Business Plan Outline

– The business plan outline below follows the textbook topics as much as possible and a grading point system has beenadded.See textbook for more specific information.

-Elements of a Business Plan –Chapter 5.

– Example of Excellent Business Plan – The Daily Perc Business Plan, Appendix.


I.Title Page with student name and course number.(5 pts. for Title Page, Table of Contents/Outline and Executive Summary)

Table of Contents/Outline using the outline following.

Executive Summary (not to exceed two pages)

  1. Company name, address, and phone number
  2. Name(s), addresses, and phone number(s) of all key people
  3. Brief description of the business, its products and services, and the customer problems they solve
  4. Brief overview of the market for your products and services
  5. Brief overview of the strategies that will make your firm a success


  1. Vision and Mission statement (5 pts.)
  2. Entrepreneur’s vision for the company
  3. “What business are we in?”
  4. Values and principles on which the business stands
  5. What makes the business unique? What is the source of its competitive advantage?


III. Business and Industry Profile (5 pts.)

  1. Industry Analysis
  2. Industry background and overview
  3. Significant trends
  4. Growth rate
  5. Key success factors in the industry
  6. Outlook for the future
  7. Stage of growth (start-up, growth, maturity)
  8. Company goals and objectives
  9. Operational
  10. Financial
  11. Other


  1. Business Strategy (10 pts.)
  2. Desired image and position in market
  3. SWOT analysis
  4. Strengths
  5. Weaknesses
  6. Opportunities
  7. Threats
  8. Competitive strategy
  9. Cost-leadership
  10. Differentiation
  11. Focus


  1. Company Products and Services (5 pts.)
  2. Description
  3. Product or service features
  4. Customer benefits
  5. Warranties and guarantees
  6. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
  7. Patent or trademark protection
  8. Description of production process (if applicable)
  9. Raw materials
  10. Costs
  11. Key suppliers
  12. Future product or service offerings


  1. Marketing Strategy (20 pts.)
  2. Target market
  3. Complete demographic profile
  4. Other significant customer characteristics
  5. Customers’ motivation to buy
  6. Market size and trends
  7. How large is the market?
  8. Is it growing or shrinking? How fast?
  9. Advertising and promotion
  10. Media used— reader, viewer, listener profiles
  11. Media costs
  12. Frequency of usage
  13. Plans for generating publicity
  14. Pricing
  15. Cost structure
  16. Fixed
  17. Variable
  18. Desired image in market
  19. Comparison against competitors’ prices
  20. Distribution strategy
  21. Channels of distribution used
  22. Sales techniques and incentives


VII. Location and Layout (10 pts.)

  1. Location
  2. Demographic analysis of location vs. target customer profile
  3. Traffic count
  4. Lease/ Rental rates
  5. Labor needs and supply
  6. Wage rates
  7. Layout (If virtual business, use home of office location)
  8. Size requirements
  9. Americans with Disabilities compliance
  10. Ergonomic issues
  11. Layout plan (suitable for an appendix)


VIII. Competitor Analysis (10 pts.)

  1. Existing competitors
  2. Who are they? Create a competitive profile matrix.
  3. Strengths
  4. Weaknesses
  5. Potential competitors: Companies that might enter the market
  6. Who are they?
  7. Impact on your business if they enter
  8. Plan of Operation (5 pts.)
  9. Form of ownership chosen and reasoning
  10. Company structure (organization chart)
  11. Decision making authority
  12. Compensation and benefits packages
  13. Financial Forecasts (20 pts.)
  14. Financial statements
  15. Income statement
  16. Balance sheet
  17. Cash flow statement
  18. Break- even analysis
  19. Ratio analysis with comparison to industry standards (most applicable to existing businesses)
  20. Reflection Section (5 pts.) Write a small section (4-5 paragraphs) with three parts.
  21. What you learned and/or found new and interesting about the topic i.e.
  22. What you learned about the process (doing) the project.
  23. How you can use the information learned in A and B to enhance your professional and personal life.

Do not just put in facts you learned about the topic, but how knowing these facts will make you a better professional and/or better person.

Source:Essentials of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management, 9th. Ed.,  N. Scarborough and J. Cornwall, Pearson Education Publishing, 2019.

How to write literature review

The process you follow to develop a literature review is very similar to conducting a research study.  You begin with a research problem, collect data, evaluate the data, analyze and interpret it and then prepare your work to share with others.

Research question

  • Use concept mapping as an aid to development.
  • Make sure the question is important to you to maintain your interest.

Data collection

  • Gather appropriate articles through your searches of the Libraries’ journal article databases.

Data evaluation

  • Note common themes emerging from your readings.
  • Identify relationships among the themes.
  • Write a brief paragraph describing the themes or categories.  You can also include the relationships among them and how they connect with your overall idea.

