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Skidmore College
The Skidmore Guide to Writing

Using Long Quotations Effectively

All quotations must be integrated into your paper, whether they are a few words or many lines. A good rule is that you should have at least as much of your own explanation or analysis of a quotation as there is quotation. If a quotation occupies ten lines, you should have at least ten lines of commentary about the quotation. Don't quote and run. In the following example, notice how the sentences surrounding the quotation prepare for it and comment upon it, leading the reader to see its significance. In this example, the quoted passage begins as a new paragraph, so paragraphing is indicated by indenting within the blocked quotation.

     Becker sees evolution as progressing toward a human mind with greater freedom than is found in the lower orders:

     The development of mind, then, involves a progressive freedom from reactivity. The reactive process which is inherent in the organism not only gradually arrives at freedom from the intrinsic properties of things but also proceeds from there to assign its own stimulus meanings. Mind culminates in the organism's ability to choose what it will react to. White calls this a "traffic in nonsensory meanings." Nature provided all of life with water, but only man could create the symbol H20 which gave him some command over water, and the word "holy" which gave water special powers that even nature could not give. (7)

As Becker implies, then, only humans are symbol-bearing. Symbols represent humans' ability to react selectively to those elements in the environment that connect humans communally. Our communities manipulate such symbols and take command of them .

-LS 1 Student (Class of 1992, name withheld by request.)

Remember: Quotations do not speak for themselves. You need to comment upon them and interpret them for your reader.

Click here to read more about punctuation with quotations.