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How to Put a Quote in an Essay

Last Updated: November 28, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,638,487 times.

Using a direct quote in your essay is a great way to support your ideas with concrete evidence, which you need to support your thesis. To select a good quote , look for a passage that supports your argument and is open to analysis. Then, incorporate that quote into your essay, and make sure you properly cite it based on the style guide you’re using.

Sample Quotes

how to properly add quotes in essays

Incorporating a Short Quote

Step 1 Incorporate short direct quotes into a sentence.

  • For instance, let's say this is the quote you want to use: "The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold."
  • If you just type that sentence into your essay and put quotes around it, your reader will be disoriented. Instead, you could incorporate it into a sentence like this: "The imagery in the story mirrors what's happening in Lia's love life, as 'The brown leaves symbolize the death of their relationship, while the green buds suggest new opportunities will soon unfold.'"

Step 2 Use a lead-in...

  • "Critic Alex Li says, 'The frequent references to the color blue are used to suggest that the family is struggling to cope with the loss of their matriarch.'"
  • "According to McKinney’s research, 'Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.'"
  • "Based on several recent studies, people are more likely to sit on the park benches when they're shaded by trees."

Step 3 Put quotation marks...

  • You still need to use quotation marks even if you're only quoting a few words.
  • If you're in doubt, it's best to be cautious and use quotes.

Step 4 Provide commentary after...

  • For example, let’s say you used the quote, “According to McKinney’s research, ‘Adults who do yoga at least three times a week have lower blood pressure, better sleeping patterns, and fewer everyday frustrations.’” Your commentary might read, “This shows that yoga can have a positive impact on people’s health, so incorporating it into the workplace can help improve employee health outcomes. Since yoga makes employees healthier, they’ll likely have reduced insurance costs.”

Step 5 Paraphrase

  • When you use a paraphrase, you still need to provide commentary that links the paraphrased material back to your thesis and ideas.

Using a Long Quote

Step 1 Introduce a long direct quote, then set it off in a block.

  • The reader will recognize that the material is a direct quote because it's set off from the rest of the text. That's why you don't need to use quotation marks. However, you will include your citation at the bottom.

Step 2 Write an introductory lead-in to tell the reader what the quote is about.

  • "In The Things They Carried , the items carried by soldiers in the Vietnam war are used to both characterize them and burden the readers with the weight they are carrying: The things they carried were largely determined by necessity. Among the necessities or near-necessities were P-38 can openers, pocket knives, heat tabs, wristwatches, dog tags, mosquito repellent, chewing gum, candy cigarettes, salt tablets, packets of Kool-Aid, lighters, matches, sewing kits, Military Payment Certificates, C rations, and two or three canteens of water." (O'Brien 2)

Variation: When you're citing two or more paragraphs, you must use block quotes, even if the passage you want to quote is less than four lines long. You should indent the first line of each paragraph an extra quarter inch. Then, use ellipses (…) at the end of one paragraph to transition to the next.

Step 3 Indent the block quote by .5 inches (1.3 cm) from the left margin.

  • Your block quote will use the same spacing as the rest of your paper, which will likely be double-spacing.

Step 4 Use an ellipsis to omit a word or words from a direct quote.

  • For example, “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s the only one who’s begun to move on after their mother’s death” might become “According to Li, “Rosa is the first sister to pick a rose because she’s … begun to move on after their mother’s death.”
  • Don’t eliminate words to change the meaning of the original text. For instance, it’s not appropriate to use an ellipsis to change “plants did not grow faster when exposed to poetry” to “plants did … grow faster when exposed to poetry.”

Step 5 Put brackets around words you need to add to a quote for clarification.

  • For example, let’s say you want to use the quote, “All of them experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.” This doesn’t tell the reader who you’re talking about. You could use brackets to say, “All of [the teachers in the study] experienced a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”
  • However, if you know the study is talking about teachers, you couldn’t use brackets to say, “All of [society experiences] a more relaxed, calmer disposition after doing yoga for 6 months.”

Step 6 Provide commentary after a quote to explain how it supports your ideas.

  • If you don't explain your quote well, then it's not helping your ideas. You can't expect the reader to connect the quote back to your thesis for you.

Step 7 Paraphrase the quote to condense it to 1 or 2 sentences, if you can.

  • For instance, you may prefer to use a long block quote to present a passage from a literary work that demonstrates the author's style. However, let's say you were using a journal article to provide a critic's perspective on an author's work. You may not need to directly quote an entire paragraph word-for-word to get their point across. Instead, use a paraphrase.

Tip: If you’re unsure about a quote, ask yourself, “Can I paraphrase this in more concise language and not lose any support for my argument?” If the answer is yes, a quote is not necessary.

Citing Your Quote

Step 1 Cite the author’s...

  • An MLA citation will look like this: (Lopez 24)
  • For sources with multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Anderson and Smith 55-56) or (Taylor, Gomez, and Austin 89)
  • If you use the author’s name in your lead-in to the quote, you just need to provide the year in parentheses: According to Luz Lopez, “the green grass symbolizes a fresh start for Lia (24).”

Step 2 Include the author’s...

  • An APA citation for a direct quote looks like this: (Ronan, 2019, p. 10)
  • If you’re citing multiple authors, separate their names with the word “and:” (Cruz, Hanks, and Simmons, 2019, p. 85)
  • If you incorporated the author’s name into your lead-in, you can just give the year and page number: Based on Ronan’s (2019, p. 10) analysis, “coffee breaks improve productivity.”

Step 3 Use the author’s last name, date, and page number for Chicago Style.

  • For instance, a Chicago Style citation will look like this: (Alexander 2019, 125)
  • If you’re quoting a source with multiple authors, separate them with the word “and:” (Pattinson, Stewart, and Green 2019, 175)
  • If you already incorporated the author’s name into your quote, then you can just provide the year and page number: According to Alexander, “the smell of roses increases feelings of happiness” (2019, 125).

Step 4 Prepare a Works...

  • For MLA, you'd cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. "A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in 'Her Darkest Sunshine.'" Journal of Stories , vol. 2, no. 5, 2019, p. 15-22. [17] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • In APA, you'd cite an article like this: Lopez, Luz. (2019). A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in "Her Darkest Sunshine." Journal of Stories , 2(5), 15-22. [18] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
  • For Chicago Style, your article citation would look like this: Lopez, Luz. "A Fresh Blossom: Imagery in 'Her Darkest Sunshine.'" Journal of Stories 2 no. 4 (2019): 15-22. [19] X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source

Selecting a Quote

Step 1 Select a quote that backs up the argument you’re making.

Tip: Quotes are most effective when the original language of the person or text you’re quoting is worth repeating word-for-word.

Step 2 Make sure the quote is something you can analyze.

  • If you’re struggling to explain the quote or link it back to your argument, then it’s likely not a good idea to include it in your essay.

Step 3 Avoid using too many direct quotes in your paper.

  • Paraphrases and summaries work just like a direct quote, except that you don’t need to put quotation marks around them because you’re using your own words to restate ideas. However, you still need to cite the sources you used.

Community Q&A

wikiHow Staff Editor

  • Always cite your quotes properly. If you don't, it is considered plagiarism. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

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Write an Essay

  • ↑ https://www.ursinus.edu/live/files/1160-integrating-quotespdf
  • ↑ https://lsa.umich.edu/sweetland/undergraduates/writing-guides/how-do-i-incorporate-quotes-.html
  • ↑ https://helpfulprofessor.com/quotes/
  • ↑ https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/using-sources/quotations/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_quotations.html
  • ↑ https://guides.libraries.psu.edu/apaquickguide/intext
  • ↑ https://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide/citation-guide-2.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_and_style_guide.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/reference_list_articles_in_periodicals.html
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/chicago_manual_17th_edition/cmos_formatting_and_style_guide/periodicals.html
  • ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/quotations/

About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

Medical Disclaimer

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always contact your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional before starting, changing, or stopping any kind of health treatment.


To put a quote in an essay, incorporate it directly into a sentence if it's shorter than 4 typed lines. For example, you could write "According to researchers," and then insert the quote. If a quote is longer than 4 typed lines, set it off from the rest of the paragraph, and don't put quotes around it. After the quote, include an in-text citation so readers know where it's from. The right way to cite the quote will depend on whether you're using MLA, APA, or Chicago Style formatting. For more tips from our English co-author, like how to omit words from a quote, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How to use Quotes in an Essay in 7 Simple Steps

How to use Quotes in an Essay

A quote can be an effective and powerful literary tool in an essay, but it needs to be done well. To use quotes in an essay, you need to make sure your quotes are short, backed up with explanations, and used rarely. The best essays use a maximum of 2 quotes for every 1500 words.

Rules for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes.
  • Quotes should be less than 1 sentence long.
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples.
  • Use Max. 2 Quotes for 1500 words.
  • Use page numbers when Citing Quotes.
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes.
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes.

Once you have mastered these quotation writing rules you’ll be on your way to growing your marks in your next paper.

How to use Quotes in an Essay

1. avoid long quotes.

There’s a simple rule to follow here: don’t use a quote that is longer than one line. In fact,  four word quotes  are usually best.

Long quotes in essays are red flags for teachers. It doesn’t matter if it is an amazing quote. Many, many teachers don’t like long quotes, so it’s best to avoid them.

Too many students provide quotes that take up half of a paragraph. This will lose you marks – big time.

If you follow my  perfect paragraph formula , you know that most paragraphs should be about six sentences long, which comes out to about six or seven typed lines on paper. That means that your quote will be a maximum of one-sixth (1/6) of your paragraph. This leaves plenty of space for discussion in your own words.

One reason teachers don’t like long quotes is that they suck up your word count. It can start to look like you didn’t have enough to say, so you inserted quotes to pad out your essay. Even if this is only your teacher’s perception, it’s something that you need to be aware of.

Here’s an example of over-use of quotes in paragraphs:

Avoid Quotes that are Too Long

Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors on economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student made the fatal mistake of having the quote overtake the paragraph.

Simply put, don’t use a quote that is longer than one line long. Ever. It’s just too risky.

Personally, I like to use a 4-word quote in my essays. Four-word quotes are long enough to constitute an actual quote but short enough that I have to think about how I will fit that quote around my own writing. This forces me to write quotations that both show:

  • I have read the original source, but also:
  • I know how to paraphrase

2. Do not use a Quote to that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph

These are three common but fatal mistakes.

Essay quotes that start sentences or end paragraphs make you appear passive.

If you use a quotation in an essay to start a sentence or end a paragraph, your teacher automatically thinks that your quote is replacing analysis, rather than supporting it.

You should instead start the sentence that contains the quote with your own writing. This makes it appear that you have an  active voice .

Similarly, you should end a paragraph with your own analysis, not a quote.

Let’s look at some examples of quotes that start sentences and end paragraphs. These examples are poor examples of using quotes:

Avoid Quotes that Start Sentences The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. “Children have the ability to learn through play and exploration. Play helps children to learn about their surroundings” (Malaguzzi, 1949, p. 10). Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Avoid Quotes that End Paragraphs Before Judith Butler gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex, men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time. “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Both these quotes are from essays that were shared with me by colleagues. My colleagues marked these students down for these quotes because of the quotes:

  • took up full sentences;
  • started sentences; and
  • were used to end paragraphs.

It didn’t appear as if the students were analyzing the quotes. Instead, the quotes were doing the talking for the students.

There are some easy strategies to use in order to make it appear that you are actively discussing and analyzing quotes.

One is that you should make sure the essay sentences with quotes in them  don’t start with the quote . Here are some examples of how we can change the quotes:

Example 1: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice The theorist Louis Malaguzzi was the founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach to Education. According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “children have the ability to learn through play and exploration.” Here, Malaguzzi is highlighting how to play is linked to finding things out about the world. Play is important for children to develop. Play is better than learning through repetition of drills or reading. Play is good for all children.

Here, the sentence with the quote was amended so that the student has an active voice. They start the sentence with According to Malaguzzi, ….

Similarly, in the second example, we can also insert an active voice by ensuring that our quote sentence does not start with a quote:

Example 2: Start Quote Sentences with an Active Voice In 1990, Judith Butler revolutionized Feminist understandings of gender by arguing that “gender is a fluid concept” (p. 136). Before Butler’s 1990 book  Gender Trouble , gender was seen as being a binary linked to sex. Men were masculine and women were feminine. Butler came up with this new idea that gender is just something society has made up over time.

In this example, the quote is not at the start of a sentence or end of a paragraph – tick!

How to Start Sentences containing Quotes using an Active Voice

  • According to Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10), “…”
  • Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) argues that “…”
  • In 1949, Malaguzzi (p. 10) highlighted that “…”
  • The argument of Malaguzzi (1949, p. 10) that “…” provides compelling insight into the issue.

3. Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples

Earlier on, I stated that one key reason to use quotes in essays is so that you can analyze them.

Quotes shouldn’t stand alone as explanations. Quotes should be there to be analyzed, not to do the analysis.

Let’s look again at the quote used in Point 1:

Example: A Quote that is Too Long Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults.  “Many adult Americans believe that hard work and drive are important factors in economic mobility. When statistics show that roughly 42% of children born into the bottom level of the income distribution will likely stay there (Isaacs, 2007), this Is a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761). Therefore poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

This student has included the facts, figures, citations and key details in the quote. Essentially, this student has been lazy. They failed to paraphrase.

Instead, this student could have selected the most striking phrase from the quote and kept it. Then, the rest should be paraphrased. The most striking phrase in this quote was “[poverty] is a consequence of structural and social barriers.” (Mistry et al., 2016, p. 761).

So, take that one key phrase, then paraphrase the rest:

Example: Paraphrasing Long Quotes Children who grow up in poverty often end up being poor as adults. In their analysis, Mistry et al. (2016) highlight that there is a misconception in American society that hard work is enough to escape poverty. Instead, they argue, there is evidence that over 40% of people born in poverty remain in poverty. For Mistry et al. (2016, p. 761), this data shows that poverty is not a matter of being lazy alone, but more importantly  “a consequence of structural and social barriers.”  This implies that poverty in childhood needs to be addressed by the government.

To recap,  quotes shouldn’t do the talking for you . Provide a brief quote in your essay, and then show you understand it with surrounding explanation and analysis.

4. Know how many Quotes to use in an Essay

There’s a simple rule for how many quotes should be in an essay.

Here’s a good rule to follow: one quote for every five paragraphs. A paragraph is usually 150 words long, so you’re looking at  one quote in every 750 words, maximum .

To extrapolate that out, you’ll want a maximum of about:

  • 2 quotes for a 1500-word paper;
  • 3 quotes for a 2000-word paper;
  • 4 quotes for a 3000-word paper.

That’s the maximum , not a target. There’s no harm in writing a paper that has absolutely zero quotes in it, so long as it’s still clear that you’ve closely read and paraphrased your readings.

The reason you don’t want to use more quotes than this in your essay is that teachers want to see you saying things in your own words. When you over-use quotes, it is a sign to your teacher that you don’t know how to paraphrase well.

5. Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays

One biggest problem with quotes are that many students don’t know how to cite quotes in essays.

Nearly every referencing format requires you to include a page number in your citation. This includes the three most common referencing formats: Harvard, APA, and MLA. All of them require you to provide page numbers with quotes.

Citing a Quote in Chicago Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 1990, 136).

Citing a Quote in APA and Harvard Styles – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler, 1990, p. 136).

Citing a Quote in MLA Style – Include Page Numbers

  • Incorrect: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler).
  • Correct: “Gender is a fluid concept” (Butler 136).

Including a page number in your quotation makes a huge difference when a marker is trying to determine how high your grade should be.

This is especially true when you’re already up in the higher marks range. These little editing points can mean the difference between placing first in the class and third. Don’t underestimate the importance of attention to detail.

6. Don’t Italicize Quotes

For some reason, students love to use italics for quotes. This is wrong in absolutely every major referencing format, yet it happens all the time.

I don’t know where this started, but please don’t do it. It looks sloppy, and teachers notice. A nice, clean, well-formatted essay should not contain these minor but not insignificant errors. If you want to be a top student, you need to pay attention to minor details.

7. Avoid quotes inside quotes

Have you ever found a great quote and thought, “I want to quote that quote!” Quoting a quote is a tempting thing to do, but not worth your while.

I’ll often see students write something like this:

Poor Quotation Example: Quotes Inside Quotes Rousseau “favored a civil religion because it would be more tolerant of diversity than Christianity. Indeed ‘no state has ever been founded without religion as its base’ (Rousseau, 1913: 180).” (Durkheim, 1947, p. 19).

Here, there are quotes on top of quotes. The student has quoted Durkheim quoting Rousseau. This quote has become a complete mess and hard to read. The minute something’s hard to read, it loses marks.

Here are two solutions:

  • Cite the original source. If you really want the Rousseau quote, just cite Rousseau. Stop messing around with quotes on top of quotes.
  • Learn the ‘as cited in’ method. Frankly, that method’s too complicated to discuss here. But if you google it, you’ll be able to teach yourself.

When Should I use Quotes in Essays?

1. to highlight an important statement.

One main reason to use quotes in essays is to emphasize a famous statement by a top thinker in your field.

The statement must be  important. It can’t be just any random comment.

Here are some examples of when to use quotes in essays to emphasize the words of top thinkers:

  • The words of Stephen Hawking go a long way in Physics ;
  • The words of JK Rowling go a long way in Creative Writing ;
  • The words of Michel Foucault go a long way in Cultural Studies ;
  • The words of Jean Piaget go a long way in Education Studies .

2. To analyze an Important Statement.

Another reason to use quotes in essays is when you want to analyze a statement by a specific author. This author might not be famous, but they might have said something that requires unpacking and analyzing. You can provide a quote, then unpack it by explaining your interpretation of it in the following sentences.

Quotes usually need an explanation and example. You can unpack the quote by asking:

  • What did they mean,
  • Why is it relevant, and
  • Why did they say this?

You want to always follow up quotes by top thinkers or specific authors with discussion and analysis.

Quotes should be accompanied by:

  • Explanations of the quote;
  • Analysis of the ideas presented in the quote; or
  • Real-world examples that show you understand what the quote means.
Remember: A quote should be a stimulus for a discussion, not a replacement for discussion.

What Bad Quotes Look Like

Many teachers I have worked with don’t like when students use quotes in essays. In fact, some teachers absolutely hate essay quotes. The teachers I have met tend to hate these sorts of quotes:

  • When you use too many quotes.
  • When you use the wrong citation format.
  • When you don’t provide follow-up explanations of quotes.
  • When you used quotes because you don’t know how to paraphrase .

how to use quotes in an essay

Be a minimalist when it comes to using quotes. Here are the seven approaches I recommend for using quotes in essays:

  • Avoid Long Quotes in Essays
  • Do not use a Quote that takes up a full Sentence, Starts a Sentence, or Ends a Paragraph
  • Match Quotes with Explanations and Examples
  • Use a Maximum of 2 Quotes for every 1500 words
  • Always use page numbers when Citing Quotes in Essays
  • Don’t Italicize Quotes
  • Avoid quotes inside quotes


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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Updated 30/12/2020

  • What Are Quotes?
  • Why Use Quotes?
  • What You Want To Quote
  • How Much You Want To Quote
  • How That Quote Will Fit into Your Essay
  • There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks
  • Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences
  • How To Find Good Quotes

1. What Are Quotes?

Quotations, better known by their abbreviation ‘quotes’, are a form of evidence used in VCE essays. Using quotations in essays helps to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, and provides solid evidence for your arguments. The discussion on quotations in this study guide can be applied to all three areas of study in the VCAA English course which have been explained in detail in our Ultimate Guide s to VCE Text Response , Comparative and  Language Analysis .

A quotation is the repetition of a group of words taken from a text by someone other than the original author. The punctuation mark used to indicate a repetition of another author’s work is presented through quotation marks. These quotation marks are illustrated by inverted commas, either single inverted commas (‘ ’) or double inverted commas (“ ”). There is no general rule in Australia regarding which type of inverted comma you must use for quotations. Single inverted commas are preferred in Australia as they follow the British standard. The American standard involves styling quotations with the double inverted comma. You can choose either style, just be consistent in your essays.

2. Why Use Quotes?

The usage of quotations in essays demonstrates:

  • Your knowledge of the text
  • Credibility of your argument
  • An interesting and thoughtful essay
  • The strength of your writing skills.

However, quotations must be used correctly, otherwise you risk (and these frequent mistakes will be discussed in detail later):

  • Irrelevant quotations
  • Overcrowding or overloading of quotations
  • Broken sentences

How You Integrate a Quote into an Essay Depends on Three Factors:

  • What you want to quote
  • How much you want to quote
  • How that quote will fit into your essay.

3. What You Want To Quote

As you discuss ideas in a paragraph, quotes should be added to develop these ideas further. A quote should add insight into your argument; therefore, it is imperative that the quote you choose relates intrinsically to your discussion. This is dependent on which aspect of the text you are discussing, for example:

  • Description of theme or character
  • Description of event or setting
  • Description of a symbol or other literary technique

Never quote just for the sake of quoting. Quotations can be irrelevant  if a student merely adds in quotes as ‘sentence fillers’. Throwing in quotations just to make your essay appear more sophisticated will only be more damaging if the quotation does not adequately reinforce or expand on your contention. Conversely, an essay with no quotations will not achieve many marks either.

4. How Much You Want To Quote

A quotation should never tell the story for you. Quotations are a ‘support’ system, much like a back up for your ideas and arguments. Thus, you must be selective in how much you want to quote. Generally speaking, the absolute minimum is three quotes per paragraph but you should not  overload  your paragraphs either. Overcrowding your essay with too many quotations will lead to failure to develop your ideas, as well as your work appearing too convoluted for your assessor. Remember that the essay is  your  piece of work and should consist mainly of your own ideas and thoughts.

Single Word Quotations

The word ‘evaporates’, used to characterise money and happiness intends to instill the idea that happiness as a result of money is only temporary. (VCAA ‘Can Money Buy Happiness’ Language Analysis)

Single worded quotations can often leave the largest impression on the assessor. This is because you are able to demonstrate that you can focus on one word and develop an entire idea around it.

Phrase Quotations

Sunil Badami ‘still found it hard to tie my Indian appearance to my Australian feeling', showing that for Sunil, his culture was not Indian, but Australian due to his upbringing. ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia )

A phrase quotation is the most common quotation length you will use in essays.

Long Quotations

The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening, I felt the press of their ghosts. I realised then that I had begun to step small and carry myself all hunched, keeping my arms at my sides and my elbows tucked, as if to leave room for them.’ ( Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks )

Long quotations comprise of more than one sentence – avoid using them as evidence. Your assessor will not mark you highly if the bulk of your paragraphs consists of long quotations. You should aim to keep your quotations to less than 2 lines on an A4 writing page. If you have a long quotation you wish to use, be selective. Choose only the important phrases or key words, and remove the remaining sentence by replacing it with an ellipsis (…).

Here is the same example again, with the student using ellipsis:

The multitudes of deaths surrounding Anna began to take its toll on her, burdening her with guilt as she felt ‘the press of their ghosts…[and] begun to step small and carry myself all hunched…as if to leave room for them.’ ( Year of Wonders, Geraldine Brooks)

In this case, we have deleted: ‘sometimes, if I walked the main street of the village in the evening’ and ‘I realised then that I had’ by using an ellipsis – a part of the quotation that is not missed because it does not represent the essence of the student’s argument. You would have noticed that a square bracket ([  ]) was used. This will be discussed in detail under  Blending Quotes.

5. How That Quote Will Fit into Your Essay

You must never take the original author’s words and use them in your essay  without  inserting them in quotation marks. Failure to do so leads to ‘plagiarism’ or cheating. Plagiarism occurs when you take someone else’s work and pass it off as your own. You must make sure that you use quotation marks whenever you use evidence from your text.

The following is plagiarism:

Even a single flicker of the eyes could be mistaken for the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.  (1984, George Orwell)

Using quotation marks however, avoids plagiarism:

Even ‘a single flicker of the eyes’ could be mistaken for ‘the essential crime that contained all other crimes in itself – thought crime.’  (1984, George Orwell)

There are serious consequences for plagiarism. VCAA will penalise students for plagiarism. VCAA uses statistical analysis to compare a student’s work with their General Achievement Test (GAT), and if the cross-referencing indicates that the student is achieving unexpectedly high results with their schoolwork, the student’s school will be notified and consequential actions will be taken.

Plagiarism should not be confused with:

  • ‍ Paraphrasing : to reword or rephrase the author’s words
  • ‍ Summarising: to give a brief statement about the author’s main points
  • ‍ Quoting : to directly copy the author’s words with an indication (via quotation marks) that it is not your original work

Blending Quotations

You should always aim to interweave quotations into your sentences in order to achieve good flow and enhanced readability of your essay. Below is a good example of blending in quotations:

John Proctor deals with his own inner conflict as he is burdened with guilt and shame of his past adulterous actions. Yet during the climatic ending of the play, Proctor honours his principles as he rejects signing a false confession. This situation where Proctor is confronted to ‘sign [himself] to lies’ is a stark epiphany, for he finally acknowledges that he does have ‘some shred of goodness.’ ( The Crucible, Arthur Miller)

There are three main methods in how you can blend quotations into an essay:

1. Adding Words

Broken sentences  are a common mistake made when students aim to integrate quotations into their sentences. Below are examples of broken sentences due to poor integration of a quotation:

‘Solitary as an oyster’. Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere. ( A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Never write a sentence consisting of  only  a quotation. This does not add insight into your argument, nor does it achieve good flow or readability.

