Writing Studio

Who said what introducing and contextualizing quotations.

In an effort to make our handouts more accessible, we have begun converting our PDF handouts to web pages. Download this page as a PDF: Introducing and Contextualizing Quotations Return to Writing Studio Handouts

Quotations (as well as paraphrases and summaries) play an essential role in academic writing, from literary analyses to scientific research papers; they are part of a writer’s ever-important evidence, or support, for his or her argument.

But oftentimes, writers aren’t sure how to incorporate quotes and thus shove them into paragraphs without much attention to logic or style.

For better quotations (and better writing), try these tips.

Identify Clearly Where the Borrowed Material Begins

The quotation should include a signal phrase, or introductory statement, which tells the reader whom or what you are citing. The phrase may indicate the author’s name or credentials, the title of the source, and/or helpful background information.

Sample signal phrases

  • According to (author/article)
  • Author + verb

Some key verbs for signal phrases

  • says, writes, accepts, criticizes, describes, disagrees, discusses, explains, identifies, insists, offers, points out, suggests, warns

Two Signal Phrase Examples

  • According to scholar Mary Poovey, Shelley’s narrative structure, which allows the creature to speak from a first-person point of view, forces the reader “to identify with [the creature’s] anguish and frustration” (259).
  • In an introduction to Frankenstein in 1831, the author Mary Shelley describes even her own creative act with a sense of horror: “The idea so possessed my mind, that a thrill of fear ran through me, and I wished to exchange that ghastly image of my fancy for the realities around” (172).

Create Context for the Material

Don’t just plop in quotes and expect the reader to understand. Explain, expand, or refute the quote. Remember, quotations should be used to support your ideas and points.

Here’s one simple, useful pattern: Introduce quote, give quote, explain quote.

“Introduce, Give, Explain” Example 1

[Introduce] Dorianne Laux’s “Girl in the Doorway” uses many metaphors to evoke a sense of change between the mother and daughter: [Give] “I stand at the dryer, listening/through the thin wall between us, her voice/rising and falling as she describes her new life” (3-5). [Explain] The “thin wall” is literal but also references their communication barrier; “rising and falling” is the sound of the girl’s voice but also a reference to her tumultuous preteen emotions.

“Introduce, Give, Explain” Example 2 (longer block quotation)

[Introduce] After watching the cottagers with pleasure, Frankenstein’s creature has a startling moment of revelation and horror when he sees his own reflection for the first time:

[Give] I had admired the perfect forms of my cottagers — their grace, beauty, and delicate complexions: but how was I terrified, when I viewed myself in a transparent pool! At first I started back, unable to believe that it was indeed I who was reflected in the mirror; and when I became fully convinced that I was in reality the monster that I am, I was filled with the bitterest sensations of despondence and mortification. Alas! I did not yet entirely know the fatal effects of this miserable deformity. (76)

[Explain] This literal moment of reflection is key in the creature’s growing reflection of self: In comparing himself with humans, he sees himself not just as different but as “the monster that I am.”

Additional Advice

Pay attention to proper format and grammar (See VU Writing Studio handout Quotation Basics: Grammar, Punctuation, and Style ), and always, always credit your source in order to avoid plagiarism.

Citation styles (e.g. MLA, APA, or Chicago) vary by discipline. Ask your professor if you are uncertain, and then check style guides for formats. (The above examples use MLA format.)

Last revised: 06/2008 | Adapted for web delivery: 06/2021

In order to access certain content on this page, you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader or an equivalent PDF viewer software.

Programs near you Online & evening classes

Columbia, MO Traditional, online and in-class

Jefferson City, MO Blended, online & in class

Advising & tutoring

  • Introducing quotations
  • Study strategies
  • Academic advising
  • Trio support
  • Advising and Tutoring
  • Tutoring and Writing Assistance
  • Suggested Ways to Introduce Quotations

Suggested ways to introduce quotations

When you quote another writer's words, it's best to introduce or contextualize the quote. 

How to quote in an essay?

To introduce a quote in an essay, don't forget to include author's last name and page number (MLA) or author, date, and page number (APA) in your citation. Shown below are some possible ways to introduce quotations. The examples use MLA format.

