How To Organize Citations In Research Papers Properly: 10 Helpful Tips


A citation is defined as a reference to an unpublished or published source that you have consulted and obtained information from during the writing of your research paper. The way that these sources are documented depends entirely on the writing style that your professor has asked for. There are several different types of citation styles used commonly, including Chicago, APA, Turabian, MLA, AMA, etc. To make things a little bit more confusing, there are some disciplines which also have their own method of recording citation, most notably the field of law.

Why is citing sources important?

Citations show the readers of your paper where you obtained the material you used, provides a way of critiquing the study you have done, and provides the opportunity to access additional information relating to the research problem. The process of citing sources is also a valuable defense against plagiarism allegations. It is also important for several other reasons, including:

  • Proper citation procedures allow your readers to locate the materials you used in your research paper
  • The ideas of other researchers can be used to reinforce arguments you made
  • Citing the words of other people's ideas and words indicates that you have completed a thorough literature review.

Tips to keep it all organized

  1. Write out a working outline and add to it as you progress through the paper.
  2. Only keep the information that is relevant to your work. Throw out the stuff you have decided that you will not be using.
  3. Use subheadings to differentiate between the various sections in the paper. Color code them for easy recognition. When you find something which applies to the subheading, add it in right away.
  4. So that you also have another copy of all research notes, create folders that are labeled with the name of every subheading on your computer. You likely take your laptop everywhere so it will be accessible whenever you need it.
  5. Organize your findings chronologically within each of the subheadings.
  6. Write notes in your own words on why each individual source was helpful to your paper.
  7. Consider using a separate cue card for each source and record all the information about it.
  8. Make a note on where you found each piece of research (internet, book, etc.).
  9. Create a summary of each source and list it on your cue cards and computer folders.
  10. Make copies of everything, including what is written on paper. Backup your files regularly, or each time you add some information.

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