Analysis and interpretation

  • Continue to read to make sure all relevant authors, methodologies are included and all irrelevant items are removed.
  • Write individual sections using annotations and point out relationships among articles.  Articles are the evidence to support your critique.  You will be more successful if you begin with the articles as the support rather than starting with the point you want to make and then drawing in the articles.


  • Merge individual sections into integrated document.
  • Add introduction and conclusion sections.
  • Make sure all sections support your ideas and edit or revise accordingly.

Preparing an annotated bibliography to begin

An annotated bibliography includes article citations with paragraphs of varying length that summarize or evaluate the article’s content.  Crafting the annotated bibliography will help you learn more about the subject you want to investigate.  it will also “encourage” you to read more critically.  When you’re finished with your annotated bibliography, you can determine each article’s contribution to the development of your ressearch question.

Purdue’s Online Writing Lab has a great section on writing annotated bibliographies with an example in APA style.  The section on quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing as well as the section on evaluating sources might be useful to you.

The Literature Review Process

What is a Literature Review?

  • Can be a stand alone text or part of a larger work
  • Can be one of the first sections of an academic paper or article

The Functions of a Literature Review:

  • Should not be aimless or entire summary
  • Must be relevant summary
  • Summarizes and organizes each work’s ideas around a specific topic or argument
    • Organizes and synthesizes
    • Includes a critical analysis of the relationship among different texts with an eye to your paper’s argument or purpose
  • Features current relevant literature

How to Write a Literature Review (redacted and adapted from “Guidelines for writing a literature review” by Helen Mongan-Rallis. at

  1. Write in proper format (e.g. APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.)
  1. Decide on a topic
  1. Identify the literature for review
    1. Use relevant databases
    2. Redefine topic as needed
    3. Include classic studies in your field and/or those relevant to your topic
    4. Import literature into RefWorks or similar sources management software (check your institution’s library website)
  1. Analyze and categorize the literature (skim the articles, especially the abstracts).
    1. Identify key words, patterns, strengths and weaknesses as they relate to/support your topic
    2. Identify key quotes
    3. Evaluate for currency: depending on your field, literature should be no older than 5-10 years but can include classic studies prior to this if they are relevant to your topic.
  1. Synthesize
    1. Identify the topic or problem but avoid generalizations
    2. Early on, indicate why the topic being discussed is important
    3. Organize the works around this topic—include most relevant studies first
    4. Indicate why certain studies are important, incomplete or problematic but only if their information is substantively related to your topic
    5. Highlight and organize findings around their relevance to your topic
    6. Indicate why the time frame is important
    7. If using a classic study or studies indicate why their inclusion is important or relevant
  1. Organize the body of the Lit Review
    1. Include an overview and the purpose at the beginning (intro and thesis)
    2. Mention what will and won’t be covered and why (part intro and possibly thesis)
    3. Organize your review so that the works included logically support the thesis—though all works include should be important and relevant, further organize thesis from least to most relevant
    4. Use transitions and subheadings if needed (i.e. for longer papers)
    5. Include a conclusion


What is a Literature Review?

A literature review identifies, summarizes and synthesizes the previously published work on your subject of interest.  Your synthesis is key in providing new interpretations of the studies, demonstrating gaps, or discussing flaws in the existing studies.  The literature review can be organized by categories or in the order of your research questions/hypotheses.

While you have been including literature reviews in your research papers and collecting citations for your dissertation, the literature review for a grant proposal is shorter and includes only those studies that are essential in showing your study’s importance.

When you are the researcher:

                The literature review establishes your credibility to conduct the study in your grant proposal.  It indicates your knowledge of the subject and how your study fits into the larger realms of your discipline.

When you are the reader:

                The literature review benefits you as the reader by providing an overview of the subject of interest and describing current research.  This can be very helpful at the exploration stage when you are developing your ideas.  Literature reviews are written in a formal, distinctive style which you will absorb as you read and be able to replicate more easily when you write.  When you are near the end of your library research, the literature review might be helpful in determining how thorough you have been.  You will know if you have included all relevant studies.

Research Paper Guide

Research Paper Guide

Paper Structure

  1. Introduction
  2. Literature Review
  3. Methods
  4. Results
  5. Conclusions and Recommendation
  6. Bibliography
  7. Appendices – if applicable

Using a Binder

Using binder to organize your project is a good practice. You can make a binder with sections based on the contents listed above will make it easier to track your work and keep on task. You can print out all the articles that you read and place them in the binder. You can also put your notes that you take while reading the literature.

Introduction: Research Problem & Purpose

The most important step in the research process is to identify a problem which can be analyzed. You might identify a problem in the policy or administrative setting, such as the implementation of a training program, the formulation or implementation of a strategic plan, an analysis of public perceptions of the agency, etc. It is important that you select a problem that is researchable. This means that it is possible to learn more about the problem by gathering evidence. Evidence might come in the form of statements made by experts, or responses to a survey, or from the analysis of documents that the organization has produced.

