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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Finding really good quotes

Many quotes you will find in scholarly articles are there just to provide information or to cover bases. That is fine, but these often have a perfunctory feel. I remember being cited like that myself, and feeling disappointed. They are citing me for background, for an obvious point that anyone could have made! Thanks a lot. Why not quote Mayhew at his best?

The second category of quotes are there to add something significant. These are value-added quotes, and make YOUR article or book more, not less, interesting to read.

The third category is what I call the "smoking gun." A smoking gun has been fired recently; it is a good clue for the detective. A smoking gun citation or quote is one that proves your own point better than even you could. Your talent is not only writing articles that others will cite, but finding the best of what others have said. If you are scholar of literature, you have the advantage of being able to quote from the best plays, novels, and poems ever written.

Dullness will result from having a lot of perfunctory quotes, a few of the second category, and none of the third. I try to use mostly 2, with a few background information citations, and one or two smoking guns per article or chapter. You'll want to put the perfunctory stuff in notes, mostly.

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