Citing Text Evidence Definition Essay

Body paragraphs in academic essays contain evidence that supports debatable main ideas that appear in topic sentences, and responsible writers make sure to introduce, cite, and explain quotes and paraphrases used as evidence.

INTRODUCE: Introduce all your quotes using introductory phrases.  Here are some examples:

  • According to Michael Smith, “you should use the author’s first and last name when you cite that author for the first time in your paper” (1).
  • As Smith explains, “you can introduce your quotes with a number of different phrases” (1).
  • Smith suggests that “if the introduction to your quote isn’t a dependent clause, it doesn’t need to be followed by a comma” (1).
  • Smith observes the following in his article: “When you use a colon to introduce a quote, you need a complete sentence preceding the colon” (1).

CITE: Provide appropriate parenthetical citations for all quotes and paraphrases (but not summaries).  Check the appropriate style guide for guidelines, e.g. MLA, APA, and Chicago.  Here are some guidelines for MLA style citation:

  • If the author’s name appears in the introduction to the quote or in the paraphrase, it doesn’t have to appear in the parenthetical reference, as the citations above illustrate.
  • If the author’s name does not appear in the introduction to the quote, the name must appear in the parenthetical reference.  See the following example of a cited paraphrase:

Some professors at UM take points off of your final paper grade if you don’t cite paraphrased or quoted material correctly (Smith 1).

EXPLAIN: Make sure to explain your quotes.  Provide analysis that ties them back to your main idea / topic sentence.  In other words, comment on the evidence in order to incorporate it into the argument you’re making. 

Here’s an example of a whole academic body paragraph that illustrates ICE: introduction, citation, and explanation:

Despite their competence as readers and writers, these young teachers have just begun to understand and participate in the changing ecology of literacy described above, particularly in adopting a view that digital writing is worthy of attention in schools. Grabill and Hicks argue that “[u]sing ICTs (Information Communication Technologies) isn’t enough; critically understanding how these writing technologies enable new literacies and meaningful communication should also be a core curricular and pedagogical function of English education” (307). While our experience as teacher educators, especially in the context of Kristen’s course, shows us that adopting this perspective is difficult, we feel that there are compelling social reasons to do so.

(Sample paragraph taken from page 62 of Turner, Kristen Hawley, and Troy Hicks. “‘That’s not Writing’: Exploring the Intersection of Digital Writing, Community Literacy, and Social Justice.” Community Literacy Journal 6.1 (2011): 55-78. Print.)

Activity: With a partner, work to fix the introductions and citations in the paragraph below.

Don DeLillo characterizes the American National Identity as consumerism. The Gladneys are DeLillo’s depiction of the typical American consumerist family. “That night, a Friday, we gathered in front of the [television] set, as was the custom and the rule, with take-out Chinese.” (DeLillo 64) In this excerpt DeLillo ritualizes the process of a family night around the television. DeLillo does not simply state that this is a tradition passed down through culture, rather by using the word ‘rule’ he is invoking a moral imperative that elevates the event from a cultural phenomenon to a religious ritual. In another instance where consumerism is ritualized Jack is watching his daughter Steffie sleep when, “She uttered two clearly audible words, familiar and elusive at the same time, words that seemed to have a ritual meaning, part of a verbal spell or ecstatic chant. Toyota Celia (DeLillo 148).” This quotation shows that not only is consumerism an external ritual but it also permeates our unconscious to the point that we imitate commercials in our sleep.

A. Citing Quotations. The source of each quotation must be cited appropriately. MLA (Modern Language Association) form allows a writer to cite a work within the text of the essay and then place full bibliographic information in a list of works cited. [When citing a class text, however, many teachers do not consider it necessary to provide a works cited list so long as the page numbers are consistent with the assigned course book. Check with your instructors about their preferences. For this class you do not need a works cited list unless you are citing outside unassigned sources.]

