You can make a research essay more robust by citing when you need to cite a key piece of material from a primary source, strengthen your argument by using another author's work, or highlight an art term. However, to be able to write a good essay and avoid plagiarism, it is important not only that the citations are used effectively but also that they be cited in the correct way.
Method 1 of 4: Use citations of different types
Step 1. Understand how you can use partial citations
These are partial sentences that come from the middle of a text fragment and consist only of a few words without any indication as to the speaker or the content to which the quote refers. You should always insert these quotes within a sentence, as they cannot by themselves constitute a complete sentence.
- Incorporate a partial quote using a complete sentence. For example: "As Rembrandt's skill developed, he began to paint 'romantic and utopian' landscapes (Wallace 96)".
- You can also incorporate a partial quote using a label: "Rembrandt's landscapes are 'romantic and utopian' (Wallace 96)".
Step 2. Understand how you can use quotes from a whole sentence
As the name implies, these are formed when you quote complete sentences of less than 4 lines in length. Although they are complete sentences, they cannot be used as stand-alone sentences in your essay, so you must introduce them using an additional complete sentence or a key phrase.
- You can enter a quotation of a complete sentence using, in turn, a complete sentence. For example: "Over time, Rembrandt's work began to change and focus on different themes, but, as Wallace points out, 'Rembrandt's great gift as an engraver lay in maintaining a sense of spontaneity while lending scrupulous attention to detail '(142) ".
- You can also enter a full sentence quote using a key phrase. For example: "As Wallace mentions, 'Rembrandt's great gift as an engraver lay in maintaining a sense of spontaneity while paying scrupulous attention to detail' (142)."
Step 3. Understand how you can use block quotes
These are several sentences that are quoted directly from a source and that are more than 4 lines in length in your essay. Quotes of this type take up a lot of physical space, so you should use them sparingly (1-2 in an entire essay, maximum). To incorporate a bulk quote, you must leave a full line of space between your original content and the quote. Also, right-indent the entire quote only once.
- Use a colon to enter the block quote. For example: "According to Wallace: [leave a line of space here and then indent the entire quote]".
- Block citations do not use quotation marks, since the introductory sentence itself mentions the author or whatever it is referring to. However, you must include the reference within the text in parentheses after the end point of the quote.
- In case the block citation is within a paragraph, it will not be necessary to start a new one after the citation but simply leave another line of space and start writing next to the left margin (without indentation).
Step 4. Understand how you can use indirect quotes
These quotes, which are also known as paraphrasing, are formed when you use a sentence from a source but slightly change the way it is phrased to put it in your own words. This helps you when your citations don't meet the rubric's requirements or if you've already included too many citations. However, to avoid plagiarism, you must change at least 50% of the sentence.
- You can move some parts around as a way to change the sentence structure. You can also change some words to synonyms using a thesaurus.
- You should only paraphrase if you are certain you understand the content you are going to copy, since if you are not clear about what the quote means, it will not be possible to express it correctly in your own words.
- When writing the paraphrased text, avoid looking at the quote. Instead, keep the meaning in mind and come up with a new sentence that fits it.
Method 2 of 4: Format Citations
Step 1. Know where to place commas and periods
When citing within your essay, you will likely need to use a comma or period at the end of the quote. In case you are going to cite without including a reference (for example, if the entire essay deals with the same work), you must place the commas and periods just after the quotation marks, while, in case you include a reference in parentheses, you must place the comma or period after the closing parentheses.
Step 2. Know where to place the question and exclamation marks
In case the quote you are going to use includes a question mark or exclamation mark, it must remain within the quotation marks. In case you are going to ask a question or exclaim as to the importance of a quote, the sign must go outside the quotation marks. In case you ask a question about a question that you have quoted, you should put a single question mark inside the quotation marks.
- Here's an example of a quote that includes a question mark: "Alice said 'but where will I go?' (24) ".
- Here's an example of a question about a quote: "With so much contention, will literary scholars ever agree on 'the dreamlike quality of Alice's adventure' (39)?"
- Here is an example of a question about a question that has been quoted: "At this point in the story, readers collectively wonder, 'but where will I go?' (24) ".
Step 3. Use the ellipsis correctly
When using most of a quotation but not the entire quotation or starting in the middle of the quotation, use an ellipsis, indicating that you did not include a part of speech in the quotation. You must put "…" to indicate that you excluded a part of the quote, either before or after your selection.
- You can place the ellipsis in the middle of a quote to exclude words that you think unnecessarily lengthen the statement without adding value. For example: "As the man mentioned, 'reading the book was… revealing and life-changing'" instead of "As the man mentioned, 'reading the book over the course of the last few weeks was not only extremely enjoyable but also it was eye-opening and life-changing. '
- You should only use the ellipsis before or after a date, but not both times. If you are only going to use part of a quote from the middle of a selection, this will simply be a partial quote.
Step 4. Use the brackets in the correct way
Brackets have the opposite function of ellipsis (which exclude items), as they are placed in a quote to incorporate information that is deemed important or necessary but is not in the quote itself. You can include a few words in a quote (usually the name of a person or place the quote is focused on) using square brackets to help the reader understand the context.
For example: "As scholars have pointed out, 'Rembrandt's portrait of [Henrickje, his lover] was accurate and full of emotion' (Wallace 49)"
Step 5. Use the colon and semicolon correctly
In case you are going to include a colon or a semicolon after a quote or there is a colon or a semicolon at the end of the selection you are going to quote, these signs must be outside the quotation marks.
Step 6. Copy the quote exactly
In case you are going to make a direct appointment, it is essential that you copy it verbatim. You should also include all spelling and grammar mistakes, even if you know they are mistakes. In case the citation includes an error that you are aware of, you must place "[sic]" (in italics and in brackets) just after the error to indicate that you know that the citation contains an error and that it was not your error.
