We use in-text citations in order to signal to our reader that we are pulling from another author's work. We can do this through direct quotations, paraphrasing, and in some instances, through block quotations.
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Block Quotation: You use a block quotation when you want to quote, well, a block of text. Typically, we try to stay away from block quotations because we want to make sure that we're using our own voice and our own arguments. But, if you're analyzing text, lyrics, or prose, it makes sense to use block quotations. You can also use block quotations when you're reporting survey or interview responses. Depending on the citation style you're working with, the rule for when a direct quote should turn into a block quotation varies.
For APA, you should use a block quotation when you're citing more than 40 words directly.
For MLA, you'll use it when you're quoting "more than four lines of prose or three lines of verse" ("MLA Formatting Questions").
For Chicago, you'll use block quotations when you're directly quoting more than 100 words, or there are more than five lines of text.
Below is an example of a block quotation in action. In this excerpt, Castillo-Montoya (2017) utilizes a block quote (p. 596) in order to convey one of her study participant's responses. We see that she introduces the quote, provides the quote, and then analyzes it.
Castillo-Montoya, M. (2017). Deepening understanding of prior knowledge: What diverse first-generation college students in the U.S. can teach us. Teaching in Higher Education 22 (5), pp. 587-603. doi: 10.1080/13562517.2016.1273208
MLA Formating Questions. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/mla_style/mla_formatting_and_style_guide/mla_formatting_quotations.html
Instead of using direct quotations, you can also paraphrase. You paraphrase when you relay or summarize another author's ideas or arguments in your own words.
You show the reader that you're paraphrasing by using "signal verbs." These phrases let your reader know that you're introducing someone else's thoughts.
Examples of Signal Verbs:
Below is an example of paraphrasing in action. The authors, Lofton and Davis (2015), summarize the "racial formation theory" as proposed by Omi and Winant (1994) in the following excerpt:
Over the last 20 years, critical scholars have made significant contributions to social science research by exploring the intricate roles that race and racism play in U.S. social structures. For example, Omi and Winant's (1994) racial formation theory suggested that the social concept of race is not necessarily rooted in genes or biology, but rather in social, economic, and political forces that the dominant group uses as a means of control (p. 216).
Lofton, R. and Davis, J.E. (2015). Toward a Black habitus: African Americans navigating systemic inequalities within home, school, and community. Journal of Negro Education (84)3: 214-230. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7709/jnegroeducation.84.3.0214
For more information on paraphrasing and signal verbs, check out They say, I say: The moves that matter in academic writing by Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein or MIT's Academic integrity at MIT: A handbook for students.
You use direct quotations when you want to preserve the author's original wording or tone. But it can also be used when defining terms, frameworks, or theories to your audience.
As you become more skilled and comfortable paraphrasing, you will likely use direct quotations less. While you're learning, do not be afraid to utilize direct quotations. It is important, however, to note that when you do choose to directly quote an author, you shouldn't drop their words into your sentence. Instead, you should introduce the author(s), relay their idea with the quote, and then tell us why it is relevant or what they are trying to say.
Below is an example of a direct quotation in action from Cooke and Jacob's (2018) study:
Curriculum audits can focus on many factors and/or aspects of strength and weakness in a given program. Diversity is the topic of examination in this research, and in other case studies throughout this literature. Diversity audits "are evaluations based on qualitative and quantitative information about the status of diversity within the organization" (Harvey, 2005, p. 328). Within an educational organization, syllabi that represent a program of higher learning can be considered a representative part of a larger organization (p.2).
Cooke, N.A. & Jacobs, J.A. (2018). Diversity and cultural competence in the LIS classroom: A curriculum audit. Urban Library Journal 24(1). Retrieved from https://academicworks.cuny.edu/ulj/vol24/iss1/2
For more information on using direct quotations, check out MIT's Academic integrity at MIT: A handbook for students.