After identifying a problem to study, you will then set forth a research purpose. For example, a research purpose might be stated in the following example. The purpose of this research is to explore the barriers to the implementation of a body camera program in the Miami police department. The research purpose is a critical element in the paper because it serves to organize all the other activities of the paper.

Literature Review

Students are required to conduct a thorough literature review of the existing research relevant to the topic at hand. The literature review should include around 10 sources. The review of the literature will help identify existing information on a topic. The literature review will also assist the student in identifying more refined research questions, categories, or practices. The literature review must contain secondary academic literature, or authoritative sources of knowledge on the topic. The literature review is not a place for blogs, editorial pieces, or Wikipedia articles. The literature review demonstrates your ability to understand social science research and to synthesize this research given your research questions.


The student will specify the empirical methods by which the problem will be analyzed. In the administrative setting, the most common type of empirical method of data collection is through structured or semi-structured Interviews of experts. Structured interviews have questions that have been derived through the literature review and specified explicitly before the interview takes place. This means that you will specify the questionnaire in your paper, and you will detail the rationale for each question. Documents are also an important source of evidence. Researchers might gather documents produced in an organization that have policies or procedures. Documents also might include IRS forms or legal statutes. You might also look at how budget figures have changed over time, or whether the benefits of the particular program justify the costs. Survey research is also a very common method of data collection. Much like an interview, surveys are structured questionnaires that are distributed to many individuals.

Analysis & Results

The analysis section of the paper will include the results of the empirical research. This section is relatively free of judgment and is often a structured presentation of the results of the analysis. For example, the results of multiple interviews will be summarized by key themes or recurring response. The results of a survey will be presented in terms of descriptive statistics, for example, the average response to an item, or the comparison of averages between groups. It is important to conceptualize the results in terms of the research questions, where you show explicitly how the results address the question. Scholars often use rubrics or tables to organize their results. For example, one column may have the question, and an adjacent column has the results.

Conclusion and Recommendations

This section will provide an interpretation of the results in light of the original research questions. It will help to interpret the results given a set of ideals about what appears to be good or bad policy making or implementation. This is the section where judgment or normative evaluation comes into play. The previous results section simply presents the results in a neutral manner, while this section will interpret the results according to a policy paradigm, or in terms of some bigger picture set of beliefs or ideals regarding policy. Finally, the recommendations section will present a parsimonious set of policy specific recommendations. These are to be targeted at specific characteristics of a program or a policy, not blanket proclamations that are impossible to implement. Ask yourself, if there only a few ideas that I wish to be implemented, what would they be, and what would be the most basic way to convey the ideas.

Research Paper Guidelines

Research Paper Guidelines (Mechanics and other notes)

  1. Essays should be typed in readable (common), 12-point font and double-spaced.(e.g. New Times Roman, Courier New, or Calibri). All essays too, should be between 12-20 pages in length (the text, not including the bibliography and Endnotes [or footnotes].  Again, at least 12 pp. of Text is required.
  2. Limit direct quotes and introduce quotes smoothly. For example, integrate direct quotes into sentences in your own words to make a point.
  3. Absolutely no block quotes.
  4. Essays should have a descriptive title (describing the topic in detail including dates and chronology, e.g. ‘The Civil Rights Movement and Popular Protest in Memphis Tennessee, 1960-1968’) and hopefully creative title
  5. Essays should be written following the Chicago Manuel of Style or Turabian utilizing either endnotes or footnotes
  6. Essays should have a minimum of 15 sources reasonably distributed between primary and secondary sources. Bibliographies should also be divided between Primary (first-hand) secondary sources.  Divide the bibliography accordingly into two separate sections, one for primary sources, the other for secondary.
  7. Pay close attention to how different sources are cited, including indentions, punctuation, etc. For example, below is the proper method to cite a journal article:

     [1]See below 

Different kinds of books are cited different ways; consult the style manuals for correct citation of books by one author, anthologies, books with editors, etc. 

