Integrating Direct Quotations into your Research Paper


When writing academic research papers, it is important to find reliable sources to support your argument. Sometimes, however, once you find the best sources to use, integrating them effectively to make the most of them becomes a challenge.

Research papers require you to not only “research,” but to synthesize or blend together your own words and ideas with those of other people. You don’t want to go to all the work of finding awesome sources, only to have the quotes fall flat once they are incorporated into the paper. You need to maintain a coherent flow, meaning your paper should read, once outside source material is incorporated, as a unified piece of writing. Unfortunately it’s quite common for a paper to go from a focused piece of writing to a jumble of competing voices.

The Three-Step Model

It’s not enough simply to find a good source; the real work comes as you incorporate it into your paragraph. With quotations, it’s not enough just to insert the quote inside the research. One easy-to-remember and popular technique is the 3-step model of integration, described below. By following these three easy steps, your research will flow smoothly and appear seamless. The three steps will ask you to

1.    Introduce the quote.
2.    Present the quote.
3.    Comment on or analyze the quote’s significance.

Step 1: Introduce the Quote

Introducing the quote can be challenging. Quotations must be taken from their original context and smoothly integrated into their new textual surroundings, and the first step is to introduce the source. Sticking a quote in your paper without telling your audience who is speaking is like asking someone out without introducing yourself; most likely you’ll be turned down. Begin integrating a quote by introducing the source’s full name:

Dr. Robin Write, author of, The Doritos Diet, states, “QUOTE” (page #).

Notice that the example above introduces the source, gives a brief bit of info on the source, then offers the quote – all within the same sentence.


For example, it would be incorrect to integrate the source without introducing the author, as in the example below:

“The Doritos Diet will help you lose ten pounds in ten days.”

You want to know the person who made this claim, right? This is referred to as a dangling or hanging quote. It is hanging without other support, creating a disconnection between the quote and the rest of the paragraph. It is, in essence, “stuck in,” the middle of a paragraph and creates a lack of cohesion.

As you write your paper, you’ll also want to vary the way you introduce the sources. It would become tedious to read “Dr. X states . . .” every time you incorporate a quote. Utilize different language and word order, as in the examples below:

In his article _______, Dr. Write suggests that “_________.”

Dr. Write agrees, when he says, “_________.”

Notice in the former example, the word “that” is not followed by a comma, as it isn’t necessary because “that” integrates the quotation with the main clause of the sentence (instead of creating an independent and dependent clause).

Other verbs that can introduce quotations include

Believes                  Argues                       Thinks
Adds                         Compares                Reasons
Suggests                 Asserts                      Insists
Empathizes          Denies                       Questions
Submits                  Observes                  Notes

Below are three examples of the same quote, integrated differently. Note the first example is introduced with an independent clause, which requires the use of a colon. Any other introduction requires a comma, or no punctuation:

Shelley held a bold view: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the World” (794).

Shelley thought poets “the unacknowledged legislators of the World” (794).

 “Poets,” according to Shelley, “are the unacknowledged legislators of the World” (794).
(from MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers)

Step 2. Present the Quote

Obviously, you have to present the quote, but don’t get ahead of yourself; it’s too easy to make a mistake in this step. Make sure you have transcribed the quote correctly. Changes should never be made of direct quotes; the accuracy of direct quotes is extremely important, including capitalization and punctuation.

Sometimes you may find the quote might be unclear without inserting more information. For instance, you might need to insert a pronoun to clarify a name:

According to Maher, “She [Austin] believes a woman’s place is in the home.”

The use of square brackets indicates the name “Austin” is the writer’s addition and not part of the original quote. Without the name, the pronoun “she” would leave a question in the reader’s minds who she is.

It’s also quite common, especially in the internet era, to find misspellings in research. But the rule holds that you must not change even the misspellings of direct quotes, so to identify you know a word is spelled incorrectly, insert in square brackets the word [sic], in italics, as in the example below:

Shaw admitted, “Nothing can extinguish my interest in Shakespear” [sic].

Sic, Latin for “thus,” or “so,” indicates the quote is as originally written, and not your error.

Step 3: Comment on Quote

Commenting on quotes is often the most overlooked step in the integration process. All quotations need explanation to completely integrate them. Think of your quotes as needing a hug; they need arms to wrap around them to make them feel loved. On the front side, they have their author tag “arm,” and on the back side, they need their comment or analysis “arm” to complete their hug.

