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Including Quotations in Your Essay

Don't Make it Look Like You Plagiarized!

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Are there any expected standards for using quotations in an essay? Yes, there are. The most important one is that you should not give the impression of being the author of the quotation. That would amount to plagiarism. Here are a set of rules to clearly distinguish your writing from the quotation:

  • Sometimes, you describe the quotation in your own words before using it. In this case, you should use a colon (:) to indicate the beginning of the quotation. Then begin the quotation with a quotation mark ("). After you have completed the quotation, close it with a quotation mark ("). Here is an example:

    Sir Winston Churchill made a witty remark on the attitude of a pessimist: "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

  • Sometimes the sentence in which the quotation is embedded does not describe the quotation, but merely introduces it. In this case, do away with the colon. Simply use the quotation marks. Here is an example:

    Sir Winston Churchill once said "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

  • As far as possible, you should mention the author and the source of the quotation. For instance:

    In Shakespeare’s play As You Like It, Touchstone says to Audrey in the Forest of Arden "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." (Act V, Scene I).

  • Ensure that the source of your quotation is authentic. Also, verify the author of your quotation. You can do so by looking up the quotation on authoritative Web sites, such as this one. But for formal writing, do not rely on just one Web site.
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