“[A] quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business.” – A.A. Milne
Chances are you too know a few famous quotes, but you probably don’t use them. I know so, because I’m guilty of neglecting quotes on the GRE.
So, why should you use essay quotes on the GRE? To start with, the right use of quotes in essays augments the power of your arguments and makes your essays appear more convincing. Plus, essays with quotes tend to score better than essays without them, because of the initial impact the use of quotes create on the reader, and help strengthen your point.
But we need to exercise prudence. Only use quotes as is, if you are convinced that paraphrasing would lower the impact or change the meaning of the original author’s words or when the argument could not be better expressed or said more succinctly.
Here is how you make sure you are doing it right.
How do I incorporate quotes into my essay?
At times, an essay can appear painfully discorded if the quotations are out of place or if the essay is too stuffed with quotes.
So, what should you do to avoid this?
A great quote plays one or more roles from the following:
- creates the initial impact on the essay grader
- makes your essay look more promising and interesting
- establishes credibility
- concludes the essay with a point to contemplate
If the quote doesn’t serve any of the above then you are forcing it into the essay and this could do more harm than good.
You should start writing your essay with a quote that lays foundation to the main idea behind the essay. This can have a major impact on the evaluator. You can also comment on the quotation in this introductory paragraph if you wish. Either way, to get a perfect score on the GRE essay, use a relevant quote strategically but don’t force it into the essay.
Can I alter the structure of the quotation?
Using the exact words from the original source is called quoting. You should quote when you believe that the way the original author expresses an idea is the most effective way to communicate the point you wish to make. If you want to borrow an idea from the author but don’t put the idea in their exact words, then it’s called paraphrasing. (but remember that you still have to cite the original author even when you are paraphrasing)
For example, Ronald Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” You can alter the quotation on your own according to the passage, by saying: ‘To paraphrase Ronald Reagan’s famous quote, “It is easier to trust when you can verify.”‘ By doing this, you are not only citing the original author, but also gaining extra points for using your own version of the quote.
How many quotes should I use?
If you deploy a lot of quotations in your essay, it appears as though several people are talking about the topic apart from yourself. This would downplay your own voice and leaves little room for your own ideas. It is your essay and it should be your voice that needs to be heard, not some notable/famous person’s. Quote as infrequently as possible. So, don’t cram every quote you know into the essay. As a rule of thumb, refrain from using more than 2 quotes in any essay. (One in the introductory paragraph and the other if necessary in the conclusion)
How do I introduce the quote in my own words?
The last thing you would want is get your score cancelled on account of plagiarism. It’s highly recommended that you cite the author of the quotation. If you don’t cite, you may give the impression that you claim to be the original author and that could result in plagiarism. You should place the quote in double quotation marks. Here is an example usage citing the author:
Thomas Jefferson once said “The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.”
Categorization of GRE Essay Topics
The fascinating thing about the GRE essay topics is that they’re already published on the official ETS website. This may sound crazy because giving out the questions in advance is not normal. Now, use this to your advantage. You can find all the GRE essay topics on the official ETS website.
But there’s a catch! You were expecting a few, right?
Well, there are close to 200 topics in all – far too many to practice responses in advance. Also, practicing each of these topics is not advisable as it is going to take a lot of time and effort and there is no point in mugging them up. You could as well spend this time on learning some math. However, there’s a good news. Just scanning through these two lists will give you an excellent idea of the types of issues and arguments that show up on test day.
I just made things a bit easy for you, though. Most of the topics that show up on the GRE essay section can be broadly grouped into five categories.
- Sciences and Technology
So, next time when you practice writing an essay response, make sure you write at least one essay from each of these categories. And memorize a few quotes related to each one of these topics, as they will be handy.
List of most useful essay quotes
I’ve compiled a list of easy-to-digest quotes that should help you write the perfect essay. Bookmark this page NOW for future reference.
The following quotes from great thinkers have been selected based on their relevance to common GRE essay topics and for their ease of usage.
- The only good is knowledge and the only evil is ignorance – Socrates
- A people that value its privileges above its principles soon loses both – Dwight D. Eisenhower
- In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But in practice, there is – Yogi Berra
- A little inaccuracy can sometimes save a ton of explanation – H.H Munro
- Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex and more violent. It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction – E. F. Schumacher
- A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually – Abba Eban
- Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good – Mohandas Gandhi
- Whatever government is not a government of laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may – Daniel Webster
- Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws – Plato
- Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing – Theodore Roosevelt
- It is dangerous to be right, when the government is wrong – Voltaire
- The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object – Thomas Jefferson
- No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation – Woodrow Wilson (28th U.S President)
- The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work – Emile Zola
- The world is full of educated derelicts – Calvin Coolidge
- A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a change to get its pants on – Winston Churchill
- It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog – Mark Twain
- Life contains but two tragedies. One is not to get your heart’s desire, the other is to get it – Socrates
- If women didn’t exist, all the money in the world would have no meaning – Aristotle Onasis
- Men are not disturbed by things, but the view they take of things – Epictetus
- As a rule, men worry more about what they can’t see than about what they can – Julius Caesar
Now, these are a handful of quotes. The goal is to memorize 5 or 6 of your favorite quotes so you’ll be able to contextually fit one into the essay on the test day. While practicing, you may look at the list of quotes found above however, if you can remember a specific quote apposite to your essay topic, try to use it – one quote for every essay.
