Picking and Choosing Quotations

Choosing quotations for a paper in college writing can be like choosing the right friends, because you want to make sure they will always back you up. Quotes can strengthen your writing and provide backup support for the points you are making in a paper. A major challenge for me was deciding which quotes to use, and which quotes not to use. I learned that you should not use quotes that are too long, or too short, and to always make sure your quotes are relevant to your writing.


Long Quotations

When I first started writing, I always felt very intimidated by the number of pages required for assignments. I would constantly try to find the longest possible quotations that would take up the most space in my paper to meet the length requirement. For example, lets say you are talking about teamwork in a paper, and need a quote from a prestigious athlete.


See example below:

“There are plenty of teams in every sport that have great players and
never win titles. Most of the time, those players aren’t willing to
sacrifice for the greater good of the team. The funny thing is, in
the end, their unwillingness to sacrifice only makes individual
goals more difficult to achieve. One thing I believe to the fullest
is that if you think and achieve as a team, the individual accolades
will take care of themselves. Talent wins games, but teamwork and
intelligence win championships.” (Michael Jordan)


While this is a very good quote, it could easily be summarized by the last sentence, and shortened to “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.” All the other information in the beginning is just sort of fluff information, and could bore the reader by not getting to the point fast enough. Quotes are great for adding another person’s perspective or insight. If you are talking about the importance of teamwork in a paper, the shortened version of Michael Jordan’s long quote would be ideal. Professors aren’t looking for paragraph long quotations, but rather short and to the point.


Short Quotations

Although, having too short of quotations is also a poor habit. You don’t want to have one or two word quotes, because they can sometimes look like they are just thrown into the paper. Most of the time they don’t fully back up or support the claim you’re trying to make, rather than just serving the purpose of having the quote in your paper because it’s a requirement in the rubric. From personal experience, I would say to use quotes that are one to two sentences in length, so they can be clearly understood by the reader and back up any claim you are trying to make.


Credible and Relevant Quotations

Lastly, you always want to make sure your quotes are relevant to your paper. If you are talking about teamwork in the game of basketball, don’t get a quote from a soccer player, but a quote from a basketball player with credentials like Michael Jordan. You also want to make sure your quote is from a credible source. If you have a false quotation, there is a good chance you are going to get marked off. Don’t rearrange the words in the quote or the reader could get a different idea than what the quote is really trying to accomplish.


See the example below.

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and
intelligence win championships.” (Michael Jordan)


This quote above could be shortened even more to, “Talent wins games.” However, this is not the purpose of the quote. The main purpose of this quote is to explain how even though talent is important, teamwork and intelligence are even more important. Without the second half of the quotation, the reader would not be able to understand the importance of teamwork and intelligence which is the gist of the quote. You have to be careful not to twist the author’s words.


Quotations can serve as a great source of evidence for back up support to your main points in college writing. Be sure to not use too long of quotes, too short of quotes, and to make sure your all your quotes are credible and relevant. If you can remember these small tips, you will have no problem choosing which quotes to use when writing a college paper. Like choosing the right friends to positively impact your life, choosing quotes can have a major impact in college writing.