Scrooge, ‘solitary as an oyster’, is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

This example is better, however the sentence is still difficult to read. In order to blend quotations into your sentences, try adding in words that will help merge the quotation and your own words together:

Described as being as ‘solitary as an oyster’, Scrooge is illustrated as a person who is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Scrooge is depicted as a person who is ‘solitary as an oyster’, illustrating that he is isolated in his own sphere.  (A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens)

Tip: If you remove the quotation marks, the sentence should still make sense.

2. Square Brackets ([   ])

These are used when you need to modify the original writer’s words so that the quotation will blend into your essay. This is usually done to:

Change Tense

Authors sometimes write in past  (looked) , present  (look)  or future tense  (will look) . Depending on how you approach your essay, you may choose to write with one of the three tenses. Since your tense may not always match the author’s, you will need to alter particular words.

Original sentence: ‘…puts his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’ ( Cosi, Louis Nowra)

Upon seeing Lewis upset, Roy attempts to cheer him up by ‘put[ting] his arm around Lewis’ shoulder’. ( Cosi, Louis Nowra)

Change Narrative Perspective

The author may write in a first  (I, we) , second  (you)  or third person  (he, she, they)  narrative. Since you will usually write from an outsider’s point of view, you will refer to characters in third person. Thus, it is necessary to replace first and second person pronouns with third person pronouns. Alternatively, you can replace first and second person pronouns with the character’s name.

The original sentence: ‘Only now can I recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that I, through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept…’  (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)

When Keller was finally ready to share his brutal past with Paul, the latter disregarded the maestro, as he was too immersed in his own adolescent interests. However, upon reflection, Paul realises that ‘only now can [he] recognise the scene for what it was: a confessional, a privilege that [he], through selfishness and sensual addiction, failed to accept’.  (Maestro, Peter Goldsworthy)

Insert Missing Words

Sometimes, it may be necessary to insert your own words in square brackets so that the quotation will be coherent when incorporated into your sentences.

The original sentence: ‘His heels glow.’ ( Ransom, David Malouf)

Achilles, like Priam, feels a sense of refreshment as highlighted by ‘his heels [which] glow.’ ( Ransom, David Malouf)

It is important to maintain proper grammar while weaving in quotations. The question is: does the punctuation go inside or outside the final quotation mark?

The rule is: If the quoted words end with a full stop (or comma), then the full stop goes inside the quotation marks. If the quoted words do not end with a full stop, then the full stop goes outside the quotation marks.

Original sentence: 'Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

Punctuation inside:

During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres that went from the head waters of Darkey Creek all the way down to the river.’ ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

Punctuation outside:

During the past decade, Thornhill became the wealthiest man in the area, owning ‘Sagitty’s old place plus another hundred acres’. ( The Secret River, Kate Grenville)

6. There Are Also Other Ways of Using Quotation Marks

Title of text.

When including the title of the text in an essay, use single quotation marks.

Directed by Elia Kazan, ‘On The Waterfront’ unveils the widespread corruption among longshoremen working at New Jersey docks. ( On The Waterfront, Elia Kazan)

Alternatively, you can underline the title of the text instead of using single quotation marks. Many teachers and examiners prefer this option.

Quotation Within a Quotation

When you quote the author who is quoting someone else, then you will need to switch between single and double quotation marks. You firstly need to enclose the author’s words in single quotation marks, and then enclose the words they quote in double quotation marks. If you're following the American standard, you'll need to do this the opposite way - that is, using double quotation marks for the author's words and and then single quotation marks for the quote. We recommend sticking to the preferred Australian style though, which is single and then double.

Original sentence: ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)

Sunil’s unusual name leads him to believe that it is ‘…something bitter and stringy, too difficult to swallow. “It’s just that – I – um, I hate it…It’s too – it’s too Indian!”’ ( Sticks and Stones and Such-like, Sunil Badami in Growing Up Asian in Australia)

As you can see, the student has quoted the author’s words in single quotation marks. The dialogue used by the author is surrounded by double quotation marks. This demonstrates that the dialogue used in the text still belongs to the author.

Using Quotations to Express Irony

When you wish to express irony, you use quotation marks to illustrate that the implied meaning of the actual word or phrase is different to the normal meaning.

As a young girl, Elaine is a victim of Mrs Smeath and her so called ‘friends’. Her father’s interest in insects and her mother’s lack of housework presents Elaine as an easy bullying target for other girls her age who are fit to fulfill Toronto’s social norms. ( Cat’s Eye,  Margaret Atwood)

In this case, ‘friends’ is written in inverted commas to indicate that Elaine’s peers are not truly her friends but are in fact, bullies.

7. Questions You Must Ask Yourself When Weaving Quotes into Sentences

1.  Does the quote blend into my sentence?

2.  Does my sentence still make sense?

3.  Is it too convoluted for my readers to understand?

4.  Did I use the correct grammar?

8. How To Find Good Quotes

Tip One: Do not go onto Google and type in 'Good quotes for X text', because this is not going to work. These type of quotes are generally the most famous and the most popular quotes because, yes they are good quotes, but does that necessarily mean that it's going to be a good quote in your essay? Probably not. But why? Well, it's because these quotes are the most likely to be overused by students - absolutely every single person who has studied this text before you, and probably every single person who will study this text after you. You want to be unique and original. So, how are you going to find those 'good quotes'? Recognise which quotes are constantly being used and blacklist them. Quotes are constantly used in study guides are generally the ones that will be overused by students. Once you eliminate these quotes, you can then go on to find potentially more subtle quotes that are just as good as the more popular or famous ones. Tip Two: Re-read the book. There is nothing wrong with you going ahead and finding your own quotes. You don't need to find quotes that already exist online or in study guides. Go and find whatever gels with you and whatever you feel like has a lot of meaning to it. I had a friend back in high school who was studying a book by Charles Dickens. I haven't read the book myself, but there was a character who couldn't pronounce the letter S, or he had a lisp of some sort. What my friend did was he found this one word where, throughout the entire book, the guy with the lisp only ever said the S one time and that was a massive thing. So, he used that. This is something that is really unique and original. So, go ahead and try to find your own quotes. Tip Three: Realise that good quotes do not necessarily have to come from the main character. Yes, the main character does often have good quotes associated with whatever they're saying, but just know that you do have minor characters who can say something really relevant and have a really good point too. Their quote is going to be just as strong in your essay as a main character's quote, which will probably be overused and overdone by so many other students. Tip Four: Develop a new interpretation of a famous or popular quote. Most of the time, the really popular quotes are analysed in very much the same way. But if you can offer a new insight into why it's being said or offer a different interpretation, then this is automatically going to create a really good quote that's going to offer a refreshing point of view. For example, if we look at The Great Gatsby , one of the most famous quotes that is constantly being used is, 'He found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass.' What most people will do is they will analyse the part about the 'grotesque thing a rose', because that's the most significant part of the quote that stands out. But what you could do instead, is focus on a section of that quote, for example the 'raw'. Why is the word raw being used? How does the word raw contribute extra meaning to this particular quote? This way you're honing in on a particular section of the quote and really trying to offer something new. This automatically allows you to investigate the quote in a new light. Tip Five: Just remember that the best quotes do not have to be one sentence long. Some of the best quotes tend to be really short phrases or even just one particular word. Teachers actually love it when you can get rid of the excess words that are unnecessary in the sentence, and just hone in on a particular phrase or a particular word to offer an analysis. And also, that way, when you spend so much time analysing and offering insight into such a short phrase or one sentence, it shows how knowledgeable you are about the text and that you don't need to rely on lots and lots of evidence in order to prove your point. Those are my five quick tips on how to find good quotes from your texts!

Need more help with quotes? Learn about 5 Ways You're Using Quotes Wrong .

Resources for texts mentioned/referenced in this blog post:

Comparing: Stasiland and 1984 Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: Cosi (ebook)

Cosi By Louis Nowra Study Guide

Cosi Study Guide

Growing Up Asian in Australia Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: On the Waterfront (ebook)

A Killer Text Guide: Ransom (ebook)

Ransom Study Guide

The Crucible by Arthur Miller Study Guide

A Killer Text Guide: The Crucible (ebook)

‍ The Crucible and Year of Wonders Prompts

Comparing: The Crucible and Year of Wonders Study Guide

The Great Gatsby Study Guide

‍ A Killer Text Guide: The Secret River (ebook)

The Secret River by Kate Grenville Study Guide

Get our FREE VCE English Text Response mini-guide

Now quite sure how to nail your text response essays? Then download our free mini-guide, where we break down the art of writing the perfect text-response essay into three comprehensive steps. Click below to get your own copy today!

how to properly add quotes in essays

Struggling to answer the essay topic?

Has your teacher ever told you:

"You're not answering the prompt"

"You're going off topic"

Then you're not alone! If you struggle to understand and stay on topic, learn how to answer the prompt every time with our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide.

how to properly add quotes in essays

The following blog post (updated 02/10/2020), is a mix of the video transcription, along with some new pieces of advice and tips. Happy learning!

[Video Transcription]

Hey guys. Welcome back to Lisa's Study Guides. Right now, it's in the middle of December, and I know that most of you should have finished school by now, and you're enjoying your school holidays. Because it is summer holidays, and most people aren't really studying right now, this is for the truly keen beans, the people who are reading the text before the school starts, which, by the way, you should be doing. I'll pop that video in a card up above and so if you are studying Burial Rites, then this video is for you. If you're not, as always, it doesn't really matter because the type of advice that I will be giving would definitely be relevant to any text, because it's more about your thinking and how you actually go around approaching essay topics. ‍

‍ Burial Rites is about this girl called Agnes, and she is the last person in Iceland to be sentenced to the life sentence. This book covers the last few months of her life, living with these people who she's sharing her story with. She has been sentenced because she has murdered Natan. And although we first initially hear that she has murdered this guy, when we start to hear her story develop, that's when we start to see that there are shades of gray. That she did have reason behind what she did, and you can start to feel quite sympathetic towards her. At the same time, though, and this is what today's essay question will be about. There's a lot to do with the patriarchy. Agnes being not just a woman, but an intelligent woman, was something that was looked down upon, and people were scared of that. That's just to give you a little bit of context so that we can start this essay topic. ‍

Essay Topic

‍ Today's chosen essay topic is:

Women have no power in Burial Rites, the patriarchy dominates their lives. To what extent do you agree?

‍ Step 1: Analyse

‍ The first step, as always, is we look at keywords . What are the keywords here? To me, they are women, no power, patriarchy and dominates. These words really stand out to me, and these are the words that I feel are necessary for me to focus on in order to answer this prompt properly. The second step that I do is I define keywords . So what I do here is I try to understand what the keywords mean and also their implications.

  • Women , is our first keyword. it's easy just to say, "Oh, women includes this character and this character." But we can start to think about more so the implications as well. So don't just think about the major characters like Agnes and Margret, but also think about the minor characters like Sigga and Rosa.
  • No power. So to me, no power means to lack freedom. It's not necessarily no power like you know I'm not strong and this is why we need to actually define the words because many words have multiple connotations or they have multiple meanings. So you need to figure out, "Okay, how am I going to find this word so that I've got the right focus for the rest of my essay?" This is silly, but what if you, halfway through your essay, went, "Holy crap, power could also mean electricity, and I didn't talk about electricity." So electricity is not part of Burial Rites , but it's just something to get you thinking. You know you don't just want to dive straight into the essay, assuming you know what the keyword means and what it entails. Actually spend time to define it, so that it's a lot clearer for you, too. So I've also added that no power means a lack of power compared to men. So because it is a patriarchy, the fact that they have no power is very much sort of linked to the fact that it's male-induced.
  • The third keyword is a patriarchy , so a male-dominated society, which means that an analysis of male characters is also required to fully understand male and female interactions. If you have an essay where you only talk about the women, then you're maybe only answering it 50%. To really add extra value to what you're saying and to really solidify your points, talk about the men because everyone influences each other one way or another.
  • The last thing is I would also add, ' to what extent' ? When a prompt says, "to what extent?" to me, it means that some sort of challenge is required here. It's probably not enough if I just completely agree with it because it's only suggesting that the extent does end somewhere and that you need to go beyond it.

Step 2: Brainstorm

While in this video I don't cover the brainstorm process, you can learn more by reading up on my THINK and EXECUTE strategy , which has helped thousands of students achieve better marks! ‍

Step 3: Create a Plan

‍ My third step is I plan out key arguments. So this is how I'm going to break down this essay prompt. I am going to do two body paragraphs where I agree and one body paragraph where I disagree. So this should mean that I'm only agreeing to a certain extent. Here's a video about this type of essay structure and response:

‍ Body paragraph 1:

So my first body paragraph is yes, under male authority, the women are robbed of freedom and power. My example for that would be Agnes, who is the protagonist. She is a woman who's being sentenced to death for murdering Natan, more about him later, and, as a result, society condemns her and she's robbed of her identity and freedom. "Everything I said was altered until the story wasn't my own." The metaphor of a story represents her being stripped of her experiences and identity, and instead replaced with how others think of her, whore, madwoman and murderess. ‍

Body paragraph 2:

My second body paragraph would be another agreement, but this time I'm going to focus on the men. In this second body paragraph, my argument is men hold exploitative power over women. One, Natan, the person who was murdered, toys with all his whores, demonstrating male dominance in 1820s Iceland. All his workmaids are stranded, shipwrecked with nowhere else to go, highlighting women's hopelessness in changing their situation. Additionally, there's Blondal. So Blondal is a government authority and he's torn when commanding Lauga, Lauga, not too sure how to say that. You guys let me know. "I'm sure you would not question me," which is also another example of women's subordinate status.

Body paragraph 3:

The third one is one where I disagree. Here will be that there are rare instances of female empowerment in the novel. The first one will be Rosa, the poet. So Rosa has an affair with Natan, but Kent praises Rosa and she's described to be a wonderful woman and beautiful. Rosa transcends patriarchal structures, as she is assertive, headstrong, going against social codes in an act of female empowerment. The second one will be Agnes. Her storytelling and ability to express what she is inside allows her to gain a voice in the patriarchal world that has silenced her. Through her storytelling, she asserts her self-worth and dignity and despite the fact that she has been locked down, she is being treated like crap by the men, her ability to hold herself strong and to be able to face her death with dignity means that with some sense, at least from within, that sense of empowerment has not been completely diminished.

If you found this blog and video helpful, and would like to see Burial Rites essay writing in action, then I recommend you check out How To Write A Killer Text Response below!

We've curated essay prompts based off our All the Light We Cannot See Study Guide which explores themes, characters, and quotes.

LSG-curated All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topics

  • Contrary to what the title might suggest, All the Light We Cannot See explores light more so than darkness. Is this true?
  • How does Doerr’s narrative structure highlight the similarities and differences between Marie Laure and Werner in All the Light We Cannot See?
  • All the Light We Cannot See demonstrates that war brings out the best and worst in humanity. Discuss.
  • Explore the forms of courage demonstrated in All the Light We Cannot See.
  • What is the role of family in All the Light We Cannot See?
  • Werner’s character is defined by his cowardly and harmful conformity to the Nazi regime. To what extent do you agree?
  • All the Light We Cannot See is a warning against unethical and selfish scientific pursuits. Discuss.
  • Who deserves our sympathy in All the Light We Cannot See and why?
  • Throughout All the Light We Cannot See, various forms of guilt are shown to be emotionally crushing. Is this true?
  • “Don’t you want to be alive before you die?” Explore the value and meaning of human life as evinced in All the Light We Cannot See.
  • No character from All the Light We Cannot See is totally monstrous, just as no character is totally pure. Do you agree?
  • In All the Light We Cannot See , Doerr suggests that nobody truly has agency over themselves. Discuss.
  • More so than any other object, it is the radio which drives the plot of All the Light We Cannot See . Is this an accurate statement?
  • All the Light We Cannot See posits that strength must come from within. Discuss.
  • “Open your eyes and see what you can see with them before they close forever.” To what extent do characters exhibit this sentiment in All the Light We Cannot See ?

If you'd like to see a fully planned, written and annotated essay, see our All the Light We Cannot See Essay Topic Breakdown .

All the Light We Cannot See is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

  • Plot Summaries
  • Textual Features Analysis
  • Themes (Convergent and Divergent Strategy)
  • LSG’s Bubble Tea (BBT) Strategy for Unique Strategies
  • Sample Essay Questions

Essay Topic Breakdown

For a detailed guide on Comparative, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.

1. Plot Summaries

In Stasiland , Anna Funder, the author and first-person narrator , meets and listens to the ordinary people of East Germany : those who resisted the GDR dictatorship, those who were crushed by it, and those who diligently and remorselessly worked for it as Stasi informants or officers. As Anna speaks with those whose lives have been traumatised by the Stasi, she reflects on how the reunified Germany has dealt with (or ignored) its citizens' trauma and whether memory can be reconciled . Anna is an Australian working for a television station in Berlin in 1996. As an outsider Anna is uniquely positioned to ask East Germans about their experiences , as they do not have to battle with prior knowledge and experience to share their stories. She is interested in the former German Democratic Republic and what has happened to the East German people since the country reunified with West Germany. She became curious after learning that there are people putting together documents that were shredded by the Stasi.

Anna travels to Leipzig and visits the former headquarters of East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, which is now a museum. The Stasi were the East German secret police and internal surveillance and defense force . Headed by Erich Mielke, they conducted surveillance on the East German population, aided by a vast number of civilian informants. While in Leipzig, Anna meets with a woman called Miriam Weber, who attempted to sneak out of East Germany when she was just a teenager. Miriam, sleep deprived and tortured, lied about receiving help from an organisation to cross the Wall and was sentenced to jail time. Her husband Charlie was also imprisoned by the Stasi and died while in custody. Miriam was told he committed suicide by hanging, but she suspects he was killed after the Stasi refused to show her his body and went to great lengths to hide Charlie during the funeral.

Returning to the apartment she rents in Berlin, Anna puts an advertisement in the paper calling for former Stasi agents and informers to share their stories with her. She meets with several ex-Stasi men, including Herr Winz, Herr Christian, Herr Bohnsack and Hagen Koch. She also visits and speaks to Karl-Eduard von Schitzler, a hateful man who hosted a propaganda-filled television program that criticised West Germany and gave false information about Communist success. In their discussions the former Stasi agents are concerned with justifying their involvement with the Stasi, although many also remain committed to communist ideals and await with anticipation the next revolution and restoration of the communist government.

Anna rents her apartment from an unpredictable and evasive young woman called Julia. Over time, Julia comes to trust Anna and shares her story of the Stasi cruelly interfering with her life. Anna also speaks with her rock musician friend Klaus Renft – East Germany’s Mick Jagger, and a woman named Frau Paul who was separated overnight from her sick infant son when the Berlin Wall went up and was later imprisoned for inflated charges of assisting people to escape East Germany.

After Anna’s mother is diagnosed with cancer, she goes home to Australia for 3 years, returning to Berlin to meet with some of the people she spoke with during her earlier stay, including Hagen Koch and Miriam. She also finally visits the ‘puzzlers’ in Nuremberg, whose story first sparked her interest in investigating the lives of East Germans affected by the Stasi. Anna is disappointed in the puzzlers, realising that their work is futile and there is no real effort put towards uncovering the lost information.

Almost all East Germans were left reeling at the sudden collapse of their government. For many, the collapse of the GDR took with it ideological security and made them nostalgic for the past. For others, being confronted with the level of the Stasi’s intrusion into their lives was deeply traumatic, as people realised they had been grievously betrayed by their fellow citizens, neighbours and even family members. The nostalgia for the regime that Funder witnesses shows how people cling to certainty and position and sometimes struggle with new freedoms. However, having spoken with so many individuals whose lives were ruined by the Stasi, Anna feels that the old regime was oppressive and authoritarian, and that the East Germans are better off with the challenges of their freedom, rather than stuck with the certainties of their oppression.

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go is set in a dystopian alternative reality in England in the 1990s. The narrator, Kathy H, is a thirty-one-year-old 'carer' – a clone who looks after other clones who are donating their organs. Kathy is about to retire after a long career as a carer to become a donor herself, meaning she will soon 'complete' ( a euphemism for dying ). However, this premise is not immediately apparent to the reader . At the start of the novel, Kathy informs us she will be leaving her role as carer in a few months and has started to write down memories of her life, sorting through her time as a 'student' at Hailsham. However, at the start of the novel the reader is not aware that Kathy is a clone, although she appears to be addressing an insider from her world.

In the first third of the novel Kathy reflects on her childhood and teenage years at Hailsham . Hailsham is an institution where clones are looked after by 'guardians' and referred to as 'students', and which at first appears to be a private boarding school with a heavy focus on the arts and creativity. Their best works of painting, pottery, drawing or poetry were selected and taken away by a woman known as 'Madame', for what the students presume, and what is later confirmed to be, a gallery. The students know they are different from their guardians and the people who live outside Hailsham, referred to as 'normals', but the truth of what the clones are and their certain fate is not fully articulated until the characters are adults.

Kathy is close friends with a confident and controlling girl called Ruth and a boy named Tommy, whose work is never selected for the Gallery – an acknowledgement that defines status at the school. Tommy, teased and excluded, struggles to control his temper and often explodes into furies of rage. The students collect items and other students’ artwork for their own memory boxes , bought or traded at the school’s Exchanges and Sales. Kathy buys a cassette tape by a woman named Judy Bridgewater that contains a song called ‘Never Let Me Go’. This song makes Kathy emotional, and one day she is caught dancing to it by Madame, who Kathy is surprised to see is in tears watching her. Kathy presumes Madame is upset because she knows Kathy can never have children.

Ruth and Tommy start dating and Part Two sees the three friends reach early adulthood and move to a place known as the Cottages, to live with other clones from around the country and experience some freedom before beginning their donations or training to become a carer. When Rodney, another Cottage resident, believes he saw Ruth’s 'possible' – an original that one of the clones was modelled off – the three friends along with Rodney and his girlfriend Chrissie, take a trip to Norfolk to find her. Norfolk exists in the imagination of the Hailsham students as a 'lost corner', where things they have lost will be found. While the 'possible' is not Ruth’s original, Kathy and Tommy find a copy of the Judy Bridgewater tape that Kathy had lost. Ruth was secretly desperate to find her possible and hoped to find her working in an office. Ruth dreams of working in an office and her wish that her possible will be an office worker is one of the only suggestions we have that the clones secretly long for more from their lives and view their possibles as versions of them and what they are capable of. Back at the Cottages, Ruth continues to be manipulative and self-promoting, leading to a falling out with Kathy where she decides to leave early to begin training as a carer and falls out of contact with Ruth and Tommy.

Part Three encompasses Kathy’s time as a carer. Years after the time at the Cottages, Kathy organises to be Ruth’s carer and Ruth reconnects Kathy and Tommy, admitting she knew they loved each other and deliberately kept them apart. She hopes they will attempt to get a deferral from Madame. After Ruth 'completes', Kathy and Tommy finally become a couple. They visit Madame to ask for a deferral, who informs them there is no such thing. They learn from Madame that Hailsham was an attempt to reform the treatment of clones in their youth by proving they had souls . In most centers, clones are reared in deplorable, abusive conditions. They also learn that Hailsham had to be shut down. The normals became too uncomfortable with the reality of the clones’ souls but were not prepared to lose their organ supply. Never Let Me Go is a story about injustice and social stratification, where one group is made to suffer for the benefit of another. The 'normals' can deny their mortality while forcing the clones to confront their death sooner than their natural life span , and by shutting down schools like Hailsham, they do not need to think about the ethics of their choices.

Tommy dies and Kathy resigns herself to her fate as a donor. At the end of the novel, Kathy misses Tommy and Ruth, but consoles herself that she will always have her memories with her . Ishiguro explores the extent to which people accept their predetermined fate and how they can find meaning and love within those often-cruel limitations. 

2. Textual Features Analysis

A textual feature is a component of the text used by authors to give meaning to their work. It is necessary to engage with the actual construction of the texts and to discuss textual features using metalanguage (terms that describe and analyse language). To write a thorough and thoughtful essay, you need to understand the textual features and how they are connected to overall thematic ideas. Structural features and metalanguage can be used as evidence of authorial intent and deepen our understanding of how writers use literary techniques to develop ideas and create meaning. Let’s take a look at Genre . 

Stasiland is an example of creative nonfiction, meaning it tells a story of factual events and real people using literary and poetic techniques. The word ‘creative’ doesn’t give authors permission to exaggerate or dramatise the truth, instead this genre is one of factually accurate prose about real people and events that is told in a vivid and compelling way.

The reason Stasiland is classified as creative nonfiction and not under the genre of memoir is because although the events follow Anna Funder’s experiences in Berlin, they are not predominantly about her. A memoir is the writer’s own personal journey and life, whereas creative nonfiction generally has more public relevance and commentary. In Stasiland , Funder’s experiences in Berlin structure the chronology of the narrative but take a thematic backseat to the stories of the East Germans she meets and the historical events she relays . 

Never Let Me Go has elements of multiple genres: dystopian fiction, speculative historical fiction, science fiction and bildungsroman.

‘Dystopia’ means the opposite of ‘utopia’, but you’ll notice that most dystopian novels are set in societies where the ruling classes believe they are in a utopia. This is true of Never Let Me Go , as the clones pay with their lives and freedom for the utopian elimination of disease and extended life spans of the 'normals '. However, while clearly set in a horrific dystopian world, Never Let Me Go notably differs from other novels in the dystopian genre, as the oppressed clones never once consider rebelling against the status quo – the most Kathy and Tommy hope for is an extension before beginning their donations and 'completing'. Ishiguro has stated in multiple interviews that he was most interested in exploring why oppressed persons never consider rebelling against their fate – what leads them to passive acceptance of their position in society?  

