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Avoiding “Hit and Run” Quotations, Part 1: General Tips and Guidelines

Introduction

One of the biggest problems I encounter in student papers is the “hit and run” quotation, in which the words of another author suddenly appear without warning and then just as suddenly disappear. Plunking a random quotation into your essay might satisfy assignment requirements, but the end result is both confusing and boring to read. I plan to address this problem in two parts: Part 1 will provide some tips on avoiding “hit and run” quotations; Part 2 will demonstrate these tips through examples.

What to Quote?

First, put some thought into your selection of quotations. The better you understand why you are using a quotation, the easier you will find it to integrate in a way that keeps your paper flowing smoothly. Here are some occasions when it is useful to quote another source:

·       The source provides an expert opinion or reliable data

·       The source articulates important concepts or theories

·       The source exemplifies commonly held opinions and beliefs

Note that these can be used both positively and negatively; that is, you may bring up the ideas of a respected author, or a popular opinion to reinforce your own stance on controversial issues, or to give you something to argue against.

Direct Quotation or Paraphrase?

It is almost always better to paraphrase than to provide a direct quotation. Paraphrasing not only improves the flow of your essay, but it demonstrates that you understand the ideas that you are referencing. Direct quotations work best when you cannot find better words to articulate the words of the original author, or when you need to draw attention to the exact phrasing of the original. Remember, though, that the rules for citation apply equally for paraphrases and direct quotation, and should be adhered to in order to prevent plagiarism.[1]

Cuing the Reader

To help guide your reader, sandwich quotations between explanations of their significance. Before introducing a quotation, if you can reasonably assume your audience has not heard of the person you are quoting, explain who they are and why their opinion matters. When providing the actual quotation, lead into it with a brief introductory phrase. For example:

·       According to [Author], “…”

·       Further support for my point comes from [Author], who says “…”

In addition to introducing a quotation, be sure to explain its significance after it appears. Some introductory phrases even help set up further elaboration:

·       Although [Author] says that, “…,” I believe, “…”

·       As demonstrated by [Author’s] claim that, “…,” people often believe, “…”

Elaborate for at least a sentence or two on how the passage helps to support your point, or on why you disagree. In the case of a direct quotation, do your best to articulate its significance in your own words, or elaborate on the significance of the original language.

 

[1] As these rules vary depending on contexts and even change periodically, it is best to consult a handbook or website such as the Purdue OWL.