CWI Writing Center: MLA Block Quotes
MLA prefers short quotes, summarizing, or paraphrasing. However, if required quotes are more than four lines long in your paper, use a block quote format. Use only one block quote per 4 pages of text to avoid overwhelming the reader. See the Source Integration handout for help.
Block Quote Guidelines:
- Quotation marks are not needed for block quotes.
- The citation goes after the quote’s final punctuation mark.
- The whole quote must be indented half an inch from the left. In Microsoft Word, highlight your quote and press the Tab key.
- Use a signal phrase (for example, “According to Smith . . .”) before the quote and discuss the information after the quote to better argue your point. See the example below.
- Continue your paragraph by not indenting the line that follows the block quote.
For more information, Contact the Writing Center.
Guidelines for Incorporating Quotes
Incorporating Outside Sources
Quoting from outside sources is an important part of academic writing because it puts you into the scholarly conversation and makes your own ideas and your paper more credible. Using quotes is a great way for readers to “hear” the expert voices talking about your writing topic.
When quoting, focus on (a) introducing the quote, (b) explaining its relevance, and (c) citing the sources—both in your writing and in formal citations. This form is known as the ICE method.
The ICE Method
When including outside sources in your writing, follow the ICE method:
- I: Introduce
- C: Cite
- E: Explain
Use this method when inserting direct quotations as well as when you’re paraphrasing or summarizing the ideas of another.
Introduce the Source
Introduce the source by giving your reader any information that would be useful to know: Who said it? Where did this idea come from? When was it said? Here are some examples of how to introduce a source:
- In her essay, “The Crummy First Draft,” Lekkerkerk (2014) argues that…
- Michandra Claire Jones (2015), celebrated poet and author, wrote that…
- In the textbook, Information Literacy, Mossler (2015) states…
After introducing the quote, be sure that you use a signal verb to indicate that the source’s words are next. In the third example above, you can see that "states" has been used to signal the source’s words. Other signal verbs include:
Cite the Source
When citing outside sources, you are required to include: the author(s)' last name(s); the date of publication; and, for direct quotations, the page number on which the quoted passage appears. If there is no page number, use the paragraph number to indicate the location of the quotation.
Precisely how do you insert this required information into your writing? You have two options. The first is to include the full or last name(s) of the author(s) directly in a sentence, and the year of publication in parentheses just following the name(s). If directly quoting, include at the end of your sentence the page number where the quotation can be found. Here are some examples:
- Johansson (2009) says he believes that scholars...OR
- Norman Johansson (2009) says, “Scholars should pursue PhDs” (p. 167).
Your second option is to include all of the required information in parenthesis at the end of the sentence. Here are some examples:
- Research suggests that graphic warnings on cigarette packages promote smoking cessation (Smith, 2015).OR
- According to one research study, “In the year following the introduction of graphic warnings…” (Smith, 2015, p. 16).OR
- Marcus explains that smoking can be deterred by “carefully placed warnings with disturbing imagery included” (Tomlinson, 2008, p. 16).
Notice in the above examples that quotation marks always have a beginning and end, occurring immediately before the first word of the quotation and immediately after the last word. Periods are always placed after the end-of-sentence parentheses, as in (p. 132).
After introducing and citing the passage, you will need to explain the significance: How might this author’s idea relate to my thesis? How does this data add to what I am trying to prove in this paragraph? Why am I putting this quotation in my paper? What am I trying to show here? Never leave any room for interpretation. It is your responsibility as the writer to interpret the information for your reader and identify its significance. Remember, a quote does not speak for itself or prove anything on its own. That is your job!
Here is an example of an explanation that would be appropriate to accompany the Mack quotation above: Judge Mack viewed juveniles as children first. He envisioned a system that would protect and give treatment to these young offenders so that they could become productive adults, and saw no place for criminal responsibility and punishment within this system.
Now, here is an example of the ICE method at work in a paragraph:
In the beginning stages of the juvenile justice system, it operated in accordance to a paternalistic philosophy. This can be understood through the published words of Judge Julian Mack, who had a hand in the establishment of the juvenile justice system. In 1909, he stated that this system should treat juveniles “as a wise and merciful father handles his own child” (as cited in Scott & Steinberg, 2008, p.16). Judge Mack viewed juveniles as children first. He envisioned a system that would protect and give treatment to these young offenders so that they could become productive adults, and saw no place for criminal responsibility and punishment within this system.
Five Tips for Effective Quoting
While quoting from reliable sources is an important part of writing a research-based paper, some students can become too reliant on quotes to do the work for them, over-running their papers with other peoples’ words. The purpose of quoting is to include an expert’s voice that is unique and different from your own in order to support your ideas.
Here are five key tips for effectively incorporating quotes into your writing:
- Make Quotes Count. You should quote sparingly, so make sure the quotes you include are impactful and approach the subject in a way that you might not. Part of quoting is “capturing” someone else’s voice and unique expression of an idea. If you could summarize the information and lose none of its meaning, then do that. But if you feel like the expert says it best, then quote the expert.
- Copy Quotes Correctly. It is important to be accurate when you are quoting – the whole point of quoting is to exactly represent another person’s words. Be careful to copy the quote correctly, and if you need to change anything, do so by indicating that you are changing something. If you need to insert a word, for instance, use brackets, like this: “In this quote [the author] states that people always rise to the occasion.” If you need to delete a word or phrase, use ellipses to represent this deletion, like this: “In this quote…people always rise to the occasion.”
- Your Words First. Because you are writing the paper, your words should begin and end it – this goes for the paragraphs as well as the whole paper. Avoid beginning paragraphs with a quote – start with your idea and create a topic sentence. Additionally, avoid ending paragraphs with a quote – you may analyze a quote prior to the end of the sentence, and conclude that its meaning informs your point. Use your words first – quotes should be working for you, not the other way around.
- Keep Quotes Short. Quoting sources should not be a tactic to fill space on the page. Not only should your paper be written in your own words, but the amount of space given to others’ words should be brief. As a general rule of thumb, no more than 15% of your entire paper should be quoted material. Achieve this general goal by using only a few quotes, and keeping those few quotes as brief as 1–2 sentences.
- “Block” Long Quotes. When your paper necessitates it, you may use a longer quote. In this case, “longer” quotes consist of four or more lines, or approximately 40+ words. When you have a quote of this length, you format it differently in your paper than just incorporating it into the normal sentence structure. Long quotes must be made into “blocks” – a visual indicator that this is a long quote. In order to create this block, indent all the lines twice, but keep the double-spacing.
Here’s an example of creating a block quotation:
Sometimes peoples’ viewpoints can be surprising. According to Robert Coles in his 1989 book, The Call of Stories,
On the way home Daddy became an amateur philosopher; he said God chooses some people to be rich, and that’s how it is, and you have to settle for your luck, and ours isn’t all that good, so that’s too bad, but if you just smile and keep going, then you’ll be fine; it’s when you eat your heart out that you can get in trouble. (41)
NOTE: When you create a block quotation, you do two things differently than if you’re incorporating shorter quotes into your sentence regularly.
- First, you do not encase the quote in quotation marks – the indentation replaces the quotation marks.
- Second, you punctuate the quoted material with a period before the parenthetical citation – with no ending punctuation after the parentheses.
- leaves us with
- points to
- tells us
- wants to
- I: Introduce speaker and why he is an authority on this topic.
- C: Quote material along with citation.
- E: Explain who this quote is coming from as well as his relationship or authority on the topic.