  1. Follow essay form: All essays should have an introduction that contains a strong, bold, clear (both general and specific) argument or thesis that lays out the paper’s conclusions.  Introductions should be edited the most and thought about more carefully than the rest of the paper.  The body of the paper is where evidence (sources) should be marshaled to support the argument in the introduction.  The evidence should have a direct connection and relevance to the argument, or the writer should make these connections in his own words.  Utilize direct quotes sparingly. Each paragraph should have a citation which indicates where the writer is acquiring the evidence to back a particular claim.  The essay’s conclusion should be in some form or fashion, a summation of the main argument, or just a restatement of thesis to drive the point home to the reader. 
  2. Organization. All papers should have some semblance of an organization. Essays can be organized chronologically or topically.   Since change over time defines good history, essays should read much like a story, or a narrative.  So framing essays beginning with the earliest dates and proceeding chronologically is the easiest way to organize papers.  Optimally, essays include both chronological and topical organization.  Paragraphs are vital in organization.  Essays should avoid paragraphs which run more than a page. 
  3. Essays should follow all formal writing guidelines.
  4. Completing successful research papers is a process. The process begins with selecting a relevant topic, (preferably one which interests you) and researching (and hopefully finding) primary and secondary sources.  After finding enough sources to craft a 12-20 pp. paper, begin taking notes that will become the text of the essay. Note that if you do not find adequate sources, consider altering or changing the topic of the paper.  Some sources, too may alter the paper’s focus or emphasis of the essay.  In short, the sources should guide the direction of the paper despite initial assumptions about the particular topic.  *Most Important*–Avoid making definitive conclusions until the END of the writing process.  

 Take each step in the process seriously.  One of the most important steps in completion of a long essay is editing. 

  1. Editing does not just include looking for simple mistakes in spelling and punctuation, but includes analyzing organization, word choice, tone and flow of the essay. Take care of the obvious mistakes first (deviations from the formal style, grammar, spelling) before moving on to organization and word choice. Writing a quality essay includes re-writing and editing the essay, in some cases, several times. Furthermore, last-minute writing and editing does not work.  Write first and second drafts ahead of time and allow them to “sit,” before re-reading and editing them further.
  2. Have the writing center or a friend/colleague edit the essay; having another set of eyes examine the paper improves the editing process. *note*–Students should be careful in who they select to read the paper.  Someone with at least a bachelor’s degree in some liberal arts field would suffice; someone with an advanced (masters’) degree would be even better.
  3. Several style books exist to assist with effective writing. The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White are very popular and effective. 
  4. Selecting a topic (early) and continually progressing (and refining the topic) and working on the paper is essential for producing a quality work at the end of the semester.

 [1] Coleman Wagner, “Freret’s Century: Growth, Identity and Loss in a New Orleans Neighborhood,” Louisiana History 42 (2001): 343.

Evaluation/Reflection Essay


Goal: To evaluate and reflect upon what a) what constitutes criteria and b) what constitutes good essay writing

Writing components to emphasize: Synthesis of ideas, shifts in authorial voice, structuring an argument, ability to foreground authorial voice even in the third-person pronoun case

Rhetorical type: Hybrid: both evaluative and reflective


  1. A) Using 2-3 essays from The Best American Essays of the Century, discern what constitutes ‘good essay writing’ with specific examples from the book. Much of what you’ll be doing is isolating what constitutes ‘evaluative criteria’ for essay writing and composing an argument that expands upon this idea. Use directly quoted textual evidence from 2-3 essayists (Dillard, Didion, Walker), taken from The Best American Essays of the Century, and articulate how they enact the criteria you’ve established. In several respects, this type of essay is a synthesis one, too, as you’re combining forms of criteria with sources that illustrate a given principle. For an essay to receive an “A,” the body paragraphs should be structured around a criterion, not a summary of the author in question. At this point, in the same paragraph, a comparison should be made on a given trait (synthesis), with specific elements compared and contrasted between two or more authors. You’re welcome to use any essayist from The Best American Essays of the Century, even ones not read in class, as long as at least one of the essayists is from the three read in class. Consider including some of the evaluative criteria ideas initiated in class discussion and from your individual writings as main concepts for comparison and synthesis in this essay.
  2. B) Besides within the conclusion paragraph (see below), the pronoun case of the third-person should be used throughout. The tone should be creative, but objective and analytical, first and foremost.
  3. C) In order to receive full credit, students must use direct quotations in each body paragraph, that is, at least two, with one from each author (one from Walker, one from Dillard, for example), in the same body paragraph body paragraph. Show your logic through the evidence you’ve provided, and paraphrase and integrate the quoted passages you’ve chosen. Remember that this essay is a synthesis one that connects examples around a common trait the authors share.
  4. D) In the conclusion paragraph, besides restating your main ideas in a new way, reflect on your own essay writing experience in the past and whether any of the evaluative criteria could be applied to your own past essays. Try to reference at least one specific essay and assignment in a particular class, if not more, evaluating whether you did indeed write a ‘good’ essay using the stated criteria in the preceding exposition. This portion of your essay should shift from the first-person into the first-person pronoun case.

Provide a ‘Works Cited’ page. Only use the approved sources mentioned above

Be creative in how you approach this project.

Developing Strong Thesis Statements

The thesis statement or main claim must be debatable

An argumentative or persuasive piece of writing must begin with a debatable thesis or claim. In other words, the thesis must be something that people could reasonably have differing opinions on. If your thesis is something that is generally agreed upon or accepted as fact then there is no reason to try to persuade people.

