Embedding Quotations as Supporting Evidence

Learning how to fully embed quotations into your essay is a skill that needs to be explicitly taught.  Teaching students how to embed quotations into their essay must be explained from the ground up.  Without a solid foundation to build on your students will continue to struggle with the concept.  We will look at the examples from the PREVIOUS ENTRY to use as our exemplars.

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Explicitly Teaching Quotation Use

Having assessed student ability in the prior lesson, you have a strong understanding of how to support their needs, and ensure that they already have a foundational understanding of how to use quotations in their work.  You have ensured that they do not leave quotations standing alone, nor do they introduce them as something said or stated in an independent text.

Now that students have the ability to to write strong sentences, including the quotations as part of their own sentence structure, it is time to teach them what they can do when the source quotation is in a different tense, or doesn’t quite fit the flow of their writing.

We will be teaching how to use brackets to modify and add words within a quotation.  We will also be teaching how to use ellipses to skip over words or phrases to ensure that the quotation properly melds with their own writing.

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Source Text

Once again, this is the text we will use in the following examples.

If you knew the first thing about me, you’d know that I’m not the type to go off investigating strange noises.  I’m not.  I know that the worst thing you can possibly do is go charging after an unknown sound, in an unknown direction.  If my grandmother taught me anything it was…  well, no, my grandmother would be telling me to charge straight at it, just so long as I was being safe.  But I’m not being safe, and she’s not here.

-M. Barltrop, Dreams of the White Bird (Page 1)



Using Brackets: Modifying a word in a quotation.

Students will need explicit teaching that demonstrates how quotations can be modified to suit their needs.  Ensure they understand that modification should not change the intended meaning or message of the source text.


Adding a letter/letters to a word

Despite her actions, the protagonist “know[s] the worst thing you can possibly do is go charging after an unknown sound” (Barltrop 1).

This example demonstrates how the s was added to the work know in order to make it suit the author’s sentence structure.  Simply writing “the protagonist ” know the worse thing…” would not be grammatically correct.


Changing a Word

Despite her actions, the protagonist “know[s] the worst thing [one] can possibly do is go charging after an unknown sound” (Barltrop 1).

While the first example worked well enough, one should not address the reader through the use of the word you.  The easiest way to avoid this problem is to use the word one instead.

This is easily accomplished in one’s own writing.  However, when using a quotation brackets must be used, as it requires changing a word in the original quotation.


Changing Case

Should the author wish to insert a quotation into their own work, where the case is not consistent with the grammar requirements they must use square brackets to either capitalize the letter, or convert it to lower case.  The example below demonstrates how the word Ican be converted to if.

The protagonist wants the reader to know that “[i]f [her] grandmother taught [her] anything” (Barltrop 1) it was to…


Adding a Word or Phrase

Finally, brackets can also be used to add entire words, or phrases to a quotation, in order to maintain a consistent flow in their written work.

Despite knowing better, the protagonist is “not being safe [as she runs through the forest], and [her grandmother] is not [with her].” (Barltrop 1).

Note that the phrase as she runs through the forest was not in the original quotation, but was added to add context to the quotation.  Likewise, the words were changed / replaced in the second half of the quotation to add clarity and context for the reader.



Using Ellipses

Ellipses, or dot-dot-dots, can be used to skip over words, or phrases, in an embedded quotation.  Through use of the ellipses students can cut out unnecessary parts of the source quotation, keeping only what they require to communicate their point.

The protagonist bargains with the reader, informing them that “If [they] knew the first thing about [her], [they]’d know that [she’s] not the type to go off investigating strange noises” (Barltrop 1).  Despite this claim, she prepares to “go charging after an unknown sound” (1).  While she places blame on the fact that her “grandmother would … charge straight at it[, the protagonist admits that she’s] not being safe” (1) in her own actions.

This example demonstrates how the words be telling me to are removed through the use of an ellipsis to keep an engaging tone in the piece.  This example also shows how brackets can also be used to skip over phrases, as they replace large chunks.

This shows how you only use an ellipsis if you are removing words, and not adding anything else in their place.

Ensure your students know that they should not start or end their quotations with ellipsis.  This is unnecessary, as the quotation either begins or ends where they choose for it to begin or end.


What’s Next?

Now that you have taught your students how to fully work with quotations, they are ready to look at an example that explores how to go from ideation to essay outline to final essay.  The NEXT ARTICLE will offer full exemplars for the ideation, planning, and essay writing phases.



Navigate the Essay Unit

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