For those avid writers, who believe the number of quotes above are too low, we have the right tool for you. Ellipsoid created a random quote generator tool that draws 5 famous quotes from Goodreads every time you reload the page. The good news is these 5 quotes are always theme based so you know where to use them.
Writing essays isn’t all about the substance. It’s the basics that many of us forget. If you are going to put in the time to practice writing essays, might as well maximize the score you could get by deploying a quote in your essays.
So, what’s your favorite quote?
In the midst of writing an essay, paper, or article, you may need to throw in a direct quote here and there; to add emphasis, authority, or clarity to your work. A quote can often accomplish things that a paraphrase or summary simply cannot . A clear and direct voice can easily drive a point home better than the best group of sentences you can come up with.
And along with this, in the process of sorting out your notes and research data, you may find that the quotes you'd like to include in your paper are not all from books and journal articles. Considering that your information can come from many sources, whether they be print, online, or audiovisual, its a good chance that you can have sources ranging from books and government documents to mp3s and Youtube videos. All of which need to be properly cited a formatted.
Formatting style and citation overview
A prerequisite to citing anything is a format and guideline to follow. And this usually comes about from the three basic styling guides, APA, MLA, and Chicago Manual of Style (the Turabian styling guide is also popular but closely resembles the Chicago manual in many respects; so often times the two are categorized together). A professor or publisher will generally request one of the three types of formatting styles, for both in-text and bibliographic listings.
These are the two main types of citations; one that appears in the text of a work and one that appears at the end. The in-text is how you indicate the source of your quote in the lines of the text of your paper and the work cited, bibliography or reference pages are where your source will show up at the end of your document. It may be helpful to become familiar with all the styling guides to make things easier for you in the long run, but typically you'll just need to know the details of the one being requested of you, when preparing your paper or essay for publication.
*This article will focus on audiovisual citations only.
In most cases, since the written word is often used in research (whether online or in print) the chances of you actually using audiovisual material for research may be minimal. So this type of citing is usually not as common as the rest; but nonetheless still needs to be addressed to avoid plagiarism in any fashion.
*The following list is categorized by medium and provides details of both in-text citations and also ones that appear in a list at the end of the document.
APA (American Psychological Association)
1. Audio Recording
Krasdale, S. (Speaker). (2010). The way money works (Cassette Recording No. 17). New York, NY: Education Plus Inc.
2. Film/Motion Picture
(Dunhoo & Titun, 1985)
Dunhoo, A. (Producer), & Titun, K. (Director). (1985). Inside the aerospace industry [Motion Picture]. United States: Lakeview Films
3. Radio broadcast
Lopez, P. (Narrator). (2013, March 1). The harms of secondhand smoke amongst children [Radio broadcast episode]. In E. McDonnell (Producer), Morning Edition. Washington, DC: National Public Radio.
MLA (Modern Language Association)
1. Audio Recording
Work cited listing:
Kent, Abdullah. The diseases of the heart. 1995. True Audio, 1999. Audiocassette.
2. Film/Motion Picture
(The Politics of Money)
Work cited listing:
The Politics of Money. Dir. Larry Smith. New Studios, 2000. Film.
3. Radio Broadcast
("Fun with marriage")
Work cited listing:
"Fun with marriage". Morning Digest. Philadelphia-Delaware Radio . WXKF, Philadelphia. 12 June 2002. Radio.
*MLA basic rule of thumb:* When providing in-text citations for MLA you may notice that the in-text citation matches the beginning of the work cited listing. This is the basic setup for MLA referencing. To make finding a source relatively easy, the in-text citation will simply mirror the beginning of the listing that is found at the end of the paper.
Chicago Manual of Style
1. Audio Recording
Randolph Klein, Understanding French, Knowledge Productions 1678-CD, 2012, Compact disc.
Klein, Understanding French.
Klein, Randolph. Understanding French. Knowledge Productions 11678-CD. 2012. Compact disc.
2. Film/Motion Picture:
The Life of the Ruler, DVD, directed by Tod Lewis (1982; New Orleans, LA: Castle Light Productions, 2000).
The Life of the Ruler.
The Life of the Ruler. DVD. Directed by Tod Lewis. 1982; New Orleans, LA: Castle Light Productions, 2000.
3. Radio Broadcast:
"Cleaning up after the tsunami," Morning Digest, WXKF Philadelphia-Delaware Radio (Philadelphia, PA: WPKT, January 10, 2005).
"Cleaning up after the tsunami"
"Cleaning up after the tsunami." Morning Digest. WXKF Philadelphia-Delaware Radio . Philadelphia, PA: WPKT, January 10, 2005.
Citing using any manual of style can be a tedious process. When obtaining a movie or film quote save some time by not watching anything at all. Many, many video recording, films, and motion pictures have transcripts available for them (as well as audio recordings). This is a tremendous help when providing direct quotations. Instead of struggling to decipher and record an exact statement, a keyword search in the work's transcript can just as easily provide the same results.
Please note that for some citation guidelines (such as MLA film/video recording citations) there is no a one-size-fits-all method of citing. There are actually a few different methods citing based on what you would like to emphasize in your referencing (for example, maybe you'd like to emphasize the director or the people involved, then your citation would be changed because of that).
Also your citation may be altered based on whether or not you provide a signal phrase or include the full reference in the text of your paper as oppose to using parenthetical citations. The default method for all the in-text citations above are parenthetical, with no signal phrases. And finally there is no in-text citation format for the Chicago manual of style because footnotes and endnotes are utilized with this guide instead.