Example of a non-debatable thesis statement:

Pollution is bad for the environment.

This thesis statement is not debatable. First, the word pollution means that something is bad or negative in some way. Further, all studies agree that pollution is a problem, they simply disagree on the impact it will have or the scope of the problem. No one could reasonably argue that pollution is good.

Example of a debatable thesis statement:

At least twenty-five percent of the federal budget should be spent on limiting pollution.

This is an example of a debatable thesis because reasonable people could disagree with it. Some people might think that this is how we should spend the nation’s money. Others might feel that we should be spending more money on education. Still others could argue that corporations, not the government, should be paying to limit pollution.

Another example of a debatable thesis statement:

America’s anti-pollution efforts should focus on privately owned cars.

In this example there is also room for disagreement between rational individuals. Some citizens might think focusing on recycling programs rather than private automobiles is the most effective strategy.

The thesis needs to be narrow

Although the scope of your paper might seem overwhelming at the start, generally the narrower the thesis the more effective your argument will be. Your thesis or claim must be supported by evidence. The broader your claim is, the more evidence you will need to convince readers that your position is right.

Example of a thesis that is too broad:

Drug use is detrimental to society.

There are several reasons this statement is too broad to argue. First, what is included in the category “drugs”? Is the author talking about illegal drug use, recreational drug use (which might include alcohol and cigarettes), or all uses of medication in general? Second, in what ways are drugs detrimental? Is drug use causing deaths (and is the author equating deaths from overdoses and deaths from drug related violence)? Is drug use changing the moral climate or causing the economy to decline? Finally, what does the author mean by “society”? Is the author referring only to America or to the global population? Does the author make any distinction between the effects on children and adults? There are just too many questions that the claim leaves open. The author could not cover all of the topics listed above, yet the generality of the claim leaves all of these possibilities open to debate.

Example of a narrow or focused thesis:

Illegal drug use is detrimental because it encourages gang violence.

In this example the topic of drugs has been narrowed down to illegal drugs and the detriment has been narrowed down to gang violence. This is a much more manageable topic.

We could narrow each debatable thesis from the previous examples in the following way:

Narrowed debatable thesis 1:

At least twenty-five percent of the federal budget should be spent on helping upgrade business to clean technologies, researching renewable energy sources, and planting more trees in order to control or eliminate pollution.

This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just the amount of money used but also how the money could actually help to control pollution.

Narrowed debatable thesis 2:

America’s anti-pollution efforts should focus on privately owned cars because it would allow most citizens to contribute to national efforts and care about the outcome.

This thesis narrows the scope of the argument by specifying not just what the focus of a national anti-pollution campaign should be but also why this is the appropriate focus.

Qualifiers such as “typically,” “generally,” “usually,” or “on average” also help to limit the scope of your claim by allowing for the almost inevitable exception to the rule.

Use of Quotations Effectively

Used effectively, quotations can provide important pieces of evidence and lend fresh voices and perspectives to your narrative. Used ineffectively, however, quotations can clutter your text and interrupt the flow of your argument.

When should I quote?

Use quotations at strategically selected moments. You have probably been told by teachers to provide as much evidence as possible in support of your thesis. But packing your paper with quotations will not necessarily strengthen your argument. The majority of your paper should still be your original ideas in your own words (after all, it’s your paper). And quotations are only one type of evidence: well-balanced papers may also make use of paraphrases, data, and statistics. The types of evidence you use will depend in part on the conventions of the discipline or audience for which you are writing. For example, papers analyzing literature may rely heavily on direct quotations of the text, while papers in the social sciences may have more paraphrasing, data, and statistics than quotations.

Discussing specific arguments or ideas

Sometimes, in order to have a clear, accurate discussion of the ideas of others, you need to quote those ideas word for word. Suppose you want to challenge the following statement made by John Doe, a well-known historian:

    “At the beginning of World War Two, almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly.”

If it is especially important that you formulate a counterargument to this claim, then you might wish to quote the part of the statement that you find questionable and establish a dialogue between yourself and John Doe:

    Historian John Doe has argued that in 1941 “almost all Americans assumed the war would end quickly” (Doe 223). Yet during the first six months of U.S. involvement, the wives and mothers of soldiers often noted in their diaries their fear that the war would drag on for years.

Giving added emphasis to a particularly authoritative source on your topic.

There will be times when you want to highlight the words of a particularly important and authoritative source on your topic. For example, suppose you were writing an essay about the differences between the lives of male and female slaves in the U.S. South. One of your most provocative sources is a narrative written by a former slave, Harriet Jacobs. It would then be appropriate to quote some of Jacobs’s words:

    Harriet Jacobs, a former slave from North Carolina, published an autobiographical slave narrative in 1861. She exposed the hardships of both male and female slaves but ultimately concluded that “slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women.”

