How do you manage your relevant quotations?

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Ever find yourself trying to remember who said those famous words that are a must include for a paper or article you are writing? Stumbled across a great quote that you might use in a future paper and quickly bookmark the page in a book or scribble it down on a piece of scrap paper?  Have you found an effective way to document the quotes for later consumption, use an existing quote/phrase book, or do you avoid them generally?  Until recently, I had not managed the sayings that amused or enlightened me and have probably lost time looking for quotes fragments I barely remember.

Pithy quotes are all over the place and the chances that I will remember a particular quote for a paper is relatively low.  The best chance of finding an apt quotation for a paper, for me, will be during the literature review as I write a paper – but that will exclude the hundreds of fiction pieces or pop culture snippets I digest on a weekly basis (context for the above quotes).  To circumvent this problem, I have started to collect quotes in a document for retrieval at a later date.  Initially, I had planned on saving the quotes alphabetically by author, but quickly realized that it would not be conducive to quick access.  So, at the moment, I am going by subject and context and will, if I am diligent about it, have a useful database of quotes that I find relevant – and available when the need arises. 

What do you do, if anything at all, to collect quotations?

Michael A. Allen

About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

4 Replies to “How do you manage your relevant quotations?”

  1. It’s not exactly what you’re looking for, I don’t think, but it’s more powerful and probably more convenient than a long text document, but I just started using Zotero. It’s primarily a bibliography database (like Endnote but free and all internetty) but you can add Notes to the saved citations. Which means, as long as you can remember “Ooooh I really wanted to use that one quote from that one book” you would have access to the book, the quote and the relevant page pretty readily. (

  2. I use google reader – there’s a bookmarklet that you can just click on to keep a copy of whatever you select on the screen (you don’t have to share it with the world, you can just keep it to yourself). You can then at the same time add tags (I use “quotes” and then any other tag that I think might help me find it later). Finally, if you encountered something off-line, you can still put it in through the “notes” option in the Reader’s “your stuff” section.
    It being google, searching through it is really very easy, or you can just skim everything you’ve collected by viewing by tag (that’s where the “quotes” tag comes in handy).

  3. Jim – I originally used Endnote through comps to keep track of references and didn’t quite use it for quotes. I have a LaTeX based reference tracker now that I use for books – I may be able to modify a file to use it for quotes – not a bad idea.
    Dubi – Google Reader is my current RSS reader and I have been using it for quite some time, but I have never clicked on the notes tab/link. I will give it a go – right now, all of my shared items come up with the notes I tagged them with, so that might be a way to keep track of them for blog related items.

  4. I don’t know how avid a sharer you are, but the “notes” section of my reader it really cluttered. That’s why I heartily advise using tags (“blog”, “quotes”, “reread”) to keep track of things in the most convenient manner.

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