When using MLA form, if your sentence makes clear what text the quotation is taken from, then you need only list the page number. An example of MLA form, listing only page number:

Fitzgerald tells us that many people arrived at Gatsby's parties without an invitation, bringing with them only "a simplicity of heart that was its
own ticket of admission" (41).

If the sentence does not make clear what text the quotation is taken from, then include the author's name with the page number. An example of MLA form, listing author and page number:

His charisma was apparent in his smile, "one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it" (Fitzgerald 48).

If an essay discusses more than one work by a single author, give an abbreviated form of the title along with the page number. An example of MLA form, listing title and page number:

In both novels, Fitzgerald presents characters possessing a "heightened sensitivity to the promises of life" (Gatsby2).

NOTE: the period comes after the page reference in quotations and there is no need to add a "p" or "pg' to show that you are speaking about pages.

B. Indented Quotations. Any quotation which would occupy four lines or more of an essay's text Must be indented The quoted text is indented one inch from the left margin and typed doublespaced. Such quotations are often introduced by a colon. For example, an indented quotation would be inserted like this:

The inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island. [... ] Its vanished trees that had made way for
Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must
have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to
face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder. (182)

Note: the indented quotation does not have quotation marks around it. The indention identifies it as a quotation. And unlike a sentence with a quotation where the parenthetical documentation comes before the period, here the page citation comes after the period.

After presenting an indented quotation the writer must provide a detailed discussion of the quoted material. If the quoted text does not merit such indepth analysis, it certainly does not merit occupying so much space in the essay. Because lengthy quotations require complete development it is wise to limit the number of indented quotations in shorter essays A good rule of thumb is to have no more than one indented quotation in a paper shorter than eight pages. One rarely needs indented quotations in test essays.

C. Ellipses. Ellipses, three dots or periods with spaces between them, are used to show that text has Been omitted from a quotation. NOTE: It is not necessary to put ellipses at the beginning or end of a Quotation unless you have a very good reason for emphasizing the incompleteness of a phrase The most current MLA guidelines also suggest putting the ellipses in square brackets to make clear that the ellipses were not part of the original passage. Since this is a recent change in the guidelines, one still sees ellipses with and without brackets.

INCORRECT: Gatsby's charisma was apparent in his smile, ". . . one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it. ." (48).

CORRECT: Gatsby's charisma was apparent in his smile, "one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it" (48).

ALSO CORRECT: Nick is disillusioned with Tom and Daisy in the end; he tells us, "they were careless ... they smashed up things ... and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness" (180).

ALSO CORRECT: Nick is disillusioned with Tom and Daisy in the end; he tells us, "they were careless II... ] they smashed up things [.. ]and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness" (180)


Beware of falling into a sequential discussion which leads one into retelling the plot or paraphrasing the text. You do not want to get stuck summarizing plot or argument. You want to analyze and interpret the text in order to arrive at a thoughtfully developed thesis which provides the reader with new insight into the work being discussed. Each quotation and example should strengthen and support your argument.t


1. Setup every quotation. An essay writer always wants to be sure it is clear to the reader where a quotation comes from, who is speaking, what is being described, etc. Do not simply state your point and then follow it with a quotation without making clear how that quotation supports your argument.

AWKWARD: Jordan demonstrates little curiosity about Gatsby. "He's just a man named Gatsby" (49).

BETTER: Jordan demonstrates little curiosity about Gatsby. When Nick asks her about their mysterious host, she replies simply, "He's just a
man named Gatsby" (49).

If you want to make clear the position of a quotation in the text, do not write that "on page 41 Gatsby says...".Instead, mention what is taking place at that point in the novel, "when Nick first meets Gatsby," or mention the chapter, "in Chapter Three."

2. Avoid unnecessary phrases. With practice, it becomes possible to incorporate supporting quotations into one's writing without preceding them with phrases which identify them as evidence. Phrases such as, "This quotation demonstrates that," or "the following lines show the reader that," are generally unnecessary and awkward.