1. Use a full sentence followed by a colon to introduce a quotation.

  • The setting emphasizes deception: "Nothing is as it appears" (Smith 1).
  • Piercy ends the poem on an ironic note: "To every woman a happy ending" (25).

2. Begin a sentence with your own words, then complete it with quoted words.

Note that in the second example below, a slash with a space on either side ( / ) marks a line break in the original poem.

  • Hamlet's task is to avenge a "foul and most unnatural murder" (Shakespeare 925).
  • The speaker is mystified by her sleeping baby, whose "moth-breath / flickers among the flat pink roses" (Plath 17).

3. Use an introductory phrase naming the source, followed by a comma to quote a critic or researcher

Note that the first letter after the quotation marks should be upper case. According to MLA guidelines, if you change the case of a letter from the original, you must indicate this with brackets. APA format doesn't require brackets.

  • According to Smith, "[W]riting is fun" (215).
  • In Smith's words, " . . .
  • In Smith's view, " . . .

4. Use a descriptive verb, followed by a comma to introduce a critic's words

Avoid using says unless the words were originally spoken aloud, for instance, during an interview.

  • Smith states, "This book is terrific" (102).
  • Smith remarks, " . . .
  • Smith writes, " . . .
  • Smith notes, " . . .
  • Smith comments, " . . .
  • Smith observes, " . . .
  • Smith concludes, " . . .
  • Smith reports, " . . .
  • Smith maintains, " . . .
  • Smith adds, " . . .

5. Don't follow it with a comma if your lead-in to the quotation ends in that or as

The first letter of the quotation should be lower case.

  • Smith points out that "millions of students would like to burn this book" (53).
  • Smith emphasizes that " . . .
  • Smith interprets the hand washing in MacBeth as "an attempt at absolution" (106).
  • Smith describes the novel as "a celebration of human experience" (233).

Writing skills are critical to success

Skilled writers are in demand across all industries. Learn the tips, techniques and strategies to effectively communicate your thoughts and ideas on paper. Apply today to get a comprehensive liberal arts education that will improve your writing abilities.

What's next:

  • Affordability
  • Columbia College partnerships
  • Explore your degree options


  1. How To Introduce Quotes / 3 Ways To Lead Into A Quote Wikihow : The

    introduction to quotes in an essay

  2. How To Introduce A Quote : Introducing Quotations

    introduction to quotes in an essay

  3. Image result for transition words for introducing quotes

    introduction to quotes in an essay

  4. How to introduce a quote in the introduction

    introduction to quotes in an essay

  5. How To Introduce A Quote In An Essay

    introduction to quotes in an essay

  6. Introduction (1)

    introduction to quotes in an essay


  1. Important quotes for essay

  2. #easy quotes #Visit to a historical place Quotes # Essay quotes#essay visit to historical place

  3. Top quotes about #essay my personality part. 1 #essaywriting #viral #viralshorts #subscribe

  4. Stop using very in your ESSAYS #essay #essaywriting

  5. Essay Topic #essay #topic

  6. inventive essay


  1. Who Said What? Introducing and Contextualizing Quotations

    The quotation should include a signal phrase, or introductory statement, which tells the reader whom or what you are citing. The phrase may indicate the author’s name or credentials, the title of the source, and/or helpful background information. Sample signal phrases According to (author/article) Author + verb Some key verbs for signal phrases

  2. Suggested Ways to Introduce Quotations

    But how can you do this? In this post, we provide a few helpful tips on how to introduce quotes (short and long) in academic writing. Introducing Short Quotations. The easiest way to quote a source is to work a short passage (sometimes just a single word) into your own sentence. For example:

  3. How to Introduce a Quote in an Essay

    This article explains the methods of introducing your quote in an essay. It doesn’t deal with ...

  4. Handout: Quoting Others

    Quotations need to be taken from their original context and integrated fully into their new textual surroundings. Every quotation needs to have your own words appear in the same sentence. Here are some easy to use templates* for doing this type of introduction: Templates for Introducing Quotations. X states, “_____.”