When Should I Quote a Source?
Rasmussen (2003, p. 4) recommends that, "Direct quotations should be reserved for cases in which you cannot express the ideas better yourself. Use quotations when the original words are especially precise, clear, powerful, or vivid."
The human communication environment has acquired biological complexity and planetary scale, but there are no scientists or activists monitoring it, theorizing about its health, or mounting campaigns to protect is resilience. Perhaps it's too new, too large to view as a whole, or too containing - we swim in a sea of information, in poet Gary Snyder's phrase. All the more reason to worry. New things have nastier surprises, big things are hard to change, and containing things are inescapable.Stewart Brand, The Media Lab
In The Media Lab, Stewart Brand describes the control that is exerted by watchdog agencies over modern telecommunications: "The human communication environment has ... activists monitoring it, theorizing about its health ..." (258).
By omitting certain words, the writer has changed the meaning of the original source.
In The Media Lab, Stewart Brand notes that we have done little to monitor the growth of telecommunications. Modern communication technology may seem overwhelmingly new, big, and encompassing, but these are reasons for more vigilance, not less: "New things have nastier surprises, big things are hard to change, and containing things are inescapable" (258).
There Are Two Cardinal Rules for Quoting Sources.
There are two cardinal rules for quoting sources that apply in all circumstances and regardless of which style manual you use. Your quotations must be accurate and must accurately represent the intent of the author(s).
To make sure that your quotations are accurate, be sure to copy them directly from the original source or a photographic copy of the original source, and not from a secondary source. If your sources are from electronic databases or can be scanned into a computer where an electronic version of the print can be accurately produced, you can literally "cut and paste" the quotation from the original source in to the body of your paper. Otherwise, you will simply have to carefully check that you have accurately typed the quotation into your paper.
You must read the original material carefully to make sure that your quotation accurately represents the intent of the author(s). Statements that are written sarcastically, for example, can be quoted improperly to represent a point of view entirely opposite of the author's point of view. Quotations can also be taken out of context with the result of misrepresenting the author's perspective. For example, if an author wrote, "Capital punishment must be outlawed under all circumstances where the convicted murderer is mentally retarded," it would be taking the quotation out of context to report that the author said, "Capital punishment must be outlawed under all circumstances. . . ."
Use Ellipsis to Indicate What You Leave Out of a Quotation
If it makes sense to leave out part of a quotation, use ellipsis, which are three spaced periods, depending on whether the omitted material comes in the middle, beginning, or end of a quotation, to indicate the omitted material. Be careful to follow the directions of the specific style manual that you use, since each one differs slightly.
Use Brackets to Indicate What You Add to a Quotation
If you need to add words to a quote, either because the original source left out a word, or because the portion of the material you quoted makes better sense with the added word, use brackets to indicate your insertions. For example, if you were quoting part of the material just above this paragraph, you might insert the word "Supreme" to give more specific context to the quotation:
According to Richey, "The [Supreme] [C]ourt . . . drew a parallel between the sentencing system of Arizona . . . and the sentence-enhancement system that the high courts struck down two years ago in . . . Apprendi v. New Jersey."
You want to make it clear to your reader what material is being quoted, and what, if any, material is being omitted from or added to an original quotation.
You also want to refer to the style manual that you're using on to make sure the way you use brackets is appropriate for that style of writing.
How Do I Place the Quotations in My Paper?
Brief quotations are simply embedded in the body of your paper and enclosed with quotation marks. What constitutes a brief quotation? It depends on the style manual you're using.
Longer quotations are set apart from the main text in blocked paragraphs. The longer quotation is indented either one inch or ten spaces, depending on the style manual, and does not include quotation marks.
All quotations, brief or long, should be grammatically correct and the tense should be consistent with the rest of the paper. If words have to be added to help a quotation makes sense in the paper, then use brackets to enclose words or letters that you add and ellipses to indicate words or sentences that have been left out of the middle or end of a quotation.
For example, for briefer quotes, quote the material, using quotation marks, within the paragraph in which it's being quoted.
The Apprendi case is likely to have a significant impact on how state judges apply the death penalty. According to Richey, "A much anticipated revolution in criminal sentencing just became a lot more revolutionary."In APA format, if the quoted material is longer than forty words, indent the quoted material without quotations marks.
So, quote material properly when a quote will say things better than you can say them in your own words, but make sure your quotes are accurate and contextually consistent with the original work. Refer to the appropriate style manual for specific questions about quotations that are not answered here. Remember, too, that you don't always have to quote material. You may also want to paraphrase or summarize it.