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English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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6 Quoting

Quoting another author’s exact words is particularly appropriate when they express an idea or give a description in a particularly powerful and unique way. Quotations can be used to:

  • provide evidence that supports your point
  • add an important detail to your text
  • help highlight a point you have made
  • give authority to your point.

However, it is inappropriate to include a large number of quotations in assignments. This is because tutors are mainly interested in seeing how students talk about the things they have learned and how they apply theories and interpret information. If students do so by mainly using somebody else’s words, they will not be able to display their understanding very effectively.

When writing quotations, make sure you follow these guidelines:

  • the quotation contains the exact words used by the author
  • the quoted text is placed within inverted commas
  • the quoted text fits grammatically in the text
  • the meanings expressed by the original author are not changed
  • the author of the quoted text is acknowledged.

Activity 12

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

Read the following short text.

It is true that, within any particular society at any particular moment, rich people are on average happier than poorer ones.

Now decide which of the following sentences quotes the text correctly and why this is so. You may also find it helpful to make some notes about why you think the other sentences are incorrect. Then compare your answers with mine.

  1. It is well known that ‘rich people are on average happier than poorer ones’.
  2. In the western world, rich people are happier than poorer ones (Layard, 2005).
  3. Layard (2005) states that ‘rich people are normally happier than poorer ones’.
  4. Layard (2005) argues that ‘rich people are on average happier than poorer ones’.
  5. According to Layard (2005) in some countries ‘rich people are on average happier than poorer ones’.
  6. Another important point ‘rich people are on average happier than poorer ones’(Layard, 2005).
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The correct answer is:

4 Layard (2005) argues that ‘rich people are on average happier than poorer ones’. This quotation is correct because it follows the guidelines outlined above.

Incorrect answers

  1. The author has not been acknowledged.

  2. The author has been correctly acknowledged but, as there are no inverted commas, the reader cannot tell if these are all Layard’s own words or a paraphrase. Another problem is that the sentence changes the point made in the original text by adding the words ‘in the western world’.

  3. The quoted phrase is different from the original as it uses ‘normally’ instead of ‘on average’.

  1. The original text is correctly quoted, but the sentence that contains it changes the point made by Layard. Layard stated that rich people are happier in any society while this sentence states that this happens only in some countries.

  2. The quotation does not fit grammatically into the sentence. The sentence should start like this: Another important point is that …