In his exploration of this question, Ishiguro explores the development and growing up of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, trying to understand why they all submit without protest to their fate . In this sense the novel is a bildungsroman. Bildungsroman is a genre concerned with the psychological and moral development of a protagonist from childhood to adulthood, focusing on a person’s formation or coming of age. Never Let Me Go follows Kathy, Ruth and Tommy throughout their childhood and adolescence at Hailsham, their experience of limited freedom at the Cottages as young adults, and finally the reality of their short adult life as organ donors.

Of course, Never Let Me Go also fits into the category of speculative historical fiction and science fiction. The novel is set in an alternate historical reality where genetic science rapidly advanced after World War Two (significantly outstripping the real-world) and clones have been used to extend life in the UK for decades. However, Ishiguro does not give much narrative weight to describing the political reality of his fictional world , and neither does he offer much scientific explanation for the existence of clones. As we’ve already discussed, Ishiguro was vastly more interested in using these scientific and political circumstances to create conditions within which to explore characters and, by extension, human nature, so Never Let Me Go fits uneasily in these genres. 

3. Themes (Convergent and Divergent Strategy)

Now that we’ve looked closely at both Stasiland and Never Let Me Go , it’s time to discuss in depth the key themes and ideas. Themes are the big ideas about human experience that a text explores, and form part of the message the author is hoping to communicate. A sound knowledge of key themes is essential for developing a thoughtful essay. All essay topics will ask you to explore thematic ideas in one way or another. If you have a strong understanding of both texts’ themes and how they are communicated, you will be able to generate arguments for any essay topic with confidence.

I’ll be adhering to the CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy. This guide doesn’t go into too much detail about using LSG’s CONVERGENT and DIVERGENT strategy, so perhaps familiarise yourself with it by reading How to Write a Killer Comparative . 

Convergent Idea: The Importance of the Act of Remembering

Both Stasiland and Never Let Me Go illustrate the importance of remembering through the very construction of the text: in the narrative voice and narrative structure. Both narrators are looking into the past to try to make sense of history. For Kathy, this is a personal history whereas for Funder it is an act of witnessing a nation’s past and elevating the voices of the victims.

Stasiland is a compilation of the stories of all kinds of people involved and impacted by the GDR , including those who rebelled against the system, those who supported it and those crushed by it. Thus, ‘both sides’ of history are represented. Funder said in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald after the publication of Stasiland that, 'When [Germans] read my book, people in the East are not proud of themselves. They'd rather not be reminded that other people were braver than they were. So there is a huge force to pretend that the Stasi regime was not as bad as it was.' This desire to forget the past so as to ignore confronting the terrible and terrifying truths contained within it is what Funder is working against by writing Stasiland . At one point in the text, she explicitly states what she’s doing: 

'I’m making portraits of people, East Germans, of whom there will be none left in a generation. And I’m painting a picture of a city on the old fault-line of east and west. This is working against forgetting, and against time' ( Stasiland , 147).

Julia explains the importance of these portraits, telling Anna 'For anyone to understand a regime like the GDR, the stories of ordinary people must be told. …You have to look at how normal people manage with such things in their pasts' (144). These 'things in their pasts' are not just trauma and hardship, but the knowledge that people just like them – their spouses, children, friends and neighbours – were capable of such cowardice, betrayal, self-interest and cruelty. It is this knowledge that Funder wants to preserve – that ordinary people are capable of both extraordinary courage and extraordinary cowardice .

Anna comes across a sobbing man 'I don’t want to be German anymore!...We are terrible…They are terrible. The Germans are terrible' ( Stasiland , 253-4). Anna reflects that East Germans were 'long used to thinking the bad Germans were on the other side of the Wall' and now he is forced to ask 'were his people, now broke or drunk, shamed or fled or imprisoned or dead, any good at all?' ( Stasiland , 254).

Although Kathy’s narration is entirely from her perspective , her act of remembering is also in many ways a political statement that forces us to consider the inhumanity people are capable of .

Kathy recollects and structures her memories of her childhood and relationships to understand them as a unified whole, essentially establishing her identity . More importantly, it is evident in phrases such as 'I don’t know how it was where you were, but at Hailsham…' ( NLMG , 13) and 'I’m sure you’ve heard it said plenty more' ( NLMG , 4) that Kathy is positing a reader for her writing. Assuming a reader places her autobiography in a social framework with the purpose of communicating her life , which turns it into a historical account that exists beyond the limit of her death. Kathy’s attempt to leave a legacy by writing down her experiences and structuring her identity is an act of protest against a society that believes she is sub-human , without feelings or motivations, and that her life meant nothing.

Divergent Idea: The Role and Value of Nostalgia

The way memory can be distorted is particularly clear in relation to the idea of nostalgia for a brutal past. This idea is explored differently in Stasiland and Never Let Me Go , with Funder condemning nostalgia as blinding people to the horrors of the past, and Ishiguro illustrating how drawing comfort from the past can help people through difficult times .

In Stasiland , many disaffected former East Germans tell Anna that things were 'so much better before' ( Stasiland , 251) the country’s reunification. Anna reflects: 

'I don’t doubt this genuine nostalgia, but I think it has coloured a cheap and nasty world golden; a world where they was nothing to buy, nowhere to go and anyone who wanted to do anything with their lives other than serve the Party risked persecution, or worse' ( Stasiland , 251-2).

Similarly, while working at the radio station on Ostalgie parties ( Ostalgie is nostalgia for life in Communist East Germany), Miriam observes 'a crazy nostalgia for the GDR – as if it had been a harmless welfare state that looked after people’s needs. Most of the people at these parties are too young to remember the GDR anyway. They are just looking for something to yearn for' ( Stasiland , 275). Funder is critical of nostalgia because it minimises past injustice .

Conversely, in Never Let Me Go , nostalgia and false memories are shown to be consolatory and even useful. Before Kathy begins to recount her childhood, she mentions a donor who was once under her care who 'knew he was close to completing' ( NLMG , 5). He asks Kathy to share memories of her childhood and 'What he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood. …so the line would blur between what were my memories and his' ( NLMG , 5). Although this man is falsifying his memories, he is not editing and revising history like some people in east Berlin , he is replacing them entirely to suppress the trauma of his own past. He is not yearning for a return to an idealised past the way some people in Stasiland do. For Kathy, nostalgia for her childhood helps her reconnect with her friends, creating a sense of belonging and identity. Her attachment to Hailsham strengthens her worldview, her relational bonds and gives meaning to her life. Nostalgic memory in Never Let Me Go brings comfort, although you could argue that it also fosters passivity and acceptance in the face of oppression .

4. LSG’s Bubble Tea (BBT) Strategy for Unique Strategies

Why is an interpretation important.

Your interpretation is what English is all about; it’s about getting you to think critically about the essay topic at hand, to formulate a contention (agree, disagree, or sit on the fence) and argue each of your points with the best pieces of evidence you can find - and it’s something you might already be starting to do naturally.

In this section, we aim to help you develop your own interpretation of the text, rather than relying on your teacher, tutor or even a study guide (including this one) author’s interpretation. By developing your own interpretation, you become a better English student by:

  • Writing with meaning. For a text to be interpreted, you need a text and an interpreter (i.e. you!). Whenever we read a new text, our interpretation of a text is shaped by our pre-existing beliefs, knowledge and expectations. This should be reassuring because it means that you can leverage your own life experiences in developing a unique interpretation of the text! We’ll show you how this works in the next point.
  • Remembering evidence (quotes or literary devices) more easily. If you know you admire a character for example (which is in itself an interpretation 😉), you can probably remember why you admire them. Perhaps the character’s selflessness reminds you of your Dad (see how you’re using real life experiences mentioned in Point 1 to develop an interpretation of the text?). You will then more easily recall something the character said or did in the text (i.e. evidence) that made you admire them.
  • Having an analysis ready to use alongside the evidence. As a result of Point 2 , you’ll be able to write a few sentences based on your own interpretation. Rather than memorising entire essays ( we’ve talked about this before ) and regurgitating information from teachers, tutors, study guides and other resources - which can be labour intensive and actually detract from the originality of your essay - you’re approaching the essay with your own thoughts and opinions (which you can reuse over and over again across different essay topics).

Let’s look on the flip side. What happens when you don’t have your own interpretation?

When you don’t take the time to actively think for yourself - i.e. to think through your own interpretations (we’ve talked about the importance of THINK in the THINK and EXECUTE strategy here ) - when it finally comes to writing an essay, you may find it difficult:

a) to get started - formulating a contention in response to the essay topic is challenging because you have no strong opinion about the text ,

b) complete the essay - writing up arguments and using evidence in paragraphs becomes challenging because you have no strong opinion about the text ,

c) to score higher marks - ultimately, you end up regurgitating other people’s ideas (your teacher’s, tutor’s or from study guides) because you have (you guessed it) no strong opinion on the text .

Having your own interpretation means that you’ll eliminate issues a, b and c from above. Overall, you’ll have opinions (and therefore contentions) ready for any prompt when you go into your SACs or exams, which means it’ll be easier not only to write a full essay, but an original and insightful one as well.

To overcome the issues above, you need to be confident with your own interpretation of the text. This doesn’t come naturally to a lot of students, and it makes sense why. After all, so many subjects reward specific answers (2 + 2 = 4), whereas English is tricky because there’s so much more flexibility in what constitutes a ‘correct answer’. It’s scary treading the sea of different possible interpretations because you’ll ask yourself questions like:

  • How do I know if my interpretation is correct?
  • How do I know if my evidence actually backs up what I’m arguing?
  • What if I disagree with my teacher, and they mark me down for a differing opinion?
  • Or worse - I’m not smart enough to come up with my own interpretation!

Let me say that you are absolutely smart enough to develop your own interpretation, and I’ll show you how to do so in A Killer Comparative Guide: Stasiland & Never Let Me Go with LSG’s unique strategy - the BUBBLE TEA (BBT) strategy . By following our step-by-step framework, you can be confident that your interpretation is valid, that it backs up your argument, and that most importantly, you won’t lose marks for it!

 5. Sample Essay Questions

1. ‘To conform is to be safe and to survive.’ Compare how this idea is examined in both texts.

2. 'The earlier years…blur into each other as a kind of golden time' ( Never Let Me Go ) 'I don’t doubt this genuine nostalgia, but I think it has coloured a cheap and nasty world golden.' ( Stasiland ) Compare what the two texts say about the dangers of willful ignorance.

3. 'For Miriam, the past stopped when Charlie died.' ( Stasiland ) '…I’d see it was Tommy, and he’d wave, maybe even call…and though the tears rolled down my face, I wasn’t sobbing…I just waited a bit, then turned back to the car, to drive off to wherever it was I was supposed to be.' ( Never Let Me Go ) What role do love and relationships play in helping people withstand persecution?

4. ‘It is impossible to be free when you are unaware of your confines.’ Compare how the two texts explore freedom and confinement.

4. ‘The past is always harder to access than we think’. Compare the ways in which Stasiland and Never Let Me Go depict the difficulties in uncovering the past.

As with all our essay topic breakdowns, we'll follow LSG's THINK and EXECUTE strategy , as taught in our How To Write A Killer Text Response study guide. The LSG's THINK and EXECUTE strategy follows three steps in the THINK phase - A nalyse, B rainstorm, and C reate a Plan. Learn more about this technique in this video:

'To remember or forget? Which is healthier? To demolish it or fence it off? To dig it up, or leave it to lie in the ground?' ( Stasiland ). 'What he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood' ( Never Let Me Go ). How does memory inform identity in Stasiland and Never Let Me Go ?

Step 1: Analyse

This quote-based prompt is constructed a bit like a theme-based prompt as it directs us to talk about memory’s role in forming identity. However, the quotes act as an additional hint in terms of what else we’re supposed to discuss. We need to identify where these quotes come from in the texts and why they might be significant. The Stasiland quote (from p. 52) comes from the question of what the nation should do with Hitler’s bunker. In the end the only decision was indecision, the mayor buried the bunker and hoped that people in 50 years might know what to do with it. Thus, this quote points to the difficulty countries have in creating a national identity when there is horror and trauma in their history. The Never Let Me Go quote (from p. 5) points towards an ill donor’s recreation of his identity using someone else’s memories. Therefore, this quote points to how memories, even false ones, can reconstruct individual identity.

Because of the direction of the two quotes, I am going to explore memory’s role in forming individual and group identity.

Individual identity:

  • Kathy and Julia develop greater self-insight through sharing their memories in a structured, logical narrative.
  • Kathy and Herr Koch fear that the loss of the physical presence of Hailsham and the Berlin Wall will undermine the significance of their memories of these places, which form a substantial part of their pasts and identities. They therefore pay much more attention to preserving their memories of these places to affirm their identity.

Group identity:

  • East Germany’s rewriting and erasure of history meant that they no longer identified as the same Germans responsible for Hitler’s regime.
  • The episode in which a distressed man sobs 'I don’t want to be German anymore!' reveals how difficult memories can generate confusion and internal conflict over an individual’s perception of their national identity.
  • In NLMG , the country’s determined forgetting of the circumstances of the clones allows them to preserve their own interests and maintain an uncomplicated, guilt-free, but false, innocent national identity.

P1: Both texts show that the degree to which one’s memories have been investigated and illuminated impacts how well they understand their identity.

  • Compare Kathy and Julia and the way they reconstruct their understanding of their identity by reflecting on their memories with the new information offered by hindsight.
  • Conversely, the ill donor that Kathy cares for at the beginning of the novel sought to purposefully suppress his own identity by replacing his memories. This speaks to the same idea that memories can evolve and shape identity but shows how that can be misaligned with reality and truth (note: this discussion of the donor is your opportunity to use the quote from the prompt, which is a requirement of a quote-based topic).

P2: Sometimes people hold on tightly to particular memories as a way to affirm their identity as losing those memories is akin to erasing or denying the legitimacy of their experiences.

  • Compare Hagen Koch’s obsession with the Berlin Wall and Kathy’s preoccupation with Hailsham.

P3: Choosing what gets remembered or forgotten in a nation’s ‘official history’ drastically impacts how their national identity is perceived and how well that identity aligns with reality.

  • 'History was so quickly remade, and so successfully, that it can truly be said that the easterners did not feel then, and do not feel now, that they were the same Germans as those responsible for Hitler’s regime'
  • 'I don’t want to be German anymore!'
  • 'To remember or forget? Which is healthier?'
  • 'The world didn’t want to be reminded how the donation program really worked.'
  • 'They preferred to believe these organs appeared from nowhere.'

If you'd like to see the sample A+ essay we wrote up for this essay topic, then you might want to check out our A Killer Comparative Guide: Stasiland & Never Let Me Go study guide !

3. Sample Essay Topics

4. A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Things Fall Apart is usually studied in the Australian curriculum under Area of Study 1 - Text Response. For a detailed guide on Text Response, check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Things Fall Apart is set in a fictional group of Igbo villages called Umuofia, around the beginning of the twentieth century. The first half of the novel is dedicated to an almost anthropological depiction of Igbo village life and culture through following the life of the protagonist Okonkwo . Okonkwo is the greatest wrestler and warrior alive in the nine villages and beyond. He has dedicated his life to achieving status and proving his strength to avoid becoming like his father Unoka – a lazy, improvident, but gentle man. Weakness is Okonkwo’s greatest fear. After men in another village kill a woman from Umuofia, a boy named Ikemefuna is given to Umuofia as compensation and lives in Okonkwo’s compound until the Gods decide his fate. Ikemefuna quickly becomes part of Okonkwo’s family; he is like a brother to Okonkwo’s son Nwoye and is secretly loved by Okonkwo as well. Over the next three years, the novel follows Okonkwo’s family through harvest seasons, religious festivals, cultural rituals, and domestic disputes. Okonkwo is shown to be more aggressive than other Igbo men and is continually criticized and rebuked by the village for his violence and temper . When the Oracle of the Hills and Caves decides that Ikemefuna must be killed, Okonkwo is warned by a respected elder to have no hand in the boy’s death because Ikemefuna calls him ‘father’. However, afraid of being thought weak, when Ikemefuna runs to Okonkwo in hope of protection, Okonkwo delivers the fatal blow. Ikemefuna’s brutal death deeply distresses Nwoye who becomes afraid of his father. 

At the end of Part One, Okonkwo accidentally kills a clansman at a funeral after his faulty gun explodes and is exiled to his motherland, Mbanta. During his exile, British missionaries arrive in Mbanta and establish a church. Nwoye, disillusioned with his own culture and Gods after Ikemefuna’s death, is attracted to Christianity and is an early convert . This is a heartbreaking disappointment to Okonkwo. When Okonkwo and his family return from exile after seven years they find that the missionaries and colonial governors have established Umuofia as the center of their new colonial government . Clashes of culture and morality occur, and as the British make the Igbo more dependent on them through introducing trade and formal education, the Igbo way of life is continually undermined . When a Christian convert unmasks an egwugwu during a tribal ritual, a sin amounting to the death of an ancestral spirit, the egwugwu burn down the village church. The men who destroyed the church are arrested and humiliated by the District Commissioner, and Okonkwo beheads a court messenger at a village council in rebellion. When none of his clansmen rise with him against the British, Okonkwo realizes his culture and way of life is lost and commits suicide in despair. Suicide is a crime against the Earth Goddess, Ani , so Okonkwo is left to rot above ground in the Evil Forest, like his father Unoka – a shameful fate he spent his life desperate to avoid. The final paragraph, written from the perspective of the District Commissioner, reduces Okonkwo’s life to a single sentence about his death in his planned book The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of The Lower Niger . Achebe has filled an entire novel with evidence of the complexity and sophistication of Okonkwo’s individual and social life and the District Commissioner’s casual dismissal and belittling of him causes us to flinch with horror and dismay. This is a metaphor for the reduction of Igbo culture in the eyes of its colonizers.  

The title gives away the plot of the novel and anticipates the collapse of Okonkwo and his society. Things Fall Apart is about the connection between the tragic downfall of Okonkwo , who fate and temperamental weakness combine to destroy, and the destruction of his culture and society as the Igbo way of life is assailed by forces they do not understand and are unprepared to face . 

A Full and Fair Representation of Ibo Traditional Life

The first part of the novel presents the traditional world of the Ibo with specificity and vibrancy . The imbedded descriptions of the patterns of interaction, daily routines and seasonal rituals of Ibo life creates an overwhelming impression of community and shared culture. We see the established system of values which regulates collective life and how closely related this is to natural cycles and environments. The Ibo’s moral values are contained in sayings and stories, rituals and festivals. Achebe depicts a comprehensive and sustaining social, spiritual, economic, agricultural, and legal order. (Chapters to consider: 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 19)

While Ibo society is marked by the internal coherence of its organization and the poetry of its rituals, this coherence is partially formed by the repression of the individual and the inflexibility of social norms. Achebe shows the violence, dehumanization, and discrimination vulnerable groups experience in Umuofia due to the rigid adherence to tradition and superstition. This includes the customary abandonment of newborn twins, the sacrificial murder of Ikemefuna in the name of justice, and the discriminatory caste structure that denies inclusion to the osu (Chapters 7, 18).

Obierika’s questioning of the stern logic of some customs suggests that many laws are enacted from a sense of duty and inevitability rather than from a firm conviction in their justice or efficacy (Chapter 13). The cultural demand for conformity places a huge moral and psychological burden on individuals who must reckon with the sometimes heartless will of the gods . This internal tension is epitomized in the character of Okonkwo, discussed below.  

Clash of Cultures

When the Ibo are confronted with rival institutions a mirror is held up to their society. Fall Apart honestly considers and reflects on Ibo practices, customs, values, and beliefs. The novel is a frank articulation of the nature of the African past and its relevance to the present and future . Achebe wants to illuminate Ibo culture to dispense with lingering colonial prejudices, but he is not sentimental or nostalgic for the past. Instead he is shifting through it to identify the valuable aspects of Ibo culture to bring into the future and help define Nigeria’s post-independence identity .

Achebe recognises that the colonial encounter which led, swiftly and seemingly inevitably, to the disintegration of Ibo culture revealed its profound weaknesses. Achebe suggests that with the arrival and contrast against another culture, a cultural reckoning was inevitable for the Ibo. However, cultural reckoning and revaluation is not the same thing as destruction and erasure . The British colonialists were a hostile force seeking cultural domination. By pointing out some of the weaknesses of the Ibo tradition, Achebe in no way excuses or justifies colonial domination or diminishes the pain and tragedy of the cultural erasure that occurred.

Colonial Domination

The anti-colonial position and purpose of the novel is powerfully clear. Achebe depicts the process of colonial initial establishment and the resultant cultural suspension of Ibo society. The British colonizers believed in their inherent cultural superiority and arrived in Umuofia with the intention to “bring civilization” (p.151) to Africa. They wanted to achieve full control by supplanting Ibo religion and culture with their own.

The British arrived quietly and non-confrontationally with their religion and the clans allow them to stay, misinterpreting their silence as peaceability . An Ibo proverb warns that there is danger in silence and nothing to fear from someone who reveals their motivations (Chapter 15). Obierika recognizes how the white man’s strategy disguised their intentions and gave them the freedom to grow and fortify. He explains the political consequences for the clan, now divided by the new religion, they can no longer act as one (Chapter 20). Without strength in unity, the Ibo are vulnerable to further encroachment of British control in their other institutions .

As only a small number of Ibo initially converted to Christianity, the church was only able to establish itself firmly in the villages because of the Ibo’s religious tolerance (Chapter 2, 22). Mr Brown learns about Ibo religion and his willful blindness to its complexity shows how the colonizers justified their colonial rule and imposition through labelling their subjects ‘primitive’ . Mr Brown understands that Christianity held no appeal for people well integrated in Ibo society, concluding that “a frontal attack on it would not succeed” (p.132) and thus introduces education as a new method of cultural displacement and erasure . Additionally, trade also increased the Ibo’s dependence on the introduced economy (Chapter 21).

From the very first introduction of the colonizers we understand that violence and fear were tools of oppression and dominance , forcing the Ibo to submit and keeping them unresisting (Chapter 15, 20, 23). Not only do the British impose foreign rule on the Ibo and judge them by standards they do not recognize, the District Commissioner’s personal brand of ‘justice’ is corrupt and hypocritical. When the elders are arbitrarily and falsely imprisoned, he tells them that what they have done “must not happen in the dominion of our queen” (p.141), combining personal corruption with a state apparatus of paternalism, hegemony, and occupation (Chapter 20, 23).

Dogmatic zealot, Reverend Smith, encourages fanaticism in his converts, motivating them to insult and humiliate the clan (Chapter 22). Under Reverend Smith’s wrathful guidance, the colonial agenda becomes transparently aggressive . The grief and pathos of the Ibo’s situation and collective trauma is displayed evocatively in the final episodes as Achebe depicts this painful moment of acute crisis (Chapter 22, 23, 24, 25).

A recurring thematic question in Things Fall Apart is to what degree the collapse of the Ibo and the downfall of Okonkwo are due to their own internal weaknesses or the whims of a pernicious fate . 

The Ibo understand fate to be in a dynamic and somewhat ambiguous relationship with personal agency . This is evident in their proverb “when a man says yes his chi says yes also” (p.20) which acknowledges and privileges the role of an individual’s choices in shaping their destiny (Chapter 4). The saying “as a man danced so the drums were beaten for him” (p.135) also relates this idea – fate is a response to one’s behaviour. Okonkwo is warned that killing Ikemefuna, his surrogate son, is the “kind of action for which the goddess wipes out whole families” (p.49).This demonstrates the clan’s belief that the goddess’s (or fate’s) punishments are not arbitrary but the result of individual action (Chapter 8).

Although there is an element of chance in Okonkwo’s gun accidentally exploding and killing someone, his exile carries the suggestion of just comeuppance in its echo of the guns failure to shoot when purposely aimed at Ekwefi (Chapter 5, 13). Likewise, although the arrival of the Christians was unexpected and chanced, Nwoye’s rejection of his father is traceable directly to Okonkwo’s choice to kill Ikemefuna (Chapter 7). The desertion of people injured by Ibo traditions is a blow to the clan that feels equally earned (Chapters 16, 17, 18).  

After his exile, Okonkwo believes his chi has turned against him (Chapter 14). He renunciates the wisdom of his elders by denying the active role he had in directing the course of events. His refusal to reflect on the connection between his actions and punishment reflect his fatal flaws: hubris and willful lack of self-knowledge. By refusing to self-analyze and self-correct, Okonkwo loses the opportunity of redemption. Comparably, the Ibo, despite believing in a relationship between action and fate, do not reflect on the cause of their kinsmen’s desertion to Christianity. Achebe provides numerous examples of the clan’s dogma and brutal traditions denying people such as Ikemefuna or twins control over their lives (Chapter 2, 7). It was the shortcomings of the Ibo social and religious order that made members susceptible to the attraction of a competing value system with a more articulated concept of individuality. The Ibo’s cultural lack of self-apprehension meant they could not adjust their traditions to save themselves .

However, just as Achebe shows how individuals in the clan are at the mercy of rigid overarching authority, he shows how the fateful forces of history constrain human agency . The British’s hostile intention to erase and supplant the Ibo way of life is a punishment greater than the Ibo deserve and a force stronger than they can rise to. In his description of the grief and trauma of colonial imposition, Achebe demonstrates his compassion and sorrow for the Ibo as they faced the sweeping and unforgiving forces of change in their moment of historical crisis . 

