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English 9-10

How to Use Quotations and Examples – Dos and Don’ts

Do you struggle incorporating examples or quotations into your writing? In this article, we share the dos and don'ts that Matrix students learn so they can impress their teachers at school.

Quotations and examples are an integral part of paragraphs and essays. But, do you still find yourself confused about how to use quotations or examples in your paragraphs or even identify them in the first place?

Don’t worry! In this article, we will provide a checklist to make sure that you KNOW how to use quotations and examples effectively in your essay.

 

What is a quotation or example?

An example is evidence from the text that supports your argument. Evidence includes quotations, images, statistics etc.

It is important that you identify the technique and explain its effect, but you still need to provide the actual example to solidify your argument.

For example:

1. The autumnal setting in Frost’s poem symbolises a time of change because autumn usually represents transition.

2. The autumnal setting represented as “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood” symbolises a time of change as autumn usually represents a transition.

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A quotation (also known as quote) is a particular type of example that is used in essays.

They are sentence(s), phrase(s), or word(s) that cited from a text by someone who isn’t the original author.

This is not plagiarism because the cited text usually sits between quotation marks (” “) and, thus, credit is given to the author/text.

Your readers gain a better understanding of your analysis when you use an example/quotation. Correctly presenting your example or quotation provides a clearer image of your argument by giving your reader the context of the example and its technique.

However, it is important not to confuse examples with evidence.

Evidence is ANY information that you can find in texts to support your argument. This includes techniques, EXAMPLES and QUOTATIONS.

Think of it this way:

Evidence → examples → quotations techniques

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How to use quotations and examples in different ways

There are many different ways that you can quote in your essay.

Each method serves a different purpose and it is up to you to decide which one works best for that example.

Let’s have a look at these different methods.

 

Introducing direct quotations

This is when you use quotation marks (” “) to repeat the author’s words and connect it with an introductory/explanatory phrase.

There are many different ways you can do this.

 

1. Using a quote with an introductory/explanatory phrase

An introductory phrase introduces the technique and/or context of the quote before the actual quotation, whereas an explanatory phrase explains the meaning of the quotation/technique.

Let’s look at some examples:

Example 1:

Frost represents a time of change through the symbolic autumnal setting in “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”.

Example 2:

In the opening of the poem, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”, the autumnal setting is symbolic of the time for change since autumn is usually associated with transition.

Example 3:

The autumnal setting created in “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”, symbolises a time of change as autumn usually represents a transition.

 

2. Explaining the meaning and then using a colon to introduce the quote

Let’s look at an example:

Example 1:

Frost represents a time of change through the symbolic autumnal setting in the opening of the poem: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”.

 

3. Using 2 separate sentences

Here, we have an introductory/explanatory sentence and an introductory/explanatory phrase with the quotation:

 

Example 1:

Frost highlights the need for change by creating an autumnal setting in the opening, as autumn is often associated with transitions. This is illustrated through the symbolic yellow woods in “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”.

Example 2:

Frost uses symbolism to emphasise the need for change in “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”. Here, the yellow woods create an autumnal setting which is representative of a transitional stage.

Example 3:

The need for change is highlighted in the opening of the poem, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood”. Here, the yellow woods are symbolic of autumn’s transitional nature.

 

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Interweaving quotations in your analysis

This is when you integrate your quotations in your analysis. Doing this will increase readability. Here are some examples:

Example 1:

The autumnal setting of the “yellow woods” is symbolic of the need for change as autumn is often linked with transition.

Example 2:

The audience realises that the persona is anxious about the future changes as he attempts to look “down one as far as [he] could” in an attempt to predict it.

 

Shortening quotations

When you want to quote long sentences or more one sentence, you can use ellipses (…) to shorten it. This ensures that you only quote the relevant part that helps you build your argument.

Example 1:

Frost highlights that humans are innately anxious of changes through the symbolic use of the yellow woods and the persona’s anxiety in “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood… And [I] looked down one as far as I could”

 

In very rare cases, you can also use ellipses in front of a quotation. or after it, to indicate that there is a continuation beyond what is presented.

 

Indirect quotations

Indirect quotations involve presenting the quotation and paraphrasing or sumarising (part of) the text. Let’s see what that involves.

Example 1:

Frost describes the persona as standing by the crossroads and looking down the streets to highlight human’s innate anxiety towards changes.

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How to find relevant and strong quotations/examples?

Having relevant and strong examples in your essay is very important. It ensures that your essay is concise, sustained and answers the question.

