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- When wording is very distinctive so you cannot paraphrase it adequately;
- When you are using a definition or explaining something very technical;
- When it is important for debaters of an issue to explain their positions in their own words (especially if you have a differing viewpoint);
- When the words of an authority will lend weight to your argument;
- When the language of a source is the topic of your discussion (as in an interpretation).
- Over-using one source: If you find yourself repeatedly citing the same source again and again in your writing, it will begin to seem as if you are merely repackaging the other author’s ideas, rather than presenting your own. It also gives the appearance that your ideas are one-sided, due to the lack of a diversity of voices in the conversation.
- Having more source material than your own original ideas*: Try color-coding your writing. Highlight each instance where you are quoting, paraphrasing or summarizing a source. What’s left? Is your essay a rainbow of colors, with little else? Or are the majority of ideas/sentences yours, with a few well-chosen instances of source material? Aim for the latter; otherwise, it will seem like you are just “reporting out” on all the research you have gathered, rather than developing your own thinking on a subject.
- Sharing too much of a quotation: Do you have a tendency to have a lot of really long quotations? Is block format your go-to method of formatting sources? Then you might be getting a bit carried away with your quoting. Try to read the source info critically, and ask yourself the following before adding a long quotation:
- Does every aspect of this passage relate to my own paragraph ideas?
- Can I cut out a section of this quotation to emphasize the points that are most relevant? (If yes, see below on proper formatting when you eliminate a portion of the quoted material.)
- Would it be easier/better/more concise to paraphrase this idea? (If yes, see below on how to correctly and incorrectly paraphrase.)
- Dropping in a random quote or source reference: Ideas without context are always confusing, whether they are yours or someone else’s. Make sure you provide adequate context and make connections between your ideas and those of your sources.
- Not using a “source sandwich”: Cheesy as it sounds, this way of thinking about how to incorporate source material really works. In MLA, the proper format for integrating a source (whether quoting, paraphrasing, or summarizing source info) is:
- Signal phrase (a few words that introduce the author of the source; this might also include credentials of the author and/or title of work);
- Quoted, paraphrased or summarized material, followed by a parenthetical citation;
- Your own thinking that expands upon the ideas from the source material, and connects it back to your larger point.
Direct Quotation of Sources
On the efficacy and importance of religion, David Hume asserts, “The life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster” (319).
B. If you do not introduce the quotation with the author’s full name (or source title, if the author’s name is not provided), include the author’s last name and page number in parentheses after the end of the quotation and before the period:
When considering the efficacy and importance of religion, one must understand that “the life of man is of no greater importance to the universe than that of an oyster” (Hume 319).
C. If the quotation appears mid-sentence, end the passage with any applicable punctuation and a closing quotation mark, finish the sentence, and then cite the source in parentheses at the end of the sentence:
Based on the findings, Sommerfeldt argued that “the normative role of public relations in democracy is best perceived as creating the social capital that facilitates access to spheres of public discussion,” challenging dominant notions of democratic discourse (664).(An exception to the mid-sentence example above would be if you have more than one source cited in the same sentence. In that case, include the parenthetical citation directly after each quotation in the sentence.)
The question of voters’ reasons for picking a specific candidate or side in an issue is a complicated one.
Voters should have good grounds for thinking that they are voting for policies or candidates that will promote the common good. In general, there are three ways that voters will violate this norm. Bad voters might vote out of 1) ignorance, 2) irrational beliefs, or 3) immoral beliefs. In contrast, good voters not only know what policies candidates will try to implement, but also know whether those policies would tend to promote or harm the common good. Voters should aim to promote the common good rather than narrow self-interest. (Brennan 37)
Given that voters often don’t vote with the common good in mind, what steps can the community take to help change that?Note that the period at the end of the block quotation is placed at the end of the sentence, rather than after the parenthetical citation. After the quotation is completed, continue your paragraph on the left margin (i.e., don’t indent as if it were a new paragraph).
“VCU is well known for it’s [sic] diversity” (Jones 43).This lets the reader know that it is the original writer’s spelling or error.
Ariel Levy notes that “in the decades since the McKennas’ odyssey, the drug . . . has become increasingly popular in the United States” (34).If you omit material after the end of a sentence, use four spaced periods (. . . .). This is a period, followed by an ellipsis.
B. It is sometimes important to insert material when it will help the reader understand a quotation. When inserting material, enclose it in brackets:
Original quotation: “By programming a variety of Twitter bots to respond to racist abuse against black users, he showed that a simple one-tweet rebuke can actually reduce online racism” (Yong 45).
Revised quotation with inserted material for clarity: “By programming a variety of Twitter bots to respond to racist abuse against black users, he [Kevin Munger] showed that a simple one-tweet rebuke can actually reduce online racism” (Yong 45).
C. If you decide to italicize part or all of a quotation to emphasize a point you’re trying to make, add “emphasis added” in the parenthetical citation directly after the quotation:
The Dalai Lama has said, “Whether you call it Buddhism or another religion, self-discipline, that’s important. Self-discipline with awareness of consequences” (1, emphasis added).Note: If words were already italicized in the quoted material, you do not need to include the “emphasis added” designation. It is assumed that all formatting is original to the quotation unless you indicate otherwise.
Paraphrasing source material
In New York, ineffective homeless shelter infrastructure often results in homeless children being denied a stable education. Children are placed in schools based on their place of residence, but the legislation controlling homeless shelter housing means families are often moved across the city in short periods of time. While children have the right to continue in their original school of enrollment, parents may be forced to choose between extremely challenging commutes or changing their child’s school multiple times, thus dramatically disrupting and lowering the quality of their child’s education (Brodsky 203).
- When paraphrasing, make sure that you don’t copy the same pattern of wording as the original sentence or passage. This sometimes happens when a writer tries to just swap out a few words, but keeps the structure of the sentence the same or very similar.
- Likewise, avoid using the same or very similar wording as the original. If your paraphrase includes a word or phrase borrowed from the original, make sure to put that portion in quotation marks.
- As noted above, paraphrases require citations, just like direct quotations. Always include a signal phrase and parenthetical citation to indicate that the info you are sharing is not your own.