Text: Choosing Appropriate Quotes

Pretty much every piece of writing you do for college, whether it’s an informal post or a formal essay, will be in response to something you’ve read—and that means you have to quote. Sometimes you’ll rely on outside sources to introduce an idea, define a technical term, or provide supporting evidence for your own argument. Sometimes you’ll use a quote to illustrate different positions on an issue, or as an example of an argument you’ll go on to disagree with in your paper. But no matter why you’re using a quote, remember: what YOU have to say is more important than what the quote has to say.

Clip art of quotation marks

How to Pick Appropriate Quotes

1. Return to the annotations you made during the reading process. These should point to quotes & passages that you found compelling as you read.

2. For each quote, ask yourself:

  • Does the quotation say something in an original or unusually vivid and powerful way that is hard to paraphrase?
  • Does the quotation come from someone with first-hand experience with the issues?
  • Does the quotation come from an expert whose authority is particularly important?

3. If the answer to any of these questions is yes, make a note of it next to the quote and hold onto it. If the answer to all of these questions is no, you don’t need the quote—set it aside.