But…

Too often, students use quotes to make their responses sound more sophisticated or to increase the word count.

However, if the quote or example doesn’t add relevant insight to your argument, it will show the marker that you are not certain about the arguments you are raising.

This will COST YOU MARKS!

This is why you need to make sure that you know how to choose the best examples for your essay.

To do this, we need to first know how to effectively read or view your text. Let’s quickly recap that process.

 

How to read/view your text

  1. Read/view your text for the FIRST time
    Don’t pick up your pen and start writing yet! The first time you go over the text, you should enjoy it, understand the plot and who the characters are.
  2. Write down your thoughts
    Now that you have read/watched your text without distractions, write your thoughts down. This includes plot, characters or setting.
  3. Read/view the text for the SECOND time
    Now, you should start making your notes. Underline or highlight important phrases or sentences. Write down notes on different scenes. You are now unpicking how the composer developed meaning.
  4. Make notes
    Write down important ideas, arguments and techniques.
  5. Read/view the text for the THIRD time
    You now have to look for specific examples that supports your ideas and analyse it.

 

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Flowchart: How to Read or View Your Text

 

Now that you know how to effectively read/view your text, let’s go through some dos and don’ts to find relevant and strong examples…

 

The dos and dont’s of finding quotations and examples

  • Do: find examples that use multiple techniques. This ensures that your analysis has depth.
  • Do: pick examples with techniques that are higher order. This gives your essay depth.
  • Do: only use quotations that add insight to your argument and answers the question. Anything else will be waffle and will harm your marks.
  • Do: ensure that you use at least 3 examples (2 of these should be quotes) per paragraph.
  • Don’t: use a quote/example because it will make your essay look sophisticated. Only use examples that support your argument to make sure that it is relevant. 
  • Don’t: look for a quotation and THEN find a technique. You should always look for the TECHNIQUE FIRST and then quote your text AFTER. This will ensure that you have a strong analysis instead of trying to force an idea onto a ‘good’ quote.
  • Don’t: use quotes/examples just to increase your word count. If it doesn’t help build your argument then it does not need to be in your essay.
  • Don’t: neglect using quotations. You need to have at least 2 quotes in a paragraph.

How do we integrate quotations and examples into our discussion?

Now that you know how to find relevant and strong quotes, we need to learn how to integrate them into our essays effectively.

Firstly, you need to figure out what your argument will be. They will usually be summarised in your topic sentences.

Remember that you always need to choose quotes and examples that support and extend your argument.

As we discussed earlier, there are many different ways you can quote your text. Click here to see them.

Ultimately, you have to decide which method works best for your purpose.

 

Here are some tips to effectively integrate your quotes and examples in your essay:

  • Do: Use square brackets ([  ]) if you need to add words to a quotation to make it comprehensible
  • Do: Provide context of where you found your quotation. You can’t just quote the text without knowing where it came from and why is it relevant.
    For example,
  • Do: Make sure your sentence is not convoluted when you quote. It still has to make sense.
  • Do: Remember there are different ways to introduce your quote. Choose whichever method suits your purpose and builds your argument.
  • Don’t: Use too many quotations. You will end up overcrowding your paragraph.
  • Don’t: Misquote. You CANNOT add or remove words if you are directly quoting, unless you use square brackets or ellipses respectively.
  • Don’t: Quote every word in a long sentence. Only directly quote the necessary parts that will aid your argument and use ellipses to omit the other part.
  • Don’t: Use too many ellipses in a quote. You have to judge how many ellipses are acceptable depending on the length of your quotation.
  • Don’t: Use ellipses to change the author’s meaning of the quote
  • Don’t: Use “in this quote…” as an introductory/explanatory phrase. Instead, you can provide the context, technique or explanation of the quotation.
    eg. “The repetition of very and good in the nursery rhyme, “when she was good, she was very, very good”, highlights the gender stereotypes that exists in our society.”
  • Don’t: Have a quote as a stand alone sentence… or worse, an incomplete sentence. Always use introductory/explanatory phrases.

Now you that you know the dos and don’ts to use quotations and examples, it is your turn to put it into practice!

 

Want to know how to write perfect PEEL paragraphs?

Check out our Ultimate PEEL Paragraph Checklist to see how you can use your quotations and examples to write spectacular paragraphs.

Written by Tammy Dang

Tammy is a former student of Matrix and is now studying Law / Media (Screen and Sound Production) at UNSW. She is a Digital Content Writer for the Matrix Education blog. Tammy is an aspiring filmmaker and movie buff.

 

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