Chapter 3: Searching

3.18 Keeping track of your sources

As you progress in your research you will find a lot of information from a variety of sources. It is important to keep track of these so you can credit the different ideas and facts you use. Keeping your sources organized also helps strengthen your argument by helping you quickly add more information from a specific source, find the original context of a quote you’ve pulled out, or point directly to what you used to answer your research question. Having your sources organized can also make your writing process more efficient because you have a better idea of where everything came from.

Your instructors will expect you to cite your sources so, at a bare minimum, be sure to track your citation information. You also may want to track other information as you go along. Here are some useful details to track:

  • Citation information: title, author, year of publication, publisher or journal, page numbers, etc.
  • Quotes: quotable or noteworthy passages, ideas you want to include in your project
  • Context: reasons for citing it, ways it is relevant to your research question, and how it relates to other sources

You can keep organized in a variety of ways. There are citation managers like Zotero and EndNote which can help generate citations and attach notes directly to the citation information and sources. You can also use notecards, spreadsheets, and outlines. It doesn’t matter how you stay organized, just that you find a way that works well for you.


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