i Magazine

Direct Quotes

John Baran’s Purposeful Direct Quoting

There are a few situations when it’s a good idea to quote rather than paraphrase or summarize. They include the following:

1)    When you want to capture the exact words of an expert or institution;


2)    When you want to capture the quality of another writer’s language – whether it’s especially clear, especially elegant or especially straightforward.


3)    When you want to provide direct support for a point you have made.

In this paper on Madonna’s spiritual life, John Baran makes use of quotation to do all of these things.

Check out the examples below and the accompanying discussion about why Baran quotes when he does and how he does it.

Example 1

Kabbalistic blessings and meditations “bring about elegant and balanced crystalline structures in water, while negative consciousness has an opposite effect…In a very literal way, Kabbalah Water is life’s original blueprint information brought into the modern world” (“Kabbalah Water”).

Baran chose to quote this Kabbalah Center statement about the special properties of Kabbalah water because he wanted the reader to precisely understand the institution’s official stance.

Had he simply paraphrased, we would not understand the Kabbalah Center’s extraordinary claim about its water as clearly as we do.

Craft note: As Baran shows here, you don’t always have to quote an entire sentence. The subject of Baran’s sentence in which the quote is included – “The Kabbalistic blessings and meditations” – is Baran’s own. He begins quoting with the word “bring.”

Example 2

The video for “Like a Prayer” was condemned by Vatican leaders and called “blasphemous” for the depictions of “burning crosses, statues crying blood and Madonna seducing a black Jesus” (Sanderson).

Baran’s inclusion of both of these brief quotations allows us to precisely understand the Vatican’s official stance on Madonna’s controversial video.

The second quote in this sentence also captures the censorious – or, very critical – tone of the statement by Vatican leaders. Listing one feature of the video after another contributes to the critical tone.

Example 3

In the following quote, Madonna explains the crucifixion scene, and attempts to justify her actions by pointing out her intentions.

My performance is neither anti-Christian, sacrilegious or blasphemous. Rather, it is my plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole. I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing. My specific intent is to bring attention to the millions of children in Africa who are dying every day, and are living without care, without medicine and without hope (“Madonna Explaining”).

Having quoted the Vatican leaders’ condemnation of Madonna’s video in the previous paragraph (see highlighted sentence), Baran now quotes Madonna’s defense of her video.

The accusations about Madonna’s video – especially that it is blasphemous – are quite serious (see above), and they come from a very powerful source. Because of this, it’s important that we have access to Madonna’s response – in her exact words.

Note that the sentence that introduces the block quote very briefly summarizes the content of the quote. This is a good way to introduce a block quote.

Example 4

“To crucify yourself in the city of the pope and the martyrs is an act of open hostility. It’s a scandal created on purpose by astute merchants to attract publicity” (Heritage).

Baran quotes these words, spoken by Cardinal Ersilio Tonini, because they are so well chosen. The second sentence of his statement, in particular, is not merely a clear, concise accusation – it’s also beautifully phrased.

Baran chose to include this quotation, then, because of the elegant quality of the language.

Note that elegant language can be used to express a variety of emotions or moods – including anger!

Example 5

This enraged Jewish leaders such as Rabbi Rafael Cohen who was quoted as saying, “Jewish law forbids the use of the name of the holy rabbi for profit. Her act is just simply unacceptable and I can only sympathize for her because of the punishment that she is going to receive from the heavens” (Ugarte).

This is another authoritative quote from an expert. In this case, the expert is Rabbi Rafael Cohen.

Example 6

The Bergs are criticized for operating a tax-free organization while flying “in chartered jets and the private planes of their major donors” (Udovitch).

This quotation, like so many others in the paper, communicates an accusation, in this case against Philip and Karen Berg.

Craft note: Here, Baran has found a way to write a first half of the sentence in his own words that fits perfectly with the second half of the sentence, which is quoted.

Example 7

When asked in an interview by Meredith Vieira about the crucifixion scene during her Confessions tour, Madonna stated, “My entire show is a publicity stunt….I am putting on a show to sell my record” (“Dateline”).

This quote, in which Madonna explains her commercial ambitions, captures her straightforwardness. This sentence is worthy of quoting because in it she tells us so clearly how she feels.

Next steps

John Baran’s paper is, finally, a good model of the selective use of quotes: he only quotes a source when he has a good reason to do so.

Here are some steps to go through the next time you’re doing research for a paper and selecting quotes:

1)    As you scan or read your sources, mark or take note of all the passages in your sources that you think you may want to quote. It’s a good idea to begin thinking early about what you may quote. And it is all right to mark many more passages than you will actually use.

2) Before writing your draft, look over all the passages you marked as quotable. As you look at each one, ask yourself these three questions:

➢ Does this quote capture the exact words of an expert or institution?
➢ Does this quote capture the quality of another writer’s language – whether it’s especially clear, especially elegant or especially straightforward?
➢ Does this quote provide direct support for a point I plan to make?

If you answer “no” to all these questions, then eliminate the quotation from consideration.

3) Keeping in mind the total length of your paper and the number of quotes you’d like to use, scan the remaining quotations and select the ones that best suit your paper.

Topic: Resources for Students, Spring 2009 Tags: None

2 Responses to “Direct Quotes”

  1. Mysticism and the Material Girl – By John Baran | i Magazine Says:

    […] To read about how John Baran uses direct quoting to support his argument and enliven his writing, click here. […]

  2. Great Resources: on Avoiding Plagiarism | Writers Teaching Writers Says:

    […] Quoting Directly from a source. One of the hallmarks of good academic writing is the judicious use of quotes. Sometimes, however, students can “quote-dump” an entire paragraph, without properly contextualizing or analyzing the quotes; worse, quote-dumping leaves little or no room for the student’s own voice or analysis. This article, also from our iMagazine, demonstrates recommended usage of quotations in a paper, and then provides a fantastic checklist of questions to answer when deciding whether to quote or not. In addition, the U of Toronto’s Using Quotations page is a comprehensive, one-stop source that shows how, why, and when to quote. […]

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