Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Someone Else Said It First: Quotes in your essay

Your academic papers should be written primarily by you, not someone else. Therefore, I recommend limiting your use of quotations in your papers. You should only quote another author when you can’t write the same sentence any better than the original author. If you are so taken by the manner in which it was written, then yes, quote the original author.

Your paper has a thesis and organization that is different from every paper before it. It is likely that you can rework the idea from the quote in order to best integrate it into your paper. In this case, you should summarize or paraphrase the line/information.

Generally, quotes do not make strong topic sentences. A topic sentence has important work to do: it must present that body paragraph’s argument and support the paper’s thesis. With this in mind, how can someone else’s words, written for a different paper, do the work that your topic sentence is assigned to do?

Do not forget to give credit to your sources when you quote, summarize and paraphrase. If not, your work is in danger of being considered plagiarized.

For more information on this subject, I recommend The Owl at Purdue’s helpful website.

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