Quotations in context

A guide to identifying, introducing, interpreting, and interacting with quotes in research

Identifying

Use quotes to support your ideas

When writing a paper, we may need to use information from sources such as books or articles. However, before we can do that we need to identify what information to use. Think of it as identifying a quote.

Imagine we are writing a paper about medical care for smokers. In this case, our main claim may be:

Many patients addicted to smoking are failed by the current medical system because they are told to quit but not given the help to do so.

To begin, we found this information to use in our paper:

“Patients were highly interested in quitting and most were daily but light smokers1. Nearly all (98.1%) lived with another smoker in the home2. Although 87% had been advised to quit by a health professional in the past year, only half (56%) had been given any assistance to quit3" (Campos, 2014).

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Step 1: We need to find the important part of the quote. Of the three sentences above:

  • Sentence 1 gives information on patients and the study, but it doesn’t support our main claim. Leave it out.
  • Sentence 2 is data that is not related to our main claim, but it doesn’t support our main claim. Leave it out.
  • This directly supports the main claim. Quote only this sentence.
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Hot tip: Quote as little as possible from the source, giving only the necessary information.

Introducing

Step 2: Before we can use a quote in our essay, we must introduce it.

Why do we need to introduce a quote?

  • Lets the reader know who said the quote
  • Explains why that person is important
  • Provides background for the quote
  • Provides necessary citation
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Hot tip: A quote can never be its own sentence!

When writing a paper, it is important to both give context (background information) for the quote and to tell the reader who is speaking. Often the author of the quote is an expert or has expert knowledge.

Some common ways to introduce quotes include:

  • Dr. (Name) states, “_______” (Citation).
  • Author (Name) writes, “_______” (Citation).
  • According to Professor (Name), “____” (Citation).
  • In a recent study, it was found that, “____" (Citation).
  • In his book, I Can Write, Jay Doe claims “___” (Citation).

Using our quote from before, let’s work on adding an introduction. We could say:

  • Dr. Campos states,
  • According to a 2014 study on cigarettes, it was found that:
  • In a study on smoking, results showed that

Interrpreting & interacting

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Hot tip: Think of interacting with a quote as a conversation!

We can interact with quotes by:

  • Showing the reader why the quote is important
  • Explaining specifically how it supports the thesis/main claim
  • Connecting it to our own ideas
  • Connecting it to other sources

Step 3: Interpreting the quote is when you explain what the quote means. We will need to tell the reader what is important about the quote.
The data from this study shows that a large percentage of smokers need more than just verbal encouragement to quit, which is shown in the almost half who were not given assistance to quit.

Step 4: Connect the quote to the main claim.

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Ask yourself, “How does this quote relate to my research problem?”

We never want the quote to speak for us, so we will need to explain not only what the quote means, but also why it is important to the main claim of our essay. This is called interacting with a quote.

Let's review how we used the quote in context

1. We identified which information to use:
“Although 87% had been advised to quit by a health professional in the past year, only half (56%) had been given any assistance to quit" (Campos, 2014).

2. We introduced it:
In the article Cigarette Smoking Among Patients with Chronic Diseases, Campos et al. found that “Although 87% had been advised to quit by a health professional in the past year, only half (56%) had been given any assistance to quit” (2014).

3. We interpreted it:
The data from this article shows that a large percentage of smokers need more than just verbal encouragement to quit, which is shown in the almost half who were not given assistance to quit.

4. We interacted with it:
Thus, the current medical system is failing in its duty to provide proper medical care due to the high number of patients who were only given warnings and did not receive treatment.

5. We combined every step together.

The final result

In the article Cigarette Smoking Among Patients with Chronic Diseases, Campos et al. found that “although 87% had been advised to quit by a health professional in the past year, only half (56%) had been given any assistance to quit” (2014). The data from this article shows that a large percentage of smokers need more than just verbal encouragement to quit, which is shown in the almost half who were not given assistance to quit. Thus, the current medical system is failing in its duty to provide proper medical care due to the high number of patients who were only given warnings and did not receive treatment.

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