Quotations in Essays

How to Use Quotes

Selection and introduction:

Quotes are evidence.
If a quote does not help prove your thesis statement, do not put it in your essay. If there are no quotes that support your thesis statement, change your thesis statement.

Also See:

Common Citation Rules
Using Quotations Effectively
Always introduce a quote. Tell the reader what the quote told you on the surface:

     Pam said, "There are butterflies in my pillow. I must set them free!" - Poor
     Pam's insanity becomes evident when she shouts, "There are
     butterflies..." - Better

Notice that introducing a quote does not need to involve summary.


After finding a quote relevant to your thesis statement, explain its deeper meaning and its relevance. This will usually involve showing how the quote relates to a theme or literary device rather than just answering a simple question.

Always perform a deep analysis of the quote after it is presented:

     This shows Pam is crazy. - Poor
     The butterflies symbolize individuality and demonstrate her struggle to be
     an individual in a conventional society. - Better
     (but only if this supports the thesis)

The first sentence answers only one simple question that is probably obvious to every reader.

The second sentence discusses both a literary device, and a theme (freedom or individuality vs. society) that goes beyond the obvious. From here the author can discuss how the deeper meaning of the quote relates to the specific claims in the thesis statement.


Make sure to cite using the format indicated by your instructor (MLA, APA etc.)
Make sure that sentences with embedded quotes have a consistent tense and subject verb agreement. Use brackets [] to change or add words that do not change the meaning of the original sentence, but do correct grammar discrepancies.

Pam and Jane go to the store and "she found a toad." - No
Pam and Jane go to the store and "[Pam finds] a toad." - Better

The first sentence is incorrect because it does not explain which girl found the toad and the quoted portion has a different tense than the unquoted portion. The second sentence has brackets, which change the grammar of the quoted sentence, but unify the tense and clarify its meaning.

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