Write An Opinion Essay On One Of The Quotations

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Writers Workshop: Writer Resources

Writing Tips: Quotations

A quotation is an exact reproduction of another speaker's or writer’s words. A quotation is different from a paraphrase, which is a restatement of someone else’s ideas entirely in your own words. Quotation and paraphrase, along with summary (which is a brief restatement of the main points of a longer work), are three ways of incorporating information from other sources into your own writing.

The Uses of Quotation

In most writing, you should use quotations for one or more of the following specific purposes:

Use quotation to reproduce distinctive, admirable, or felicitous phrasing--that is, when a paraphrase would be an inadequate representation.

  • In his Introduction to Lysistrata, Douglass Parker denies that the play is a "hoard of applied lubricity."

Use quotation when your source uses words in a specialized or unorthodox way.

  • Both Calidorus and Pseudolus agree that Phoenicium's letter is "terrible," but they mean different things.

Use quotation when the speaker or writer is an expert on the subject or an otherwise famous person whose specific words might be newsworthy, of general interest, or add credibility to your paper.

  • Samuel Pepys called Twelfth Night "one of the weakest plays that ever I saw on the stage."

Use quotation to reproduce important statements of information, opinion, or policy.

  • According to the Code on Campus Affairs, "No absence from class is excused."

Use quotation to reproduce exactly a passage that you are explaining or interpreting.

  • Corrigan refers to the world of comedy as a "protected realm."

The ultimate test of whether a quotation is necessary or not is this question: does it help support your thesis?

The Mechanics of Quotation

Any handbook used in Rhetoric or English courses will give you an acceptable format for incorporating quotations into your writing and punctuating them correctly. The MLA and APA handbooks provide guidance as well.

Punctuating quotations is simple, but the rules change slightly, depending on whether the quotation is documented or not. All of your quotations should be documented (usually by just a line or page number in parentheses), but it's important for you to know how documentation affects punctuation, so all the rules are given below.

Punctuating Quotations without Documentation

Periods and commas, whether or not they are part of the quoted material, always go inside the closing quotation marks:

  • "The comic mask," says Aristotle, "is ugly and distorted, but does not imply pain."

Colons and semicolons at the end of independent clauses which end with a quotation go outside the closing quotation marks:

  • Pseudolus calls Phoenicium's letter "terrible" he means it is badly written.

Question marks and exclamation points go inside or outside the closing quotation marks, depending on whether they are part of your sentence or the quoted sentence:

  • Malvolio asks, "My masters, are you mad?"
  • Why does Olivia call Malvolio "poor fool"?

An ellipsis (three spaced periods) goes in the middle of a quotation or at the end--never at the beginning. To indicate words omitted from inside a quotation, use three spaced periods:

  • "Some are born great . . . and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em."

If the quotation goes on where your sentence ends, you can mark the missing material with 4 spaced periods, the first following the last word of the quotation with no space:

  • Cesario’s most impressive speech begins, "Make me a willow cabin at your gate. . . ."

Verse (i.e., poetry) quotations of 3 lines or fewer should be incorporated directly into your paragraph, with a slash marking the division between lines:

  • Lysistrata ends with a religious invocation, "sing to honor her-- / Athene of the Bronze House! / Sing Athene!"

Prose quotations that are longer than 4 lines or verse quotations of more than 3 lines should be set off in block format. The text remains double-spaced, with no extra lines before or after the quotation. The left margin is indented one inch and the right margin remains the same. Poetry quoted in this format should have the same line divisions that you see in your book. Block quotations are commonly introduced by a clause ending with a colon. The block format itself takes the place of quotation marks.

Punctuating Quotations with MLA Documentation

Once the reader knows which edition of a text you are using, the only information necessary to document a quotation is a line or page number; the format varies slightly depending on the kind of work you are quoting:

For poems whose lines are numbered consecutively, from beginning to end, just use line numbers:

  • In "The Reeve’s Tale," the miller’s daughter has "eyen as greye as glas" (120).

