Intro - Quote - Restate - Relate
How to incorporate source material into your own writing
There are 4 parts to successful incorporation of source material
- Intro: Offer an introduction of the passage, indicating the author, the topic, and perhaps its location in the text.
- Quote: Reproduce the most relevant language exactly and briefly, punctuating correctly, and using a good signal phrase.
- Restate: Restate the passage in your own words, making clear the importance of that particular quotation.
- Relate: Finally, relate the quote you have chosen to some larger claim about the text.
How you cite sources is more than a strictly formal matter of punctuation and formatting a list of works cited; it is one of the hallmarks of academic writing, indicating how writers know what they know. There are three primary ways to use a source:
- paraphrase, and
- direct quote.
For all three, you need to introduce each source using a good signal phrase with as much information as necessary to demonstrate the topic, context, and credibility of the source; after the summary, paraphrase, or quote, you need to cite the page number parenthetically. Even summaries and paraphrases should partial quote a key term or two to link your words to those of the source.
In general, early in your academic career, it may be better to quote than to paraphrase or summarize, particularly in your humanities courses—as opposed to the sciences. Your English instructors often are interested in the language and sources you choose and how you use them, and we often want to see what specific interpretation you have.
Most important, link your use of evidence to the overall claims you make in that paragraph and your paper as a whole. Your own words should far outnumber those of your sources. Incorporating quotes is part of critical thinking at every stage in the process, from finding relevant sources, to selecting brief but apt passages, to identifying sources to demonstrate their relevance, to unpacking what the quote means and how it contributes to your paper.
DOs and DON’Ts
- Do choose brief passages that illustrate your claims and provide evidence for your argument.
- Do include information about the source to emphasize its credibility—this may be the writer or speaker’s name, article or book title, name of an organization, or something else.
- Do familiarize yourself with the mechanics of using quotes. Offset brief attributing tags (i.e.,He writes, She says,) with commas, and longer statements with colons. Use quotation marks only around the quote, not the parentheses, and save an ending period or comma for after the parentheses.
- Do keep your parenthetical citations as brief as possible.
- Do use the convention of referring to texts in the present tense.
- Do not copy the language or ideas of others without quoting—that is plagiarism.
- Do not simply add a parenthetical notation at the end of a long passage featuring few quotes or little attribution—that is meaningless citation that does not distinguish between your thoughts and those of others.
- Do not include long quote after long quote—your instructor is interested in your ability to conduct an argument, not merely cut and paste the writing of others.
An example of unsuccessful incorporation of quotes is a paragraph that includes eight brief excerpts from the text cited like this:
Mystal writes about colleges. "only 25 percent of its graduates passed the Arizona bar exam on their first try last year."
This successful quote features an attributing tag identifying the author, then features a distinctive quote that conveys something important about the situation in question:
In a recent New York Times opinion piece, Elie Mystal examines a partnership between Bethune-Cookman, a historically black university, and Arizona Summit Law School, a for-profit business. Mystal, himself a lawyer, points out that “only 25 percent of [ Arizona Summit Law School’s] graduates passed the Arizona bar exam on their first try last year” (102). Obviously, this is a terrible pass rate, and it reflects poorly on the school in question. According to Mystal, this is just one example of the ways in which for-profit schools exploit the hopes and dreams of students who don’t know enough about post-graduate education.
Adapted from a handout created by Dr. Peter Caster and used with his permission.