Sample Essay Topics

1. "Things Fall Apart demonstrates how the values and customs of a society help us to deal with the familiar but not with change." Discuss.

2. "Traditional ideas of honour dominate Okonkwo's life and finally they destroy him." Discuss.

3. "Nwoye knew that it was right to be masculine and to be violent, but somehow he still preferred the stories his mother used to tell." How does Achebe explore masculinity in Things Fall Apart ?

Now it's your turn! Give these essay topics a go. For more sample essay topics, head over to our Things Fall Apart Study Guide to practice writing essays using the analysis you've learnt in this blog!

A+ Essay Topic Breakdown

Whenever you get a new essay topic, you can use LSG’s THINK and EXECUTE strategy , a technique to help you write better VCE essays. This essay topic breakdown will focus on the THINK part of the strategy. If you’re unfamiliar with this strategy, then check it out in How To Write A Killer Text Response .

Within the THINK strategy, we have 3 steps, or ABC. These ABC components are:

Step 1: A nalyse

Step 2: B rainstorm

Step 3: C reate a Plan

Let's look at an essay prompt in this video below:

[Video Transcript]

In Things Fall Apart , women suffer the most and are victimised by men. Discuss.

Whenever you are breaking a prompt down. Ask yourself...

  • What are the key words/ ideas that you need to address?
  • Which theme is the prompt referring to?
  • Do you agree with prompt? Or do you disagree with it?

The keywords of this prompt would be women, suffer,, victimised and men. The prompt requires us to address the role of women in the text and the ways in which they suffer in a society that is pervaded by patriarchal values. It also asks us, ‘Who is to blame?’ Are men solely responsible for the maltreatment or are there other causes to their suffering? The word ‘most’ in this prompt is actually there to give us a bit of room for discussion. Yes, women do suffer, but do they suffer the most? Or do men suffer as well?

Now that we’ve thought about the prompt, we can move on to the second step of the THINK part of the THINK and EXECUTE technique. To find out more about this unique strategy, I’d recommend downloading a free sample of our How to Write a Killer Text Response eBook!

Now, before we write our ideas in beautiful topic sentences, it’s often easier to simplify everything first. One way to do this is to work out whether the paragraph agrees or disagrees with the prompt at hand. We could follow this structure…

‍ Yes, the prompt is true because X Yes, another reason it is true is X While it is true, it is limited by X

By elucidating the ways in which women are seen as inferior to their male counterparts, the writer establishes his critique on a society that victimises and oppresses women. From the outset of the book, Okonkwo is characterised as a violent man who ‘rules his household with a heavy hand’, placing his wives in perpetual fear. The frequent beating and violence fortifies the portrayal of him as a man who is governed by his hatred of ‘gentility and idleness’, further showing the terror that his wives are forced to be living in.

"Do what you are told woman. When did you become one of the ndichie (meaning elders) of Umuofia?"

He also sees his wife’s mere act of questioning as disrespect, as evidenced through the ways in which he implies that she is overstepping her role.

“There were many women, but they looked on from the fringe like outsiders"

This simile also shows how women are often marginalised and treated as outcasts, underlining the overarching yearning for social justice throughout the text. This pitiful image of women looking ‘on from the fringe’ also helps Achebe relay his criticism of gender double standards and the unfairness that Igbo women are forced to live with. Achebe’s sympathy for women’s suffering and condemnation of men’s mistreatment towards are also evident through his depiction of a society that normalises misogyny.

‘His mother and sisters worked hard enough, but they grew women’s crops… Yam, the king of crops, was a man’s crops’

The personification of the crops, in particular, the men’s crops, the ‘yam’, being the ‘king of crops’ establishes this gender hierarchy in yet another way. More specifically, the position of men in the social hierarchy is highlighted and the negative connotation attached to the ‘women’s crops’ undermine their hard work, rendering it in significant. While women are the main victims of Igbo gendered prejudice, Achebe does not disregard the undue burden that societal expectations impose on men.

‘He was afraid of being thought weak.’

Achebe explores the burdens of unrealistic expectations that are placed on both men and women. This quote exemplifies societal expectations on men to be strong, powerful and fearless leaders who never show emotions. Achebe’s sympathies regarding these expectations show us that this is an important critique in Things Fall Apart that we can analyse.

If you find this helpful, then you might want to check out our Things Fall Apart: A Killer Text Guide where we cover 5 A+ sample essays (written by a 50 study scorer!) with EVERY essay annotated and broken down on HOW and WHY these essays achieved A+ so you reach your English goals! Let's get started.

The Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response

How To Write A Killer Text Response Study Guide

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How to turn your Text Response essays from average to A+

5 Tips for a mic drop worthy essay conclusion

With contributions from Lindsey Dang.

Ransom and Invictus are studied as part of VCE English's Comparative. For one of most popular posts on Comparative (also known as Reading and Comparing), check out our Ultimate Guide to VCE Comparative.


Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film ‘Invictus’ centers on the events following the election of Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black President in the post-apartheid era. The film follows President Mandela’s attempt to infuse a deeply divided country with new energy, by supporting the South African rugby team’s victorious 1995 World Cup Campaign. The unlikely bond formed between President Mandela and Francois Pienarr, the captain of the rugby team, illustrates themes of unity and reconciliation in a divided nation. The film begins with the image of a deeply divided society in 1990, as Mandela is released from 27 years of incarceration. A poignant opening scene sees Mandela drive along a long dirt road that runs between two playing fields, on one side, young black children shout excitedly as Mandela passes. On the other side, immaculately dressed white boys stare vacantly, as their coach proclaims, “This is the day our country went to the dogs.” This tumultuous period in South African history is of central concern to ‘Invictus’, as Eastwood portrays the lingering racial prejudices imbedded in this society. The film portrays the tension between the bitter resentment of black South Africans towards their former oppressors, with the fear and uncertainty of white Afrikaners under Mandela’s political leadership. Eastwood masterfully depicts the true story of the moment when Nelson Mandela harnessed the power of sports to unite a deeply divided South Africa.

Set during the Trojan War, one of the most famous events in Greek mythology, David Malouf’s historical fiction ‘Ransom’ seeks to explore the overwhelming destruction caused by war, and the immense power of reconciliation. Drawing on the Iliad, the epic poem by Homer, Malouf focuses on the events of one day and night, in which King Priam of Troy travels to the enemy Greek encampment to plead with the warrior Achilles to release the body of his son, Hector. Maddened by grief at the murder of his friend Patroclus, Achilles desecrates the body of Hector as revenge. Despite Achilles refusal to give up Hector’s body, Priam is convinced there must be a way of reclaiming the body – of pitting new ways against the old, and forcing the hand of fate. Malouf’s fable reflects the epic themes of the Trojan war, as fatherhood, love, grief and pride are expertly recast for our times.

Malouf and Eastwood both depict societies on the brink: Troy faces annihilation by the Greeks, while South Africa faces an uncertain future as it emerges from the injustices of the apartheid era, both worlds are in dire need of true heroes to bridge the great divide. Together, these two texts echo the significance of hope in the enactment of change. To learn more, head over to our full Ransom Study Guide (covers themes, characters, chapter summaries, quotes and more).

The power of shared human experiences

Both texts are centrally concerned with the significance of the universal experiences of love, loss, grief and hope to unite a divided people. Both Invictus and Ransom explore how societal forces divide people into different, often conflicting groups – whether this be race, history, culture, or war. Each text appeals to the universal experiences that define the human condition, and emphasise the significance of opportunities to cross-cultural divides.

In ‘Ransom’, Malouf is centrally concerned with the theme of fatherhood. This concept links the mortal and godly realms, which King Priam straddles over the course of his journey. The relationship between Priam and Somax illustrates this complex theme most clearly. The two men, despite being deeply separated by their class, education and power, share their common familial experiences. Priam confronts the poignancy of their shared experience of losing sons, questioning whether it “meant the same for him as it did for the driver”. Malouf thus presents Priam as initially lacking in terms of his understanding, Somax’s friendship and stories are the catalyst for Priam to engage in deeper, empathetic understanding. Somax’s trivial yet symbolically significant story about the griddle-cakes represents a moment of anagnorisis for Priam, wherein the shared bond of humanity in fatherhood allows Priam to obtain insight, and progressively grow as a human and as a leader. This incident fuels the journey to appeal to Achilles “man to man”, Priam’s insight into the power of empathy allows him to appeal to their shared bond as suffering fathers.

Just as Priam goes to Achilles “as a father”, using their common quality, fatherhood, to further understand each other, Mandela, too, emphasises the point that you must “know [your] enemy before [you] c[an] prevail against him” and thus he “learned their language, read their books, their poetry”. Mandela attempts to unite Black and white South Africans, despite the mutual animosity and distrust fostered by decades of apartheid. Black and White South Africans share almost nothing in common, with significant cultural and societal barriers to their reconciliation, including different dialects. Rugby emerges as the most poignant manifestation of this divide as the White South Africans support their national team, but the black south Africans barrack for the opposing side. The scene wherein Pienarr and Mandela meet over tea is symbolic of this sentiment of fostering unity amongst deep divisions. President Mandela literally hunches over to pour the tea for Pienaar, this inversion of status demonstrates his willingness to reduce his dignity as a superior and speak with Pienarr, and by extension, white south Africans, on an equal level, modelling an example of how race relations in his nation should be carried out. This equality is also symbolised by the passing of the tea to Pienaar, the close up shot where both arms of the individuals are depicted on an equal level reinforces this sense of mutual equality and respect, extolling the virtues of empathy and integrity as a uniting force.

Leadership and Sacrifice

Mandela and Priam symbolise how leadership must inevitably entail familial sacrifices. Both leaders self-identify with their nation and people. Priam embodies Troy itself, his body is the ‘living map’ of the kingdom.  The ‘royal sphere’ he embodies is constrained by customs and tradition, full of symbolic acts that separate him from the mortal world. To an extent, these royal obligations and ritual suffocate Priam’s individuality and he is unable to show his true nature, or connect with his family in the way he would desire to. He regards intimate relationships with his children as “women’s talk” that “unnerves him” as it is not “his sphere”. This articulation of the disassociation of the “royal sphere” with natural human bonds of family reveals the secondary role that family and love must take when one’s role as a leader is paramount. Similarly, Mandela claims “I have a very big family. Forty-two million people”. Unlike Priam, Mandela seeks human connection, predicating his leadership on democratic ideals. This takes a physical and emotional toll, as shown by Mandela’s collapse in his driveway. The cost of leadership here is evident, as Mandela has effectively sacrificed his family for the good of his nation. His strained relationship with his daughter Zindzi further reinforces this, as she disapproves of Mandela reaching out to Pienarr, likening him to one of the white “policeman who forced (her) out of her home”, showing the disconnect between father and daughter due to the sacrifices necessitated by Mandela’s life of leadership, including his 27 year imprisonment.

Fatherhood and Masculinity

In ‘Ransom’ Malouf presents an enclosed, limited and unemotional masculine world, with particularly stringent expectations for men’s behaviour. This is a world characterised by war, wherein the expectations of violent masculinity are paramount. In presenting Achilles inside of “a membrane stretched to a fine transparency”, Malouf reveals the constant tension between the emotional, domestic human nature inside Achilles and the hierarchical violent external society that he is expected to abide by, revealing the constricting nature that the society has on defining men’s actions. Malouf uses words like “knotted” and “rope-like” when describing Achilles’ muscles, implying that his conventional great strength, the source of his fearsome reputation, represents a confinement that the society enforces on him and other men. Further, through a degree of compassion, Priam is able to touch the “sore spot whose ache he has long repressed” in Achilles, a symbol of the emotions that have been supressed by the dominant patriarchal nature of this society.

Whilst the world of ‘Invictus’ is less overtly masculine and patriarchal, the narrative of the film is primarily focused on the male experiences, with female characters assuming a largely secondary role. Zindzi’s strained relationship with her father exemplifies the sacrifices involved in leadership. Whilst Mandela is seen to have sacrificed a close connection with his daughter, this is suggested to be in service of the nation, “I have a big family. Forty two million people”.

Character analysis and comparison

Character analysis/comparison.

- aging king of troy

- individuality has been subsumed by the ceremonial functions of his high position

- self-identifies with nation

- life of obligation

- foregoes convention and embraces chance with his proposal to offer ransom for his son’s body

- becomes more attuned to the natural world

- gains a greater appreciation of his true self as a man, rather than a symbolic figurehead

- historic figure, symbol of peace

- spent 27 years in prison for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government while he was trying to gain civil rights for all south Africans

- tackled institutionalised racism, poverty and inequality

- suffered under apartheid

- pursues reconciliation, prepared to face down calls for retribution

- in his speech to the sports council, he defends the traditions of the people who persecuted him

- interacts easily with people of all social standings

- charismatic, in touch with the people


- embody essential role that leadership plays in achieving just resolutions to conflict

- sacrifice family for leadership

- illustrate that effective leadership takes a toll on the individual

- exemplify that reconciliation requires unexpected and difficult acts. Such as Mandela’s embrace of the Springboks and Priam’s appeal to Achilles “man to man”

- both show effective leadership involves expressing empathy and understanding the humanity of your enemies

Literary and cinematic techniques

- In one of the first scenes in Mandela’s office after he is elected President, Eastwood strategically frames the racial segregation and tension between the two groups via the mise-en-scene; they stand on separate sides of the room, wearing distinctly different clothing and calling Mandela either “Mr President” or “Madiba”, representative of their own identity. The lingering tension between the two groups permeates the entirety of the film, and the microcosm of the bodyguards acts as a symbol of the chasm within the wider nation.

- The deeply symbolic scene wherein Mandela and Pienaar have tea, Eastwood strategically uses a close up shot to frame the passing of the tea cup so that both arms of the individuals are depicted on the same level, reinforcing this sense of mutual equality and respect. It is this sharing of hope that ignites Pienaar to reciprocate Mandela’s egalitarian actions. As Pienaar brings a ticket for Eunice, recognising that “there’s a fourth” family member, he mimics Mandela’s value that “no one is invisible”. Consequently, it is demonstrated that regardless of skin colour, characters reciprocate Mandela’s empathy and compassion, revealing the limitless power such human qualities to reach across the boundaries of division.

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- The wide shot of the passing of the trophy from Mandela to Pienaar is framed against the large crowd, metaphorically representing South Africa’s support with the unity of the black and whites, reflecting Mandela’s desire to “meet black aspirations and quell white fears”. Their diegetic cheers work to create the idyllic depiction of the lasting power of this change, implying the true limitless nature of hope in their society.

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Learn more through Caleb (English study score 47) about Invictus Film Technique Analysis - How Can I Write About It?

- Priam’s moment of anagnorisis in which he discovers the concept of “chance”, marks the beginning of his enactment of change through the power of hope. Despite his family who wishes that he would “spare [himself of] this ordeal”, Priam’s vision guides him to overcome familial and societal obstacles in pursuit of reconciliation.

- Symbol: Griddlecakes – represent pleasure in common things, but also the growing realisation within Priam of his distance from such pleasures. The love and care with with Somax’s daughter cooked the cakes has a value that surpasses the conventional riches associated with the ruling elite. This is a catalyst for a moment of realisation for Priam.


Many lawyers today would cite this 60-year-old story as an inspiration—Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is, at its core, the tale of one attorney’s quest against racial injustice in his Deep South home, and of his children coming of age in the shadow of their father.

The novel is narrated in two parts by his younger child, Scout, and along with her brother Jem and their friend Dill, she traces their upbringing as inspired by Atticus’ moral teachings of tolerance, courage and justice. The first part follows their childhood, and their interactions with characters such as Boo Radley, Walter Cunningham, Miss Caroline and Mrs Dubose, while the second part follows the Tom Robinson trial itself, testing the children on the moral lessons of their childhood and disillusioning them to the overwhelming racism of their community.

We’ll be going through the novel’s major themes, and also looking at it a bit more critically within the historical context of civil rights and racial justice struggles.

Before we dive into To Kill A Mockingbird, I'd highly recommend checking out LSG's Ultimate Guide to VCE Text Response .

Prejudice and Race in To Kill A Mockingbird

All throughout the novel resonate messages of tolerance over prejudice. However, before any question of race is introduced, the children must confront their prejudices about Boo Radley, a local recluse who was rumoured to have attacked his parents. While they (particularly Jem and Dill) lowkey harass Boo by playing around his yard, re-enacting dramaticised versions of his life, and sending notes into his house with a fishing pole, they undoubtedly get drawn into the rumours as well: he was “six-and-a-half feet tall”, he “dined on raw squirrels” and he had a head “like a skull”.

What is prejudice, after all? In this case, it doesn’t have to do with race necessarily—it’s more about how the children judge Boo, form a preconceived image of who he is, before they really know him.

And this happens to other white characters too—notably Walter Cunningham, a boy from a poor family who Aunt Alexandra straight up derides as “trash”. Even when invited to dinner by the Finches, he is dismissed by Scout as “just a Cunningham”, and this is where Calpurnia steps in as the moral voice, chastising her for acting “high and mighty” over this boy who she hardly knows.

The racial dimension of prejudice is impossible to ignore though—as Atticus says, “people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box”. The word ‘resentment’ has special significance here in the context of the Great Depression (in which the novel was set—more on this in a later section) but the general idea is clear: Black Americans like Tom Robinson were guilty, and therefore doomed, the minute they stepped into a court because the white jury inevitably bore prejudices against them.

At the end of the day, the panacea Lee presents for prejudice is empathy, the idea that only by truly understanding someone, “climb[ing] into [their] skin and walk[ing] around in it”, can we overcome our own prejudices—something that the jury isn’t quite able to do by the end of the novel.

Justice in To Kill A Mockingbird

In the second part of the novel, these moral questions around prejudice and empathy find an arena in the courtroom, where Tom has been unfairly charged with rape and is being defended by Atticus. The court of law is supposed to be this colour-blind, impartial site of dispute resolution, where anybody “ought to get a square deal”, but the reality we see in the novel falls dramatically short; Tom is indeed ultimately found guilty despite the evidence to the contrary.

The intersection of these themes—race, prejudice and justice—forces us to confront the reality that our legal institutions may not be as colour-blind and impartial as we thought. As Atticus says in his closing statement, “a court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up.” However, what we see is that the people who make up a jury are not necessarily as sound as he/we would hope—Scout later recognises that the true trial occurs in the “secret courts of men's hearts”, and that racist biases were always going to get in the way of a fair verdict.

Heroism and Courage in To Kill A Mockingbird

All of that sounds pretty dire, so is the novel then purely pessimistic? We’re going to complicate this a little here, and then (spoiler) a little more in the “Past the Basics (II)” section, but let’s say for now that even though the outcome may be cause for pessimism, the novel is not so pessimistic on the whole. This is because of one central moral that stands out from all of Atticus’ other teachings, and that strings the entire story together, namely the idea that courage doesn’t have any one single shape or form, that anybody can be courageous.

In Part One, we find an unlikely hero in Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose, who the children describe as “plain hell”—when Jem takes out her flowers, Atticus makes him read to her as punishment. Only when she dies is it revealed that she was a morphine addict who had been trying to cut the habit in her last days, which Atticus sees as extremely brave: “[Real courage is] when you know you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” For all we know, this could’ve been about himself…

Another example of Atticus switching up what it means to be heroic is in the way he puts down Tim Johnson. Don’t stress if you forgot who that is—Tim is the rabid dog. Jem is blown away by his father’s marksmanship, which he had never actually witnessed. Atticus transforms this into yet another lesson about courage: "I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand."

What we see here is Lee trying to broaden the reader’s imagination of what a hero could be, or what courage could look like, and all of this momentum eventually builds to the trial in Part Two. Even Tim Johnson’s name calls to mind parallels with Tom Robinson’s legal battle, in which Atticus heroically takes up the huge responsibility of protecting the innocent, and in spite of his best efforts, both times he fails.

Yet maybe both times he knew it would be inevitable—courage is “know[ing] you’re licked before you begin”, right?  

Fatherhood vs Adolescence in To Kill A Mockingbird

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This knowledge seems to be one of those unfortunate things that comes with age and life experience. While Atticus already understands this, it doesn’t quite click for his children until the end of the novel. Jem is particularly shaken by the guilty verdict: “It ain’t right”, he cries.

The novel is sometimes referred to as a bildungsroman for this reason: at its core, it’s a coming-of-age story. Jem may have been really idealistic about law and justice and the court system, but this is the first time in his life that he has had to grapple with the reality that all these institutions might be flawed, and that his dad is a hero not because he always wins, but because he’s willing to get into the fight even when he knows he might lose. Even though these messages came through all across the novel, Jem’s personal investment in the Robinson trial brings it all together for him.

Thus, on the one hand, you have this disillusionment and loss on innocence, but on the other, you also have this shift in worldview that may well be valuable in the long run.

It’s also worth noting that Jem isn’t the only character who experiences this though—and also that heroism isn’t the only theme that is affected. Scout experiences similar disappointments, and they both grapple with other questions of conscience, tolerance and conformity throughout the novel.

Past the basics: Narrative Structure

I’ve hinted to this briefly throughout the themes, but the two-part structure of the novel plays a key role in delivering the key moral messages. While Part One isn’t necessarily the story you’d expect (given that it’s very long and almost completely not about the trial itself), many of the characters and their interactions with Jem, Scout and Dill are incredibly meaningful. (Walter Cunningham and Mrs. Dubose are covered above, but try to form some of these connections yourself).

Boo Radley is the key character who connects the two parts of the story. He spends much of the first part in hiding, occasionally leaving gifts for the kids in a tree (chapter 7), or giving them a blanket during a fire (chapter 8). However, he’s also victim to their prejudice and their gossip—they don’t see him as a person, but rather as an enigma whom they can harass and talk about at will. In the second part however, he emerges to save Jem from Bob Ewell and is actually a rather unassuming man. Here, Scout and Jem must reckon with the moral lessons they’ve been taught about prejudice, but also about innocence and courage. It’s through these interactions as well that they come closer to understanding Atticus, and his brave quest to defend the innocent. In many ways, the first part of the novel sets up and drives these ideas home.

Past the basics: Critical Racial Analysis

As foreshadowed, we’re going to complicate the heroism element of the novel here, and I’ll start with a quote from a New York Times review: “I don’t need to read about a young white girl understanding the perniciousness of racism to actually understand the perniciousness of racism. I have ample firsthand experience.”

So is there an issue when a story of Black injustice only elevates white people as heroes? Not to say that Atticus can’t be heroic, but what does it say that he’s the brave, stoic hero in a story about a Black man’s unjust suffering?

I think to best understand these complexities, it’s worth situating the story in its historical context.

  • 1930s : Great Depression; when the novel is set . Economy had collapsed and masses were unemployed; with slavery abolished, Black people were competing with white people for labour, fuelling resentment. Harper Lee grew up in this time, so there are autobiographical elements to the novel.
  • 1960s : Civil Rights Movement; when the novel is published . For the first time in history, Black heroes were capturing national white attention and shifting the needle drastically towards racial justice. It was in this watershed wave of activism and social change that people read this book for the first time, and it was received as a deeply authentic voice within this movement.
  • 2010s : Present day; when the novel is currently being read . We’re closer towards achieving racial justice now, but we’re also in a world where more and more young people are cognisant of these issues. While the novel’s image on the surface (of white kids being blown away by the existence of racism) is fading in relevance, there are underlying messages that are still relevant: racism and prejudice is inevitable, and can occur across and within racial lines; courage and heroism can take many forms (consider how Black characters—such as Calpurnia—also act in heroic ways); and the experiences of young people, whether experiencing racism firsthand or witnessing its divisive impact, undoubtedly shape their values and morals as they enter the adult world.

If the same story was published today, it probably wouldn’t have the same impact, but think about what kinds of messages endure anyway, beneath the surface story.

Essay Prompt Breakdown

To Kill a Mockingbird argues that empathy is courageous. Discuss.

Which brings us to a topic that is a bit knottier than it might first seem. Although empathy is shown to be courageous, particularly in the context of its setting, part of the novel’s message is also that courage can be fluid. This means that you might agree for a paragraph or two, emphasising the importance of context, before expanding on this idea of courage in the third.

  • Paragraph One : empathy can be a courageous trait in divisive times. Atticus says from early on that it’s important to “climb in [someone’s] skin and walk around in it” in order to better understand them. He initially says this about Walter Cunningham, but it’s a message that finds relevance all throughout—which occurs in parallel, of course, with his other lessons about courage, and how it can take different forms (as in Mrs. Dubose). Understood together, Lee suggests that empathy can in itself be a form of courage.
  • Paragraph Two : we’ve blended two themes together in the previous paragraph, but let’s bring in some context here. Empathy only stands out as being particularly courageous because of the historical milieu, in which people were not only racist, but allowed racist resentments to surface in the economic struggle of the Depression. In fact, these “resentments [were carried] right into a jury box” where people failed to display the very courage that Atticus consistently espouses.
  • Paragraph Three : that said, even if empathy is courageous, courage can take on many forms beyond just empathy. Consider Scout backing away from a fight with Cecil Jacobs (“I felt extremely noble”—and rightfully so) or the resilience of the First Purchase congregation in using their service to raise money “to help [Helen Robinson] out at home”. That these characters, Black and white, can hold their heads high and do the right thing in difficult times is also courageous.

In your opinion, what is the most central and relevant message from To Kill a Mockingbird ?

What is the role of innocence in To Kill a Mockingbird ?

Lee argues that legal institutions are fraught with human bias—is this true?

In To Kill a Mockingbird , who pays the price for racism, and what do they lose?