In this particular example, Jacobs is providing a crucial first-hand perspective on slavery. Thus, her words deserve more exposure than a paraphrase could provide.

Jacobs is quoted in Harriet A. Jacobs, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, ed. Jean Fagan Yellin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987).

Analyzing how others use language.

This scenario is probably most common in literature and linguistics courses, but you might also find yourself writing about the use of language in history and social science classes. If the use of language is your primary topic, then you will obviously need to quote users of that language.

Examples of topics that might require the frequent use of quotations include:

Southern colloquial expressions in William Faulkner’s Light in August

Ms. and the creation of a language of female empowerment

A comparison of three British poets and their use of rhyme

Spicing up your prose.

In order to lend variety to your prose, you may wish to quote a source with particularly vivid language. All quotations, however, must closely relate to your topic and arguments. Do not insert a quotation solely for its literary merits.

One example of a quotation that adds flair:

    President Calvin Coolidge’s tendency to fall asleep became legendary. As H. L. Mencken commented in the American Mercury in 1933, “Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored.”

How do I set up and follow up a quotation?

Once you’ve carefully selected the quotations that you want to use, your next job is to weave those quotations into your text. The words that precede and follow a quotation are just as important as the quotation itself. You can think of each quote as the filling in a sandwich: it may be tasty on its own, but it’s messy to eat without some bread on either side of it. Your words can serve as the “bread” that helps readers digest each quote easily. Below are four guidelines for setting up and following up quotations.

In illustrating these four steps, we’ll use as our example, Franklin Roosevelt’s famous quotation, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

1. Provide context for each quotation.

Do not rely on quotations to tell your story for you. It is your responsibility to provide your reader with context for the quotation. The context should set the basic scene for when, possibly where, and under what circumstances the quotation was spoken or written. So, in providing context for our above example, you might write:

    When Franklin Roosevelt gave his inaugural speech on March 4, 1933, he addressed a nation weakened and demoralized by economic depression.

2. Attribute each quotation to its source.

Tell your reader who is speaking. Here is a good test: try reading your text aloud. Could your reader determine without looking at your paper where your quotations begin? If not, you need to attribute the quote more noticeably.

Avoid getting into the “he/she said” attribution rut! There are many other ways to attribute quotes besides this construction. Here are a few alternative verbs, usually followed by “that”:

add remark exclaim
announce reply state
comment respond estimate
write point out predict
argue suggest propose
declare criticize proclaim
note complain opine
observe think note

Different reporting verbs are preferred by different disciplines, so pay special attention to these in your disciplinary reading. If you’re unfamiliar with the meanings of any of these words or others you find in your reading, consult a dictionary before using them.

3. Explain the significance of the quotation.

Once you’ve inserted your quotation, along with its context and attribution, don’t stop! Your reader still needs your assessment of why the quotation holds significance for your paper. Using our Roosevelt example, if you were writing a paper on the first one-hundred days of FDR’s administration, you might follow the quotation by linking it to that topic:

    With that message of hope and confidence, the new president set the stage for his next one-hundred days in office and helped restore the faith of the American people in their government.

4. Provide a citation for the quotation.

All quotations, just like all paraphrases, require a formal citation. For more details about particular citation formats, see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial. In general, you should remember one rule of thumb: Place the parenthetical reference or footnote/endnote number after—not within—the closed quotation mark.

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself” (Roosevelt, Public Papers, 11).

Roosevelt declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”1

How do I embed a quotation into a sentence?

In general, avoid leaving quotes as sentences unto themselves. Even if you have provided some context for the quote, a quote standing alone can disrupt your flow.  Take a look at this example:

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

Standing by itself, the quote’s connection to the preceding sentence is unclear. There are several ways to incorporate a quote more smoothly:

Lead into the quote with a colon.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression: “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

The colon announces that a quote will follow to provide evidence for the sentence’s claim.

Introduce or conclude the quote by attributing it to the speaker. If your attribution precedes the quote, you will need to use a comma after the verb.

Hamlet denies Rosencrantz’s claim that thwarted ambition caused his depression. He states, “I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2).

When faced with a twelve-foot mountain troll, Ron gathers his courage, shouting, “Wingardium Leviosa!” (Rowling, p. 176).

The Pirate King sees an element of regality in their impoverished and dishonest life. “It is, it is a glorious thing/To be a pirate king,” he declares (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

Interrupt the quote with an attribution to the speaker. Again, you will need to use a comma after the verb, as well as a comma leading into the attribution.

“There is nothing either good or bad,” Hamlet argues, “but thinking makes it so” (Hamlet 2.2).