For plays whose lines are numbered from the beginning of each scene, indicate act, scene, and line number:

  • Posing as Cesario, Viola tells Olivia, "I am not that I play" (1.5.187) .

Give page numbers for plays without line numbers and for prose works:

  • Aristotle defines comedy as "an imitation of characters of a lower type" (51).

Note too that since the parenthetical documentation must be considered part of the sentence containing the quoted material to which it refers, it must come after quotation marks but before terminal punctuation (commas, periods, and such at the end of clauses). Thus:

  • "My masters, are you mad?" becomes "My masters, are you mad?" (2.3.87).
  • "Make me a willow cabin at your gate . . ." (1.5.273).
  • Although the women of Greece swear to "withhold all rights of access or entrance" (32), they soon find their oath difficult to keep.

The exception to this general rule is for block quotations the parentheses come after the final period of the quotation, with no additional punctuation:

  • Lysistrata ends with a prayer to the patron goddess of Athens:

    Sing the greatest,
    sing the mightiest,
    sing the conqueror,
    sing to honor her--
    Athene of the Bronze House!
    Sing Athene! (113)

The Stylistics of Quotation

Besides mechanical correctness, you should strive for two other goals in your use of quotations: efficiency and grace.

As a rule, introduce quotations with a specific reference to their context--either events in the story, or ideas in the paragraph. Never introduce a quotation with just a line or page number:

  • Weak: On page 219, Pseudolus says he has "eyes like pumice stones."
  • Better: When Calidorus asks Pseudolus why Phoenicium's letter doesn't make him weep, Pseudolus responds that he has "eyes like pumice stones" (219).

Quote only as much of the text as is necessary to make your point. Don't quote several lines to establish the context of a single important line. Don't quote big chunks of the text to make your paper look long.

Select your quotations and build your sentences around them so that the whole is a grammatically correct unit. Don't quote complete sentences inside your own sentences.

  • Weak: Feste's statement that "Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun; it shines everywhere" (3.1.40-41) is an appropriate comment on the other characters in the play.
  • Better: Feste's comment that foolishness, like sunlight, "shines everywhere" (3.1.41) could be taken as the theme of Twelfth Night.

You can edit quotations to clarify them, or to make them fit the structure of your sentences, so long as you do not misrepresent the context of the quotation.

  • You can leave words out, marked by an ellipsis.
  • You can insert words, enclosed in square brackets.
  • You can replace words with others, enclosed in square brackets.

SUMMARY:

  • The body paragraphs are where you present your paper’s main points.
  • Your body paragraphs should contain ample textual evidence, be correctly formatted, and have seamless transitions.

The body is the meat and potatoes of your essay. As such, it needs to contain lots of juicy textual evidence and meaty support, not fluff.

Each body paragraph contains one main idea, backed up by textual evidence and your own analysis. Your analysis should make up the majority of your paragraph.

Remember that (unless your teacher specifically says so), there’s nothing magic about having three body paragraphs. Have as many as you need to get your ideas across. The topic sentences of your body paragraphs should be determined by how you grouped your notes when you were outlining.

With your outline in hand, it’s time to draft your essay.

 

1) What makes a good quote

SUMMARY:

  • The best quotes contain in-depth analysis, opinion, or interpretation, not facts.

LINKS:

When choosing quotes to put in your final paper, keep in mind that some information works better in quote form and some is better as an indirect quote (paraphrased).

Take the following example: According to the CIA Factbook, “all of China falls within one time zone” (CIA Factbook).

How exciting of a quote is that? Not very.

The best quotes contain analysis, opinion, or interpretation. When quoting directly from a source, be sure that the quote is interesting. Take the following example:

According to Lina Song, a professor of economic sociology and social policy at the University of Nottingham, “Local government debt in China is a time bomb waiting to go off” (A Time Bomb, NY Times). In China, local government debt has swelled to 14 trillion yuan (People’s Bank of China).

The opinion part–that local debts in China are a time bomb–is a direct quotation from a credible source (a professor). This makes a good quote since her opinion paints an interesting picture of China’s current economic situation. The fact–that debt is now 14 trillion yuan–is not quoted, since it would be a boring quote. But it does provide substantial factual support to Song’s opinion.