Challenge: In To Kill a Mockingbird , how are isolation and loneliness different, and what is Lee suggesting about society in this regard?

To Kill A Mockingbird Essay Prompt Breakdown Video

Video Transcription

Something that I want you to take away from this video is being able to develop a contention statement that is a complete, solid foundation for your essay. A lot of the time when I ask students what they’re trying to say in a specific section of their essay, they can’t really explain it, they’re just trying to put relevant evidence down. Ideally, it’s worth bearing in mind when you plan that you should be able to follow your logic back to the contention at any given point, even if you’re not that confident with the topic, and even if it wasn’t the topic you’re quite prepared for.

The topic we’ll be looking at is:

To Kill A Mockingbird is a story of courage. Discuss.

So ‘courage’ is the key word here, and the way we define it will shape our entire discussion. It generally means bravery and fearlessness, but what kinds of courage are explored in the novel? It could be anything from courage to do the ‘right’ thing, or courage to tell the truth, or courage to treat people with dignity even when you don’t know if they’ll treat you the same way.

Immediately, we can see that this is a theme-based prompt . To learn more about LSG's incredible Five Types Technique and how it can revolutionise how you approach VCE Text Response essays, have a read of this blog post .

For a prompt like this, you start building your contention based on these definitions, and this is handy if you’re better prepared for another theme. L et’s say you’re better prepped to write an essay on discrimination ...

You could contend that the novel is indeed about courage, as Atticus not only teaches it to his children but also applies it to his defence of Tom Robinson in the face of structural racism. However, courage is also linked more broadly to empathy, which is explored as a panacea for discrimination. A complete contention like this breaks up your points neatly, but also grounds everything you have to say in an essay that still addresses the question and the idea of courage.

For example, paragraph one would start by looking at the forms of courage he teaches to his children . Part One, the more moralistic and didactic section of the novel ends with the idea that “real courage” isn’t “a man with a gun” but rather “when you know you're licked before you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.” The section is characterised by these lessons of “real courage”—while Atticus “One-Shot” Finch downplays his marksmanship, he focuses the children’s moral instruction on characters such as Mrs Dubose, who he admires as courageous for fighting her morphine addiction.

The next paragraph would look at Atticus’ actions and also the trial in a bit more detail, as he embodies this idea that real courage exists outside of physical daring . In the racist milieu of the Deep South at the time, juries rarely “decide in favour of a coloured man over a white man.” Yet, Atticus is determined to defend Tom even at the steep cost of his own personal honour or reputation. Not only does he teach his children about the importance of courage, but he goes on to exemplify those very lessons himself. Courage in this case reflects his commitment to the truth and to defending the innocent—“this boy’s not going till the truth is told.”

However, in the final paragraph we might take a bit of a turn. Atticus, in having the courage to see Tom as an equal, is probably reflecting another very important value in the novel—namely, empathy. Though he admires Mrs. Dubose for her “real courage”, the white camellia he gives to Jem represents the goodness he sees within her despite her discriminatory attitudes. Though Jem struggles to empathise with the “old devil”, Atticus posits that it takes a degree of courage to be the bigger person and see the best in others, rather than repeating cycles of discrimination and prejudice. The idea of empathy as a form of courage is also reflected in what he teaches them about Boo Radley. When Scout is terrified by the idea that he had given her a blanket without her realising, she “nearly threw up”—yet Atticus maintains the importance of empathising with people, “climb[ing] into another man’s shoes and walk[ing] around in it” rather than ostracising them. In other words, he sees empathy as a form of courage in being the first to break social stigmas and overcome the various forms of discrimination that separate us.

Now to touch base again with the take away message . We contended that the novel is about courage because Atticus teaches it to Scout and Jem while also representing it in the trial. We also contended that courage is linked to empathy, another key value that he imparts as it helps to overcome social barriers like discrimination. The aim was to build an essay on a contention that clearly props up the body of the essay itself, even when we were more confident with some other themes, and I think this plan does a pretty good job of covering that.

There is  one  particular thing that everyone should set out to do before their English exam. It’s probably crossed your mind but you’re so overwhelmed with other exam preparation that you decided to give this one a miss. If you’ve already started, or completed what I’m about to advise, then congratulate yourself because you have probably scored yourself a few bonus points on the exam.  So what’s this ‘must do’?

Re-read your chosen English text(s) for the exam

Why?  It may seem like a waste of time but I can guarantee you another read will be one of the best things you’ve done in English – even if you feel like you know the book inside out. There are many reasons why you should re-read your English novels/watch your films so I decided to create a list.

1.  It’s been a while.  Some texts are studied at the start of the year so a refreshment is good to jog the mind again. Although reading notes and study guides are a great start, these sources are often incomplete and sketchy, so it’s not the same as actually reading the text again. You will be taking an ‘active’ approach to learning, rather than passively flipping through notes that were made too long ago.

2.  Consolidation.  Preparing for the exams is all about strengthening your knowledge and understanding. It is likely that you have forgotten some vital information that may be useful for the exam, particularly if you haven’t been writing practice essays throughout the year. There may be gaps in your memory of how or when an actual event unfolded so use this opportunity to fill in those gaps. Another read will allow you to answer your own questions, identify something you missed or didn’t quite understand.

3.  Time efficiency.  You might feel that reading is a waste of time especially if you need to practice your essay writing. But think of it this way, if you haven’t revised the foundations, your essay writing won’t be as clear and detailed as it can be. The students who can pick out major and minor details from the text will ultimately score higher than those who write a wishy-washy paragraph.

4.  Choices.  For those who aren’t sure which text they’re going to use; don’t solely base your decision on what others are doing or which text scored a higher average mark in past exams. Make the decision by  knowing which text you feel most comfortable with. Go back and read your the texts if you feel divided because chances are, it’ll help you establish which text you have greater understanding of, which text you’ll write better on, and which text you prefer.

5.  Distinction.  Students often just use the information their teacher has taught them in class. This is ok, but what’s going to make the difference between you and 25 others students in your class, let alone VCE students around Victoria? You need to take initiative to search for new information since you’ve learnt the same ideas and explored the same quotes as many other students. I guarantee that if you sit down, spend some time reading your texts, you will definitely come across some interesting information that you’d like to use in the exam. Compounding the information you learnt in class with your own learning will definitely put you on the course to success! 

Written expression is often overlooked in our essays. Often, if we are made aware of clunky or awkward expression, we are also not quite sure how to go about improving it. Although sophisticated and pertinent ideas serve as the foundation of a successful essay, how we construct our sentences and express these ideas may be what distinguishes a good essay from a great essay.

These differences can be rather subtle, but the small things can and do matter.


(to read out loud, not sing… unless you really want to)

Take your essay and read it out loud. Let your own conscience guide you in terms of whether a particular sentence flows well, is complete and makes sense. Keep your eye out for these small errors in particular: Grammar: Does your sentence actually make sense? Let’s have a look at an example: Although Funder suggests that the act of telling one’s story, especially one of victimisation, can catalyse the internal confrontation and healing required to move on.

(This is not grammatically correct! This is because this example only contains a subordinate clause and is lacking a main clause.)

But wait… what is this ‘subordinate clause’ and ‘main clause’?

A clause includes a subject and a verb .

Melissa ate an apple.After Wendy ate an apple.

What is the difference between the two clauses above?

‘Melissa ate an apple’ makes grammatical sense on its own. This is what we call a main clause (or an independent clause). On the other hand, ‘ After Wendy ate an apple’ is an incomplete sentence as it does not make sense. What happened after Wendy ate her apple? This is the information that is missing from the latter clause, making this a subordinate clause (or a dependent clause).

So now let’s try again…

Although Funder suggests that the act of telling one’s story, especially one of victimisation, can catalyse the internal confrontation and healing required to move on, ultimately, these individuals can never be truly free from the past that has irrevocably defined them.  

(Hooray! This is a complete sentence now.)

Spelling : Are the title of the text, the author or director’s name, characters’ names, publisher’s name, etc. all spelt correctly (and capitalised, underlined, and italicised appropriately)?

Did you use the correct there, their and they’re? How about it’s and its? (and so on).

Sentence length: Did that sentence just go on for 5 lines on a page and you are out of breath now? You can most probably split that overloaded sentence into two or more sentences that make much more sense. Check whether you have a clear subject in your sentence. If you have three different ideas in one sentence, give each idea its own opportunity (ie. sentence) to shine. The opposite also applies: if it is for a very short sentence, did that sentence pack enough content or analysis?

One spelling error or half-finished sentence in an essay will not severely affect your mark, but they can easily add up if they occur often enough. Consequently, this will distract the reader from engaging with your ideas fully and thus disrupt the flow of your essay.

By being aware of these aspects, you are now able to easily fix them and boost your writing.


Try not to be casual or overt in your writing as it can be quite jarring to read and unfortunately give readers a potentially negative impression of your piece.

Try not to use phrases such as:

- In my opinion… (You do not need it as your entire essay should be your implicit opinion!)

- This quote shows that… (Embed the quote and link to its implication instead)

- This technique is designed to… (Identify the technique and be specific, especially in Language Analysis)

- I think that…, I believe… (Avoid using first person in a formal essay. Use of first person in creative writing is fine though if required)

They are redundant and do not add much to your ideas and analysis. Try omitting them and see whether that helps your sentence flow better and seem more formal.


Sentences that seem disjointed or a clear connection can make it difficult for your teacher or the assessor to join the dots between an idea and an implication or consequence. Use linking words as they are fantastic for explicitly showing the reader how your ideas are related and thus allow your writing to proceed smoothly.

Therefore, hence, thus, thereby, consequently, subsequently, in addition, additionally, furthermore, moreover, on the other hand, on the contrary, however, henceforth, and so on… The list is endless!

4) ADD OOMPH (through vocabulary)

In general, having a wide vocabulary will allow you to express your ideas and analysis more accurately as you are likely to have access to a precise word that can capture the essence of your idea. Make a vocabulary list for a particular text or for Language Analysis (such as tone words) and aim to use varied language to convey yourself well.

If you’d like to see a list of sentence starters and essay phrases to help you get a headstart on expanding your vocabulary, check out this blog .

Focus on verbs and expanding your list of synonyms for words such as shows, demonstrates, highlights, emphasises, suggests and so on. An individual, character, author or director may not only be conveying but also denigrating or remonstrating or bolstering or glorifying or insinuating . Adding precision to your writing through careful vocabulary choice will distinguish your writing and also add complexity.

BEWARE! There is a fine line to tread with sophisticated vocabulary - do not overload your writing as you can risk writing convoluted sentences that hinder the reader’s ability to understand your piece. Also make sure that you understand the nuances of each synonym and that they are used in the correct context! (They are synonyms after all - not the same word!)

If you are debating whether to use a word, ask yourself: do you know what it means? 

If yes: Go for it!

If no: Do not use it until you know what it means.

Reading sample essays, The Age Text Talks, reviews and more of the texts you are currently studying will expose you to not only a multitude of interpretations of your text, but also to different sentence structures, writing styles or vocabulary that you could incorporate into your own writing.

I would also highly recommend that you read outside of the texts you are studying if you have time, whether that may be novels by the same author or even newspapers. Your written expression will only benefit from this exposure as the ways you can express yourself through writing continue to increase upon seeing others’ eloquence.


If you do not write, you will never be able to improve your written expression. Put pen to paper (or hands to keyboard) and start constructing that essay. You can only fix your writing once you have writing to fix.

how to properly add quotes in essays

Have you ever come out of an exam or test and felt like you’ve nailed it? I’m guessing after you come out of that exam room, you and your friends crowd around the building screaming out the answers you got for each question or the types of ideas you came up with from the prompt given. But then results day arrive…and you’re sitting at your desk anxiously waiting for the teacher to hand you your paper. As soon as they place the test paper on your desk, you remain sitting there just staring at it, deciding whether or not to flip it around and see your score. Get it over and done with you think in your head, but your arms don’t move an inch. You just sit there for some time staring at it, and praying a little on the inside that it’s the score you want. Finally, you build enough courage to turn around the paper and BAM! It hits you. The score was way below the expectations you set for yourself, or maybe even the standards others have set for you.

What is it that you usually do when you come across such a situation?

From my observations and experiences, there are generally 4 main types of reactions people have – the complainer (the person who’s never satisfied with anything), the one who has no care in the world, the silent sufferer (the person who is disappointed with the score but does nothing to change it) and the calm one (the ideal level we all aspire to reach).

how to properly add quotes in essays

So here I give you 8 tips/suggestions to help you get you through what you may call ‘failure’:

DON’T ALLOW THE SCORE TO DEFINE YOU! I’m sure you’ve heard so many people tell you that you are more than just one score. And let me tell you that they’re absolutely right! That one test score won’t make so much of a difference in the long run. It may trigger some unsettling emotions throughout the day, but it’s not going to matter in a year.

Look at the score you got and then just put it at the back of your mind. Just don’t think too much about it in class. It may stress you out even more, cause you to divide your attention between what the teacher is saying and your own thoughts. Dwelling on what you cannot change, especially if it concerns the past is the worse idea and a better option would be to distract yourself with happy thoughts (obviously not while you’re supposed to be listening to your teacher).

Talk to your teacher and ask them why you have attained this particular score. By having a one-on-one conversation with them you can tell them why you thought you did better or where you believe you’ve missed marks. I’m sure they’ll be willing to help you out. If not, you could sit down and chat with another teacher about the test and get their feedback on it. Collecting feedback from various teachers (or even friends, tutors, etc.) can be useful in knowing which areas you need to improve on most.

Try to consider the concept of failure as your ‘First Attempt In Learning.’ Learn from your mistakes by re-evaluating your previous approach to the question, or the ideas and evidence you put out there. Look at where you lost the marks and redo the test if possible. Get it remarked by your teacher or even a friend. Keep going and don’t give up!

Avoid talking to those ‘stuck up’ students. You should most definitely distance yourself from people who make you feel uncomfortable or lower your self-esteem. It may seem tough at first, especially since you may be confined together in the same school or even classroom, but it’s to the benefit of your mental health. To do this, you could not sit next to them class or just let them know that you’re not comfortable with sharing your scores with them and would rather talk about other topics.

Make more friends! (just exclude those who were mentioned previously). Create study groups and revise together before a test or exam. Ask them about how they study for the specific subject or area of study and if you can read some of their work to get an idea of to how approach specific questions.

Be flexible and adaptable! Once you know that you’ve made a mistake, don’t make it again. Change up specific parts of your answer where you lost marks or just change the entire answer completely to fulfil the criteria. For example, when it comes to English, examiners are always advising students to not go into the exam with memorised responses. By going into the exam with memorised responses, you’re not going to be able to modify or mould your response to fit the specific prompt in front of you, costing you the marks you want. Just have ideas and evidence in mind that you know you can use when relevant rather than spilling unnecessary quotes here and there.

Balance is key. Wise advice that I received from one of my teachers in year 12 was to study a bit of every subject on the days you plan to study. Don’t cram and only focus on one subject a week before the SAC. If having a structured routine doesn’t work for you, it’s okay to ditch the timetable you have created yourself and just go with the flow. There’s nothing wrong with that. Just know when you should study

Finally, my last message to you all is to just take it easy, stay on a pace that works for you. Don’t stress too much about a score that’s not going to matter in the long run, and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to those around you. ☺

Let’s be honest. Life is crazy right now; everything we know has been completely flipped due to COVID-19 and there’s no denying it. Students studying Station Eleven must be feeling a little creeped out! Everything is changing so quickly as decisions are being made on a daily basis, but as of right this moment, we are in lockdown: schools are shut, gatherings are banned and most of our parents are working from home. Most of us are wondering: how will we be able to reach our teachers? What about my friends? How can I study effectively without being in class? Here are some things to remember whilst enduring the pandemic...

First of all, we are all in the same boat. Nobody in the state will be going to school until at least 13th of April, and between you and me, it’ll probably be longer. You are not alone and certainly we will all get through this together.

For those who are doubting how school will function without physical attendance, remember how far our society has come with technology! Schools across the state are finding ways to optimise your learning. From Zoom to Microsoft Teams and Skype, schools are utilising fantastic platforms to help you learn. All you need is an internet connection and a willingness to learn and you’re all set. Furthermore, teachers are usually available over email and if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly reaching out to teachers for help — and I highly recommend it! Ask for help, ask for more resources, ask for advice and guidance.

Finally, if you feel like you need some extra help, private tuition is also a great way to make sure you’re on the right track and moving towards your dream results. LSG has a great private tuition program where you’ll find amazing help online from dedicated and tech-savvy high achievers. They’ll be your tutor, motivator and mentor all in one! Just because there’s no actual school, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to learn effectively.

If you'd like to learn more about LSG's Private Tutoring program, head over here — we'd love to chat!

I know it’s easy to think,

“I can’t study at home, I always get distracted by my sibling, my cat, my parents, YouTube, games and food I just procrastinate too much!”

For me, Year 12 was full of bursts of intense focus and longer bursts of procrastination. I tried so hard to focus but sometimes, Netflix was just too tempting! However, there are a few tips that kept me in check (especially during the holidays) and helped me to do well in the end. Hopefully, they can help you too!

Looking for some advice to score 50 in VCE English? Here's what 50 study scoring LSG tutor Elli recommends !

1. Have a routine

It’s so important to have a consistent routine. This will help you direct your focus to what matters and form consistent study habits. You can even follow your school timetable if that helps! This will integrate study times for certain subjects and also appropriate break times.

Routines also help with stress. You can wake up every day and not have to think about what you are going to do that day — just follow your routine! This will work wonders in helping you to manage all your subjects, homework and socialising needs.

When building a routine, start small and build your way up. Start your day by waking up at a certain time, or scheduling when you’ll eat or even deciding when you’ll do exercise. Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit. I know this is a while, but if you can stick with one or two small routine changes in your life, it will make a huge difference!

There are a few things to remember when creating your own routine!

• Don’t plan out every second of every day. This will make you feel like a robot with no freedom and you’ll get bored very quickly.

• Have a basic routine that can be adapted to everyday needs! This kind of links back to the previous point, if you plan every second, you won’t be able to be adaptable and spontaneous

• Have break time, downtime and exercise time!

For some more advice on work/study/life balance, check out Lisa's interview with LSG Content Manager Matt here .

2. Set specific tasks to get done everyday (to-do lists)

If you create a list to get done everyday, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that will both motivate you to study harder and to stay focussed to reach your goals! This also ensures that you are staying on track and that you’re on top of all subjects and homework. By keeping track of what needs to be done and when, your stress levels will be reduced because everything is written down — so, when you have some time to relax, you can actually relax. Your to-do list will act as your ‘second brain’ that you can return to when you’re refreshed and ready to study.

Ensure that your to-do lists are specific. Rather than writing “study for English”, which really doesn’t tell you anything, write tasks like, “quote sheet for English” and “summary book for circular function for Methods”. Then, you know what each task expects of you and what it will look like when it’s finished.

If you’re following your school timetable, make sure that in your scheduled time to study a particular subject you have a list of things to do, otherwise, you’ll be sitting at your desk thinking about what you should be doing instead of actually studying!

3. Use apps that help with productivity/procrastination

There are hundreds of apps that help with productivity, organisation and procrastination. Here are a list of some of my personal favourites:

Forest (procrastination)

• Forest grows trees when you aren’t using your phone, and everytime you open it, a tree dies. This helps to prevent you from dawdling on social media too much. • Just turn it on before you start studying and you’ll feel a little grief every time you open your phone because trees will die.

Todoist (productivity)

• Todoist helps create to do lists and alerts you with tasks you need to get done. There are plenty of apps that do this, so have a look and find one that suits you and your needs best.

Mindly (organisation)

• Mindly helps organise your internal thoughts! You can do pretty much anything from structuring thoughts, explore ideas, plan a speech and take notes! • This particularly works well for subjects like English and Lit that requires a lot of idea generation

4. Get dressed!

This may sound like a strange piece of advice, but it’s so tempting to stay in your pyjamas all day and lounge around. But, if you don’t change, you’ll constantly feel like you’re ready to sleep. Getting dressed in proper clothes helps change your mindset and make you feel ready for the day ahead: conquering every task that you set yourself! It sounds silly, but try it — it actually works.

Not to mention, the little things in life right now are the ones that matter the most. If you can’t do the little things, imagine tackling the bigger tasks in the world. So, start your day off well by doing the things you would normally do when preparing to leave the house.

5. Take breaks and exercise

It’s easy to become a sloth when you’re forced to stay home all day and just eat junk food all day, but remember: a healthy body = a healthy mind. It’s so important to take a break from intense studying period and get moving again. Whether that is doing some yoga, going for a run or just playing with your sibling/pet, it’s up to you. All of this is integral in maintaining your ability to concentrate and prevents burnout!

Doing exercise isn’t easy so if you have a particular routine where you schedule it in, you’ll build a great habit. If that’s not enough to get you up and moving, try incentivising yourself with a particular treat like an episode of your favourite TV show or a snack (a healthy one)! Do exercise that you enjoy.

6. Eat healthily

Eating healthily doesn't always mean eating clean 24/7. Rather, it means simply maintaining a balanced diet. Eat chocolate when you crave chocolate — but don’t go overboard. Try the 80/20 rule, 80% of the time you eat as healthily as possible and the other 20% of the time, you can treat yourself. If you eat healthily, you’ll feel great and be ready to tackle the day's work!

7. Physical distancing not social distancing

With all this talk of social distancing in the media, it’s hard to remember that this really means physical distancing. Please don’t forget to communicate with your friends and family. Use technology to your advantage! Facetime your friends and come up with activities you guys can do together virtually. Gaming is a great idea but as I’m not a gamer myself, my friends and I had a virtual baking challenge (not to brag but I definitely won!) Keep in virtual contact! This will help keep you sane in such crazy times.

8. Use your friends to your advantage

Whilst you might not have the in-person classroom interaction, you can still generate discussion with your friends online and even ask them for help. Remember that a group of minds will always be better than just one. Everyone is trying to stay on top of their learning anyway, so why not do it together?  

Hopefully these tips will help you learn to be the best student you can be in this rough time!  Remember to stay safe, stay home and stay dedicated to being the best version of yourself.

To quote a professor from one of the most famous schools ever:

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” — Albus Dumbledore

Hey there! Welcome to the subject of English Language, probably the most inconveniently placed exam there is in VCE, and one of your compulsory VCE subject 'top fours'. So if you're a science/maths-y sort of person, English language is probably your last exam (right after your good old methods + spesh + chemistry + physics + just kill me now exams), and if you're a humanity/language-y sort of person, English language is probably your first/one of your middle exams (legal studies + revs + global + language + why do I even bother exams). Feeling disadvantaged compared to the mainstream English students yet?!


I UNDERSTAND! So, in order to help you prepare for your exams and SWOTVAC, here's a blog post about how to plan your life and tips for you during the examination period!

SWOTVAC, what is it? In Australia, SWOTVAC stands for S tudy W ith o ut T eaching Vac ation. So yes, studying is involved. How do we plan for SWOTVAC? The common misconception between students is that VCE is just us chilling and relaxing throughout the year then CRAMMING a whole year's worth of study into the few weeks before your first exam. However tempting this is, PLEASE DO NOT try this. Not only will this end up with you being exhausted and reliant on coffee, it will also negatively affect your sleeping schedule. So, before SWOTVAC, keep a constant pace of studying throughout the year, whether it's 15 minutes after school, or an hour every day . Doing this will ensure that you are reviewing concepts you have gone through during class, reinforcing information you are not familiar with, or even seeing gaps in your knowledge, that you can ask your mates/teachers the next day.



Utilising your resources during SWOTVAC

You may not realise it, but you have an abundance of resources available to you for the preparation of your exams. For effective studying during SWOTVAC, you cannot rely on yourself. I'm sure that becoming a hermit at home in PJs all day attempting practice exams may sound super fun (??????), but your teachers and peers are crucial during this time. As most of us know, your study scores are dependent on how your cohort scores. And now that it's SWOTVAC, and SACs have finished, it's time to really start spending time studying with your study group you've neglected since week 2 term 1. Studying with a study group can allow each member to see how other members work and attempt exams, or even share examination techniques they have learnt from older students, friends, or tutors. Doing exams together, bringing out past SACs and marking them together, can also help everyone discuss potential ways to stop making mistakes. Explaining concepts to others is the best way to reinforce your own knowledge! Other than your in-school mates, you've also got your mates from other schools doing the same subjects as you. Asking to share SACs and school resources also allow you to be more exposed to different types of questions, and potentially what else could pop up in your exams. Exposure is key. Lastly, you've got your teachers and tutors. Your teachers will always be there to help you, whether it's an easy concept you can't seem to get, or you'd like extra work or work to be marked. Same goes for your tutors, we're all here to help you out, so never feel like you're doing this alone!


Planning your studies for SWOTVAC

  • Don't limit yourself to one subject a day - study several subjects a day
  • Do your exams with real paper, not online. This will improve your handwriting, as well as give you a feel of what the exam really is like. (Yes your hand will hurt like a bitch tho) This will also be particularly helpful as you won't be distracted by your laptop or phone if you aren't looking at exam questions on them.
  • Once you are tired of studying a subject, move on. Don't force yourself to study something once you are tired of it, it won't be efficient
  • ASK FOR HELP IF YOU NEED HELP - whether it’s an email, text or message to your friends/teachers/tutors
  • Decide which subjects will be in your top 4, and focus on them. However, don't neglect your other subjects either.
  • Do exams under timed conditions to give yourself a feel of what it's like
  • Have a plan for each day. Not a timetable per se, more of a checklist of what you should achieve by the end of that day. This is particularly helpful in that when you are stressed and feeling overwhelmed, just look at your to-do list and write out what you need to do.
  • Don't study continuously without breaks. Take walks, and eat! Your health matters more than a score!
  • Don't study for too long, you need sleep to reinforce what you've learnt during the day
  • If you procrastinate easily, turn your phone off, turn off your wifi, do what you have to do... BUT...
  • Don't forget to SOCIALISE and TAKE BREAKS!!

