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How to Put a Quote in an Essay

For any essay or other research paper, you always need to offer your opinion on the matter – and support it with evidence. Quotes are among the favorite proofs. By researching any subject, you collect the information for your theories and conclusions. And you always need citations.

A quote in an essay is an excellent tool if used correctly. It supports your thesis and makes your whole text more versatile. Besides, it works in your favor if you introduce interesting and original citations – it shows your ability to work with sources and understand them deeply. 

At the same time, you need to know how to put a quote in an essay. Misusing them can do harm to the paper and your reputation. 

Understand the Structure of a Quote in an Essay

After the mandatory research stage, you’ve collected enough data and defined some apt phrases. You will include them in your essay, but how will you do it? You can’t just copy and paste them into the text without the context of transitions.

To include a quotation in essay, you need to know the right structure of this text fragment. It is a form with three components: 

  • The Introductory phrase;
  • The quote itself;
  • The commentary. 

Let’s have a look at these components.   

  • The Introductory phrase or a lead-in to the quote does the task of building the context. With its help, you inform your audience about the evidence for your statement. You also describe what that evidence is and what its source is. It adds “weight” to the quote if you refer to some authoritative source.
  • The quote itself is the exact sentence or phrase that you include in your research paper. When you put it into your text, you need to frame it with quotation marks. This method separates the citation from the rest of the work and marks it as someone else’s words. It also is the best anti-plagiarism defense – you won’t plagiarize if you name the source. 
  • Commentary. Even if your quote is strong and expressive, you have to connect it with your statement. For that, you comment that citation. Add a short explanation of the quote’s meaning for your paper. It does not mean that you have to paraphrase the quotation, but you should expose its value as evidence. The commentary usually takes a couple of sentences.

e.g., According to Joseph Campbell, “If the deeds of an actual historical figure proclaim him to have been a hero, the builders of his legend will invent for him appropriate adventures.” This statement perfectly relates to the legends about such historical leaders as Cyrus II of Persia. 

Things You Should Know Before Quoting Someone

Citations are necessary and useful. But using quotes in an essay has its rules that you have to know to do it in the right way. They are not difficult, and they refer to the logic of using citations and their format. Both of these aspects are essential.  

The wrong choice of quotes ruins the overall experience of your essay. As for the form – even the most suitable evidence without the right formatting will do nothing but harm. Unfortunately, the incorrect format is an error as grave as the absence of reference at all. That’s why let’s examine both these aspects.

Logic of usage of quotes in essay papers

If you have a set of citations that you would like to include in your academic paper, you need to evaluate them first. The accurate quote must meet several criteria.

  • Relevancy. Never take quotes that don’t relate to your thesis directly. Quotes must be thematic. Besides, you need to consider their authors. If it is a statement of some person not associated with your field professionally – it will be irrelevant. You should not introduce quotes for their form only – target towards their essence.
  • Analysis. When you choose quotes for your essay, remember that you have to develop a context for them. Hence, consider your capabilities of analyzing such quotations in essay. You have to understand them precisely, and you need to fit them in your text. Quotes must not be there for their own sake – they have to support your words and serve as reliable evidence of your rightness.
  • A reasonable share of quotes in your essay. Don’t overuse them; your job is to offer your ideas and understanding of the subject. If you use direct quotes, their overall volume should not exceed 5-10% of the text – it is the allowed share. 

Select the Right Quote for Your Essay

Besides using quotations in essay to support claims, students often refer to these means as hooks for essay beginning. Starting an article with a quote is a popular and effective technique to attract the audience. We’ve already defined most of the criteria, so let’s get them together:

  1. The citation must correlate with your essay’s subject and support its claims.
  2. It must come from an authoritative source to be decent support for your statements.
  3. It should be original. There is no use to refer to the same authority and repeat the same words. You should show your more profound understanding of the context by using more original references.
  4. Make sure that the meaning of your quote is clear to the audience. Or, you can explain the missing information in commentary. 
  5. It must be impressive. Depending on your goals, you may educate, inspire, entertain, or horrify your audience. Hence, evaluate how each of the citations would serve.

How to Place Quotes in an Essay

In general, it is all about where you insert a quote in an essay precisely and how you mark it. The essential thing here is that the rules of using quotes in an article are different for short and long quotes. 

Short Quotes

The short quote is a fragment of the source text that is shorter than four lines. This definition is standard. If the quote you want to use in your essay matches the “short” size criteria, you need to insert it in the following way:

  1. The short quote is a part of your paragraph. 
  2. For a short quote, you need to write a lead-in phrase. It should contain the name of the source (the title of the source and the name of the author). Also, it needs a transition word or phrase like “according to.”
  3. Insert the quote, put it in quotation marks, and add the reference to your bibliography list. 
  4. No matter if there is a complete sentence from the source or a couple of words, the quotation marks are mandatory. Without them, your direct short quote will be marked as plagiarism, even if you add the name of the source.
  5. Proceed with your commentary to explain a quote in an essay. You need to stress its value and meaning as support for your ideas. 
  6. You can paraphrase the citation – if you retell the essence of the sentence in your words, you may omit the quotation marks. But the correct reference to the source is still obligatory. 

