Academic readers expect a substantiated development of ideas; and as a result, quotes, citations, and references become a mainstay of academic writing. However, the use of direct quotes, and especially lengthy quotes, evolves through academic study. By the end of graduate studies, a writer becomes tasked with creating new ways of looking at a subject by making connections, assessing theories, combining ideas, drawing conclusions, etc. (See WEX Resource: Bloom’s Taxonomy & Writing). Since much of the purpose for writing lies in interpretations and summaries of related theories, direct quotes take a back seat to the overall purpose. Instead, your reader expects you to extract, digest, condense others’ research. Here are a few ideas to keep in mind:


  • Your graduate writing and most certainly your thesis or dissertation should rely on your interpretations, paraphrases, and summaries with citations rather than heavy use of direct quotes. In fact, you might question every lengthy, blocked quote (except quotes from research participants) because they distract from your writing. You might not realize this, but the heavy use of lengthy quotes can reflect a lack of understanding or confidence as a writer. Remember, your purpose in writing is to demonstrate your understandings and use citations to acknowledge supportive research. Take a look at any peer-reviewed article and you’ll readily see this at work.
    • Try using the ellipsis (. . .) with any extraneous phrasing/sentences of a long quote.


  • Do not fall into the trap of defending your use of quotes that another writer “said it best.” At some stage of your academic career, this might have been important to consider because it reflected a skill-based expectation of academic writing. However, at the dissertation/thesis level, the reader is interested in what you have to say, how you integrate the research, and your interpretations, not on evaluating your skill in inserting others’ passages. I’m not suggesting that you don’t use any direct quotes, but I want to encourage you to focus on interpreting and summarizing.


  • If we consider that the thesis/dissertation is assigned because it provides evidence of understanding and creating new understanding, a quote could be seen as a distraction from that purpose. Inserting quotes relies on a superficial level of cognition, not the more complex operations engaged in analyzing, interpretating, connecting, evaluation.
    • If you’re wedded to using direct quotes: One strategy you might consider is to insert the quote in the first draft and then go back and revise into a paraphrase with a citation.


  • Theses and dissertations are complex, complicated, and rely on a sophisticated range of rhetorical strategies. Foremost, your reader expects to read a manuscript that is founded on your connections and conclusions. Therefore, the use of citations with assertions, summary statements and paraphrases avail an economical strategy of integrating research. I’m not saying it’s easy, but your reader will appreciate this effort.


  • Quotes seldom impress on their own; it’s the author’s use of the quote to substantiate what comes before and after that proves the value of the quote. Integrate direct quotes through using “signal phrases” to lead into the quote and following with an explanation in your own words.


  • Finally, did you know that –
    • APA actually frowns upon heavy use of quotes? Social Science readers expect a streamlined manuscript, forcing the writer to summarize and paraphrase in order to maintain a relatively terse, direct style. For more information, see 8.25 Principles of Direct Quotation in APA Publication Manual, 7th
    • Most readers simply skip over quotes.


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