The major undertaking of any type of argument is being able to present proof of your claim. On this page, we are going to take a look at the multiple ways you can incorporate the evidence necessary in analytical and argumentative essays. We will be focusing on integrating primary sources into your writing. For the inclusion of academic sources, check out Decoding Academic Language, which contains a section on secondary sources and joining the academic conversation.
How to Find the Right Quote for Evidence
Before delving into incorporating quotations into your paper, we need to take a slight step back. We will begin with finding and evaluating quotes. So, let's put zombies aside for a second and use a different classic Hollywood monster to work with: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (Reference: Project Gutenberg's Frankenstein, by Mary Wollstonecraft (Godwin) Shelley)
The point of the exercise below is to help students discern what type of quotations are necessary to act as proof for an essay's argument. The thing to keep in mind when evaluating quotes is that you want something that fits within the argument of the paragraph it is situated in while also wanting the quote to help further prove the thesis of the paper.
Okay, let's sort through some quotes.
Situational Setup: You are writing a feminist critique of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (For those unfamiliar with this literary theory, Purdue University has a primer on Feminist Criticism)
Thesis: Victor Frankenstein’s usurpation of the female biological imperative of creating life disrupts the natural order leading to the destruction of the Frankenstein family due to one man’s hubris.
Topic Sentence: The destruction of the female counterpart to his creation exemplifies Frankenstein’s desire to cement male-dominated reproduction.
What type of quote would we need to prove the topic sentence as well as the thesis at large? We need a quote that demonstrates Victor’s fear of female reproduction.
Exercise: All three of the quotes pertain to the female creature. Out of the examples below, which one best demonstrates the criteria of the argument?
- “In this manner I distributed my occupations when I first arrived, but as I proceeded in my labour, it became every day more horrible and irksome to me. Sometimes I could not prevail on myself to enter my laboratory for several days, and at other times I toiled day and night in order to complete my work. It was, indeed, a filthy process in which I was engaged. During my first experiment, a kind of enthusiastic frenzy had blinded me to the horror of my employment; my mind was intently fixed on the consummation of my labour, and my eyes were shut to the horror of my proceedings. But now I went to it in cold blood, and my heart often sickened at the work of my hands.” (Chapter 19)
- “Even if they were to leave Europe and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which the dæmon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror. Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats; but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race.” (Chapter 20)
- “As I looked on him, his countenance expressed the utmost extent of malice and treachery. I thought with a sensation of madness on my promise of creating another like to him, and trembling with passion, tore to pieces the thing on which I was engaged. The wretch saw me destroy the creature on whose future existence he depended for happiness, and with a howl of devilish despair and revenge, withdrew.” (Chapter 20)
The quotes in the example are, as you can see, quite lengthy. You have two options when integrating quotes of this length: (1) break the quote down or (2) format it as a block quote.
The block quote is used for direct quotations that are longer than the standard allowance for integrated quotes. (For MLA, you need a block quote if the quote runs onto the fourth line for prose or a third line for poetry. For APA, you need a block quote if the quotation is over 40 words. Chicago extends its quote length to 5 lines of prose before a block quote is necessary.) A block quote is always used when quoting dialogue between characters, as in a play.
The block format is a freestanding quote that does not include quotation marks. Introduce the block quote with a colon (unless the context of your quote requires different punctuation) and start it on a new line. For MLA and APA papers, indent the entire quote 1/2 inch from the left margin and continue with double-spacing it. Include the in-text citation information at the end of your block quote outside of the ending period.
(Be Aware: Each citation style has their own specification for block quotations. We have included our citation resources at the bottom of the page, so you can find the proper format required.)
Starting with the topic sentence above:
The destruction of the female counterpart to his creation exemplifies Frankenstein’s desire to cement male-dominated reproduction. While the patriarchal structure positions male authority as the superior power, the one realm that men cannot individually succeed is in the biological continuation of lineage. Frankenstein’s usurpation of the birthing process eliminates the necessity in female involvement in the creation of progeny. By constructing a female equivalent to his creature, Frankenstein would be reintroducing the female component, which is the very thing that he has successfully removed. The inability to maintain complete control over his unnatural experiment draws derision and disgust from the unethical scientist:
Even if they were to leave Europe and inhabit the deserts of the new world, yet one of the first results of those sympathies for which the dæmon thirsted would be children, and a race of devils would be propagated upon the earth who might make the very existence of the species of man a condition precarious and full of terror. Had I right, for my own benefit, to inflict this curse upon everlasting generations? I had before been moved by the sophisms of the being I had created; I had been struck senseless by his fiendish threats; but now, for the first time, the wickedness of my promise burst upon me; I shuddered to think that future ages might curse me as their pest, whose selfishness had not hesitated to buy its own peace at the price, perhaps, of the existence of the whole human race. (Shelley 170-1)
(Due to the limitations in the website’s formatting capabilities, the spacing is probably not the correct indention length. We just wanted to give you an idea of what it should look like offset.)
It is important to note that the analysis following a block quote should be at the very least as long as the quote itself. Realistically, it should be twice as long as the quote, because the standard rule for quotations is for every line of an included quote there should be two lines explaining the lines' importance and necessity. If you cannot come up with this level of detailed analysis, the quote needs to be broken down into a small quotation.
Created by Saint Michael’s College’s Writing Center1:
- It is important to make a smooth transition from your own words to those of another source. Never simply drop a quotation into a paragraph. A quotation can never stand in a sentence by itself without an introduction. For example:
T.S. Eliot, in his "Talent and the Individual," uses gender-specific language. "No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists" (Eliot 29).
In this example, the reader is not prepared for the quote and will become confused as a result.
- To avoid dropping quotes in, use signal phrases. These are phrases which precede the quotation. They may include the author’s name and a verb (argues, compares, suggests, demonstrates, points out, etc.). An example is the following:
T.S. Eliot, in his "Talent and the Individual," uses gender-specific language. He argues, for instance, that "no poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists" (Eliot 29).
- One could also incorporate a colon into the sentence to integrate the quote properly.
T.S. Eliot, in his "Talent and the Individual," uses gender-specific language: "No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists" (Eliot 29).
The above examples will be easier for the reader to understand as you are making it clear that the quotation is coming from that specific source.
- It may not always be necessary to use an entire passage to prove your point. To use only a phrase you must weave the quote into your own sentence.
I find it striking that though "women novelists have probably dominated American literature since the middle of the nineteenth century," our literary tradition is still incredibly gender specific (Schweickart 201).
For this section, the example we are going to work with is a continuation from the previous page – Breaking Down the Essay – and flushing out how to integrate and analyze a quote by interrogating one of the soundbites from the podcast, NPR’s Throughline2, that we looked at before.
The podcast transitions from a historical look at the zombie to the Hollywood transformation of zombie as metaphor or cipher. Kaplan-Levenson narrows in on George Romero’s three film zombie series to illustrate the representative capabilities of the zombie. The part of her argument that we are going to focus in on is the discussion surrounding Romero’s 1978 film Dawn of the Dead. (Here is a trailer for Dawn of the Dead for those who might be unfamiliar with the film or its premise.)
The scene we are using for the Quote/Evidence in the below example can be viewed here: Dawn of the Dead (1978) - "No More Room in Hell"
Argument: In Dawn of the Dead, George Romero depicts the enslaving capabilities of America’s obsession with hyper consumerism through the dehumanization of the American consumer.
Topic Sentence: Within the metaphor of the film, the mall represents the problematic nature of the capitalistic infrastructure that acts as both shelter and prison for the living survivors.
Lead-In to Quote: The four people sequestered inside the shopping mall come to the realization that not only are the zombies in search of food – which the survivors amount to in this scenario – but that the zombies are also searching for places of familiarity and comfort even in their undead state:
Fran: “They're still here.”
Stephen: “They're after us. They know we're still in here.”
Peter: “They're after the place. They don't know why. They just remember - remember that they want to be in here.”
Fran: “What the hell are they?”
Peter: “They're us. That's all.” (Dawn of the Dead)
Analysis: Peter’s pronouncement that the zombies are “after the place” because some part of their lingering consciousness recognizes the mall and maintains some type of internal imperative to seek it out, some internal “want” that drives them to the building, clearly encapsulates Romero’s social critique of consumerism culture. Even in death, the zombies desire a return to – what Elizabeth McAlister calls – the “banality of consumption” (Abdelfatah). The mall is a place to congregate; it is the one-stop shop. The mall invites consumers to spend hours walking slowly from store to store, purchasing anything and everything that one could want. The vague language Peter, Fran, and Stephen employ when talking about the zombies evokes the same type of language that can be connected to the everyday consumer; after all, “[t]hey’re us.” The biological imperative for survival sends the zombies to the one place that in life contains all of their prior “want[s]”. The mall is an inescapable reminder of capitalistic enterprise even during a time of economic collapse and pandemonium.
Explanation: The thing you need to keep in mind when writing any paragraph is order of operations. Some disciplines and essay types allow variation, but by and large, you are always going to have a topic sentence, a sentence that leads into a piece of evidence, the piece of evidence, the analysis of the evidence, and the thesis tie-in. The analysis section is meant to focus on (1) why the included evidence is relevant and (2) how it supports your argument.
In the above example, the language of the quote was used to highlight the comparison of "they" that the film was attempting to make. People have been relegated to passive consumers in a capitalist structure. The living people are obsessed with “stuff”/ Veblen’s concept of Conspicuous Consumption while the dead are obsessed with satisfying an even more basic need: the need to “consume” flesh. Another interpretation for the comparison between the living and the dead is one that is not explored above but would be explored in the larger argument: Romero’s refusal to name the zombies as anything other than “they”. By not naming the zombies, Romero refuses to separate the entities from us: “They’re us.” The zombies therefore serve as a cautionary tale to not be mindless, to not simply consume, to not get wrapped up in material “wants” and desires.
We are going to take a slight break from quotations to introduce how to write a scene analysis; this is only going to be a very brief overview, but it feels like a necessary diversion since our example above is from a film. If you would like a more thorough explanation on a scene analysis, check out our Film Resources' page. We have Youtube video examples that detail the run through for analyzing a film's scene.
Scene Analysis: An Overview
The reason we are taking the time to overview a scene analysis is because it has a different type of terminology than typically used in lit papers. The core components however are primarily the same; you are still investigating a text to extract a larger meaning, such as developing a thesis-driven argument and providing evidence from the text to prove said argument. What we are doing in this example that we didn't do above is incorporating the specific terminology necessary for a thorough deep dive into analyzing a scene for a film paper.
So with that in mind, another scene that could be used for the argument presented in the above section comes from earlier in Dawn of the Dead. The scene depicts the four survivors arriving at the mall and discovering the lumbering zombies loitering around the first floor:
For this exercise, we are going to be concentrating on mise-en-scène and camera shots. As defined in the Film Art: An Introduction by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, mise-en-scene is "all of the elements placed in front of the camera to be photographed: the settings and props, lighting, costumes and makeup, and figure behavior." An example of what these shots look like can be seen in this video about the final scene of Inception by Reuben Singham: INCEPTION - Cinematography Analysis (shot types). Studio Binder also created a guide to camera shots and angles here: The Ultimate Guide to Camera Shots (50+ Types of Shots and Angles in Film).
We wanted to give you some camera shot examples from the film. To save on space, we have uploaded it as a pdf here: Dawn of the Dead camera shot stills. We are not going to give you a complete run through of explaining the importance of every shot (scene analysis papers can be any where between 4-10 pages), but each of these stills are referenced in our example's first paragraph.
We will also be continuing with the argument established in the above example for the scene analysis. Since this is a different scene and would take place earlier in the paper (at least the preceding paragraph), we have crafted a different topic sentence.
Argument: George Romero exemplifies his social criticism in the establishing mall scene for the audience through the evocation of a haunting nightmare that is startlingly familiar. Romero spends an entire minute cutting back and forth between lifeless mannequins and lifeless faces (figs. 2/3 and 5/6), stumbling forms aimlessly roaming around locked store fronts (fig. 1), and passive figures waiting for the slow crawl of an escalator to reach the top of its destination (figs. 7-10). Outside of the one sitting in the fountain clutching at the loose change of lost wishes (fig. 4), the zombies loitering the walkways remind the film’s viewer of shoppers awaiting the full opening of the mall’s shops. Romero even includes the chiming of a clock that has all of the zombie in the shot momentarily pause as if they were waiting for the metallic clang of store fronts lifting their gates to let them in to wander around.
Analysis: In a single minute of run-time, Romero demonstrates the upsetting reality of consumer culture through the parallel of the zombies and the audience. The full impact of Romero’s message would have been felt by the viewer watching his film in a mall theater in 1978, but it is a message that has not been lost over the past four decades: we as consumers are slaves to capitalism and even death does not offer an escape. The first look at the inside of the mall is a wide shot of the first floor in low lighting (fig. 1). The zombies wandering aimlessly around are obscured in the shadows. If not for the stiff shuffling, the 1978 audience would have been hard-pressed to distinguish between the zombies on the screen from the people loitering outside the theater in which they were sitting.
Explanation: The mall’s establishing scene initiates the obfuscation of the zombie as other. The refrain of “[t]hey’re us” starts in the silent comparison Romero offers his audience in this single, minute-long glimpse of the zombie apocalypse. Even if the rest of the movie took place elsewhere, one could still argue that Romero presents a social critique of consumerism in this one scene as he exemplified through the different criticisms demonstrated elsewhere in the film’s first act: the ineffective press unable to maintain a balanced and unbiased presentation of information, the excessive force and brutality inherent in police raids as well as racism within the ranks of the SWAT unit, and the similarities between the armed services and the country “rednecks”/militia. Romero’s criticisms resonate with a modern audience, because the viewer can still draw these parallels. “They’re us,” and we are unfortunately them.
While we have given you an example of the importance of one scene, we want to let you know that not every scene in a film needs interpretation. You might be able to argue an entire paper with a single scene as your evidence. You just need to always keep in mind the requirements of your assignment: paper topic and length.
Describing the scene in detail while revealing a hidden meaning is the purpose of a scene analysis. Not every film has depth like Romero’s, so be careful when you are picking your own example to work with.
Instead of direct quotations, some subjects (e.g. Nursing and Biology) require the inclusion of paraphrase when incorporating experts' information.
UNC at Chapel Hill’s Writing Center defines paraphrase as "taking another person’s ideas and putting those ideas in your own words. Paraphrasing does NOT mean changing a word or two in someone else’s sentence, changing the sentence structure while maintaining the original words, or changing a few words to synonyms. If you are tempted to rearrange a sentence in any of these ways, you are writing too close to the original. That’s plagiarizing, not paraphrasing."3
Do you still need to cite information that has been paraphrased? Yes, even though the information is not a direct quote, you are still including someone else's ideas into your paper. An easy way to make sure you are paraphrasing and not plagiarizing is to close the text that you are reading, put it aside, and attempt to summarize the observed information. By doing this, you will be able to put another person's ideas in your own words. As an added precaution, check your work against the original with your professor before you submit your assignment for a grade.
For more information, check out our Plagiarism page.
- For additional information about secondary resources, check out Search for Sources from our breakdown of the research process. The main page for our Research resources also contains links to some of the major online databases and journals provided mainly by Ingram Library.
- For information on MLA, APA, Chicago as well as a few other citation styles utilized across campus, please check out Citation Resources.
- If the citation style you need is not on the above page, please check out Writing in the Majors for your specific major. We should have the proper citation styles listed therein; if we don't, let us know.
- “Integration of Quotes.” Writing Tips, Saint Michael’s College. http://academics.smcvt.edu/writingctr/Quotes.htm. Accessed 20 May 2020.
- Abdelfatah, Rund and Arablouei, Ramtin, hosts. "Zombies." Throughline, NPR, 31 Oct. 2019. NPR, https://www.npr.org/transcripts/774809210.
- “Plagiarism.” The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/plagiarism/. Accessed 18 May 2020.