When looking for quotes, look for the most concise parts of the text that explain the author’s points. You don’t want to devote too much of your paper’s length to quoting from your sources.

Try to embed quotes into your writing smoothly by placing them in a sentence of your own, rather than just plopping them in your paper. These ‘lead up’ sentences should contain transitions that give your reader the context behind the quote.

 

2) Making good points

SUMMARY:

  • Good points follow a formula: introduction of evidence + evidence + analysis.
  • The above structure can be modified based on the paper you are writing.

LINKS:

RESOURCES:

  • They Say/I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing – Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein

Your paper should contain a number of points that make your argument. These points should be substantiated by data–either in the form of direct quotes or paraphrasing. Good points are usually written with the following framework: introduction of evidence + evidence + analysis.
Let’s break down each part:

  1. Introduction of evidence

    – The first part of your point should be a sentence or two that transitions into your quote and explains the topic your quote addresses. Why are you citing this particular evidence? What is the quote adding to your paper?

    For humanities papers, you’ll probably be introducing the work you’re analyzing at the beginning (introductory paragraph) of your essay. Therefore, when you bring up quotes, your ‘introduction of evidence’ will usually contain a transition saying how your quote relates to the rest of your paper.

    Examples:
    “Another example of Healthcliff’s indifference is seen in…”
    “Also, Rowling uses scenic detail to add drama to the book. For example…”
    “Finally, Venus’ frustration comes to a crescendo when the goddess…”
    Notice how each of these examples contains transition words that prepare the reader to hear the quote.

    For social science papers and research papers, you’ll probably be using a lot of sources for support, and as such, you’ll want to introduce each before you quote directly from it. When you bring up a source for the first time, you will want to state its credentials to demonstrate that you are citing an authoritative source (and not just a random person).

    Examples:
    “Further insight into income inequality is provided by Dr. Delaney, an economist at Stanford, who is of the opinion that…” “Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, writes that our preconceived notions influence our perceptions…”

    Keep in mind that if you are paraphrasing from a source, it may not be necessary to introduce it. Use your own discretion.

    Example: It sounds funny to say, “The CIA World Factbook, an authority on world statistics, states that “Mali is a landlocked country highly dependent on gold mining and agricultural exports for revenue” (CIA World Factbook).

    Instead, you can just weave the facts about Mali into your essay and provide a parenthetical citation for the Factbook.

  2. Evidence

    – Here is where you substantiate your claim with a direct quote or text that is paraphrased. If you are quoting, be sure to transcribe from your source exactly, word-for-word. If you are paraphrasing, be sure you are doing the citations properly (See our guide to Parenthetical Citations).

  3. Analysis

    – It is important that your evidence isn’t just plopped in your paper. The quote’s relevance to the rest of your paper may seem obvious to you, but you cannot assume that your reader will make the connection. You need to make it explicit. Your analysis should explain why the stated quote helps further an idea promoted in your essay.

    “…This unique rhyming scheme, made famous by Shakespeare, makes the text lighthearted although the poem’s themes of love and timelessness are weighty.” “…The fearful closing lines juxtapose the cheery opening lines, heightening the reader’s sense of unease.”

    “…Abraham Lincoln’s gracious words in this passage indicate his gratitude toward Americans and thankfulness to God.”

    Keep in mind that the above formula can be modified to fit the flow of your paper. For example, if you are comparing two passages of text, you may want to quote them both first before analyzing them. Your analysis might be a discussion of the similarities/differences between the passages.

    Let’s take a look at how this point-making formula works within a paper, provided by George Mason University’s Department of English:

The opening lines of “The Cask of Amontillado” are cunningly crafted to both entice the reader and immediately situate the narrative: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could, but when he ventured upon insult I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged…” (123). With incredible economy we are presented with a troubled relationship between the narrator and Fortunato, which has reached its breaking point. It is also made clear that we are not the intended audience of this narrative. The “you” addressed knows the narrator well; we do not. This and the epistolary tone would suggest that we are looking upon some long forgotten piece of correspondence, which only heightens the atmosphere of mystery and dread already created by this sparse introduction.Here the writer introduces the work, “The Case of Amontillado” and provides a topic sentence. We know what to expect: a discussion on how the opening lines of the text grab the reader and set up the rest of the work. 