For example: "As Dormer has pointed out, 'his work is much more valuable today [sic] than it was at the time of its creation.'
Method 3 of 4: Quote in Different Styles
Step 1. Appointment according to the MLA format
If you are going to use the MLA citation format, in-text citations must include the author's name and the number of the page where the information comes from. It is possible to put both data together in a reference in parentheses or to mention one of them in the body of the text and the other by means of a reference in parentheses.
- Example: "Therefore, we can establish that 'another reason for Rembrandt's decline in popularity may have been his dedication to biblical paintings' (Wallace 112)".
- Example: "Some say, 'Another reason for Rembrandt's decline in popularity may have been his dedication to biblical paintings' (Wallace 112), but not everyone agrees on this."
- Example: "Wallace claims that 'another reason for Rembrandt's decline in popularity may have been his dedication to biblical paintings' (112)".
Step 2. Appointment according to the APA format
This format differs slightly from that of the MLA, since it requires that a quotation be included in parentheses within the text, where the author's last name and the year of publication of the text appear. Both data must appear within parentheses or you can mention the author's name in the body of the text and just put the year in parentheses later.
- Example: "As Billy's character is described, we discover that 'Billy was not a Catholic, although he grew up with a hideous crucifix on the wall' (Vonnegut 1969)".
- Example: "Vonnegut provides a factual statement that includes a clear opinion when he says that 'Billy was not a Catholic, although he grew up with a hideous crucifix on the wall' (1969)".
- Example: "Knowing that 'Billy was not a Catholic, although he grew up with a hideous crucifix on the wall' (Vonnegut 1969), we begin to understand his philosophical positions."
Step 3. Cite according to the Chicago style
In this style of formatting for research essays, no parenthetical references are used within the text but rather footnotes at the bottom of the page. If you want to include a citation reference in your essay, you must place a footnote number just after the quote's closing quotation marks (not within them) and place the corresponding reference at the bottom of the page.
Method 4 of 4: Quote Well
Step 1. Choose carefully the quotes you want to use in the essay
Using quotes in excess is considered sloppy in academic writing. This is because you are too dependent on other people to make your point. Therefore, you must demonstrate that you can write and that you are also capable of judiciously reviewing a great deal of research to determine which are the most important quotes to support your argument.
Step 2. Don't summarize
If you quote something outright, it must be because you have valuable insights based on that particular phrase or set of information. You should not use quotes as fillers, after which you include a long summary or paraphrased text about what you copied. You must be careful that, when talking about the quote, you not only repeat what is said in the text but in a different way.
Step 3. Use quotes to highlight a specific phrase
In academic writing, it is often the case that an empirical source uses a very specific phrase or term and describes it. You should use a quote if you don't have a better way to explain or rephrase that sentence, but try to paraphrase or use indirect quotes where possible so that your writing doesn't seem idle.
Step 4. Cite the important evidence
Quotations can be particularly helpful for argumentative essays or study-based research essays. This is because you can use quotes to provide direct evidence for an important point that you want to make. You can cite someone who also supports this point and has good reasons for it as a way to further solidify your position. However, be careful to elaborate on that point after the date. Don't just include it in your essay without talking more about it.
Step 5. Be clear when using quotes
Quotes can be helpful at times, but when they're not clearly attributed they can be confusing and out of place. Therefore, you should be careful to include context for the quote before introducing it. You should also include a reference, but it is important to make it clear to the reader that you are presenting someone else's ideas.
Step 6. Include bibliographic information at the end of your essay
You should include a "Works Cited" page or another bibliographic source page at the end of your essay that includes complete publication information for each of the sources you cited.
- As you make notes as you research, keep a list of citations and put an asterisk next to the ones you like best so you can come back to them later.
- Pay attention to sources that researchers cite more than once, as secondary material can often give you clues as to how to find the best parts of primary sources.
- Quote the other party so that you can directly debunk their argument. It will be easier for you to argue against someone if you use their exact words and point out any errors in them. Otherwise, the other party could claim that you just misrepresented what they meant. Therefore, you must use their words and attack directly.
- When copying quotes, you must be very careful. You should not trust that you will remember that something is a direct quote if you do not use quotation marks in your notes. You want to make sure you copy it accurately, not the way you will include it in your essay. You can edit it later.
- Avoid having a research essay made up of other people's words. You must present the arguments that both sides of the issue have made in the past, but you must also present a convincing argument yourself. By rephrasing and rearranging an argument and summarizing different arguments in your own words, you make it clear that you understand your research and your essay makes for interesting read. The reader is looking for a new way to understand either research or a new idea, so an excessive amount of citations tends to hide the most important part.
- You shouldn't be overly dependent on one source. When researching, it's easy to get hooked on just one book, especially if you can't find many on that topic and a particular author agrees with you. However, you should make an effort to limit the number of times you quote that author, especially if a large part of your argument itself depends on the groundwork they have done. Look for quotes that complement or question that person, and then provide your own analysis.
- Don't take careless notes. Unfortunately plagiarism by accident is very common, and its consequences are serious. You may not have intended to plagiarize, but you will if you take note of a person's words and do not indicate that it is a direct quote, regardless of whether it was your intention or not (after all, it is idle to rely only on your Notes from lectures without researching yourself, and not recognizing direct quotes when taking notes from texts indicates poor organization). You should always indicate in your notes what the quotes are. Likewise, it is better to take note of many quotes and then paraphrase them instead of taking note of a paraphrased version, since, especially if you do not modify the quote much, this puts you at risk that, later, when reviewing the appointment, accidentally change it and return it to the original appointment. It is best to have the original version in front of you. In case you can't find a better way to say it, you can just quote it in the right way.