How to Introduce Quotes in Academic Writing
  • 3-minute read
  • 17th October 2019

How to Introduce Quotes in Academic Writing

It would be hard to write a good essay without quoting sources. And as well as using quote marks, this means working quotations into your own writing. But how can you do this? In this post, we provide a few helpful tips on how to introduce quotes (short and long) in academic writing.

Introducing Short Quotations

The easiest way to quote a source is to work a short passage (sometimes just a single word) into your own sentence. For example:

The tomb was one of archaeology’s “most intriguing discoveries” (Andronicus, 1978, p. 55) and has fascinated researchers ever since.

Here, the only requirements placing the quoted text within quotation marks and making sure the quote follows grammatically from the surrounding text.

Quoting After a Colon

If you need to quote a source after a full sentence, introduce it with a colon:

On the basis of Philip II’s estimated date of death, Andronicus (1978) draws a conclusion: “This, in all probability, must be his tomb” (p. 76).

When using a colon to introduce a quotation, the text before the colon must be a full sentence. The text after the colon, however, can be just a few words.

Quoting After a Comma

Alternatively, you can use a comma to introduce a quote. When doing this, the quoted text should follow from the preceding sentence (usually after a word like “says” or “argues”):

Andronicus (1978) says, “The weapons bore witness that the tomb could not have belonged to a commoner” (p. 73).

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However, when a quote follows the word “that,” no comma is needed:

Andronicus (1978) says that “The weapons bore witness that the tomb could not have belonged to a commoner” (p. 73).

Block Quotes

Finally, for longer quotations, use a block quote. These are also introduced with a colon, but they don’t have to follow a full sentence. Furthermore, quoted text should be indented and the block quote should begin on a new line. For example, we could introduce a block quote as follows:

Andronicus (1978) describes the fresco in the following terms:

The barely visible painting depicts three hunters with spears and five horsemen with dogs pursuing their prey, wild boars and lions. This and three other paintings discovered in the adjacent tomb are among the few extant examples of fourth-century BC Greek frescoes. (p. 72)

This emphasizes how important the discovery was for understanding…

Usually, you’ll only need block quotes for passages with more than 40 words (or four lines). The exact rules depend on the reference system you’re using, though, so be sure to check your style guide. And, when in doubt, you can always submit a document for proofreading. We can help make sure your quotations are fully integrated into the rest of your text.

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