How Many Direct Quotes Should Your Research Paper Have?

Quotes from well known authorities on a subject can have a strengthening effect on your research paper. It will almost feel as if there’s someone backing you up in what you’re trying to convey; a real person who holds (or held) the same view you do. But all too often, the quotes backing up your argument can have a consuming effect on your paper by seemingly taking it over completely.

How many is too many?

The consensus among students is that one direct quote per page is near acceptable. However, some professors feel that even this is too many. Professors who must mark paper after paper get frustrated when a student’s own viewpoint isn’t clearly apparent. Research papers that lean too heavily on the opinion and investigation of others will be not be interesting to read at all.

Should I avoid direct quotes?

Not at all! The trick is to make the quote a major point of your own argument. Before using a direct quote to make an argument, rather first make the argument yourself. After you’ve done that, use the person’s quote as a backup to show that you’re not alone in your opinion; or to just have it put in a way that you enjoyed reading yourself.

A different approach

Another great way to throw the direct quote fad a little off balance is to use direct quotes that differ from your own opinion. In this case, you would introduce the belief, state the quote of a person who supports it, and then contradict that belief with some compelling arguments and evidence to the contrary.

Direct quotes are great to use when you turn them into conversational points. A direct quote can not only strengthen your argument, but add a bit of controversy to the topic at hand.

To quote or not to quote...

It’s not advised to completely avoid quotes in your paper. Using supporting quotes is a welcome factor in any essay or research paper in that it turns your writing into a nice, conversational piece that involves another person who’s accomplished at the subject.

Be careful not to overdo your quoting. Stick to a rule of one quote per page and you’ll be safe. This forces you to make your quotes really count, and will make you more selective when choosing which quotes to use.

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