How To Include Quotes In Your Paper


   It is essential that every research paper include quotations from relevant primary texts. In my classes, it is impossible to get any grade above a B- without providing adequate references to the material you are discussing. And, in such a case, in order to get a B-, the rest of the paper must be close to perfect.

    Most students intuitively understand the importance of quotes and go out of their way to include them in their papers. However, many students, even when they go out of their way to include quotes, misunderstand how to incorporate them into their writing and do more harm than good. When misused, quotes can be disastrous. They may break up the flow of the text instead of contribute to the narrative. When used as space-fillers instead of idea enhancers, they can make the author seem lazy and sneaky. And, more often then not, when no adequate transition is provided, they may seem disconnected from the rest of the paper and end up being very distracting.


The Purpose of Quotes:

(1) Quotes highlight main points. Writing a summary of a philosophical text can be very difficult. Writers tend to over-emphasize the general and under-emphasize the specific. Quotes force the author to refer to specific philosophical claims and, when used properly, narrow the discussion to a specific premise, assumption or conclusion.

(2) Quotes provide precision. Philosophical language is very specific. When students describes theories in his or her own words -- and all students must do this, it is an essential part of any paper -- the student has a tendency to move away from the specific terminology used by the philosopher who is the subject of the paper. Quotes return the reader to the language of the philosopher and demand that the author stay true to the terminology.

(3) Quotes provide focus. We all have a tendency to follow our train of thought too far in a paper. Sometimes, we find ourselves writing comments that are only tangentially related, and the reader has a difficult time seeing the relevance of the comments. Quotes force the author to stay on topic. They provide a link to the main argument and a link to the primary text.

(4) Quotes offer evidence. All research papers and summaries are interpretations of philosophical work. Even if the student doesn't realize it, he or she is putting forth their own views on the text they are discussing. There is rarely any "objective" or "perfect" summary of a sophisticated philosophical text and interpretations will differ. The quote, when properly constructed, is a way of providing proof that the philosopher can be understood as saying that which the author claims. If the quote supports the author's interpretation, than the larger argument of the paper is more believable.

(5) Quotes indicate that you did your homework. Lets face it, all your school papers are tools of assessment, and one of the thing that professors look for is whether or not you did the reading, and whether or not you are prepared for class. The first thing that comes to my mind when I read a paper that has no quotes in it is that the author has not read the texts, and that the lack of references is an indication of a lack of preparation. When a paper contains an adequate number of quotes, and these quotes represent numerous different sections of the reading, I am more inclined to assume that you are well prepared for your work.


The Proper Format of The Quote:

Any quote which is longer than three lines must be "indented". A longer quote must be distinguished from the rest of the text. The standard form for a research paper is double spaced. the left and right margins should not be any larger than an inch wide. Yet, a quote longer than three lines in length should have a larger margin and should be single spaced. Most word processors have tools that will indent the quote automatically. For example, on later versions of Microsoft Word, the the indent and un-indent icons are located on the right hand side of the tool bar.

A paper with an indented quote should look like this:

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    In one major respect, the libertarian theory of justice is identical

to the theory of justice presented by Adam Smith. For Smith, inactivity

also preserves justice. Smith argues that the activity of justice does

no "positive good." (Smith, pg. 81.) He writes that in most instances,

"mere justice is … but a negative virtue, and only hinders us from

hurting our neighbor…" (Smith, Pg. 82) Smith writes:

The man who barely abstains from violating either the person, or the estate, or the reputation of his neighbors, has surely very little positive merits. He fulfills, however, all the rules of what is peculiarly called justice, and does every thing which his equals can with propriety force him to do, or which they can punish him for not doing. We may often fulfill all the rules of justice by sitting still and doing nothing. (Smith, pg. 83)

    Both libertarian theory and Smithean justice require abstention

from violation of the rules of justice; both describe a lack of activity

as preservation of justice. However, the similarities stop there. The

central difference between the two conceptions of justice is in the

method of identification of the rules of justice. In libertarianism,

justice is easily identified. We are unjust when we interfere with

the property of others, when we are dishonest about property we

consent to transfer, or when we do not fulfill our promises or

contractual obligations.


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Notice that in the selection above, the body of the paper is double spaced, while the quote is single spaced and indented. Notice that the short quotes are not indented but the longer quote (longer than three lines) is. The indented quote does not have quotation marks, but the quotes which are a part of the regular text do. Also notice that I have cited every quote by including the author and page number in parenthesis. You may use this method (use the philosopher's name, not the text book author) or you may use footnotes or endnotes. Use whichever method you prefer but be consistent. Use the same method of citation for each reference.


The Three Parts of the Quote:

Every quote consists of three distinct parts: the text, the summary and the explanation of relevance.

(1) The text. This section of the the quote is that part which is the most obvious. It is the selection from the book which you are including in your paper. It is the words of another author other than yourself and must be clearly marked. Remember, when you use the words of another person, or when you use the ideas of another person, and you don't give them credit, that is plagiarism.

(2) The summary. After you include the quote from the primary text, you must summarize the quote in your own words. You must explain to the reader what the quote says in such a way that it makes the text easy to understand.

(3) The explanation of relevance. After you summarize the selection, you must explain your reasons for including it in your paper. Why is this relevant? Why is this so important that you decided to include a quote instead of just summarizing it in your own words.

Here is an example of a completed quote. Notice the transition sentences before and after the quote which prepares the reader to read the quote.










This first paragraph contains the transition. It prepares the reader for the upcoming quote and informs him or her of its relationship to the paragraph before it.


This is the actual quote from the text. Notice that it is indented, single spaced, and is not contained within quotes. It also has the citation at the end which tells the reader where in the text the quote can be fond. Keep in mind that the quote must be exact. Make sure all of the spelling, punctuation and wording are the way they appear in the primary text.



Here we find the summary of the text in my own words. I am rephrasing the main point of the selection in order to ensure that the reader is aware of what I understand the selection to say.

The part of the paragraph that beings "this is important to my argument because..." is the explanation of relevance. It tells the reader how the quote is connected to my main argument and why I, as the author, decided to include it. It helps the reader connect the details of the paper with the main points.





      Of course, one must understand that seeking

the mean is not always the appropriate way of

determining how to act. Aristotle himself is

explicit about a particular type of activity which is

not subject to the definition of virtue as

moderation. He writes:

But not every action or every emotion admits of a mean. There are some whose very name implies wickedness, as, for example, malice, shamelessness, and envy among the emotions, and adultery, theft, and murder among the actions. All these and others like them are marked as intrinsically wicked, not merely the excesses or deficiencies of them. It is never possible then to be right in them; they are always sinful. Right or wrong acts in such acts as adultery does not depend on our committing it with the right woman, at the right time, or in the right manner; on the contrary it is wrong to do it at all. (Aristotle, pg. 12)

     Here, Aristotle is explaining that certain acts

are in-themselves wrong and to do them

moderately is still to do them and therefore to

act immorally. This is important to my argument,

because it shows that the intellectual virtues are

useful, not just in the mathematical

determination of the relative mean, but also it

the determination of whether or not one should

engage in the mathematical analysis in the first

place. This makes intellectual virtue even more

intertwined with moral virtue.

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