Knowing how to quote correctly is key to avoiding plagiarism. Words that are an exact copy of the original should always be identified by quotation marks or, for longer quotes, set-off in an indented paragraph. The requirement to put quotation marks around material that has been exactly copied is the form of acknowledgement with which most people are familiar.
While proper quotation will avoid plagiarism, it does not necessarily result in a good paper. Students are often told to only use direct quotes when they feel the original author’s phrasing expresses the idea so well that no better expression can be found. This is good advice. Unfortunately, students who are uncomfortable with their own writing style are often inclined to over-use quotes on the theory that they cannot improve on the original author. The result can be a ‘Frankenstein’ paper that is little more than a string of quotes sewn together by a few transition sentences. Even if every quote is adequately cited, the overall paper will feel plagiarized since the student has not written anything new.
Each field of study has specific guidelines about direct quotation. For instance, direct quotation is often discouraged in the sciences, which prefer paraphrasing. Students should check with their professor on the preferred use of quotes in their discipline.
Last updated 8/23/2012 by Sue Thompson