How to Use Direct Quotations Correctly in Your Essays
What Is a Direct Quotation?
A direct quotation is when you quote an academic source or reference word for word in your essay, using quotation marks and a reference (an in-text reference or footnote) to indicate that the words belong to another author and where you found them.
When Should I Use Them?
It is preferable to write essays in your own words. The vast majority of a Distinction or High Distinction essay would be written entirely in your own words, with many references to the sources you have used.
You should only quote directly from a source when it is absolutely necessary to do so; for example, if you needed to point out a particular author’s opinion, or if something an author was saying was particularly controversial.
Otherwise, it is preferable for you to demonstrate that you have read, understood and assimilated the source into your own knowledge of the subject. The best way to do that is to present the ideas in your own words with a reference.
So remember, it is important that you only use direct quotations where necessary. Using excessive direct quotations, or quotations that are too long, can lead the marker (or reader) to believe that you are using quotations to avoid having to explain difficult concepts in your own words.
Introducing Direct Quotations
When you do use direct quotations, it is very important that you introduce them correctly. This means they must be incorporated into a sentence of your own).
This is an incorrect way to use a quotation:
A numerate person can understand how mathematics is used as a method of communication (Cockcroft, 1982). ‘Mathematics is a universal language that is communicated through all cultures’ (SACE Board, 2010).
This is the correct way. You can see that the quotation has been integrated into the student’s own sentence and introduced properly:
A numerate person can understand how mathematics is used as a method of communication (Cockcroft, 1982). The SACE Board (2010) states that ‘mathematics is a universal language that is communicated through all cultures’.
Using direct quotations correctly and sparingly will help you to improve your research skills and strengthen your essays.