A few questions about the use of quotations in essay writingHello, I am French, preparing an english degree by distance studies, and I have a few questions. I have to study various literary works,...

A few questions about the use of quotations in essay writing


I am French, preparing an english degree by distance studies, and I have a few questions.

I have to study various literary works, and I'll have, as a final exam, to write an essay on any of these works. Which one? I do not know! In order to back up my analysis or my comments, I will have to use quotations taken from the same text.

So, here are my questions:

1) Do I need to learn by heart quotations, with their place in the text, in order to use them.

2) The essay, as an exam, may be on any topic of any of the texts. In such case, how to be sure I have relevant quotations for this particular topic?

3) When the essay concerns a passage of a text, do I also have to use quotations which are taken from other parts of the work?

4) Finally, when I use a quotation, which information should I give, and how should I put it on the paper? ( chapter number? line number? under brackets? at the end of my sentence, or right after the quotation?)

Thanks for all your help.




Expert Answers
sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, you say you are taking a literature class through distance learning, which I'm going to assume means online. You say you've been reading various literature and will, for your final, be required to write an essay on one of them. For that reason alone I doubt if your final essay will require you to memorize passages. I expect that you will have access to your texts at the time of the exam. You don't say if it is timed, which will make a difference. You also don't say what sort of documentation and citation format you are using. The requirements for MLA (Modern Language Association) and Chicago style citation are different. MLA is more widely used these days, so, based on that style, you'll have to provide the page number when you use a quote from the text you are writing about.If your essay requires you to write on more than one text, then you will need to put the author's last name and the page number in parentheses at the end of your quote: (Swift, 242), for example.  If you only have to write about one text, then all you need is the page #. If you are required to use outside sources, the same rules apply.  I am surprised that your course information would not include these basic requirements for a literary analysis paper.

Have you contacted your professor about your concerns? That might help, too.

Generally, in a timed essay about a text, it is not so much important to quote exactly as it is to understand the text in terms of themes, symbols, etc. and your own take on the book.  I'm also assuming that this will be a thesis-driven essay. You don't say if you will be given prompts or will have to come up with your own thesis.

At any rate, most literature courses do not expect students to be able to quote passages from several texts from memory.

Good luck.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
It really depends on the class, but my guess is that if it is not open book, then you will have passages to respond to. Ask your instructor for guidelines for citation, if there are any. Otherwise, just include the page number in parenthesis after the quote. If you are using a specific book, you might want to annotate it ahead of time so you have some quotes ready to go.
jasenior2011 | Student


I have not had an esay such as this before. However, I would recommend that you remember the quote and at least the chapter it came out of. I'm kind of surprised that they aren't letting you use your book. But you shouldn't use alot of quotes. However, you should incorporate them in your text, ex: Holding Pearl’s hand, and support of Hester, Dimmesdale with tearing eyes, and a heart full of sympathy, exaggerates that he is “the one sinner of the world!” (233) because of his illicit crime against God and the people.

233 is the page number. I hope this helps you. Good luck on your exam.