Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Help on quoting

While I have posted on this topic previously (here), I see a number of students who have difficulty when quoting academic sources, so I thought I would write a summary post on this topic.

Firstly, we will quickly look at some key rules for quoting:

  • Quote marks. We indicate an academic quote by using double quote marks (not single - plagiarism software such as TurnItIn 'ignores' single quote marks, so we get a high similarity score), but also because single quote marks are used only to indicate things that we may not quite agree with, such as sayings like 'old wives' tales'; or words which are used out of context, such as 'ignores' earlier in this point (which is anthropomorphising software); or 'new' words which we think are a fad and are smugly showing our disapproval ;-D
  • Keep quotes short. No quote should be longer than 50 words, but the shorter the better. This is because other writers have a different 'voice' and switching voices makes it harder for us to concentrate. We are better to quote shorter pieces of an author's original work and connect them using our own narrative voice, providing we are very careful not to change the original author's meaning
  • <5% overall. Overall, quotes within each document should be fewer than 10% of our work from all sources. Generally it is thought that we are much better to demonstrate our mastery of the topic by being able to paraphrase 95%+, and quote only when absolutely necessary
  • Square brackets. If we AMEND a quote, we do that using square brackets, but should do this sparingly. This shows where we have taken words out [...], or where we have clarified meaning [for greater understanding] or where we have done both [....for greater understanding]. Square brackets show our footprints in the writing sands of the original author.

So, considering all that, let us assume that we have the following paragraph of 87 words which is key to our argument by Zhang (2017, p. 20):

"Overall, teachers have higher expectations for middle-class students than lower SES students because students from higher SES groups come from well-resourced and affluent backgrounds (Baker et al., 2012; Croizet & Claire, 1997; Dunne & Gazeley, 2008; Jussim et al., 1996; Peterson, Rubie-Davies, Osborne, & Sibley, 2016; Rist, 1970; Rubie-Davies, Hattie & Hamilton, 2006; Solomon et al., 1996). Because of this, researchers generally agree that SES has been found to moderate the relationship between teachers’ initial expectations and students’ future achievement (Agnew, 2011; Jussim et al., 1996)."

There are a whole load of citations in this paragraph, which are called 'secondary sources'. We have not read the cited works: we are only reading Zhang's summary (2017). I would do is chop a whole load out of the paragraph, and only cite the author: this cuts the quote down to 37 words - which even then, is quite a lot - while adding some square bracket clarifiers:

Socio-economic status, or SES, appears to act as a quality indicator for teachers. It appears that teachers' "expectations for middle-class students [may be higher] than lower SES students because students from higher SES groups come from well-resourced and affluent backgrounds [... with previous research indicating] that SES has been found to moderate the relationship between teachers’ initial expectations and students’ future achievement" (Zhang, 2017, p. 20).

Another example, where the original is 76 words from Merlino et al. (2018, p. 676):

"Our finding that career impediments for women emerge after motherhood is in line with the evidence presented by Smith, Smith, and Verner (2013) for CEOs and with that of Kleven, Landais, and S√łgaard (2015), who show that motherhood is a career impediment in certain firms but not in others. In particular, Kleven et al. (2015) find that most of the gender wage gap can be explained by a parenthood penalty that affects women but not men."

By using shorter quotes and some connecting narrative, this can be easily edited to 26 words quoted overall:

Merlino et al. (2018) found in their research that "career impediments for women emerge after motherhood", which fits with previous research findings where "motherhood is a career impediment in certain firms but not others" (p. 676). Further, much "of the gender wage gap can be explained by a parenthood penalty that affects women but not men" (Merlino et al., 2018, p. 676).

I hope these help!


Sam

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