Below is an example from A Student Guide to Writing at UCI. First, you’ll notice the author tag where the source is introduced, followed by the direct quote. The remainder of the paragraph, the research quoted is commented on and analyzed by the writer:

With reference to a study by the U.S. Labor Department, William A. Henry reports that “about 20% of all college graduates toil in fields not requiring a  degree” (353). Henry cites this statistic to reinforce his argument that a college degree is less valuable today than some might think. In presenting this information, however, he fails to make his case convincing because, aside from the fact that 20% is a relatively low percentage, he relies on a false assumption, namely that the value of a college education depends upon whether or not graduates apply their degree toward their occupation.

Some other useful ways to incorporate comments are shown below:

In other words, X asserts __________. 

In arguing this claim, X argues that __________. 

X is insisting that _________. 

What X really means is that ____________.

The basis of X’s argument is that ___________.
(from Purdue Owl Online).

Some instructors teach to never begin or end a paragraph with a quote. If a paragraph ends with a direct quote, the writer has obviously failed to comment on the research.

Final Thoughts

Integrating outside research is challenging, but following a simple plan will help you incorporate quotations so they fit seamlessly in your paper. Remember that quoting should be done only sparingly, and the majority of the paper should be in your own words. Instructors often require students to write a draft of their argument before they begin the research phase, therefore minimizing the risk for competing outside voices taking over the paper. However you choose to incorporate your research, remember the most important voice is your own.

For more help on integrating source material, visit

To Air is Humane: And Other Common – and Uncommon- Usage Errors



aardvarkNot a semester goes by that a student defiantly misuses the word already.

Wait – are you sure I didn’t mean, “Not a semester goes by that a student definitely misuses the word all ready”?

Which one is correct? How do you know for sure?

Definitely and defiantly are two of the most misused words in student papers. To clarify, definitely means “for sure,” or “having distinct limits,” while defiantly means “bold, resistant or challenging.”  Why would anyone confuse these two words with such different meanings? Because if a writer misspells definitely, which is not hard to do, most likely a computer’s spell check will think the writer wants to spell defiantly, and change it for you. The two words look so similar that you most likely won’t catch it in a quick read through – assuming you don’t rely on spell check, and read through your final paper before you turn it in.

You don’t rely solely on spell-check, right?

I suppose a person could misuse a word defiantly – or with a bad attitude – but most likely he or she wasn’t doing it out of spite, but just made an honest mistake.

Below you’ll find a few other common usage errors. Which ones have you made?

Already or All ready

Although these two words sound the same, they each have distinctly different meanings.

All ready, two words, means you are prepared, ready to go.

Ex: Dinner was all ready when the guests arrived.

Ex. John is ready. Jane is ready. The kids are ready. Are you all ready?

Hint: If you can substitute “ready” in place of all ready, then it is used correctly.
Ex. Dinner was ready when the guest arrived.

Already, one word with one “L,” is an adverb related to time, meaning “prior to a specified time.”

Ex: The turkey was already burned when the guests arrived.

Ex. The kids were already in bed when I got home.

Desperate or Disparate 

These two words don’t really sound alike, but are commonly confused.

Desperate (the stress on the first syllable) means to have lost hope, or to be anxious or frantic.

Ex. I am desperate to get home for the holidays.

Ex. I’m failing algebra; I’m desperate for help!

Disparate (stress on the second syllable)  means dissimilar, or unequal.

Ex. Those two have very disparate political views.

Ex. However disparate our opinions are, we can still be friends.

Advise or Advice 

One is a noun, and one is a verb. Do you know which is which?

Advice is a noun, meaning a recommendation or suggestion.

Ex. Advice is better to give then to receive.

Ex. My dad always gave me the best advice.

Advise is a verb meaning to give advice, or a recommendation or suggestion (note the “s” is pronounced  as a “z”). Advise can also mean a notification.

Ex. I would advise you not to eat the fire-eating dragon salsa.

Ex. Can you advise me on which stock to invest in?

Foreword or Forward

Forward is an adjective with several different meanings.

One meaning is “in the front”:

Ex. She is sitting forward in the plane.

Another meaning of forward is to be brash:

Ex. Jason! It’s rude to be so forward!

Forward can also mean a movement toward a position:

Ex. The Raiders are moving the ball forward down the field.

Foreword, on the other hand, is a noun, meaning the part of a book where prefatory comments are made. It’s also called the introduction or preface of a book.

Ex. The editor makes some good points in the foreword about the author’s life, so be sure to read it.

Ex. I quoted the foreword of the book on my Works Cited, so I hope I cited it correctly.

