Using Direct Quotations in Your Thesis or Dissertation
Whenever you quote the exact words of another author or speaker in your thesis or dissertation, it is essential that you quote those words with accuracy and observe with precision and consistency all appropriate scholarly techniques and editorial styles. Your university may provide you with guidelines specifying how you should quote and cite sources, or it may refer you to a specific style manual. If you have received such guidance, presenting and formatting any quotations you use exactly as you are directed will be a necessary aspect of producing a successful thesis or dissertation. If you have not, there are still basic practices that should be observed when quoting sources in all scholarly writing, and they will be expected regardless of whether you have been provided with more detailed guidelines or not.
Accuracy is vital when quoting the words of another author or speaker, so pay special attention when initially typing in quotations and take the time to check each one against its source when you proofread your work. Errors creep into quoted material with alarming frequency, so it is wise never to assume that quotations are correct. Remember that if you make errors in quoted material, you are not only compromising your work, but also misrepresenting the author you are quoting. Recording quotations inaccurately and arguing your case on the basis of erroneous information are unethical and unprofessional practices and they can certainly undermine the argument you hoped to support by using quotations.
Correct and consistent formatting is also essential when directly quoting sources. Your text must be presented in such a way that it is clear to the reader exactly which words are borrowed. When quotations are short and embedded in your main text, they should appear in the font size you are using for your own prose and must be enclosed in quotation marks. Single (‘’) or double (“”) quotation marks will work, but do check any guidelines provided by your university to be sure you are using the preferred format if there is one. The same type of quotation marks must be used for every embedded quotation. The other type can then be used for any quotations that appear within quoted material – double marks within single ones or single marks within double – and these, too, must be used consistently in every relevant instance.
If you are quoting longer prose passages or several lines of poetry, they can be displayed as block quotations, generally with indentation, at least on the left margin, and often in a slighter smaller font than your main text. In such cases, no quotation marks are necessary because the block format indicates which words are borrowed.
Whether you are using quotation marks or block quotation, remember that italic font is not a correct format for indicating quoted material in academic and scientific writing in the English language. Italics should therefore only be used when and where the author you are quoting used them, or when you wish to emphasise certain words within a quotation. In the latter case, the italics should be acknowledged as your own addition.
Every quotation you use should also be accompanied by a reference to its source. Methods and styles of referencing vary, so do make sure that you are using the kind of references recommended by your department. Whether your references are parenthetical, numerical or note based, always remember to include with every quotation a page number or other precise location specifying exactly where readers can find the borrowed text.
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