AWKWARD: In addition to a charismatic personality, Gatsby also possesses great physical grace and agility. As the following quotation
points out: "He was balancing himself on the dashboard of his car with that resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly American" (64).

BETTER: In addition to a charismatic personality, Gatsby also possesses great physical grace and agility. Nick comments upon this as he
watches Gatsby "balancing himself on the dashboard of his car with that resourcefulness of movement that is so peculiarly American" (64).

3. Use quotations economically. Part of using evidence successfully and demonstrating that you know the text well involves choosing quotations carefully. A writer who quotes six lines where four words would do, reveals that s/he has not analyzed the text with sufficient care. Often it is not necessary to quote an entire sentence; individual phrases can often provide concise and forceful support.


From the moment Nick encounters Jordan, he is impressed by her independence. He sees her sitting "full length on the divan, completely
motionless, and with her chin raised a little as if she were balancing something on it which was quite likely to fall;" and he is "almost surprised
into murmuring an apology for having disturbed her by coming in" (8 9).When Jordan does nod "imperceptibly and then quickly [tip] her
head back againthe object she was balancing had obviously tottered a little and given her something of a fright,"" again a sort of apology
arose to [Nicks] lips" (9). He comments, "almost any exhibition of complete self-sufficiency draws a stunned tribute from me" (9).


From the moment Nick encounters Jordan, he is impressed by her independence. He is initially struck by an urge to apologize for intruding
upon the "motionless" young woman who sits as though balancing something on her chin, for any "exhibition of complete self-sufficiency
draws a stunned tribute" from him(8).

Although you want to be economical in your use of quotations, do not fall into the trap of sacrificing clarity in the name of brevity. If you need a longer quotation to make your point, use it. Don't leave your reader wondering how a quotation is connected to the point you are making. It is almost never appropriate or effective for a quotation to stand alone as its own sentence without any setup or introductory phrase


People at Gatsby's partie stalk about him, Generating even more curiosity and rumors. "This party had preserved
a dignified homogeneity" (45).


People at Gatsby's parties talk about him, generating even more curiosity and rumors: "it was testimony to the romantic speculation he inspires that there were whispers about him from those who had found little it was necessary to whisper about in this world" (44).



Within the first few paragraphs of The Great Gatsby, the reader becomes familiar withthe narrator's distinctive voice.
Nick Carraway claims to be telling us about himself, who he is and how he views the world. Events throughout the novel,
however, demonstrate that his self perception is not wholly accurate. He says things about himself that his own narration
proves false. This ironic opening reveals how Fitzgerald uses the first person narrative, not only to tell us about Gatsby,
but also to tell us about Nick.


Within the first few paragraphs of The Great Gatsby, the reader becomes familiar with the narrator's distinctive voice. Nick Carraway begins
by telling us the advice his Father gave to him in his "younger and more vulnerable years," but we soon find out that this speaker is still quite
a young man (1). Nick claims he has learned from his father's words and now is "inclined to reserve all judgments," for he believes that
"reserving Judgments is a matter of infinite hope" (1). Yet, throughout the novel Nick does little else Besides cast judgment on the people
he describes. He determines that Jordan is dishonest And "instinctively avoided clever, shrewd men;" and later he tells us she deals
in "universal skepticism"(59, 81). He claims that Tom is arrogant, that Daisy wants others to shape her life for her, and that both crush people
around them with cruel carelessness (114,151, 180). About Gatsby, Nick offers many judgments. He had "disapproved of [Gatsby] from
beginning to end" and felt his mysterious neighbor had "paid a high price for living Too long with a single dream" (154, 162). In the end,
Nick groups all of them together and Judges what caused their difficulties: "Tom and Gatsby, Daisy and Jordan and I, were all Westerners,
and perhaps we possessed some deficiency in common which made us subtly unadaptable to Eastern life" (177). Although Nick may start out
wishing to refrain

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