Mute or Moot 

I actually heard “mute” misused for “moot” in conversation recently.  The speaker said, “It was a mute point.” However, this usage is incorrect. He should have said, “It was a moot point.”

Mute means unable to speak, or remaining silent.

Ex. She was mute when the teacher asked her a question.

Moot actually has several different meanings, and can be used as a noun, a verb, and an adjective, which is how it is used in the example above (moot point).

Moot used as a noun refers to a deliberative assembly primarily for the administration of justice.

Ex. The verb, moot, derives from the noun, moot, a hypothetical case argued as an exercise by law students.

The verb meaning of moot means to bring up for discussion or to debate.

Ex. The issue of whether a person’s nature or upbringing is more important continues to be mooted by experts and nonprofessionals alike.

Moot used as an adjective means disputed or debatable.

Ex. The court ruled that the issue is now moot because the people involved in the dispute have died.

Ex. I think they were wrong, but the point is moot. Their decision has been made and it can’t be changed now.

Note: the usage and common meaning of “moot” has changed over the centuries, transforming into its most common usage today as an adjective.

Air, Err, or Heir 

These three radically different words all sound alike (called homophones), which is the cause of confusion.

The most common use of the word air refers to the atmosphere, or what we breathe. If you’re a football fan, you may have also heard the word used as a verb.

Ex. The air is a bit muggy today.

Ex. Trailing by 20 points, the team took to the air (noun).

Ex. The quarterback aired it out down the field (verb).

But air can also refer to an outward appearance:

Ex. The home has an air of luxury.

Ex. He has an air of mystery.

Err is a verb, which means to make a mistake:

Ex. I have erred in my calculations.

Ex. To err is human, to forgive divine.

Our third homophone, heir, is a noun, meaning one who inherits property:

Ex. He is the heir of the Wal-Mart fortune.

Ex. The king left no heirs when he died.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, it’s quite easy to confuse these and other similar types of words. The only way to catch the error is to know the definition. Relying on spell check won’t help, as it often corrects misspellings incorrectly, and if you’ve spelled the wrong word right, the computer isn’t smart enough to tell you to fix it. If you’re not sure, check your dictionary or thesaurus, every writer’s best friends.

Who That? Rules of Usage (and other myths)


When referring to a person in writing, most of us were taught to use “who,” as in She was the girl who wore the red dress. In this sentence, who is referring to a person, she. So you would not use “that” to reference a person, as in, She was the girl that wore the red dress. Makes sense, right?

However, the rule gets more complicated when referring to a class or group of people. Which of the following sentences is correct?

  1. Men who buy sports cars receive more speeding tickets.
  2. Men that buy sports cars receive more speeding tickets.

If you guessed #1 you would be correct.
But if you guessed #2, you would also be correct.

According to any number of style guides, it is perfectly acceptable to use that when referring to a group or class of people. The use of “who” is, as the English language goes, a relatively recent occurrence. The Grammar Girl, my personal hero, says that Chaucer and Shakespeare used “that” to refer to people, and the “who” rule didn’t creep into our sometimes mythical rules until the early 1900s.

Note, however, that in the previous example, “Men” refers to a class of people, an indeterminate, general group of men, not a specific man or men. If it read, The man that drove the sports car received a speeding ticket, it would still be okay, but according to style guides, less common. To be on the safe side, in this instance, refer to the specific man as “who.”


The reason there might be confusion as to the correct use of “who” or “that” is that our most commonly used style guides, MLA and APA, have conflicting guidelines. MLA says that when referring to general groups of people, both “that” and “who” can be used. In the following examples, either use would be acceptable in MLA:

She is the kind of person who/that is always cheerful.

I would like to find a husband who/that is a good cook.

However, when a specific person is referred to in formal writing, the preferred use is “who”:

The boy who lives next door plays football.

The woman who drives the school bus is a jazz singer.

However, if you are using APA style guide in your writing, APA requires the use of “who” when referring to people. For APA, “that” is only used for nonhumans and things:

She is the kind of person who/that is always cheerful.

I would like to find a husband who/that is a good cook.

The rats that completed the task successfully were rewarded. (Rats = nonhuman.)

Final Thoughts

Through the centuries, the English language has often adapted to common usage, and with the advent of style guides for academic writing, rules were put in place to suit different fields of study and styles of writing. But remember, rules and styles are two different things. What may be a rule in one mode of writing may be different in another. Sometimes, rules are a myth, and sometimes rules are simply a preference or trend. When writing for high school or college, if in doubt, always ask your instructor for their preference. In my book, the person who is grading is always right.

(image from Oxford Dictionary Online)