Discuss/Discuss This

A common issue with incorporating quotes is that students think quotes need to stand alone. We believe that because they are quotes they provide enough information to anchor a paragraph fully or a thought within a paragraph, but this is not true. It is not enough to add just a quote without explaining its significance.

Without an explanation, the quote is just a filler. The best way to rectify this problem is to think about the word “examine.” To examine something, according to any standard dictionary, is to look at the thing, the object, critically with the purpose of understanding its condition; to inspect, to investigate, to inquire into, and to test carefully by questioning. In essence, you must examine a quote by testing its quality, effectiveness, and structure. Read the following excerpt. The student incorporates a quote within the essay, but doesn’t fully explore its relationship to the main parts of the essay.

Sample Excerpt

In contrast, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” supports a different viewpoint.  Blake “accepts the terminology of standard Christian morality, but reverses its values” (53).  For example, “the conventional Good is associated with the Soul and consists of the contrary qualities of reason, restraint, passivity and prohibition; the conventional Evil is associated with the Body and its desires and consists of energy, abundance, act and freedom” (Blake 53).  Blake points out:

That Man has two existing principles:  a Body & a Soul . . . Energy, called Evil, is alone from the body and that Reason, called Good, is alone from the soul . . . Man has no Body distinct from his Soul; Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five senses . . . Energy is the only life . . . Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy . . . Energy is Eternal Delight. . . . (56) Reason and Desire, which are contraries, are shown as necessary to human existence.  Blake contends that without contrariness, there is no progression; “Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy (Desire), Love and Hate, are necessary . . .” (55).

Figure 8: Essay Excerpt on “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell,” William Blake


1) How can “conventional good” consist of contrary qualities?

2) How can something “consist” and be “contrary” at the same time?

3) What is the purpose of this quote?

4) How do the “elements” within the quote relate to what you have just said before it?

5) Second Bolded Sentence: Why? What relation do all have to Blake’s position in “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell?”


When you receive the comment “Discuss/Discuss This,” approach this section of your paragraph and the corresponding quote(s) by placing on the glasses of “examinations.” Consider the following steps as potential solutions for revising paragraphs that house quotes.

Step #1

Examine first the quote. What are its implications? What relevance does it have to the rest of the paragraphs of the body text? How does the author’s claim relate to the quote? Is the quote the author’s claim? What significance does the quote have to some example within the author’s text?

Step #2

Next, place the body paragraph you develop side by side with the quote you are using. Does what you write lend support to the meaning of the quote? In other words, does the quote support your paragraph? Does the quote you want to use have anything at all to do with your paragraph? If yes, then what? Is your quote a suitable match for your paragraph? Remember that your paper is the foundation, the basis. Quotes you use must never supplant your views.

Step #3

Last, test the quote by incorporating it into your paragraph. Even though you should already know if it is suitable, sometimes the last test is important to determine the quote’s value and viability within your paragraph. Remember, just because you are able to incorporate a quote appropriately doesn’t mean you are finished. You must elaborate further on the quote by answering all of the questions above and turning these questions into statements.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

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