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Using direct quotes selectively

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A major problem identified in Student A's paragraph was that it relied too heavily upon direct quotes from the original source. Direct quotes should be used selectively in most academic writing.

When can you use direct quotes appropriately?

You may need to quote directly for:

  • a definition or part of a definition
  • a theory, law, regulation, principle, etc.
  • a specific term or expression created by the author or by another author cited
  • a particularly effective, powerful, or controversial statement

Remember that you need to use quotation marks and indicate the page number in the citation when you are quoting directly.

You can integrate direct quotations into your writing in two main ways:

  • As the grammatical continuation of your sentence, for example:
  • A variable cost "is one which varies directly with changes in the level of activity over a defined period of time" (Peirson and Ramsay 1996, p. 693).
  • Using "as follows" or "following", or a reporting verb and a colon, for example:
  • Haskin (1996, p. 29) offers the following definition: "empowerment is the process which allows for ethical decision making by all organisation members...".

However, for the first Computer Systems assignment most of the quotes you will use should be indirect quotes, i.e. when the original text has been paraphrased or summarised in your own words.

As a rule, a quote uses the exact text of the source. However, it is sometimes necessary to alter small sections of a quote by inserting, omitting, or using different forms of words. The convention is to use square brackets when inserting words and three dots when omitting words. For example,

As Kinlaw (1995, p. 7) writes: "empowerment is one initiative that can help companies [in industrialised nations] ... compete and survive."

Reporting verbs

These verbs are used to describe the way in which an author has written the information, for example: suggests, states, claims, predicts, observes, defines, points out, or indicates. (See also this page.

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