“And death shall be no more,” Donne writes, “Death thou shalt die” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Dividing the quote may highlight a particular nuance of the quote’s meaning. In the first example, the division calls attention to the two parts of Hamlet’s claim. The first phrase states that nothing is inherently good or bad; the second phrase suggests that our perspective causes things to become good or bad. In the second example, the isolation of “Death thou shalt die” at the end of the sentence draws a reader’s attention to that phrase in particular. As you decide whether or not you want to break up a quote, you should consider the shift in emphasis that the division might create.

Use the words of the quote grammatically within your own sentence.

When Hamlet tells Rosencrantz that he “could be bounded in a nutshell and count [him]self a king of infinite space” (Hamlet 2.2), he implies that thwarted ambition did not cause his depression.

Ultimately, death holds no power over Donne since in the afterlife, “death shall be no more” (“Death, Be Not Proud,” l. 14).

Note that when you use “that” after the verb that introduces the quote, you no longer need a comma.

The Pirate King argues that “it is, it is a glorious thing/to be a pirate king” (Pirates of Penzance, 1983).

How much should I quote?

As few words as possible. Remember, your paper should primarily contain your own words, so quote only the most pithy and memorable parts of sources. Here are guidelines for selecting quoted material judiciously:

Excerpt fragments.

Sometimes, you should quote short fragments, rather than whole sentences. Suppose you interviewed Jane Doe about her reaction to John F. Kennedy’s assassination. She commented:

    “I couldn’t believe it. It was just unreal and so sad. It was just unbelievable. I had never experienced such denial. I don’t know why I felt so strongly. Perhaps it was because JFK was more to me than a president. He represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

You could quote all of Jane’s comments, but her first three sentences are fairly redundant. You might instead want to quote Jane when she arrives at the ultimate reason for her strong emotions:

    Jane Doe grappled with grief and disbelief. She had viewed JFK, not just as a national figurehead, but as someone who “represented the hopes of young people everywhere.”

Excerpt those fragments carefully!

Quoting the words of others carries a big responsibility. Misquoting misrepresents the ideas of others. Here’s a classic example of a misquote:

    John Adams has often been quoted as having said: “This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.”

John Adams did, in fact, write the above words. But if you see those words in context, the meaning changes entirely. Here’s the rest of the quotation:

    Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell.

As you can see from this example, context matters!

This example is from Paul F. Boller, Jr. and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, and Misleading Attributions (Oxford University Press, 1989).

Use block quotations sparingly.

There may be times when you need to quote long passages. However, you should use block quotations only when you fear that omitting any words will destroy the integrity of the passage. If that passage exceeds four lines (some sources say five), then set it off as a block quotation.

Be sure you are handling block quotes correctly in papers for different academic disciplines–check the index of the citation style guide you are using. Here are a few general tips for setting off your block quotations:

  • Set up a block quotation with your own words followed by a colon.
  • Indent. You normally indent 4-5 spaces for the start of a paragraph. When setting up a block quotation, indent the entire paragraph once from the left-hand margin.
  • Single space or double space within the block quotation, depending on the style guidelines of your discipline (MLA, CSE, APA, Chicago, etc.).
  • Do not use quotation marks at the beginning or end of the block quote—the indentation is what indicates that it’s a quote.
  • Place parenthetical citation according to your style guide (usually after the period following the last sentence of the quote).
  • Follow up a block quotation with your own words.

So, using the above example from John Adams, here’s how you might include a block quotation:

    After reading several doctrinally rigid tracts, John Adams recalled the zealous ranting of his former teacher, Joseph Cleverly, and minister, Lemuel Bryant. He expressed his ambivalence toward religion in an 1817 letter to Thomas Jefferson:

Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, ‘this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it!!!!’ But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in public company—I mean hell.

    Adams clearly appreciated religion, even if he often questioned its promotion.

How do I combine quotation marks with other punctuation marks?

It can be confusing when you start combining quotation marks with other punctuation marks. You should consult a style manual for complicated situations, but the following two rules apply to most cases:

Keep periods and commas within quotation marks.

So, for example:

    According to Professor Jones, Lincoln “feared the spread of slavery,” but many of his aides advised him to “watch and wait.”

In the above example, both the comma and period were enclosed in the quotation marks. The main exception to this rule involves the use of internal citations, which always precede the last period of the sentence. For example:

    According to Professor Jones, Lincoln “feared the spread of slavery,” but many of his aides advised him to “watch and wait” (Jones 143).

Note, however, that the period remains inside the quotation marks when your citation style involved superscript footnotes or endnotes. For example:

    According to Professor Jones, Lincoln “feared the spread of slavery,” but many of his aides advised him to “watch and wait.” 2

Place all other punctuation marks (colons, semicolons, exclamation marks, question marks) outside the quotation marks, except when they were part of the original quotation.

Take a look at the following examples:

    The student wrote that the U. S. Civil War “finally ended around 1900”!
    The coach yelled, “Run!”

