How To Integrate Direct Quotations into Academic or Scientific Writing

How To Integrate Direct Quotations into Academic or Scientific Writing
All scholars who quote their sources with much frequency tend to have their own ways of integrating the borrowed chunks of text into the larger body of their writing. Whatever those methods may be, grammar, syntax and punctuation that are correct and effective must always be used around each quotation in order to ensure that readers will understand the meaning of the main text as well as that of the quotation and the relationship between the two. It can be surprisingly tricky, however, to get the sentences that contain quotations or appear around them just right, and in some cases specific guidelines for quoting sources will also need to be considered.

Occasionally, for instance, academic and scientific journals will indicate in their guidelines that quotations should be presented in as intact a form as possible and introduced very simply. Block quotations introduced with colons are a good choice for observing such guidelines, and they tend to require very little syntactical and grammatical integration, though a clear introduction of each quotation to ensure that readers will understand why the author is quoting the material is essential. Such restrictions are rare, however, and most publishers allow authors far more freedom regarding how they integrate borrowed material, including the option to break quotations up into separate words and phrases in order to incorporate these fragments virtually seamlessly into their own sentences. Using this method produces more variety in a text and also enables an author to use quotations very selectively and precisely in discussing sources and developing his or her own argument. It also mingles the author’s text closely with the borrowed text, so special care must be taken to ensure that all aspects of the language chosen for such sentences function effectively with the language quoted.
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To demonstrate the kind of selective quotation and careful grammatical integration required when quoting sources in scholarly prose, I will use the famous opening line of Jane Austen’s novel Pride and Prejudice: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ Let us say, for instance, that an author wishes to quote Austen’s distinctive language, but also wants to use the plural terms ‘men’ and ‘wives’ while clarifying that the truth noted by Austen was more relevant in the past than it is in the present. Breaking up the quotation, reordering it to suit the new author’s needs and omitting words that are not particularly important or do not work in the new author’s sentence will probably produce the least cumbersome and most effective result: ‘That single men of “good fortune” are necessarily “in want of” wives may once have been “a truth universally acknowledged,” but that is obviously no longer the case.’

Among the most challenging aspects of eloquently arranging quoted material within your own prose are observing and maintaining agreement between elements of language such as pronouns and their antecedents or nouns and verbs. Verb tenses must also be used with great care to ensure that they are precise, meaningful and effective across both your own prose and the quoted material. Passages originally written from a first-person perspective will often need adjustments for successful integration into scholarly prose. Sentences that end up containing many quoted phrases will require careful punctuation (especially the use of quotation marks). Finally, quoted generalisations should be given considerable thought when they are applied to specific situations and vice versa. It is therefore imperative to compose and proofread quotation-rich sentences with the most exacting attention, ensuring in every instance that what you have quoted is distinguished from what you have not, and that your intentions in quoting the material are made absolutely clear through your careful use of correct grammar, appropriate punctuation and effective sentence structure.

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