Quotes and references

Setting out and using quotations

Setting out quotations – 1

Embedded or run on. If you are using a short prose quotation of up to 30 words then it can be part of the existing sentence like so:

In his own comments on ‘Ulysses’ Tennyson remarked that it was written soon after Arthur Hallam’s death and expressed “my feeling about the need of going forward, and braving the struggle of life perhaps more simply than anything in ‘In Memoriam'”.

These short quotations are referred to as ’embedded’ or ‘run on’ because they are not set apart from the rest of the text.

Setting out quotations – 2

Display. If you are using a long prose quotation that is more than 30 words then it should be separated from your writing and indented like this:

In his study of dramatic monologue and impersonality in the work of Tennyson and Browning Donald Court observes that the both poets,

developed the dramatic monologue as a means of standing outside the Romantic self and objectifying it. They rejected the passionate exploration and total immersion in the self that dominates the work of Keats and Shelley, and created characters and personae who were placed in poems made from dramatic speech.

These longer quotations are referred to as ‘display’ quotations because they are set apart from the rest of the text.

Using quotations effectively

It is not enough simply to use quotations in your essay. All this does is show that you have found something in a book. The important thing is to engage with the quotations you use. You can do this by framing them with an introductory sentence before a quotation and a sentence or two of commentary after the quotation. For example:

Many critics have written about Tennyson and Browning’s use of dramatic monologue and impersonality. A widely held view is expressed by Court (1986) who describes the two poets’ use of dramatic monologue ‘as a means of standing outside the Romantic self and objectifying it’. In contrast to Keats and Shelley, the two Victorian poets wanted to do more than just express their inner lives: they wanted to observe and contemplate them.

In this example, the writer has not just identified and used a relevant quotation. She has shown that she understands how it can be related to the wider topic she is writing about – ‘many critics’, ‘a widely held view’. By adding her own comments, she has pushed her argument forward.

Using quotations carefully

You should always make sure that your quotations are accurate. Missing out a couple of words or inadvertently adding one in can completely change the sense of the passage you are quoting or make it completely meaningless.

However, you can adapt or change quotations from other peoples’ words but you must indicate when you have done so. Let’s use the following sentence as an example:

Although several poems in Douglas Dunn’s second collection explore longer forms – of 50 to 125 lines – the majority favour the short forms that dominated his first book Terry Street.

The most important point in the sentence is that although Dunn’s second book contained more long poems, its use of form was broadly similar to his first. In my essay I decide to miss out the part about the 50 to 125 lines:

Although several poems in Douglas Dunn’s second collection explore longer forms . . . the majority favour the short forms that dominated his first book Terry Street.

By using three dots, I have indicated that I have left something out. Similarly I can add words in to make the sense of the sentence clearer:

Kennedy notes that although there are some longer pieces in Douglas Dunn’s second collection, ‘the majority [of poems] favour the short forms that dominated his first book Terry Street.

Here I have added the word ‘of poems’ to help the sentence flow; and I have put them in square brackets to show that it is my addition.