In the first example, the author placed the exclamation point outside the quotation mark because she added it herself to emphasize the absurdity of the student’s comment. The student’s original comment had not included an exclamation mark. In the second example, the exclamation mark remains within the quotation mark because it is indicating the excited tone in which the coach yelled the command. Thus, the exclamation mark is considered to be part of the original quotation.

How do I indicate quotations within quotations?

If you are quoting a passage that contains a quotation, then you use single quotation marks for the internal quotation. Quite rarely, you quote a passage that has a quotation within a quotation. In that rare instance, you would use double quotation marks for the second internal quotation.

Here’s an example of a quotation within a quotation:

    In “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” Hans Christian Andersen wrote, “‘But the Emperor has nothing on at all!’ cried a little child.”

Remember to consult your style guide to determine how to properly cite a quote within a quote.

When do I use those three dots ( . . . )?

Whenever you want to leave out material from within a quotation, you need to use an ellipsis, which is a series of three periods, each of which should be preceded and followed by a space. So, an ellipsis in this sentence would look like . . . this. There are a few rules to follow when using ellipses:

Be sure that you don’t fundamentally change the meaning of the quotation by omitting material.

Take a look at the following example:

    “The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus and serves the entire UNC community.”
    “The Writing Center . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

The reader’s understanding of the Writing Center’s mission to serve the UNC community is not affected by omitting the information about its location.

Do not use ellipses at the beginning or ending of quotations, unless it’s important for the reader to know that the quotation was truncated.

For example, using the above example, you would NOT need an ellipsis in either of these situations:

    “The Writing Center is located on the UNC campus . . .”
    The Writing Center ” . . . serves the entire UNC community.”

Use punctuation marks in combination with ellipses when removing material from the end of sentences or clauses.

For example, if you take material from the end of a sentence, keep the period in as usual.

    “The boys ran to school, forgetting their lunches and books. Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”
    “The boys ran to school. . . . Even though they were out of breath, they made it on time.”

Likewise, if you excerpt material at the end of clause that ends in a comma, retain the comma.

    “The red car came to a screeching halt that was heard by nearby pedestrians, but no one was hurt.”
    “The red car came to a screeching halt . . . , but no one was hurt.”

Is it ever okay to insert my own words or change words in a quotation?

Sometimes it is necessary for clarity and flow to alter a word or words within a quotation. You should make such changes rarely. In order to alert your reader to the changes you’ve made, you should always bracket the altered words. Here are a few examples of situations when you might need brackets:

Changing verb tense or pronouns in order to be consistent with the rest of the sentence.

Suppose you were quoting a woman who, when asked about her experiences immigrating to the United States, commented “nobody understood me.” You might write:

    Esther Hansen felt that when she came to the United States “nobody understood [her].”

In the above example, you’ve changed “me” to “her” in order to keep the entire passage in third person. However, you could avoid the need for this change by simply rephrasing:

    “Nobody understood me,” recalled Danish immigrant Esther Hansen.

Including supplemental information that your reader needs in order to understand the quotation.

For example, if you were quoting someone’s nickname, you might want to let your reader know the full name of that person in brackets.

    “The principal of the school told Billy [William Smith] that his contract would be terminated.”

Similarly, if a quotation referenced an event with which the reader might be unfamiliar, you could identify that event in brackets.

    “We completely revised our political strategies after the strike [of 1934].”

Indicating the use of nonstandard grammar or spelling.

In rare situations, you may quote from a text that has nonstandard grammar, spelling, or word choice. In such cases, you may want to insert [sic], which means “thus” or “so” in Latin. Using [sic] alerts your reader to the fact that this nonstandard language is not the result of a typo on your part. Always italicize “sic” and enclose it in brackets. There is no need to put a period at the end. Here’s an example of when you might use [sic]:

Twelve-year-old Betsy Smith wrote in her diary, “Father is afraid that he will be guilty of beach [sic] of contract.”

Here [sic] indicates that the original author wrote “beach of contract,” not breach of contract, which is the accepted terminology.

Do not overuse brackets!

For example, it is not necessary to bracket capitalization changes that you make at the beginning of sentences. For example, suppose you were going to use part of this quotation:

“We never looked back, but the memory of our army days remained with us the rest of our lives.”

If you wanted to begin a sentence with an excerpt from the middle of this quotation, there would be no need to bracket your capitalization changes.

    “The memory of our army days remained with us the rest of our lives,” commented Joe Brown, a World War II veteran.
    Not: “[T]he memory of our army days remained with us the rest of our lives,” commented Joe Brown, a World War II veteran

Barzun, Jacques, and Henry F. Graff. The Modern Researcher. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth, 2004.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. 2nd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003.

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 6th ed. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.

Turabian, Kate L. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 6th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Credits: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill