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4 Steps to Properly Using a Quote in Your Essay

Lack of activity destroys the good - ancient Greek philosopher Plato quote printed on grunge vintage cardboard
Written by CB Community

“Would you start an essay with a quote or rather not?” by Anonymous

Every student gets to this question when writing an essay. One probable cause is that it is unclear why one would consider using someone’s thoughts in a piece of writing that is supposed to be purely his or her. Essentially, the opening words of your essay should captivate and engage readers enough to finish reading the entire essay.

While this has been agreed upon in many discussion platforms, research teams, and debate events, there are uncertainties in the use of a quote as an opening statement. To help you overcome them, here is the best advice.

Beginning your essay with a quote is actually an excellent way to hook up your readers. More importantly, to a professor or faculty member, it demonstrates your understanding of the topic, the depth of your research, and the awareness of your audience. If these three are the tip of the iceberg, deep down is the hard work, determination, critical thinking, academic integrity, and passion that it takes to write good English essays.

To some students, starting an essay with a quote is not easy. For this reason, it might be smart to seek professional help when available. With that said, let us go step by step into starting an essay with a quote. The following are easy steps for you to follow to place your quote excellently.

Step 1-Research your topic

Thorough research is important if you want to start your essay with the appropriate quote. Therefore, read books, journals, websites, and other materials likely to give you the right context and input for your research. It is from thorough research that you will identify and evaluate the quote that you will be using.

Step 2-Select the best of the quotes for your essay

Select one quote among those you have identified. Here, you will be required to understand know some do’s and don’ts so that you do not end up losing your readers and objective. The following are examples of dos and don’ts when coming up with a quote.

The Dos

  • Find a quote that can catch a reader’s interest. For example, a quote from somebody readers might not expect
  • When introducing the quote, use layman’s terms to explain the context
  • A quote you can agree or disagree with by the time you finish an essay. This helps develop your discussion in a way that persuades your readers
  • Observe the style and formatting requirements when placing and acknowledging the source. For example, when using an MLA format and style guide, you are required to enclose the quote with double quotation marks and then write the author’s name and the page number.

The Don’ts

  • Do not use those statements that have been used repeatedly. For example, quoting The Second Amendment of the US constitution is overly done. Avoid it.
  • Avoid those by major celebrities. For example, Ben Stiller or Michael Jackson
  • Avoid using quotes that do not connect with the discussion

Step-3. Edit your quote

In some cases, you might need to add or remove some words, phrases, and symbols to make your quote both more appealing to your readers and fitting to your context. If needed, you can do this in two steps

  • Remove parts of a quote that are irrelevant to your paper. For example, you may find that the section you pick comprises of four sentences with the third sentence not important. In this situation, remote the sentence and fill its place with epilepsies (…) signs.
  • Include your own information to assist readers to connect well to our arguments. In most cases, Brackets are useful when including such helpful details.

Step 4- Cite the Quote to acknowledge your sources

You never take ideas from the owners without acknowledging them. Doing so, especially in academic contexts, can draw serious implications (ie plagiarism). In the professional field, your work can be rejected and never usable to the group you intended to write for. Similarly, in academic essays, you must cite the quotation you intend to use, and more so, make it acceptable and appealing to readers. The following example demonstrates how you should place and cite your opening quote in MLA.

“In cities with more than 100,000 people, we found background checks …effective at reducing rates of gun-related deaths [than other cities].” (Colarossi and Mcalpine 10).

The source by both Colarossi and Mcalpine should appear as an entry at the Works Cited sections, as shown here below.

Colarossi, Jessica, and Kat J. Mcalpine. “State Gun Laws That Actually Reduce Gun Deaths.” Boston University, 2019,


Every style of writing has its own guidelines that are helpful when it comes to citations. Follow them closely. In addition, there is professional help available in case you remain stuck at this point.

Step 6 – Other Considerations

As you select and edit that quote for your use in an essay, there are some other things to consider.

  • Consider your audience to avoid annoying them. For example, do not use a quote that shows bias and/or negative attitudes towards certain behaviors of people, groups, beliefs or choices in life.
  • Second, avoid big and technical words in the quote. If there is such a word, edit it using brackets to make it easier for every reader to understand without seeking a dictionary for the meaning.
    Some quotes collected from social platforms, jokes or memes should usually not be used in serious academic writing.
  • However, using inspirational quotes can increase the possibility of your readers adopting your arguments and resonating with the essay.

In conclusion, writing an essay with a quote can be purposeful and interesting if you take the time to follow the proper steps and have a well thought our process. For more great college tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.

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CB Community

Passionate members of the College Basics community that include students, essay writers, consultants and beyond. Please note, while community content has passed our editorial guidelines, we do not endorse any product or service contained in these articles which may also include links for which College Basics is compensated.