That's right, you need to plan rests and social days during SWOTVAC. Plan days where you go out and grab a bite with friends, go to the gym or the beach. You need to know your limits. Studying after you’re already tired is not going to get you anywhere, taking a walk to refresh your mind will help you focus. VCE is all about working hard and playing hard.

Remember to work hard and not procrastinate when you are working, but not talk about work whilst you are out having fun!

My final experience and final words of wisdom

Studying is important during SWOTVAC, but planning your study allows for efficiency! Last year in 2016, I did the subjects Specialist Maths, Chemistry, English Language, and Global politics, exams in that order. My exams were not very spaced out, with Spesh, Chem, and EngLang exams being pretty much days apart. So, unlike other students, I didn't get the luxury of studying between exams. This may be the case for many of us, so here's a tip for you: When walking into exams that are pretty much back-to-back, make sure you are already 99% ready for each exam. This applies especially for English, seeing as how it is a compulsory top 4. So, don't anticipate many studies the night after an exam, for an exam the day after. Exams are tiring! So, rest as much as you can after exams, and read about your next exam lightly the night before, sleep early, then read lightly about your next exam the day after.

Good luck for VCE and the future. Remember, you are more than your ATAR :)

Reading your VCE books during your summer holidays might sound a little mundane, especially when you can spend that time with family and friends, but it will be one of the  best  things you would’ve done for yourself in preparation for your VCE year. Trust me, you’ll thank yourself later. The difference with these holidays compared with others is that you have an incredibly important year of schooling lurking around the corner – one that is stressful for most, if not all students. So, for your own benefit, you should definitely take advantage of this break! Having read your books once before you start the school year gives you a  major advantage over students who haven’t. Let’s look at some reasons why:

1. Preparing your mindset.

Once you have read your books, you will have a good idea of what you’re heading into during the school year. When the teacher begins to teach the text in class, you will be clear on the ideas discussed, in comparison to other students who will still be reading their texts. You’ll be able to easily build connections between class discussions and the book, whereas other students will definitely struggle. Often, they will miss a vital piece of information brought up in class simply because they didn’t realise how significant that idea is to a section in the book or even the book as a whole!

2. Exposure to all the possibilities.

Even though you might not start studying a text until mid-way through the year or even in Term 4, having read the books gives you a head start on absorbing all the information around you. Throughout the year, you may come across something that catches your eye on the internet (whether it be from a news source or online blog) that you see has ideas which relate to one of the texts you will be studying in the near future. The best thing is that you’ll be able to bookmark it for a later date to revisit! For example, if one of your texts is  Brooklyn , a novel about an Irish woman’s immigration to America, if you come across stories about immigration, or references to Irish versus American culture, then this would be ideal for you to save for later!

3. Lighten the workload in VCE. 

You’ve already done half the work if you read your novels in the holidays. Many teachers and VCE examiners recommend  at least  reading your texts twice before your exam (read more about this  here ). This is because the first read is often to grasp ideas and get an overall understanding of the text. The second reading is for analysis, exploring in detail particular ideas, quotes and others. Since VCE is a heavy-workload year, it would definitely be a smart move if you lifted some of that weight during your holidays. Many people think it will be fine to leave the reading task to the last minute – right before they start studying the text in class, but knowing VCE, SACs and assignments will be thrown your way, meaning that you’ll have less time than you had intended to read. So the earlier you get started, the better!

The summer break is definitely a time when you can relax and just enjoy life. It all comes down to simple time-management. Instead of just lazing at the beach, why not spend a little bit of that time also reading a couple of chapters? Or, you could plan to read about 20 minutes a day, at a time that’s most convenient for you! There’s no reason why you can’t read your books  and  have fun during your holidays. So just open your books and give them a read!

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How to Edit Quotes in an Essay

4-minute read

  • 29th April 2019

Quoting sources is vital when writing an essay . But what if the quote doesn’t fit the surrounding text? Or what if it’s too long?

The good news is you can change a quote if you need to. But you also need to highlight your edits clearly in the text. Check out our guide below, then, to find out how to edit quotes in academic writing.

Omitting Text from Quotations with Ellipses

If a quote is too long, it may interrupt the flow of your writing. For instance:

Smith (2007, p. 24) describes blancmange as “a sweet dessert that is generally made with milk or cream and sugar, although I also once had one that contained none of these ingredients, that has been thickened with gelatin, corn starch or Irish moss.”

The middle part of this quote isn’t necessary for describing blancmange, so we might want to leave it out. To do this, we would use an ellipsis to show where we had cut something from the original source:

Smith (2007, p. 24) describes blancmange as “a sweet dessert that is generally made with milk or cream and sugar…that has been thickened with gelatin, corn starch or Irish moss.”

We now have the text we wanted to quote, but we haven’t had to include the middle bit. This makes it clearer and more succinct.

Keep in mind, too, that you can write an ellipsis in several ways, including:

  • In square brackets […]
  • Spaced (. . .) or unspaced (…)
  • With a space before and after the ellipsis or without spaces

As such, always check your style guide for advice on how to write ellipses. If you do not have a style guide, simply apply one type of ellipsis consistently.

Changing or Adding Words in Quotations

You can edit quotes by changing or adding words in order to:

  • Integrate quoted text into your own writing
  • Clarify the meaning of something
  • Correct an error in the original text

If you do any of these, use square brackets to show where you have changed the original text. For example, imagine we found the following in a book:

Blancmange is delicious. The first time I ate it, I was in love.

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We might then want to quote the second sentence. But without the first sentence, it wouldn’t be clear what the “it” refers to. As such, we could edit the second sentence so that it works by itself:

Smith (2007, p. 31) says, “The first time I ate [blancmange], I was in love.”

It is now clear what Smith is saying without having to include the first sentence, but the reader can also see where we have changed the quote.

Marking Errors in Quotations

Finally, what if you don’t want to change an error in a quote? Or what if it contains something that looks like an error, such as an old-fashioned spelling?

In cases like these, you can use the Latin term “sic” to show that you’ve kept something non-standard from the original text. This is short for sic erat scriptum , which translates to “thus was it written.”

Usually, to use “sic” like this, you would place it in square brackets:

His writings were riddled with errors due to his addiction, which he described as “a terrible but delishus [sic] shame” (Smith 2017, p. 2).

The reader will then know that the spelling “delishus” comes from the quoted text, so it is not a transcription error.

Unless you have a good reason for preserving an error, though, it is usually better to fix it and put the correction in square brackets instead.

Summary: How to Edit Quotes in an Essay

If you need to edit quotes in your writing, keep the following in mind:

  • Use an ellipsis to indicate omissions in the text. Check your style guide for how to format ellipses (e.g., in brackets or not, spaced or unspaced).
  • Mark additions or changes by placing the edited text in square brackets .
  • Use the term “[Sic]” to show that you’ve duplicated an error from a source. This will ensure the reader doesn’t think you’ve made a mistake yourself.

Different style guides may vary on these rules, so make sure to check yours if you have one. And don’t forget to have your work proofread .

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Put a Quote in an Essay

Home / Blog / How To Put A Quote In An Essay (with Examples)

How to Put a Quote in an Essay (with Examples)


When writing an essay , it is essential to incorporate quotes from reputable sources to support your arguments and ideas. However, knowing how to use quotes effectively is crucial in maintaining the flow and clarity of your essay. This blog will discuss the proper ways to put a quote in an essay with examples.

Why Use Quotes in an Essay?

Quotes are used in an essay to support or reinforce the writer's arguments and ideas. They provide evidence for your claims and demonstrate that your argument is backed up by research and authority. Incorporating quotes also helps to provide context and depth to your writing and can add a unique perspective to your essay.

Types of Quotes

There are two types of quotes you can use in your essay: direct quotes and indirect quotes.

Direct Quotes: Direct quotes are the exact words used by the source that you are quoting. When using direct quotes, you need to use quotation marks and indicate the source.

Example: According to John Smith, "The Earth is round."

Indirect Quotes: Indirect quotes are a paraphrase of the original source. When using indirect quotes, you do not need to use quotation marks.

Example: John Smith claims that the Earth is round.

How to Put a Quote in an Essay

When using quotes in an essay, there are several rules that you need to follow to ensure that your writing is clear, accurate, and appropriate. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Choose a Relevant Quote

Before you start writing your essay, identify the quotes that you want to use to support your arguments. Ensure that the quotes you select are relevant, reliable, and add value to your essay.

Step 2: Introduce the Quote

Introduce the quote by providing context and indicating who the source is. This will help the reader understand the significance of the quote and its relevance to your argument.

Example: According to Jane Doe, a renowned climate scientist, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity."

Step 3: Use Quotation Marks

When using a direct quote, use quotation marks to indicate that you are using the exact words of the source.

Example: According to Jane Doe, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity."

Step 4: Provide the Source

Provide the source of the quote, including the author's name, the title of the book or article, and the page number. This will help the reader find the source if they want to read it.

Example: According to Jane Doe, a renowned climate scientist, "Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity." (Doe, The State of the Climate, p. 25)

Step 5: Punctuate Correctly

Punctuate the quote correctly by placing the comma or period inside the quotation marks, depending on whether it is a part of the quote or your sentence.

Step 6: Explain the Quote

Explain the significance of the quote in your own words. This will help the reader understand how the quote supports your argument.

Example: Jane Doe's quote highlights the urgency of addressing climate change as it poses a significant threat to human survival.

Step 7: Cite Your Sources

Ensure that you cite your sources correctly using the citation style specified by your instructor or the style guide for your discipline.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using Quotes in an Essay

Using quotes in an essay can be tricky, and many students make mistakes that can impact the quality of their writing. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when using quotes in an essay:

Failing to provide context: It is essentialto provide context when using a quote in an essay. Failure to do so can confuse the reader and make the quote appear out of place. Always introduce the quote and provide some background information about the source and why you are using the quote.

Overusing quotes: While quotes can add value to your essay, it is essential not to overuse them. Use quotes sparingly and only when necessary. Overusing quotes can make your writing appear lazy, and it may give the impression that you are not confident in your own ideas.

Incorrectly citing sources: Always cite your sources correctly using the citation style specified by your instructor or the style guide for your discipline. Failure to do so can lead to accusations of plagiarism , which can have serious consequences.

Misquoting or altering a quote: When using a direct quote, it is essential to use the exact words of the source. Do not alter the quote or misquote the source as this can distort the meaning and accuracy of the quote.

Failing to explain the quote: When using a quote, it is important to explain its significance and how it supports your argument. Failure to do so can make the quote appear irrelevant and disconnected from your essay.

Examples of Quotes in an Essay

Here are some examples of how to use quotes in an essay:

Example 1: Argumentative Essay

Topic: Should students be required to wear school uniforms?

Quote: "School uniforms promote a sense of unity and equality among students, and they help to reduce instances of bullying based on clothing." (Johnson, School Uniforms, p. 10)

Explanation: The quote supports the argument that school uniforms can have a positive impact on student behavior and reduce instances of bullying. It is introduced with the source and provides context for the argument.

Example 2: Persuasive Essay

Topic: The importance of recycling

Quote: "Every ton of paper that is recycled saves 17 trees, 7,000 gallons of water, and 463 gallons of oil." (Environmental Protection Agency)

Explanation: The quote provides a powerful statistic that supports the importance of recycling. It is introduced with the source, and its significance is explained in the following sentences.

Example 3: Expository Essay

Topic: The history of the American Civil War

Quote: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal." (Lincoln, Gettysburg Address)

Explanation: The quote is an iconic line from Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which is a significant event in American history. It is introduced with the source, and its significance is explained in the following sentences.

Incorporating quotes in an essay can add depth, context, and authority to your writing. However, it is important to use quotes effectively and appropriately. Always choose relevant and reliable quotes, introduce them with context, use the correct punctuation, explain their significance, and cite your sources correctly. By following these guidelines, you can effectively use quotes in your essay and improve the quality of your writing.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

What this handout is about

Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument. This handout will help you decide when and how to quote like a pro.

When should I quote?

Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have probably been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). And quotations are only one type of evidence: well-balanced papers may also make use of paraphrases, data, and statistics. The types of evidence you use will depend in part on the conventions of the discipline or audience for which you are writing. For example, papers analyzing literature may rely heavily on direct quotations of the text, while papers in the social sciences may have more paraphrasing, data, and statistics than quotations.

Discussing specific arguments or ideas

Sometimes, in order to have a clear, accurate discussion of the ideas of others, you need to quote those ideas word for word. Suppose you want to challenge the following statement made by John Doe, a well-known historian:

“At the beginning of World War Two, almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly.”

If it is especially important that you formulate a counterargument to this claim, then you might wish to quote the part of the statement that you find questionable and establish a dialogue between yourself and John Doe:

Historian John Doe has argued that in 1941 “almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly” (Doe 223). Yet during the first six months of U.S. involvement, the wives and mothers of soldiers often noted in their diaries their fear that the war would drag on for years.

Giving added emphasis to a particularly authoritative source on your topic.

There will be times when you want to highlight the words of a particularly important and authoritative source on your topic. For example, suppose you were writing an essay about the differences between the lives of male and female slaves in the U.S. South. One of your most provocative sources is a narrative written by a former slave, Harriet Jacobs. It would then be appropriate to quote some of Jacobs’s words:

Harriet Jacobs, a former slave from North Carolina, published an autobiographical slave narrative in 1861. She exposed the hardships of both male and female slaves but ultimately concluded that “slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.”

In this particular example, Jacobs is providing a crucial first-hand perspective on slavery. Thus, her words deserve more exposure than a paraphrase could provide.

Jacobs is quoted in Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

Analyzing how others use language.

This scenario is probably most common in literature and linguistics courses, but you might also find yourself writing about the use of language in history and social science classes. If the use of language is your primary topic, then you will obviously need to quote users of that language.

Examples of topics that might require the frequent use of quotations include:

Southern colloquial expressions in William Faulkner’s Light in August

Ms. and the creation of a language of female empowerment

A comparison of three British poets and their use of rhyme

Spicing up your prose.

In order to lend variety to your prose, you may wish to quote a source with particularly vivid language. All quotations, however, must closely relate to your topic and arguments. Do not insert a quotation solely for its literary merits.

One example of a quotation that adds flair:

President Calvin Coolidge’s tendency to fall asleep became legendary. As H. L. Mencken commented in the American Mercury in 1933, “Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”

How do I set up and follow up a quotation?

Once you’ve carefully selected the quotations that you want to use, your next job is to weave those quotations into your text. The words that precede and follow a quotation are just as important as the quotation itself. You can think of each quote as the filling in a sandwich: it may be tasty on its own, but it’s messy to eat without some bread on either side of it. Your words can serve as the “bread” that helps readers digest each quote easily. Below are four guidelines for setting up and following up quotations.

In illustrating these four steps, we’ll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quotation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

1. Provide context for each quotation.

Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing context for our above example, you might write:

When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression.

2. Attribute each quotation to its source.

Tell your reader who is speaking. Here is a good test: try reading your text aloud. Could your reader determine without looking at your paper where your quotations begin? If not, you need to attribute the quote more noticeably.

Avoid getting into the “they said” attribution rut! There are many other ways to attribute quotes besides this construction. Here are a few alternative verbs, usually followed by “that”:

Different reporting verbs are preferred by different disciplines, so pay special attention to these in your disciplinary reading. If you’re unfamiliar with the meanings of any of these words or others you find in your reading, consult a dictionary before using them.

3. Explain the significance of the quotation.

Once you’ve inserted your quotation, along with its context and attribution, don’t stop! Your reader still needs your assessment of why the quotation holds significance for your paper. Using our Roosevelt example, if you were writing a paper on the first one-hundred days of FDR’s administration, you might follow the quotation by linking it to that topic:

With that message of hope and confidence, the new president set the stage for his next one-hundred days in office and helped restore the faith of the American people in their government.

4. Provide a citation for the quotation.

All quotations, just like all paraphrases, require a formal citation. For more details about particular citation formats, see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . In general, you should remember one rule of thumb: Place the parenthetical reference or footnote/endnote number after—not within—the closed quotation mark.

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers, 11).

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”1

How do I embed a quotation into a sentence?

In general, avoid leaving quotes as sentences unto themselves. Even if you have provided some context for the quote, a quote standing alone can disrupt your flow.  Take a look at this example:

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

Standing by itself, the quote’s connection to the preceding sentence is unclear. There are several ways to incorporate a quote more smoothly:

Lead into the quote with a colon.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression: “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

The colon announces that a quote will follow to provide evidence for the sentence’s claim.

Introduce or conclude the quote by attributing it to the speaker. If your attribution precedes the quote, you will need to use a comma after the verb.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. He states, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

When faced with a twelve-foot mountain troll, Ron gathers his courage, shouting, “Wingardium Leviosa!” (Rowling, p. 176).

The Pirate King sees an element of regality in their impoverished and dishonest life. “It is, it is a glorious thing/To be a pirate king,” he declares (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

Interrupt the quote with an attribution to the speaker. Again, you will need to use a comma after the verb, as well as a comma leading into the attribution.

“There is nothing either good or bad,” Hamlet argues, “but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet 2.2).

“And death shall be no more,” Donne writes, “Death thou shalt die” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Dividing the quote may highlight a particular nuance of the quote’s meaning. In the first example, the division calls attention to the two parts of Hamlet’s claim. The first phrase states that nothing is inherently good or bad; the second phrase suggests that our perspective causes things to become good or bad. In the second example, the isolation of “Death thou shalt die” at the end of the sentence draws a reader’s attention to that phrase in particular. As you decide whether or not you want to break up a quote, you should consider the shift in emphasis that the division might create.

Use the words of the quote grammatically within your own sentence.

When Hamlet tells Rosencrantz that he “could be bounded in a nutshell and count [him]self a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2), he implies that thwarted ambition did not cause his depression.

Ultimately, death holds no power over Donne since in the afterlife, “death shall be no more” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Note that when you use “that” after the verb that introduces the quote, you no longer need a comma.

The Pirate King argues that “it is, it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king” (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

How much should I quote?

As few words as possible. Remember, your paper should primarily contain your own words, so quote only the most pithy and memorable parts of sources. Here are guidelines for selecting quoted material judiciously:

Excerpt fragments.

Sometimes, you should quote short fragments, rather than whole sentences. Suppose you interviewed Jane Doe about her reaction to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. She commented:

“I couldn’t believe it. It was just unreal and so sad. It was just unbelievable. I had never experienced such denial. I don’t know why I felt so strongly. Perhaps it was because JFK was more to me than a president. He represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

You could quote all of Jane’s comments, but her first three sentences are fairly redundant. You might instead want to quote Jane when she arrives at the ultimate reason for her strong emotions:

Jane Doe grappled with grief and disbelief. She had viewed JFK, not just as a national figurehead, but as someone who “represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

Excerpt those fragments carefully!

Quoting the words of others carries a big responsibility. Misquoting misrepresents the ideas of others. Here’s a classic example of a misquote:

John Adams has often been quoted as having said: “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.”

John Adams did, in fact, write the above words. But if you see those words in context, the meaning changes entirely. Here’s the rest of the quotation:

Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell.

As you can see from this example, context matters!

This example is from Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (Oxford University Press, 1989).

Use block quotations sparingly.

There may be times when you need to quote long passages. However, you should use block quotations only when you fear that omitting any words will destroy the integrity of the passage. If that passage exceeds four lines (some sources say five), then set it off as a block quotation.

Be sure you are handling block quotes correctly in papers for different academic disciplines–check the index of the citation style guide you are using. Here are a few general tips for setting off your block quotations:

  • Set up a block quotation with your own words followed by a colon.
  • Indent. You normally indent 4-5 spaces for the start of a paragraph. When setting up a block quotation, indent the entire paragraph once from the left-hand margin.
  • Single space or double space within the block quotation, depending on the style guidelines of your discipline (MLA, CSE, APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Do not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of the block quote—the indentation is what indicates that it’s a quote.
  • Place parenthetical citation according to your style guide (usually after the period following the last sentence of the quote).
  • Follow up a block quotation with your own words.

So, using the above example from John Adams, here’s how you might include a block quotation:

After reading several doctrinally rigid tracts, John Adams recalled the zealous ranting of his former teacher, Joseph Cleverly, and minister, Lemuel Bryant. He expressed his ambivalence toward religion in an 1817 letter to Thomas Jefferson:

Adams clearly appreciated religion, even if he often questioned its promotion.

How do I combine quotation marks with other punctuation marks?

It can be confusing when you start combining quotation marks with other punctuation marks. You should consult a style manual for complicated situations, but the following two rules apply to most cases:

Keep periods and commas within quotation marks.

So, for example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.”

In the above example, both the comma and period were enclosed in the quotation marks. The main exception to this rule involves the use of internal citations, which always precede the last period of the sentence. For example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries” (Poe 167).

Note, however, that the period remains inside the quotation marks when your citation style involves superscript footnotes or endnotes. For example:

According to Professor Poe, werewolves “represent anxiety about the separation between human and animal,” and werewolf movies often “interrogate those boundaries.” 2

Place all other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks) outside the quotation marks, except when they were part of the original quotation.

Take a look at the following examples:

I couldn’t believe it when my friend passed me a note in the cafe saying the management “started charging $15 per hour for parking”!

The coach yelled, “Run!”

In the first example, the author placed the exclamation point outside the quotation mark because she added it herself to emphasize the outrageous nature of the parking price change. The original note had not included an exclamation mark. In the second example, the exclamation mark remains within the quotation mark because it is indicating the excited tone in which the coach yelled the command. Thus, the exclamation mark is considered to be part of the original quotation.

How do I indicate quotations within quotations?

If you are quoting a passage that contains a quotation, then you use single quotation marks for the internal quotation. Quite rarely, you quote a passage that has a quotation within a quotation. In that rare instance, you would use double quotation marks for the second internal quotation.

Here’s an example of a quotation within a quotation:

In “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “‘But the Emperor has nothing on at all!’ cried a little child.”

Remember to consult your style guide to determine how to properly cite a quote within a quote.

When do I use those three dots ( . . . )?

Whenever you want to leave out material from within a quotation, you need to use an ellipsis, which is a series of three periods, each of which should be preceded and followed by a space. So, an ellipsis in this sentence would look like . . . this. There are a few rules to follow when using ellipses:

Be sure that you don’t fundamentally change the meaning of the quotation by omitting material.

Take a look at the following example:

“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus and serves the entire UNC community.”

“The Writing Center . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

The reader’s understanding of the Writing Center’s mission to serve the UNC community is not affected by omitting the information about its location.

Do not use ellipses at the beginning or ending of quotations, unless it’s important for the reader to know that the quotation was truncated.

For example, using the above example, you would NOT need an ellipsis in either of these situations:

“The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus . . .”

The Writing Center ” . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

Use punctuation marks in combination with ellipses when removing material from the end of sentences or clauses.

For example, if you take material from the end of a sentence, keep the period in as usual.

“The boys ran to school, forgetting their lunches and books. Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

“The boys ran to school. . . . Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

Likewise, if you excerpt material at the end of clause that ends in a comma, retain the comma.

“The red car came to a screeching halt that was heard by nearby pedestrians, but no one was hurt.”

“The red car came to a screeching halt . . . , but no one was hurt.”

Is it ever okay to insert my own words or change words in a quotation?

Sometimes it is necessary for clarity and flow to alter a word or words within a quotation. You should make such changes rarely. In order to alert your reader to the changes you’ve made, you should always bracket the altered words. Here are a few examples of situations when you might need brackets:

Changing verb tense or pronouns in order to be consistent with the rest of the sentence.

Suppose you were quoting a woman who, when asked about her experiences immigrating to the United States, commented “nobody understood me.” You might write:

Esther Hansen felt that when she came to the United States “nobody understood [her].”

In the above example, you’ve changed “me” to “her” in order to keep the entire passage in third person. However, you could avoid the need for this change by simply rephrasing:

“Nobody understood me,” recalled Danish immigrant Esther Hansen.

Including supplemental information that your reader needs in order to understand the quotation.

For example, if you were quoting someone’s nickname, you might want to let your reader know the full name of that person in brackets.

“The principal of the school told Billy [William Smith] that his contract would be terminated.”

Similarly, if a quotation referenced an event with which the reader might be unfamiliar, you could identify that event in brackets.

“We completely revised our political strategies after the strike [of 1934].”

Indicating the use of nonstandard grammar or spelling.

In rare situations, you may quote from a text that has nonstandard grammar, spelling, or word choice. In such cases, you may want to insert [sic], which means “thus” or “so” in Latin. Using [sic] alerts your reader to the fact that this nonstandard language is not the result of a typo on your part. Always italicize “sic” and enclose it in brackets. There is no need to put a period at the end. Here’s an example of when you might use [sic]:

Twelve-year-old Betsy Smith wrote in her diary, “Father is afraid that he will be guilty of beach [sic] of contract.”

Here [sic] indicates that the original author wrote “beach of contract,” not breach of contract, which is the accepted terminology.

Do not overuse brackets!

For example, it is not necessary to bracket capitalization changes that you make at the beginning of sentences. For example, suppose you were going to use part of this quotation:

“The colors scintillated curiously over a hard carapace, and the beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello.”

If you wanted to begin a sentence with an excerpt from the middle of this quotation, there would be no need to bracket your capitalization changes.

“The beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.

Not: “[T]he beetle’s tiny antennae made gentle waving motions as though saying hello,” said Dr. Grace Farley, remembering a defining moment on her journey to becoming an entomologist.

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. 2012. The Modern Researcher , 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams, Joseph Bizup, and William T. FitzGerald. 2016. The Craft of Research , 4th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gibaldi, Joseph. 2009. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers , 7th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America.

Turabian, Kate. 2018. A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, Dissertations , 9th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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A detailed guide to quoting

Jessica Malnik

Jessica Malnik

how to properly add quotes in essays

Quotations have the power to elevate your written work when used correctly. But in order to use a quote properly, you must give full credit to the original source.

Before you can learn how to properly include quoted material, you need to have a firm understanding of what a quotation is, the purpose for using one, and the difference between quoting and paraphrasing.

What is a quotation in writing?

Quotations serve multiple purposes in writing. Students and professionals alike can benefit from using quotations in their work. Whether you’re writing a research paper or a blog article, you’ll likely find yourself needing to use them at some point. Quoting can add perspective, validation, and evidence to your piece.

What do you mean by quoting?

Quoting is a technique that allows you to include an original passage from a source in your work as a direct quote. You do this by framing or surrounding the quote in quotation marks like this, “This is an example of a sentence framed by quotation marks.” 

However, you can’t just add quotation marks and call it a day. You also need proper attribution for your source. 

Keep in mind that there is a difference between direct quoting and indirect quoting. With direct quoting, you include the source’s exact words framed within quotation marks. 

With indirect quoting, you can paraphrase what the person or text said in your own words instead of copying it verbatim. Indirect quoting, also known as indirect speech or discourse, is mostly used to summarize what someone said in a talk or interview. Indirect quotations are never placed within quotation marks.

How do you properly quote? 

To properly quote someone, you’ll need to follow some general quoting rules along with properly citing your source using your preferred MLA, APA, or Chicago style guide. 

For example, many people incorrectly use punctuation with quotation marks. Do you know whether or not to include punctuation inside the quotation marks?

Here’s how to handle punctuation marks with quotes, as well as a few more rules to consider when including quotations in your work:


As a good rule of thumb, periods and commas should go inside quotation marks. On the other hand, colons, semicolons, and dashes go outside of the quotation marks. 

However, exclamation points and question marks aren’t set in stone. While these tend to go on the inside of quotation marks, in some instances, you might place them outside of the marks. 

Here are a few examples to illustrate how this would work in practice:

“ You should keep commas inside the quotation marks, ” he explained.

She wanted to help, so she said, “ I’m happy to explain it ” ; they needed a thorough explanation, and she loved to teach her students.

It gets a little trickier with exclamation marks and question marks when quoting. These can be either inside the quotation marks or outside of them, depending on the situation. Keep question and exclamation marks inside the quotations if they apply to the quoted passage. If they apply to your sentence instead of the quote, you’ll want to keep them outside. Here’s an example:

He asked the students, “ Do you know how to use quotation marks? ”

Did the students hear the teacher when he said, “ I will show you how to use quotation marks ”?

Closing quotations

Once you start using a quotation mark, you have to close it. This means that you can’t leave a quote open like the example below because the reader wouldn’t know when the quote is over.

how to properly add quotes in essays


The rule of capitalization changes depending on the context. 

For example, if you quote a complete sentence, then you should capitalize the first word in the sentence. However, if you are quoting a piece of a sentence or phrase, then you wouldn’t need to start with capitalization, like this:

She said, “ Here’s an example of a sentence that should start with a capital letter. ”

He said it was “ a good example of a sentence where capitalization isn’t necessary. ”

Sometimes, you’ll want to split a quote. You don’t need to capitalize the second half of the quote that’s divided by a parenthetical. Here’s an example to show you what that would look like:

“ Here is an example of a quote, ” she told her students, “ that doesn’t need capitalization in the second part . ”

What is the purpose of quoting? 

As stated above, quotations can serve multiple purposes in a written piece. Quotes can signify direct passages or titles of works. Here are a few of the reasons to include a quote within your written work:

To establish credibility with the words of an authority on the topic. To share a particularly powerful, meaningful, elegant, or memorable message. To expand on the point or analyze it further. To argue the position of the source material.

These intentions can apply whether you’ve interviewed your source or are taking a quote from an existing, published piece. 

However, before you use a quote, you’ll want to understand how it can strengthen your work and when you should use one. We’ll discuss when you should use quotes and how to properly cite them using different style guides in the next section.

When you should use quotes

Quotations should be used strategically, no matter what type of writing you’re doing. For instance, if you’re a professional copywriter crafting a white paper or a student writing a research paper, you’ll likely want to include as much proof as possible in your work. However, stuffing your paper with a ton of quotations can do more harm than good because the piece needs to represent your ideas and interpretations of the source, not just good quotes.

That being said, quoting reputable sources in your work is an excellent way to prove your points and add credibility to the piece. Use quotations in your work when you want to share accurate ideas and passages from source materials.

You should also use quotes when you want to add emphasis to a source on the topic you’re covering. 

For example, if you’re writing a research paper, then it would be beneficial to add quotes from a professor involved in the study you’re referring to in your piece.

How to cite a quote in MLA, APA, and Chicago 

MLA, APA, and Chicago are three of the most common citation styles. It’s a standardized way of crediting the sources that you quote. Depending on your assignment, you may need to use a specific one when citing your sources.

This section shares how to cite your quotes in these three popular citation styles, along with several examples of each.

Modern Language Association (MLA) is most often associated with academics in English or philosophic fields. With this style of citation, you’ll need to include quotes word-for-word. It’s fine to use only phrases or pieces from a specific quote, but you’ll need to keep the spelling and punctuation the same.

Here are some other criteria to keep in mind when citing using MLA style:

• If the quote goes longer than four lines, you must use a blockquote. Do not indent at the start of the quote block.

• Start quotes on the next line, ½ inch from the left margin of the paper.

• Quotes must be double spaced like the rest of the paper.

• Only use quotations when quotation marks are a part of the source.

• Include in-text citations next to the blockquote.

• If a blockquote is longer than a paragraph, you must start the next paragraph with the same indent.

• Don’t include a number in the parenthetical quotation if the source doesn’t use page numbers.

Here’s an example of a short, direct quote with MLA using a website resource without page numbers:

She always wanted to be a writer. “ I knew from a young age that I wanted to write a novel . ” (Smith)

And an example of a blockquote from page 2 of the source:

John Doe shares his experience getting his book published in the prologue:

I never expected so many people to be willing to help me publish this book. I had a lot of support along the way. My friends and colleagues always encouraged me to keep going. Some helped me edit, and others reminded me why I started in the first place. One of my good friends even brought me dinner when she knew I was going to be working late. (2)

With MLA, the reader can reference the full sources at the end in the Work Cited section. For this example, it could look like this:

Works Cited

Smith, J. (2021). Example Blog Post. Retrieved 2021, from www.example.com

Doe, J. (2021). Book Title One (1st ed., Vol. 1). Example, TX: Example Publishing.

See this article for more information on MLA style citations.

American Psychological Association (APA) is used often in psychology, education, and criminal justice fields. It often requires a cover page and abstract.

Here are a few points to consider when using APA style to cite your sources:

• Citation pages should be double spaced.

• All citations in a paper must have a full reference in the reference list.

• All references must have a hanging indent.

• Sources must be listed in alphabetical order, typically by the last name.

Using the same source examples as we did with MLA above, here is how they would be cited in APA:

Doe, Jane. Example Blog Post . 2021, www.example.com. 

Doe, John. Book Title One . 1st ed., vol. 1, Example Publishing, 2021. 

See this article for more information on APA style citations.

Chicago Manual of Style (CMS) is commonly used in history and humanities fields. It was created to help researchers. Here are a few points to keep in mind for Chicago Style:

• There are 2 types of referencing styles:

    → Notes and Bibliography

    → Author-Date

• The list of bibliography must be single-spaced.

• The text should be double spaced, except for block quotations, tables, notes, and bibliographies.

• The second line should be indented for sources.

•Author last names must be arranged alphabetically.

Here’s how the same example sources used above would be cited using Chicago style:

Doe, Jane. “Example Blog Post,” 2021. www.example.com. 

Doe, John. Book Title One . 1. 1st ed. Vol. 1. Example, TX: Example Publishing, 2021.

See this article for more information on Chicago style citations.

Types of quotes and examples

There are two main types of quotes: direct and indirect.

Whenever you want to use someone’s statement word-for-word in your text, you’ll need to include properly cited, direct quotations. However, if you want to paraphrase someone’s words then indirect quotes could be more appropriate.

For example, say that you’re writing a press release for a company. You could interview different people within the company’s staff and paraphrase their quotes. This is particularly useful if the direct quote wouldn’t work well within your piece. For instance, you could change this direct quote example into an indirect quote that would more succinctly represent the speech:

Direct quote:

“I just found out we’ll be publishing some new textbooks on quotations. That’s so exciting because we’ve wanted to do that for a while now. I really can’t wait. It’s great news for the company, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Becky.

Indirect quote:

Becky says she’s excited about the company’s new opportunity to publish textbooks on quotations.

Keep in mind when using quotations that you should aim for using as few words as necessary. You don’t want to quote an entire paragraph when only one sentence contains the key information you want to share. If you need to add context, do so in your words. It’ll make for a much more interesting piece if you’re using quotes to support your stance alongside your interpretation instead of just repeating what’s already been said.

--> “A wide screen just makes a bad film twice as bad.” -->

May Habib CEO, Writer.com

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Quote in an Essay: Do It Properly Following the Standards

  • Essay Writing Guides

writing quotes in an essay

When proving your viewpoint, disputing, or just presenting information, it is advisable to back your words with solid arguments or citations. When you have a live discussion or speech, you may turn to other people’s words without considering proper punctuation or formatting style. However, when quoting in an essay, you need to be aware of the principal academic writing rules. This post is devoted to the pivotal peculiarities of quoting.

Quote in an Essay: What Is It?

Before we start discovering how to quote in an essay, we need to find out what a quotation is. A quote in an essay refers to a short excerpt or passage taken directly from a text, speech, or another source that is included within the body of the essay to support or illustrate a point being made by the author.

Quotes in an essay are commonly used to lend credibility, provide evidence, or add depth to an argument or analysis presented in a paper. By incorporating someone else’s words, properly cited and attributed, an author can reinforce their ideas and strengthen the overall impact of their writing. It is important to use quotes sparingly, ensuring they are relevant and effectively incorporated into the essay’s narrative to maintain a coherent flow of ideas.

How to Put a Quote into an Essay

When dealing with essay writing and finding a suitable phrase or words to refer to, it is obligatory to know how to put a quote into an essay. Improper or incorrect citations may play a nasty trick on you and spoil your GPA. Perhaps, in general, you know how to quote, but it must be mentioned that punctuation always depends on the required formatting style.

However, there are some commonly accepted standards.

Choose a relevant quote

Use quotes in an essay that support or enhance your argument, emphasize a point, or provide evidence from a credible source. Ensure that the quote aligns with the topic and purpose of your essay.

Introducing the quote

Begin by introducing the quote with context, attribution, and the source. It can be done by briefly explaining who said or wrote the quote and why it is significant in relation to your essay’s topic.

Punctuate correctly

Use quotation marks to enclose the quote in an essay and indicate that it is someone else’s words. Place any punctuation marks (like commas or periods) that belong to the quote inside the quotation marks, while those that pertain to the overall sentence are placed outside.

Provide citation

After the quote, you need to include an in-text citation to indicate the source. It typically includes the author’s name (or the name of the organization if it’s a corporate source) and the page number (if applicable). Additionally, make sure to follow the appropriate citation format required by your academic institution or professor (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago style).

Analyze and explain

After using a quote in an essay and providing the necessary citation, it’s crucial to analyze and explain its relevance to your argument. It helps connect the quote to your overall essay and demonstrates your understanding of its implications.

Remember, quotes can add credibility, depth, and support to your essay, but they should be used sparingly and always be integrated smoothly into your writing. Avoid excessively long quotes that may overshadow your original ideas, and make sure to balance them with your analysis and interpretation.

Why You Need to Identify the Quotation Source

It is crucial to identify your sources in quotes in an essay because they strengthen the credibility and reliability of your statements. By providing clear attribution to the original authors or creators of the information you are quoting, you give proper acknowledgement and respect to their intellectual property. What is more:

  • Identifying sources also allows readers or listeners to verify the accuracy and validity of the information presented.
  • It demonstrates your commitment to ethical writing, honest research, and responsible information sharing.
  • Properly identifying sources in quotations also helps in avoiding plagiarism.

An essay with quotes is often highly valued and graded since it is a sign of profound and well-thought investigation that requires an indication of the primary source.

Short Quotations in an Essay

If you need to quote in a paragraph and choose a short quotation, you should seamlessly integrate it into your writing following the next steps:

  • Provide some context to your readers regarding the topic or the source of the quotation. It helps set the stage and insert a quote in an essay. For instance, you could mention the name of the author, the work they have written, or the primary subject being discussed.
  • Next, use a signal phrase or an introductory phrase to introduce a quote in an essay. It can involve using phrases like “According to,” “As mentioned by,” or “In the words of.” Make sure to attribute the quote to its rightful owner, providing their name or relevant credentials.
  • After the introductory phrase, insert the short quotation itself. Enclose it within quotation marks (“”) to clearly indicate that you use someone else’s words.

Ensure that quotations in an essay are accurate and word-for-word from a credible source. If you need to omit or modify any part of the quotation for better clarity or conciseness, use ellipses (…) or brackets ([ ]) respectively to convey those changes.

Quote In an Essay: MLA, APA, Chicago

When citing a quote in APA, MLA, and Chicago styles, there are specific guidelines to follow. Here’s how you can quote in an essay in each of these formats:

When you quote in an essay MLA, you need to include the author’s last name and page number in parentheses. For example:

“Quote here” (Author’s Last Name Page Number).

In APA style, you should indicate the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number. For example:

“Quote here” (Author’s Last Name, Year, p. Page Number).

  • Chicago Style

In Chicago style, there are two quotation essay methods: notes and bibliography or author-date.

  • Notes and Bibliography: In this method, you should use footnotes or endnotes and a bibliography. The first citation includes the author’s full name, the title of the source, and the publication information. For subsequent citations, use the author’s last name and a shortened title.

Footnote example:

1st citation: Author’s Full Name, Title of Source (Place of Publication: Publisher, Year), Page Number.

Subsequent citation: Author’s Last Name, Shortened Title of Source, Page Number.

  • Author-Date: In this method, you should indicate the author’s last name, year of publication, and page number in parentheses within the text.

“Quote here” (Author’s Last Name Year, Page Number).

Remember, when citing quotes, it is crucial to properly attribute a reliable source to avoid plagiarism and provide a clear reference for readers to locate the cited material in your essay with quotes.

Quoting Articles: Introduction in Different Formatting Styles

Quoting an article in an essay in different formatting styles can add variety and visual appeal to your writing. Here are a few ways to do so:

  • In accordance with MLA formatting guidelines, you can introduce a quote by providing the author’s name and cited page number in parentheses after the quote. For example:

According to John Doe, “citation text” (25).

  • In APA formatting, you can introduce a quote by mentioning the author’s name, publication year, and page number in parentheses. Here’s an example:

Smith (2019) stated, “citation text” (p. 42).

  • In Chicago style, you have the option to use footnotes or endnotes to introduce a quote. For footnotes, you can indicate the author’s name, article title, publication date, and page number. Here’s how it can be done:

As stated by Jane Smith in her article “Wild Life,” published on April 1, 2020, “citation text”

  • In Harvard referencing, you can introduce a quote by including the author’s name, publication year, and page number, all within parentheses. Such an introduction would look like this:

According to Williams (2018, p. 10), “citation text”

Remember, it’s important to follow the specific formatting guidelines required by your academic institution or publication. These examples serve as a starting point, but always consult the appropriate style guide for accurate referencing.

Example Quotes in an Essay

The best way to cite correctly is to follow the example quotes in an essay. Here are some samples of the main formatting styles.

MLA formatting style:

  • “Innovation is the pushing force of progress in our rapidly changing world” (Smith 23).
  • As Smith states, “Innovation is the pushing force of progress in our rapidly changing world” (23)

APA formatting style:

  • “Innovation is the pushing force of progress in our rapidly changing world” (Smith, 2023, p. 23).
  • According to Smith (2023), “Innovation is the pushing force of progress in our rapidly changing world” (p. 23)

Chicago formatting style:

  • “Innovation is the pushing force of progress in our rapidly changing world” (Smith, 2023, 23).

Now, everything is clear on how to quote in an essay and why it is important to cite properly for the sake of credibility and academic integrity.

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Using Literary Quotations

Use the guidelines below to learn how to use literary quotations.

Download this Handout PDF


When you’re asked to write a paper analyzing a work of literature, your instructor probably expects you to incorporate quotations from that literary text into your analysis. But how do you do this well? What kind of quotations do you use? How do you seamlessly weave together your ideas with someone else’s words?

On this page we clarify the purpose of using literary quotations in literary analysis papers by exploring why quotations are important to use in your writing and then explaining how to do this. We provide general guidelines and specific suggestions about blending your prose and quoted material as well as information about formatting logistics and various rules for handling outside text.

Although this material is focused on integrating your ideas with quotations from novels, poems, and plays into literary analysis papers, in some genres this advice is equally applicable to incorporating quotations from scholarly essays, reports, or even original research into your work.

For further information, check out our Quoting and Paraphrasing resource, or you may wish to see when the Writing Center is offering its next introductory workshop about the genre of literary analysis. Additionally, our Short Guide to Close Reading for Literary Analysis offers wonderful insight into how you can read a piece of literature in order to analyze it.

Why should I use literary quotations?

Within a literary analysis, your purpose is to develop an argument about what the author of the text is doing—how the text “works.” You use quotations to support this argument. This involves selecting, presenting, and discussing material from the text in order to “prove” your point—to make your case—in much the same way a lawyer brings evidence before a jury.

Quoting for any other purpose is counterproductive. Don’t quote to “tell the story” or otherwise convey basic information about the text; most of the time within this genre you can assume your reader knows the text. And don’t quote just for the sake of quoting or to fill up space.

How do I use literary quotations?

General guidelines.

The following paragraph is from a student’s analysis of the relationship between two characters in Woolf’s To the Lighthouse . Notice how statements expressing the writer’s ideas and observations are verified with evidence from the novel in both summarized and quoted form.

We learn about Mrs. Ramsey’s personality by observing her feelings about other characters. For example, Mrs. Ramsey has mixed feelings toward Mr. Tansley, but her feelings seem to grow more positive over time as she comes to know him better. At first Mrs. Ramsey finds Mr. Tansley annoying, as shown especially when he mentions that no one is going to the lighthouse (7). But rather than hating him, she feels pity: “she pitied men always as if they lacked something . . .” (85). Then later, during the gathering, pity turns to empathy as she realizes that Mr. Tansley must feel inferior. He must know, Mrs. Ramsey thinks, that “no woman would look at him with Paul Rayley in the room” (104). Finally, by the end of the dinner scene, she feels some attraction to Mr. Tansley and also a new respect: “She liked his laugh . . . She liked his awkwardness. There was a lot in that man after all” (110). In observing this evolution in her attitude, we learn more about Mrs. Ramsey than we do about Mr. Tansley. The change in Mrs. Ramsey’s attitude is not used by Woolf to show that Mrs. Ramsey is fickle or confused; rather it is used to show her capacity for understanding both the frailty and complexity of human beings. This is a central characteristic of Mrs. Ramsey’s personality.

Your ideas + textual evidence + discussion

Notice that this paragraph includes three basic kinds of materials: (a) statements expressing the student’s own ideas about the relationship Woolf is creating; (b) data or evidence from the text in summarized, paraphrased, and quoted form; and (c) discussion of how the data support the writer’s interpretation. All the quotations are used in accordance with the writer’s purpose, i.e., to show how the development of Mrs. Ramsey’s feelings indicates something about her personality.

Textual evidence options

Quoting is only one of several ways to present textual material as evidence. You can also refer to textual data, summarize, and paraphrase. You will often want merely to refer or point to passages (as in the third sentence in the above example paragraph) that contribute to your argument. In other cases, you will want to paraphrase, i.e., “translate” the original into your own words, again instead of quoting. Summarize or paraphrase when it is not so much the language of the text that justifies your position, but the substance or content.

Quoting selectively

Similarly, after you have decided that you want to quote material, quote only the portions of the text specifically relevant to your point . Think of the text in terms of units—words, phrases, sentences, and groups of sentences (paragraphs, stanzas)—and use only the units you need. If it is particular words or phrases that “prove” your point, you do not need to quote the full sentences they appear in; rather, incorporate the words and phrases into your own sentences that focus on your own ideas.

Blending your prose and quoted material

It is permissible to quote an entire sentence (between two sentences of your own), but in general you should avoid this method of bringing textual material into your discussion. Instead, use one of the following patterns:

An introducing phrase or orienter plus the quotation:

  • In Blake’s poem “The Tyger,” it is creation, not a hypothetical creator, that is supremely awesome. [ argument sentence ]. The speaker asks, “What immortal hand or eye / Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?” [ data sentence; orienter before quote ]
  • Gatsby is not to be regarded as a personal failure. [ argument sentence ] “Gatsby turned out all right at the end” (2), according to Nick. [ data sentence; orienter after quote ]
  • “Our baby was a boy,” Shukumar tells his wife in the conclusion of Lahiri’s “A Temporary Matter” (22). [ data sentence; orienter after quote ] This admission is a death knell, tolling the end of their failing marriage. [ argument sentence ]

An assertion of your own and a colon plus the quotation:

  • In the midst of discussing the fate of the Abame tribe, Uchendu presents his own theory: “There is no story that is not true” (141).
  • Fitzgerald gives Nick a muted tribute to the hero: “Gatsby turned out all right at the end” (2).
  • Within Othello , Cassio represents not only a political but also a personal threat to Iago: “He hath a daily beauty in his life / That makes me ugly . . .” (5.1.19-20).

An assertion of your own with quoted material worked in:

  • For Nick, who remarks that Gatsby “turned out all right” (2), the hero deserves respect but perhaps does not inspire great admiration.
  • Satan’s motion is many things; he “strides” through the air (55), arrives like a “rattling” cloud (56), and later explodes—“wandering,” “hovering and blazing” like a fire (270).
  • Walking through Geraldine’s house, Pecola “wanted to see everything slowly, slowly” in order to fully appreciate its comparative order and opulence (Morrison 89).

Maintaining clarity and readability

Introduce a quotation either by indicating what it is intended to show, by naming its source, or by doing both. For non-narrative poetry, it’s customary to attribute quotations to “the speaker”; for a story with a narrator, to “the narrator.” For plays, novels, and other works with characters, identify characters as you quote them.

Do not use two quotations in a row without intervening text of your own. You should always be contextualizing all of your outside material with your own ideas, and if you let quotes build up without a break, readers will lose track of your argument.

Using the correct verb tense is a tricky issue. It’s customary in literary analysis to use the present tense; this is because it is at the present time that you (and your reader) are looking at the text. But events in a narrative or drama take place in a time sequence. You will often need to use a past tense to refer to events that took place before the moment you are presently discussing. Consider this example:

When he hears Cordelia’s answer, King Lear seems surprised, but not dumbfounded. He advises her to “mend [her] speech a little.” He had expected her to praise him the most; but compared to her sisters’, her remarks seem almost insulting (1.1.95).

Formatting logistics and guidelines

If for the sake of brevity you wish to omit material from a quoted passage, use ellipsis points (three spaced periods) to indicate the omission. Notice how in the paragraph about To the Lighthouse , above, the writer quoted only those portions of the original sentences that related to the point of the analysis.

When quoting, you may alter grammatical forms such as the tense of a verb or the person of a pronoun so that the quotation conforms grammatically to your own prose; indicate these alterations by placing square brackets around the changed form. In the quotation about King Lear at the end of the previous section, “her” replaces the “your” of the original so that the quote fits the point of view of the paper (third person).

Reproduce the spelling, capitalization, and internal punctuation of the original exactly. Of the following sentences presenting D. H. Lawrence’s maxim, “Books are not life,” the first is not acceptable in some style systems.

  • For Lawrence, “books are not life.” [ UNACCEPTABLE ]
  • For Lawrence, “[b]ooks are not life.” [ acceptable but awkward ]
  • Lawrence wrote, “Books are not life.” [ acceptable ]
  • “Books,” Lawrence wrote, “are not life.” [ acceptable ]
  • For Lawrence, books “are not life.” [ acceptable ]


You may alter the closing punctuation of a quotation in order to incorporate it into a sentence of your own. For example:

  • “Books are not life,” Lawrence emphasized.

Commas and periods go inside the closing quotation marks; the other punctuation marks go outside. For example:

  • Lawrence insisted that books “are not life”; however, he wrote exultantly about the power of the novel.
  • Why does Lawrence need to point out that “Books are not life”?

When quoting lines of poetry up to three lines long (which are not indented), separate one line of poetry from another with a slash mark with a space on either side (see examples from Blake’s “The Tyger” and Shakespeare’s Othello above).


Prose or verse quotations less than four lines long are not indented. For quotations of this length, use the patterns described above.

“Longer” quotations should be formatted according to the expectations of a block quote. This unit of text should be positioned one half inch from the left margin, and opening and closing quotation marks are not used. The MLA Handbook , 8 th edition (2016) recommends that indented quotations be double-spaced, but many instructors prefer them single-spaced. The meaning of “longer” varies slightly from one style system to another, but a general rule is to indent quotations that are more than two (or three) lines of verse or four lines of prose.

If you’re quoting a series of dialogue dialogue between characters in a play, indent these lines and place the speaker’s name before the speech quoted. For example:

  • CAESAR: Et tu, Brute! Then, fall, Caesar! CINNA: Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead! (3.1.77-78)


Follow your course instructor’s guidelines for documenting sources. If your instructor hasn’t told you which system to use to document sources, ask.

The documentation style used in this handout is that presented in the MLA Handbook , 8 th edition (2016), the most common citation style for literary analysis papers. The Writing Center has information about the rules of documentation within the most common systems .

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinau. Things Fall Apart . 1959. Anchor Books, 1994.

Blake, William. “The Tyger.” Poets.org , American Academy of Poets, https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/tyger. Accessed 1 July 2018.

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby . 1925. The Scribner Library, 1953.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. “A Temporary Matter.” Interpreter of Maladies , Mariner Books, 1999, pp. 1-22.

Lawrence, David Herbert. “Why the Novel Matters.” Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays , edited by Bruce Steele, Cambridge University Press, 1985, pp. 191-8.

Milton, John. Paradise Lost . Printed for John Bumpus, 1821. Google Books , https://books.google.com/books?id=pO4MAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false. Accessed 1 July 2018.

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye . 1970. Plume, 1993.

Shakespeare, William. Julius Caesar. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Wordsworth Editions, pp. 582-610.

–. King Lear. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare . Wordsworth Editions, pp. 885-923.

–. Othello, the Moor of Venice. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare . Wordsworth Editions, pp. 818-57.

Woolf, Virginia. To the Lighthouse . 1927. Harcourt, 1981.

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Quotation basics: grammar, punctuation, and style, some general quotation guidelines.

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Quotation Grammar, Punctuation, and Style Return to Writing Studio Handouts

When writing a formal essay, you will often need to use quotes from a text or texts as evidence to prove your point or to make an argument. Below are grammar and punctuation guidelines to help you integrate those quotes into your essay successfully.

We recommend consulting a style manual or your instructor for specific queries.

Periods and Commas

  • You do not need to use any punctuation before a quotation if it forms part of your own sentence.

Example: Dennis cries that he is “being repressed!”

  • Use a comma when introducing a quote with a phrase such as ‘he said.’

Example: The old man protests, “I don’t want to go on the cart.”

  • Place parenthetical citations outside the end quotation mark, but before the punctuation.

Example: King Arthur declares, “Let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place” (13).

Colons and Ellipses

  • Use a colon when introducing a quotation with a full independent clause (one that can stand on its own).

Example: Emily feels frustrated by his response: “Is there someone else that we can talk to?”

  • Use an ellipsis (three periods, sometimes with spaces between: ‘…’ ) to indicate an omission in a quotation (Exception: it is not necessary to use an ellipsis when omitting words at the beginning of a quote unless you are using a block quote format).

Example: “The kind of intelligence a genius has … leaps with ellipses.”

  • When you want to omit one or more full sentences, use a period and a space before the three ellipsis dots.

Example: “Hatred paralyzes life. … Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”

Slashes and Brackets

  • When you are quoting poetry, use a slash ( / ) to mark a line break.

Example: “Let me not to the marriage of true minds / Admit impediments” (1-2).

  • Use square brackets to add a word, change a pronoun, or change a verb tense in the quote.

Original quote: “It’s my duty as a knight to sample all the peril I can.”

In your essay: Sir Galahad thinks “it’s [his] duty as a knight to sample all the peril [he] can.”

Question Marks and Exclamation Points

  • With a question mark or exclamation point, there is no need to use a comma or a period.

Example: The interested observer wonders, “Are you suggesting that coconuts migrate?”

  • If the mark is part of your sentence and not part of the quote, it goes outside the last quotation mark.

Example: I don’t think we can ever understand the “ineluctable modality of the visual”!

Block Quotes

  • MLA style calls for use of a block quote (indent 10 spaces, or 2 tabs) when citing five or more lines of typed prose or four or more lines of verse. APA style calls for block quotes when citing forty words or more.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? / Thou art more lovely and more temperate. / Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, / And summer’s lease hath all too short a date. (1-4)

Quote Within a Quote

  • When using a quote within a quote, single quotation marks are used for the inner quote.

Example: Josh laments, “Every time I try to talk to someone it’s ‘sorry this’ and ‘forgive me that.’”

Last revised: 08/2008 | Adapted for web delivery: 05/2021

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how to properly add quotes in essays

Quote Analysis— The Easy Way!

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  • W riting the quote
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 Ways to introduce quotes

When (event in book) happened, (character) states, "..."

Ex: When Lady Macbeth kills herself, Macbeth states, "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more (V.V.19-20).

(Character) explains: "..." (citation).

(Your own words) "direct quotes from book" ...

Ex: Macbeth pines over his miserable fate, calling life a "walking shadow" (citation).

Ways to paraphrase

Directly look at quote and replace the text with your words. It is vitally important to maintain the same meaning:

Ex: In other words, Macbeth compares his existence to the condition of being a mere ghost. He goes on to compare people to actors who worry about their brief moment in the spotlight only to cease to exist before he realizes his life is over.

Ways to analyze

Look at the subtle parts of the quote, and explain why the author used them in his writing--Tone, diction, mood, figurative language (metaphors, similes, imagery, alliteration, onomatopoeia, personification...there are A LOT).

Ex: The metaphors Shakespeare uses, comparing life to a "walking shadow" and man to "a poor player" emphasize the fleeting nature of life. Shadows are gone as soon as they appear, and actors only assume their character: the people they represent have no true meaning.

Ways to evaluate

Show the importance of the quote with respect to your argument and your thesis. Explain the significance...Tell the reader why they bothered to read your essay. This is where you tie your thoughts together in a nice bow.

Ex: Here, Macbeth realizes that his pitiful existence, from the moment he decided to kill King Duncan to the moment when his beloved wife killed herself, has been consumed by his reckless ambition. This directly shows the damaging power of ambition. If Macbeth had been content with his previous title, which was prestigious enough, a host of tragedy would have been avoided.

When Lady Macbeth kills herself, Macbeth states, "Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more" (V.V.19-28). In other words, Macbeth compares his existence to the condition of being a mere ghost. He goes on to compare people to actors who worry about their brief moment in the spotlight only to cease to exist before they realize it is over. The metaphors Shakespeare uses, comparing life to a "walking shadow" and man to "a poor player" emphasize the fleeting nature of life. Shadows are gone as soon as they appear, and actors only assume their character: the people they represent have no true meaning. Here, Macbeth realizes that his pitiful existence, from the moment he decided to kill King Duncan to the moment when his beloved wife killed herself, has been destroyed by his reckless ambition. This directly shows the damaging power of ambition, a major theme of the play. If Macbeth had been content with his previous title, which was prestigious enough, a wealth of tragedy would have been avoided.

Write your thesis here for reference:

1. Write the quote here, with a way to introduce it:

2. Write a paraphrase here (remember to keep the same meaning):

3. Write your analysis here (look for the subtle, key parts of the quote):

4. Write your evaluation here (prove why the quote is important in relation to your thesis):

5. Repeat for the rest of your text-based essay!!!

Sarah Cohen

Student Learning Center, University of California, Berkeley

©2009 UC Regents

  This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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How to Place a Quote in an Essay

How to write a quote, how to start an essay with a quote.

  • Use a quote from someone that you would not have expected them to say
  • Quote someone who is not a major celebrity (James Earl Jones and Ben Stiller have said enough!)
  • Consider using a well-known quote, but question it. Contradict what the original author said, prove them wrong, or use it to paint an even bigger picture, analyzing their words to find a greater meaning.
  • Will you reader be familiar with the person you are quoting?
  • Could the quote be viewed as offensive in anywhere?
Read also: Does Turnitin detect plagiarism or not? Read this article to be on the alert!

How to quote a quote

  • When following APA citation guidelines, you will include the publication year after the name of the writer. The page number will come after the quote.
  • Under the MLA citation guidelines, you will add the page number after the name of the author.


How to cite a quote

  • Use brackets to include your own information, in order to assist the reader in understanding the context of a quotation
  • Use ellipses (…) to remove parts of a quote that might now be relevant to your paper

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How to Use Quotation Marks

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Using Quotation Marks

The primary function of quotation marks is to set off and represent exact language (either spoken or written) that has come from somebody else. The quotation mark is also used to designate speech acts in fiction and sometimes poetry. Since you will most often use them when working with outside sources, successful use of quotation marks is a practical defense against accidental plagiarism and an excellent practice in academic honesty. The following rules of quotation mark use are the standard in the United States, although it may be of interest that usage rules for this punctuation do vary in other countries.

The following covers the basic use of quotation marks. For details and exceptions consult the separate sections of this guide.

Direct Quotations

Direct quotations involve incorporating another person's exact words into your own writing.

  • Quotation marks always come in pairs. Do not open a quotation and fail to close it at the end of the quoted material.

Mr. Johnson, who was working in his field that morning, said, "The alien spaceship appeared right before my own two eyes."

Although Mr. Johnson has seen odd happenings on the farm, he stated that the spaceship "certainly takes the cake" when it comes to unexplainable activity.

"I didn't see an actual alien being," Mr. Johnson said, "but I sure wish I had."

When quoting text with a spelling or grammar error, you should transcribe the error exactly in your own text. However, also insert the term sic in italics directly after the mistake, and enclose it in brackets. Sic is from the Latin, and translates to "thus," "so," or "just as that." The word tells the reader that your quote is an exact reproduction of what you found, and the error is not your own.

Mr. Johnson says of the experience, "It's made me reconsider the existence of extraterestials [ sic ]."

  • Quotations are most effective if you use them sparingly and keep them relatively short. Too many quotations in a research paper will get you accused of not producing original thought or material (they may also bore a reader who wants to know primarily what YOU have to say on the subject).

Indirect Quotations

Indirect quotations are not exact wordings but rather rephrasings or summaries of another person's words. In this case, it is not necessary to use quotation marks. However, indirect quotations still require proper citations, and you will be committing plagiarism if you fail to do so.

Many writers struggle with when to use direct quotations versus indirect quotations. Use the following tips to guide you in your choice.

Use direct quotations when the source material uses language that is particularly striking or notable. Do not rob such language of its power by altering it.

The above should never stand in for:

Use an indirect quotation (or paraphrase) when you merely need to summarize key incidents or details of the text.

Use direct quotations when the author you are quoting has coined a term unique to her or his research and relevant within your own paper.

When to use direct quotes versus indirect quotes is ultimately a choice you'll learn a feeling for with experience. However, always try to have a sense for why you've chosen your quote. In other words, never put quotes in your paper simply because your teacher says, "You must use quotes."

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Suggested Ways to Introduce Quotations

To introduce a quote in an essay, don't forget to include author's last name and page number (MLA) or author, date, and page number (APA) in your citation. Shown below are some possible ways to introduce quotations. The examples use MLA format.

Use A Full Sentence Followed by A Colon To Introduce A Quotation

  • The setting emphasizes deception: "Nothing is as it appears" (Smith 1).
  • Piercy ends the poem on an ironic note: "To every woman a happy ending" (25).

Begin A Sentence with Your Own Words, Then Complete It with Quoted Words

Note that in the second example below, a slash with a space on either side ( / ) marks a line break in the original poem.

  • Hamlet's task is to avenge a "foul and most unnatural murder" (Shakespeare 925).
  • The speaker is mystified by her sleeping baby, whose "moth-breath / flickers among the flat pink roses" (Plath 17).

Use An Introductory Phrase Naming The Source, Followed By A Comma to Quote A Critic or Researcher

Note that the first letter after the quotation marks should be upper case. According to MLA guidelines, if you change the case of a letter from the original, you must indicate this with brackets. APA format doesn't require brackets.

  • According to Smith, "[W]riting is fun" (215).
  • In Smith's words, " . . .
  • In Smith's view, " . . .

Use A Descriptive Verb, Followed by A Comma To Introduce A Critic's Words

Avoid using says unless the words were originally spoken aloud, for instance, during an interview.

  • Smith states, "This book is terrific" (102).
  • Smith remarks, " . . .
  • Smith writes, " . . .
  • Smith notes, " . . .
  • Smith comments, " . . .
  • Smith observes, " . . .
  • Smith concludes, " . . .
  • Smith reports, " . . .
  • Smith maintains, " . . .
  • Smith adds, " . . .

Don't Follow It with A Comma If Your Lead into The Quotation Ends in That or As

The first letter of the quotation should be lower case.

  • Smith points out that "millions of students would like to burn this book" (53).
  • Smith emphasizes that " . . .
  • Smith interprets the hand washing in MacBeth as "an attempt at absolution" (106).
  • Smith describes the novel as "a celebration of human experience" (233).

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How to Do Quotes on an Argumentative Essay in MLA Format

How to do citations for paradise lost.

If you're studying the humanities or are in a liberal arts program, chances are you'll need to learn MLA formatting. The seemingly ubiquitous MLA gets its name from the Modern Language Association, a professional body devoted to the study of language and literature. When you write an argumentative essay that uses quotes as evidence, MLA format is as much a matter of including the quote fluidly as it as a matter of punctuation and indentation. This guide will provide you with MLA rules and show examples of how to apply those rules to make your essay as convincing and readable as possible.

Where Did You Find Those Quotes?

Cite your source at the end of each quote. Within parentheses, provide the author's last name and the page number from which you took the quote; do not include the name as part of the parenthetical citation if you have already used his name in your introduction of the quotation. If the quote is taken from consecutive pages, include both page numbers within the citation: (Berger 20-21). If you are quoting from a source other than a book, such as a website, documentary, or interview, you may want to look further into MLA citation convention has a strict protocol for how to cite each type of source.

Example: Daisy Buchanan's voice is described as "full of money" (Fitzgerald 23).

Introducing Quotations

Introduce the quote according to what purpose it serves in the original text and in your essay. This process can involve letting the quote flow naturally with the rest of your text, as in this example:

Though a reproduction may be meticulously accurate, "the meaning of the original work no longer lies in what it uniquely says but in what it uniquely is" (Berger 21).

If you allow the quote's originator to state the quote for you, use the present tense when introducing quotes and omit the author's name from the parenthetical citation:

Even if a reproduction is well-executed, as Berger asserts, "the meaning of the original work no longer lies in what it uniquely says but in what it uniquely is" ( 21).

How you choose to introduce a quote is entirely up to you, but be sure that your introduction doesn't contribute to the quote being taken out of context. If the quote doesn't fit your argument, either find another source or change your argument.

Punctuating Quotations

Punctuate the quote correctly. Use double quotation marks for the quote itself and, where applicable, single quotation marks for quotes within the quote. You may include a question mark or exclamation mark within the quotation marks if they are part of the original text. All other punctuation should be located after the citation.

Here are a few examples of correctly cited and punctuated quotations:

Poking fun at his fellow writers, Vonnegut observes that "they love to stay up all night, arguing the question, 'What is science fiction?'" (2).

Though Vonnegut is fond of his colleagues, when he observes that, "they love to stay up all night, arguing the question 'What is science fiction?'" (2), he clearly finds their banter absurd.

If you're quoting poetry, indicate line breaks with a slash, for example, "Type of the antique Rome! Rich reliquary / Of lofty contemplation left to time" (Poe 948).

Including Longer Quotations

Indent passages of prose four lines or longer and passages of poetry three lines or longer. Make your margins one inch narrower on the left and right sides of the passage. Note that the punctuation rules change somewhat for longer passages, as they do not require quotation marks and their citation is placed after the end punctuation. For example, if I were to quote from Edgar Allan Poe's poem "The Bells," I'd indent it one inch on each side and type the text as follows:

He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey. (Fitzgerald 54)

Checking Your Work

Plagiarism is a grievous error and can result in academic penalties. Be careful you don't accidentally plagiarize. To do this, read over your paper to make sure your work is your own. Double check your quotations. You can even run your paper through a free plagiarism checker online.

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How to quote lists in mla format.

  • OWL Purdue Writing Lab: MLA Formatting Quotations
  • The MLA Style Center: Plagiarism and Academic Dishonesty
  • University of Maryland University College: MLA Citation Examples
  • Visit a website dealing with MLA style for further formatting tips.
  • Sign up for a session at your school's Writing Workshop if you are still having difficulty.
  • Always double- and triple-check your quotations to avoid inadvertently plagiarizing content.

Since 2003, Momi Awana's writing has been featured in "The Hawaii Independent," "Tradewinds" and "Eternal Portraits." She served as a communications specialist at the Hawaii State Legislature and currently teaches writing classes at her library. Awana holds a Master of Arts in English from University of Hawaii, Mānoa.

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Ai, ethics & human agency, collaboration, information literacy, writing process, inserting or altering words in a direct quotation.

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What punctuation should be used when words are inserted or altered in a direct quotation?

When writers insert or alter words in a direct quotation, square brackets—[ ]—are placed around the change. The brackets, always used in pairs, enclose words intended to clarify meaning, provide a brief explanation, or to help integrate the quote into the writer’s sentence.  A common error writers make is to use parentheses in place of brackets.

How are square brackets used around clarifying or explanatory words?

Let’s look at an example:

Quotation with brackets used correctly around a clarifying word:

“It [driving] imposes a heavy procedural workload on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107). [1]

Note : Brackets are placed around the inserted word in this example to let the reader know that ‘driving’ clarifies the meaning of the pronoun ‘it.’

Quotation with parentheses incorrectly used in place of brackets:

“It (driving) imposes a heavy procedural workload on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Parentheses are used incorrectly in place of brackets in this example, making the inserted word look like it could be part of the original text.

Let’s look at another example:

Quotation with brackets used correctly around an explanatory insert:

“[D]riving is not as automatic as one might think; in fact, it imposes a heavy procedural workload [visual and motor demands] on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Brackets are placed around the inserted words in this example to provide further explanation of the “procedural workload” discussed in the original text.

“[D]riving is not as automatic as one might think; in fact, it imposes a heavy procedural workload (visual and motor demands) on cognition that . . . leaves little processing capacity available for other tasks” (Salvucci and Taatgen 107).

Note : Parentheses are used incorrectly in place of brackets in this example, making the inserted words look like they are part of the original text.

How are square brackets used to help integrate a quote properly?

Original direct quotation beginning with an upper case letter:

“The heavy cognitive workload of driving suggests that any secondary task has the potential to affect driver behavior” (Salvucci and Taatgen 108).

Integrated quotation with brackets used correctly to indicate a change in letter case:

Salvucci and Taatgen propose that “[t]he heavy cognitive workload of driving suggests that any secondary task has the potential to affect driver behavior” (108).

Note : Brackets are placed around the lower-case letter ‘t’ to indicate that the letter case has been changed. The quotation is introduced by a signal phrase, which makes the quote an integral part of the writer’s sentence; as a result of this syntactical change, the upper case ‘T’ in the original is changed to a lower case letter.

Original direct quotation written in the past tense:

“Not coincidentally, drivers have been increasingly engaging in secondary tasks while driving” (Salvucci and Taatgen 68).

Note : The authors’ words appear in the past tense in the original text.

Quotation with brackets used correctly to indicate a change in verb tense:

“Not coincidentally, drivers [are] increasingly engaging in secondary tasks while driving” (Salvucci and Taatgen 68).

Note : Brackets are placed around the word ‘are’ to indicate that the verb has been changed to the present tense, which is the preferred tense for most writing in MLA style. The past tense is preferred for APA style writing. 

A word of caution : Bracketed insertions may not be used to alter or add to the quotation in a way that inaccurately or unfairly represents the original text. Quite simply, do not use bracketed material in a way that twists the author’s meaning.

Bracket Use: Quick Summary

[1] Salvucci, Dario D., and Niels A. Taatgen. Multitasking Minds . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2011. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost) . Web. 20 Feb. 2012.

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Home > Christian Resources > How to Quote a Bible Verse in an Essay

How to Quote a Bible Verse in an Essay

Christian Resources

How to Quote a Bible Verse in an Essay

Published: April 23, 2024

Learn the proper way to cite Bible verses in academic essays, ensuring accurate and respectful integration of scripture into your writing.

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Table of Contents

Choosing the right translation, determining the citation style, in-text citations, introducing bible verses, quoting longer passages, citing the bible in references/works cited, ethical considerations, additional tips.

Quoting Bible verses in an essay is a common practice, especially in religious studies, theology, or literature classes. However, it’s essential to do it correctly to maintain academic integrity and avoid unintentional plagiarism. In this comprehensive guide from Academized.com , I’ll walk you through the steps to quote Bible verses properly, ensuring your essay is well-structured and follows academic conventions.

The first step is to choose the right translation. The Bible has been translated into numerous languages and versions, each with slight variations in wording and phrasing. When quoting a Bible verse, it’s crucial to use a reputable and widely accepted translation that aligns with your specific academic or research purposes.

Some popular translations include the King James Version (KJV), New International Version (NIV), and English Standard Version (ESV). The KJV is known for its literary quality and poetic language, while the NIV and ESV are more modern translations aimed at preserving the original meaning while using contemporary language.

If you’re writing for a religious studies or theology course, it’s generally recommended to use a translation approved by the religious institution or denomination you’re studying, as discussed in this Academized review on https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/academized-review-2023-actually-good-mary-walton . For literature or general academic purposes, any widely accepted translation should suffice.

Read more : Christian Blogs To Follow Before Writing a Religious Essay

Next, you’ll need to determine the appropriate citation style. Different academic disciplines and institutions may have their own preferred citation styles. The most common citation styles for quoting Bible verses are:

  • MLA (Modern Language Association) style: Commonly used in literature, arts, and humanities. 
  • APA (American Psychological Association) style: Frequently used in social sciences, education, and psychology. 
  • Chicago/Turabian style: Often used in history, religion, and some humanities fields.

Before you start writing, check with your instructor or consult the style guide to ensure you’re using the correct citation format. Adhering to the proper citation style is crucial for maintaining academic integrity and avoiding plagiarism.

When quoting a Bible verse within the body of your essay, you’ll need to include an in-text citation. The format for in-text citations varies depending on the citation style you’re using.

In MLA style, the in-text citation for a Bible verse should include the book name (abbreviated), chapter number, and verse number(s). For example: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3.16).

In APA style, the in-text citation for a Bible verse should include the book name (not abbreviated), chapter number, and verse number(s), separated by colons. For instance: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

In Chicago/Turabian style, the in-text citation for a Bible verse should include the book name (abbreviated), chapter number, and verse number(s), separated by periods, like this: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3.16).

It’s also important to introduce Bible verses properly within the context of your essay. You can provide context by explaining the situation or context in which the verse is being used or referenced. Alternatively, you can use a signal phrase to indicate that you’re quoting a Bible verse, such as “As stated in the Gospel of John,” or “The Bible says.”

Introducing the verse with context or a signal phrase helps to smoothly integrate the quotation into your writing and clarifies the source for the reader.

If you’re quoting a longer passage from the Bible that spans multiple verses, you’ll need to format it differently. In MLA style, for example, longer quotations (four or more lines) should be indented one inch from the left margin and double-spaced. Here’s an example:

As the Apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph. 2.8-10)

Note the indentation and the use of a signal phrase to introduce the quotation. This format helps to visually separate the longer quotation from your own writing and makes it easier for the reader to follow.

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In addition to in-text citations, you’ll need to include a full citation for the Bible in your references or works cited list at the end of your essay. The format for this citation varies depending on the citation style you’re using.

  • MLA Style: In MLA style, the Bible citation should appear as: The Bible. Authorized King James Version, Oxford UP, 1998.
  • APA Style: In APA style, the Bible citation should appear as: Bible. (Year of publication). (Version/Translation). (Publisher details). For example: Bible. (2011). New International Version. Biblica.
  • Chicago/Turabian Style: In Chicago/Turabian style, the Bible citation should appear as: Bible. Translated by [Translation/Version]. [Publisher details]. For example: Bible. Translated by New International Version. Biblica, 2011.

Including a full citation in your reference list ensures that readers can easily locate the specific version of the Bible you’ve used in your research.

When quoting from the Bible, it’s important to consider ethical implications and potential biases. The Bible is a sacred text for many religions, and quotes should be handled with respect and sensitivity.

Avoid taking verses out of context or using them to promote harmful or discriminatory viewpoints. Be mindful of the historical and cultural contexts in which the verses were written, and strive for a balanced, objective analysis.

If you’re writing about controversial or sensitive topics related to the Bible, it’s advisable to consult with experts or religious authorities to ensure your interpretations are accurate and respectful.

While quoting Bible verses is important, you should also include your own analysis and interpretation, avoiding excessive quotation. Use quotations judiciously, only quoting verses that are directly relevant to your argument or analysis.

Provide context by explaining the significance of the quoted verse and how it relates to your essay’s main points. Don’t assume that the reader has the same level of familiarity with the Bible or the specific context of the verse.

When interpreting or analyzing Bible verses, be sure to back up your claims with evidence from reliable sources, such as scholarly works or authoritative religious texts.

By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to effectively quote Bible verses In your essay while maintaining academic integrity, adhering to citation conventions, and demonstrating a nuanced understanding of the material. Remember, quoting Bible verses is not just about including the text; it’s also about providing context, analysis, and demonstrating your knowledge of the subject matter.

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