Long Quotes

In terms of essay writing, a long quote is any source text fragment that is longer than four lines. For this citation type, you have to separate it from the rest of your text, and format accordingly.

Here is how to put a long quote in an essay and mark it in the right way: 

  1. Choose the quote that suits your needs for a particular case.
  2. You will also need an introductory phrase for it. For the long quote lead-in, you need a complete introductory sentence explaining what your readers should elicit from the citation. That sentence must be placed before the quote, and it must end with a colon. 
  3. Separate the quoted text from the rest of your essay – it should start from the new line and after an interval. The blockquote must also use the indent of a half-inch from the left margin. This way, your readers will at once understand the text fragment is a quote.
  4. Don’t use the quotation marks for the long quote, but ensure to put the reference at the end. 
  5. You can edit this quote by removing some words from it or including clarifications. However, your “intrusion” must not change the meaning of the quote! 
  6. To shorten the quote, you can put an ellipsis on the place of the deleted fragment. 
  7. …at the age of six was sent to a cloister to be educated as a priest. But he desired the life of a knightly warrior.To add words (for example, if the fragment you quote does not have the name of the actor, but you would like to include it), you should put the clarification into the square brackets. 
  8. …under the name of Mainet, he [Charlemagne] rendered signal services to the king.
  9. Add your commentary. Note it must be more substantial than for the short quote – you will need a minimum two sentences, and in most cases – more. Your goal is to explain the meaning of this quote to your audience, and once more stress its importance.
  10. If needed, you can paraphrase the quote; it is a good practice if you deal with a large text fragment of several paragraphs. Summarizing will let you expose its essence and make your wiring more concise. Again, you won’t need to set the piece off. The reference will be enough.

Citing Your Quotes

With all respect to the choice of citations and their supportive value for your work, the most critical thing is the right format of quotations in an essay. Any academic paper must have a list of works cited. Every quote in your essay, even the shortest one, must have a reference to the source. If you don’t mark the origin, you’ll make the most terrible of all academic sins – plagiarism.

Being a student, you know how dangerous plagiarism is for the work and your reputation. Unfortunately, non-intended plagiarism is a common issue. It can be just carelessness, but it can cost your career.

There is just one solution: mark all your citations and their sources according to the format required. 


The MLA format is the default for papers in Humanities.

  • The in-text citations include the authors’ last names and the page number in parenthesis:  

e.g., (Campbell 297)

  • If you mention the author in the lead-in, you can only mark the page number in parenthesis. It must be at the very end of the quote, before the period and the closing quotation mark: 

e.g., According to Joseph Campbell, ‘If the deeds of an actual historical figure proclaim him to have been a hero, the builders of his legend will invent for him appropriate adventures (296).’

  • For work with several authors, you should separate their names with “and” and commas if there are more than two co-authors:

e.g., (Rivkin and Ryan 85-88) or (Leitch, Cain, and Williams 46)


APA format is the most widely used format in colleges and universities. Works in social studies, educational, and business topics are mostly APA-formatted.

  • The in-text quote reference must include the author’s last name, the year of publication, and the page number, all in parenthesis: 

e.g.: (Campbell, 2004, p.297)

  • For the work of multiple authors, you write a quote and separate the last names with “and” (two authors) and commas (three and more authors): 

e.g., (Rivkin and Ryan, 2017, p.85-88) or (Leitch, Cain, and Williams, 2018, p. 46)

  • With the name of the author in the lead-in, you can include the year and the page number in parenthesis right after the author’s name.

e.g., According to Joseph Campbell’s (2004, p.296) study, 


One of the academic formatting styles deals with papers in Humanities mostly. It requires that the writer puts the references at the bottom of the page or at the end – the traditional bibliography list. 

  • The default format is the author’s last name and the date – not separated by the comma. Then you put the page number without “p.” and after a comma:

e.g.: (Campbell 2004, 297)

  • Sources with multiple authors: separate their names with “and” for two writers, and with commas for three and more writers:

e.g., (Rivkin and Ryan 2017, 90) or (Leitch, Cain, and Williams 2018, 46)

  • If the name of the author is present in the lead-in phrase, you should include the year and the page number in parenthesis after the end of the quote:

e.g., According to Joseph Campbell, “If the deeds of an actual historical figure proclaim him to have been a hero, the builders of his legend will invent for him appropriate adventures” (2004, 296).


The right quote in an essay is an excellent tool to make your work more impressive for the tutor. It is also a chance for you to demonstrate original thinking and understanding of the subject and context. However, using this tool requires knowledge and skills. Use our recommendations, and you will surely master the art of how to cite a quote in an essay. 

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