When deciding what to quote, what to cite, etc., it is important to remember two points:
Your paper should be exactly that: yours. Your ideas, expressed in your words. The sources you reference are used as evidence to validate your own statements.
Your ideas might not seem credible enough on their own without evidence to justify them, so sources are essential; but, at the same time, it is not your goal to simply "glue" together a series of quotes from other people without original ideas in between.
I.W. Mabbett, Reader in History at Monash University and Professor Emeritus at Aichi Bunkyo University, Nagoya, Japan, asserts:
"You should not want to quote something just because it is important, or even because it is well-expressed... There is no need to quote anything, generally, unless you wish to discuss the actual sentences you quote" (70).
Given that assertion, in what context might a quote be justified?
William Kelleher Storey agrees with using direct quotes only occasionally, but he provides a slightly different perspective on when to employ them:
"Use a direct quotation when the language of your source is vivid and you cannot possibly do justice to it by summarizing or paraphrasing it. Also quote a source directly when key points of interpretation depend on the exact wording in the source" (36).
If you do quote directly, always use quotation marks to signal the reader that the exact words are someone else's and, of course, include a citation to the source being quoted.
Common Facts, Uncommon Facts, & Opinions: When to Cite?
Common facts (or common knowledge):
I. W. Mabbett, Writing History Essays: A Student's Guide (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 33, 45-47, 69-70.
William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 34-36, 41-44.
The following brief example has been borrowed from I. W. Mabbett’s Writing History Essays: A Student’s Guide page 91 (italicized passages are quoted from Mabbett). Mabbett also provides a longer, more in depth example of good versus poor paraphrasing on pages 92-94, which you should consider referencing for a deeper understanding of the difference between paraphrasing and original thought.
What you read in a source:
The city workers did not go into revolt, but their rallies and near-riots had the effect of changing the rules of the political game – no longer could people sustain the old notion that the wealthy oligarchs had a divine right to rule.
What you wrote in your paper:
The urban poor did not stage a rebellion, but their demonstrations and noisy protests effectively changed the old rules by which people believed the rich ruling class governed by divine right.
Mabbett explains: “…the original is being paraphrased. But what sort of false impression is being given? The author of the original has an idea to express…. But if you paraphrase it without saying that the idea is the original author’s, you are in effect pretending that it is your own idea. That is different from summing it up in your own words and saying it is his idea (which is what you should do).”
A better approach to summarizing and citing another author’s idea:
Smith claims that, though this civil unrest did not amount to rebellion, it was severe enough to put an end to the old unthinking assumption that the rich had a ‘divine right’ to power.1
Or you could incorporate a direct quote into your paper instead.
Note that with a statement of fact, rather than an original idea, a paraphrase of the original source is not as detrimental, because you are not laying false claim to another person’s unique ideas. The source of the fact should still be cited in a footnote, however, unless it constitutes “common knowledge.”
For example, you read the fact:
The city workers staged a number of noisy rallies that went out of control.
And you might paraphrase it in your paper like this:
Various rather violent demonstrations were put on by the urban workers, and these became uncontrollable.1
The workers in the town were responsible for some turbulent protest rallies which became violent.1
I. W. Mabbett, Writing History Essays: A Student's Guide (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 91-92.
From these examples, you should recognize that it is essential to learn to distinguish between FACTS and OPINIONS/ideas/interpretations so that you can handle them each appropriately in your writing.
Try adding “The author claims…” on the front of a statement and see if it makes sense when you examine it critically. Do other authors disagree or make different claims? Is there reason to doubt the statement?
For example, it would not make sense to say “The author claims that: Columbus sailed to North America in 1492.” The date of Columbus’ voyage is a fact, not an original idea. Therefore, you can include this fact in your paper without worrying about using direct quotes and without concern that a paraphrase may come across as plagiarism. The decision of whether to include a citation for the source of a fact will depend on whether the fact is “common knowledge;” in this case, if you are writing to a predominately American audience, the date 1492 would constitute common knowledge and the source of the fact would not need to be cited.
But it WOULD make sense to say “The author claims that: Columbus was definitively the first explorer to land on North America.” That statement is definitely an opinion, and there are definitely plenty of authors who disagree and argue that other explorers (for instance, the Vikings) predate Columbus’ arrival in North America. Therefore, if you wish to include this idea in your paper, you need to either use a direct quote from the author (with a citation) or else summarize his idea in your own words (with a citation).
If you do use a direct quote, be sure to incorporate it into the flow of your narrative in a correct and natural way. There are two main methods to do this:
I. W. Mabbett, Writing History Essays: A Student's Guide (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 36-37.
When you incorporate a quote into your narrative, YES, the grammar matters. You need to construct sentences carefully so that your narrative flow, tense, etc. remain accurate but also so that the quote fits correctly with the tense, etc. of your sentence.
For example, if your sentence is in past tense and has a singular subject, but the original context of your quote uses present tense and a plural subject, you probably cannot just quote a chunk of the sentence and expect it all to fit together. THE PRESENCE OF QUOTATION MARKS DOES NOT CANCEL OUT THE FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF GRAMMAR.
This can usually be addressed by using one or more of the three techniques:
In all cases, be honest and true to the original sense of the quotation. Do not delete or insert words that cause a distortion of the author’s original meaning.
William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 38-40.
Questions about quoting, citing, footnotes, etc. in Chicago Style? Refer to the SHSU guide to Chicago style or consult the complete official Chicago Manual of Style Online.