weakened. A direct quote makes the words more powerful.
HOW DO WE INCORPORATE QUOTES?
A quote used to support an original idea in your paper must have a “bridge” from one sentence to the next so that readers will understand where it came from or who said it.
Signal phrases are the “bridges” that link your original idea to a supporting quote from an author/expert or a book/magazine.
Without a Signal Phrase:
In Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane Eyre, Jane disagrees with Mr. Rochester’s idea that a husband has the right to control his wife, and she asserts her freedom to be an independent married woman. “I am a free human being with an independent will” (Brontë 252).
In the second sentence above, a quote has been dropped in after the writer’s original idea like a paratrooper falling from the sky out of nowhere. Just as a person on the ground would have no idea where the paratrooper came from, the reader does not know who said this quote: “I am a free human being with an independent will.” As a result, the reader does not make a connection between the original idea stated in the first sentence and the “dropped” quote in the second sentence. As the writer of your paper, it is your job to tell the reader who said (or wrote) the quote you’ve incorporated. This is where a signal phrase will help you out.
Notice how the following revision uses a signal phrase to construct the “bridge” between the writer’s original idea stated in the first sentence and Jane’s quote in the second sentence.
With a Signal Phrase:
In Charlotte Brontë’s novel, Jane Eyre, Jane disagrees with Mr. Rochester’s idea that a husband has the right to control his wife, and she asserts her freedom to be an independent married woman. Jane declares, “I am a free human being with an independent will” (Brontë 252).
Also, introducing a quote with the expert’s name and a signal verb is a way to tell readers that you are using an expert’s quote to support the ideas presented in your paper. The signal verb gives you the “GO” sign to move into the quote.
As Sandra Gilbert states, “Jane’s whole pilgrimage has prepared her to be angry with Mr. Rochester’s – and society’s – concept of marriage” (490).
Here is a list of more signal verbs (like states and declares), which will help you build “bridges” with signal phrases:
Acknowledges, Advises, Agrees, Allows, Answers, Asserts, Believes, Claims, Concludes, Concurs, Confirms, Criticizes, Declares, Describes, Disagrees, Discusses, Disputes, Emphasizes, Expresses, Interprets, Lists, Opposes, Remarks, Replies, Reports, Responds, Reveals, Says, Shows, States