Integrating Quotes in an Essay or Academic Paper

author By Mary Boies

Quoting is one of the ways to introduce evidence from scholarly sources and other sources in your essays. When you quote something in your essay, you tell the reader what the evidence is saying to help them understand it better.

Quoting in academic writing

While quoting is an accepted way to introduce evidence or external information, some rules must be followed. For example, you should never introduce a quote in your academic essay without explaining or analyzing it. If you do this, your professor will not like it, and he will most likely penalize you during grading.

In this post, you will discover how to use quotes to enhance your essay without negatively affecting its quality.

What are quotes in an academic writing context?

In essay writing, quotes are the short texts you lift from scholarly sources and use in your essay or paper precisely the way they are (without paraphrasing or rewriting/verbatim).

Using quotes in your essay is one of the ways of providing evidence for the statements, claims, or arguments you write. And if you do it correctly, your essay will most likely get an excellent grade in your essay. This is because most professors consider properly used quotes as solid pieces of evidence.

Quotes also help to strategically add the length and depth of a paper, allowing the readers to trust you more. They help convey purpose, contextualize your arguments and claims in a paper, and forge a deeper relationship between a text and the reader. Bad and good use of quotes can either make or break the grade you get on your paper. As such, quotations are comparable to a protein shake after a high-intensity workout; they serve to make your writing stronger after all the hard work has materialized.

The right way to quote a short text is to copy the words in the text and paste them into your essay. To ensure the text you have copied and pasted in your essay is quickly identified as a text by the reader, you need to put it in quotation marks ("”) and cite the author correctly. Failure to do so will result in the text being identified as direct plagiarism, which could get you in trouble as a student.

Why use quotes in an academic essay?

There are several reasons you should use quotes in an academic essay. They include:

1. To emphasize a major point

When you are reading a scholarly article or textbook by an influential scholar, and you find a major point, you can quote it to ensure the reader of your essay gets to see it just like you saw it. Using a quote of a significant point in your essay makes that part of your essay more credible. It also makes your essay much more convincing.

2. To analyze a major point

Quoting is perfectly okay when you have to talk about a statement or point you've seen in a source. This is if it will allow the reader to understand what exactly you are talking about or discussing in your essay. So, if you see something in a source and want to analyze it in your essay, you can do so even if an important scholar does not author the source.

3. To make your argument more credible

You need to add evidence if you are making an argument in your essay and want it to be more credible. And one of the best ways to do this is to quote a credible or scholarly source.

4. To make your essay interesting

If you want to make your essay sound interesting, you should introduce two to three quotes. Quoting will make your essay interesting because it makes readers think and ponder about the quotes and how they support what you are talking about.

Rules for using Quotes in Academic papers

There are a few rules to consider when using quotes in an essay or any academic writing task, such as assignments, research papers, term papers, and coursework. Let's explore each of these rules in-depth so that you are aware going forward.

1. Avoid long quotes

The best quotes in academic papers are the ones that are short (less than five words long). So if you are asked to put quotes in your essay, you should make sure your quotes are five words long or less. While the best quotes in academic papers are less than five words long, a quote up to 10 words is also acceptable.

What is unacceptable is a quote that is more than 10 words long. Professors hate such quotes. They believe students who use such quotes have nothing better to write or argue in their essays. They also think students who use such quotes are just doing so to suck up the word count. Thus, avoiding such long quotes is best if you want to get a good grade on your essay.

Generally, after quoting a source, you should discuss it in your own words. This is the chief reason why you should avoid making long quotes. Because if you make a long quote, you will not have enough space to discuss it in the same paragraph. Your quote will dominate the paragraph, and this is something neither you nor your professor wants to see.

If the point you want to quote is too long, it is best just to paraphrase the important information, discuss it, and then cite it properly.

2. Do not use a quotation to start a sentence

It is essential to avoid using a quote to start a sentence. The reason is that doing so makes the quote appear passive, yet a quotation should never be passive. Your professor does not want to see an inactive quote. It doesn't help them in any way. Instead, your professor wants to see your reasoning or arguing in your writing. Therefore, you should only use a quote in a way that supports your writing.

The best place to put a quote is at the end of a sentence. The sentence should have information introducing it, and after it, there should be more information discussing or analyzing it. When you use a quote in this way, your professor will love it because the quote will be nothing more than a part of your writing or analysis. It will not have taken center stage or have eclipsed your writing or reasoning.

A quote that ends a paragraph is also not good for your essay. This is for the same reason why a quote that starts a sentence is not good. A paragraph-ending quote will leave no space for its discussion or analysis. It will also make your professor quickly note that something is wrong. And this will go a long way in ensuring you do not get a top grade in your essay.

In short, you should not use a quote to start a sentence or to end a paragraph. Any quote you use should be somewhere mid-paragraph, and it should have related information before it and a discussion or analysis after it.

3. Your quotes should be followed by an explanation and/or examples

This is probably the most important thing you need to remember when you are quoting in your academic paper. It is imperative because it captures the best way to use quotes in academic writings, analyzing or explaining them just after adding them.

Quotes are not explanations or analyses. You can never use a quote instead of an explanation or a comment. You can only use one as part of your analysis. This should come somewhere in the middle of your analysis or argument and follow it up with an analysis or explanation.

