How to write a good signal phrase

A signal phrase is a phrase you write in order to introduce a direct quotation from one of your sources.

What a signal phrase should do

You need to accomplish several things with your signal phrase:

  1. Identify the source of the information you're integrating into your argument. The first time you use information from a particular source, provide as much information as necessary: full name plus credentials. After the first time use only the last name.
  2. Establish the credentials of your source. The more authority your source has, the more persuasive your argument is.
  3. Vary your signal verb, because a sophisticated writer avoids always using “writes” or “says.” The Norton provides a long list of common signal verbs to choose from (418).
  4. Establish your attitude towards your source. The signal verb you choose will imply whether or not you think a source is reliable or authoritative.

Examples of signal phrases (highlighted in green)

Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor of English at Brooklyn College, describes Brooklyn as “the concentrated, unedited, twenty-first-century answer to who we, as Americans, are as a people” in the preface to his book How Does It Feel To Be a Problem? (9).

A professor of English at Brooklyn College and author of the award-winning book How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?, Moustafa Bayoumi explains that “Brooklyn is the concentrated, unedited, twenty-first-century answer to who we, as Americans, are as a people” (9).

In the preface to his book How Does It Feel To Be a Problem?, Moustafa Bayoumi, a professor of English at Brooklyn College, claims that “Brooklyn is the concentrated, unedited, twenty-first-century answer to who we, as Americans, are as a people” (9).

Moustafa Bayoumi, an author who teaches English at Brooklyn College, wants us to believe that “Brooklyn is the concentrated, unedited, twenty-first-century answer to who we, as Americans, are as a people” (9).