The quote is presented. It is cited correctly.

 

 

 

Here, the writer analyzes the the quote. He discusses how the troubled relationship between two people helps frame the book. Notice how he’s building this using this textual evidence to support his topic sentence.

 

 

 

But the writer goes further. He analyzes how details in the text grab the reader through use of literary technique. We are told that this adds to the “atmosphere of mystery and dread” of the short story.

 

E. 3) Formatting quotes and parenthetical citations MLA/APA

SUMMARY:

  • Format your quotes properly, and cite them correctly.

LINKS:

You have done a lot of hard work gathering your sources and selecting quotes. You want to make sure that your quotes are beautifully integrated into your paper. You want the text of the quote to be formatted correctly, and you want your citations to be correct. For that, check out our site for Parenthetical Citations

 

4) Transitioning

SUMMARY:

  • Transitions provide links between ideas of your paper.

LINKS:

Transitions are key to a kick-butt paper. They provide the connections between the major ideas in your paper, and they give the reader cues to tell him where you are going. Remember (from when you researched and outlined) that your transitions should reflect how your notes are grouped. Now is the time to forge your transitions into words!

There should be a transition between each paragraph of the paper that introduces what the new paragraph is about and how it relates to the previous one. An effective way to transition is by using the following format: clause that references the claim in the previous paragraph (making a smooth transition between one claim and the next) + comma + topic sentence of next paragraph:

  • “In contrast to Marsha’s heartfelt feelings toward her sister in the first half of the book, in the second half they dissolve, only to be replaced by anger…”
    Here the words “in contrast” tell the reader that the text after the comma will be in juxtaposition to the text in front of the comma. Marsha’s relationship with her sister has changed, and this transition cues the reader that the next paragraph will be about anger in their relationship.
  • “Similar to how Tom dealt with the dragon the first time, he…”
    The words “similar to” indicate that Tom handled the dragon using the same technique twice Here, the reader is prepared to learn about how Tom dealt with the dragon the second time around, and how that was similar to the first time.
  • “Despite all that Tony did for Robin, she…”
    “Despite” indicates that there will be a shift in the second part of the sentence. The reader is prepared to hear about how Robin verbally abused Tom (or some other negative action) in the latter paragraph despite the fact that Tony did a lot for her.

Transitions should be used within paragraphs too. They help lead your reader down your intended path. Here’s a list of useful transitions (provided by UNC):

Here are a couple examples:

  • “Jay Gatsby spares no expense at his extravagant Saturday night parties, as seen when…”
    Here, the phrase “as seen when” transitions your reader from your statement at the beginning of the sentence to a quote that will fit nicely at the end.
  • Steven’s behavior towards his family members is generally affable, but he treats only his parents with utmost respect.
    Here, the use of the world “but” indicates that the second half of the sentence will modify the first half. In this example, “but” helps the author refine the argument. Steven doesn’t treat everyone in his as best as he can. He treats his parents with his best behavior.

Tip: The transitions can also be used to transition between paragraphs.

 

5) Avoiding plagiarism

SUMMARY:

  • Make sure that the sources you cite in your paper are quoted or paraphrased correctly.
  • Don’t have too much of your paper’s text be from a source other than yourself.

LINKS:

Your essay should be well supported with credible sources, but you don’t want too much of your paper to be written by another person. Your teacher wants to hear your own insight. The sources you reference in your paper should be cited correctly (paraphrased or directly quoted). If an idea is not your own, don’t take credit for it!

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary plagiarizing means to:

  • Steal and pass off the ideas or words of another as one’s own
  • Use another’s production without crediting the source
  • Commit literary theft
  • Present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source

All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • Turning in someone else’s work as your own
  • Copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • Failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • Giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • Changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • Copying so many ideas or words from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not
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