Just putting up a big quote and expecting it to count as its own analysis or explanation tells your professor that you are lazy or you really do not care about your work. Even if the quote you have added to your essay has figures, key details, and information, you still need to explain it. You still need to analyze or talk about the information in the quote. Let your professor know you are not lazy by providing analysis after every quote you use.

4. You should never use too many quotes in your essay

Quoting is a great way to introduce key evidence or support an essay's analysis. However, you should use quotes in moderation. Using too many quotes in your essay is never a good thing. It will make your essay a bit difficult to read. It will also make your essay a bit difficult to follow. Furthermore, professors consider essays with too many quotes as low-quality essays. Thus, if you want to get a good grade on your essay, you should only use quotes in moderation.

So how many quotes are too many quotes in an essay? Well, the rule of thumb is that you should have a maximum of one quote for every 750 words. So, if you are writing a 750 words paper, it should have one quote only. If you are writing a 1,500 words paper, it should have a maximum of two quotes. Lastly, if you are writing a 3,000 words paper, it should have a maximum of four quotes.

Remember, there is no harm in not having quotes in your paper. In fact, many people only use quotes when they are expressly asked to do so in the essay assignment instructions. There is only harm in using too many quotes in your essay. Therefore, when you are asked to use quotes, limit quoting to a maximum of one quote for every 750 words.

5. Never forget to add page number when citing a quote

When you add a quote in your academic essay, you have to provide a citation for it. The citation will help the reader discover more about the quote if they want to. When providing the citation, you should always add the page number. This page number is the exact page where you lifted the quote. Doing this is important as it will help the reader to locate the quote should they decide to find it quickly.

You can add a page number to the in-text citation you provide for your quote, using the APA, the MLA, or the Harvard referencing format. When you add a page number for every quote in your essay, it will make your essay appear professional, and this will increase your likelihood of getting an excellent grade.

6. Never italicize quotes

You should never italicize quotes. Many students like doing this, but it is absolutely incorrect. It may make your quote stand out, but it is the wrong way to format quotes in all major referencing styles. Quotation marks around your quotes are enough to tell the reader that what they are reading is a quote.

It is unknown where the trend of italicizing quotes came from, but it is not incorrect formatting, and professors hate it. Hence you should never italicize your quotes. Instead, just put quotation marks around them and cite them correctly to avoid losing marks.

7. Avoid quotes inside quotes

It is okay to add quotes to your essay, but it is never okay to add quotes with quotes inside them. This is totally wrong and confusing. If you see a quote in a source and want to quote it, just paraphrase it, write as cited in, and then quote the source that cited it.

Referencing quotes in MLA, APA, Harvard, and Chicago

Every time you decide to put a quote in your essay, you must make sure the quote adheres to the formatting and referencing style you have been asked to use in your paper.

1. MLA style

You should do two things to add a quote to your essay using the MLA referencing style. First, you should type the quote in your essay and put it in quotation marks. Second, you should add the writer's last name and the page where you got the quote. Do not forget to include the full reference for the source you have quoted on your Work's Cited page.

Example quote in-text citation MLA style: The report reveals that "frequent headaches could be caused by dangerous brain infections such as meningitis" (Paulsen 223).

2. APA style

You should do two things to add a quote to your essay using the APA referencing style. First, you should type the quote in your essay and put it in quotation marks. Second, you should add the author's last name, the year of publishing, and the page number preceded with a (p.). Do not forget to include the full reference for the source you have quoted on your References page.

Example quote in-text citation APA style: The report reveals that "frequent headaches could be caused by dangerous brain infections such as meningitis" (Paulsen, 2019, p. 223).

3. Chicago style

Using the Chicago referencing style, you should use footnotes to cite a quote. It is much easier to cite quotes using this referencing style because you just need to cite them the same way you will cite any other source in the Chicago style.

Example quote in-text citation Chicago style: The report reveals that "frequent headaches could be caused by dangerous brain infections such as meningitis." 1

1. Paulsen, Diseases of the Head, Brain, and Spine, 223.

4. Harvard style

To add a text to your essay as a quote when using the Harvard referencing, you should do the same thing as you would for APA referencing, as explained above.

Parting Shot!

Quoting in an academic essay or paper is one of the effective and potent literary tools a writer has at their disposal. However, one has to do it well to achieve the benefits of quoting. Focus on using short quotes and back them with comments that analyze and explain them to detail. If you are after writing the best essays with higher grades, consider using a maximum of two quotes for a 4-page essay (1100-1200 words). There are some important rules that you need to follow when doing it. The good news is that you now know these rules, so quoting should not be too difficult for you. Feel free to quote any part of a scholarly journal or library textbook relevant to your essay.

If you don't have time to introduce quotes correctly in your essay, you should let us do it. We have got


How long should a quote be in an essay?

Generally, your quote should not exceed more than four lines. There is no problem if it does, but for a college-level essay, it is best if it does not exceed four lines. If what you want to quote exceeds four lines, you should consider paraphrasing it.

How many quotes are in an essay?

You should use only one quote for a short five-paragraph essay, a maximum of two quotes for a 1,500-word essay, a maximum of three quotes for a 2,000-word essay, and a maximum of four quotes for a 3,000-word essay.

Is using quote plagiarism?

No, it is not if it is done correctly. It is only plagiarism if you quote and you do not show it is a quote or you do not reference the author. If you quote and cite correctly, it is never considered plagiarism.

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