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


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