Do you worry about when to use direct quotations in your Arts or Humanities essay? Quoting profusely can make your work seem fragmented; your voice can become lost. But when done well, quoting can enhance your work. Here are some reasons to use direct quotes.
1 For accuracy
Quote when you’re referring to a text, such as a poem, play or historical document. It is also helpful to quote if paraphrasing (rewriting in your own words) might make your work less concise. Choose the direct quote carefully, using only the words that make your point. The quotation should make your writing more precise.
In his essay ‘Politics and the English Language’, George Orwell asserts that ‘The great enemy of clear language is insincerity’ (2013, p.15).
2 For authority
Quote to add strength to your assertion or weight to your argument, for example, when the source is authoritative or eminent:
Hermione Lee, Fitzgerald’s biographer, describes how the themes of Offshore reflect a period of uncertainty in her subject’s life. The novel, she says, ‘performs a balancing act between being enclosed and being at risk, between comic lightness and tragic depth, between the short term and the long haul’ (Lee, 2013, p.148).
3 For style
Use a quotation to draw attention to the striking language or phrasing of the author:
Patricia Williams challenges traditions of objectivity not just in her subject, but also in her style, which is defiantly personal and insistent. The lack of a documented past, she says, is ‘too unsustaining, too spontaneously ahistorical, too dangerously malleable in the hands of those who would rewrite not merely the past but my future as well’ (Williams, 1988, p.5).
22 April 2021
 Orwell, George (2013). Politics and the English Language. London: Penguin
 Lee, Hermione (2013). Penelope Fitzgerald, A Life. London: Chatto & Windus
 Williams, Patricia J. (1988) ‘On Being the Object of Property’. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 14 (1), pp.5–24
Swapping the author’s words for your own, even with the help of the thesaurus, won’t save you from plagiarism. Indeed, although the thesaurus is a useful writing tool, it can also be a trap. In a PhD, dissertation or essay, successful paraphrasing is taking the nub of someone else’s argument and relating it to the point you are making.
Look through your essay and underline your reporting verbs. Then decide whether you have used the most suitable verb in each case.
‘However’ indicates a strong contrast or contradiction while ‘therefore’ indicates the direct logical conclusion of what went before.