Mining a Source for a Quotation


Find an article from a scholarly journal that is relevant to your topic and you find interesting. Copy a portion of it that is at least five paragraphs and no more than eight paragraphs long. You can copy it by scanning it if you have it in hard-copy or by copying and pasting it if you have obtained it electronically.

Bring four copies to class. On one copy only, underline or highlight a passage you believe would be worth quoting in a research project.


The reasons 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 fairly.

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.


If you complete the exercise according to the instructions, or at least make a good faith effort to do so, you will receive full credit. Note that if you do not have the four copies with you, and if three of them are not unmarked, you cannot get full credit for this exercise.