to quote and cite sources are two-fold: to help you support your
argument, and to give credit where you need to.
Not every sentence
is worth quoting, and not every bit of information needs to be quoted
and cited. As we discusssed, academics quote for three reasons: 1) The
source offers some kind of critical thought about the topic. Any kind of judgment, evaluation, comparison, or analysis must be quoted and cited. 2) The source presents some kind of proprietary
factual information. This means that what you learn in this
source is the result of the author’s own research. Factual
information you can find in multiple sources is not in this category.
3) The source phrases some idea in a way that you admire so much
that you believe it is worth quoting.
Type 3 quotations should be rare. For this exercise, I want you to identify a passage that will yield a Type 1 or Type 2 quotation.
Again, you will almost never find good quotations in the first or last
paragraphs of an essay or book chapter. The first paragraph
— as you know by now — is where writers establish the
issue they are exploring and sometimes offer a thesis. This
means they are usually providing background, and much of what they
say in the introduction will not be part of their argument. For
example, a scholar may spend a paragraph explaining the current
conventional understanding of the issue, and then spend the rest
of the essay explaining why that conventional view is wrong. Nor
do you want to quote a writer’s thesis, which the writer then
uses the entire rest of the essay to support. You simply cannot
deal fairly with someone’s entire argument without that argument
taking over your essay. Finally, quoting the conclusion usually
creates the same problem: the point is too big for you to deal with
For these reasons, the best quotations will usually come from an essay’s body. Look for specific points with which you could
engage fairly and completely in an essay.