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Citations 101

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You will learn about tools and resources you can use to improve your research workflow, making it easier for you to accurately cite your sources.

Guiding Principles

Sometimes, none of the rules and examples match your needs perfectly. In those cases, you just have to do your best with the information you have

Keep these principles in mind:

  • Make your citations useful.  Include enough information that someone else will be able to find the source again.
  • Critically analyze your citation style, and apply that information to your source.

For example, if you're using MLA style, you'll want to include the author/creator's full name. If you're using APA, you'll want to include the publication date immediately after the author's name.

Study Skills

Woman in a red t-shirt typing on an open laptop with a window behind herWhat do study skills have to do with citations? 

A lot! 

Studies have shown that many citation mistakes can be traced back to study skills like time management and notetaking. When you don't leave yourself enough time to cite carefully, and to double-check your citations, your chances of making mistakes increase.

Good habits throughout your project will make your life much easier at the end!

Image credit: Flickr user University of Denver


Note Taking by Chung Ho Leung (flickr)

The moment where you're most likely to have all of the information you need to cite a source correctly is the moment when you first find the source.  Make sure you develop a workable strategy for capturing that information.

If you don't, you'll find yourself re-searching for all of your sources the night before the paper is due -- making a stressful time even more stressful! 

There are dozens of ways to take notes effectively, and none of them are the "right" way.  Think about your workflow and figure out a system that works for you.  Some possibilities include:

  • Old-fashioned notecards are still used for a reason - they're stable, secure, portable, and the learning curve is shallow.  They're easy to rearrange into mind-maps and outlines during the writing process.
  • Citation managers (like Zotero) include note-taking features, which allow you to save sources and make notes on them at the same time.
  • With your OSU Google Drive account you can create a document or spreadsheet to save notes about your sources, and then access that document from any computer with an Internet connection.
  • Emailing sources to a searchable email account works for some people.
  • Organizational tools like Dropbox, Evernote, Diigo and Pinboard make it easy to save sources, notes and document to a central location, whether you find them using smartphones, tables or computers.

Image Credit: flickr user Chung Ho Leung

Time Management

Clock with black hands on a white background, set to 5:50:36

Time management is an important part of the research process.  There are a number of tools and resources you can use to organize your tasks, plan projects, and manage your time. 

Most of these will help you in all aspects of your academic life, not just research.

Here are some specific factors to consider as you manage your time during research projects:

  • Sometimes the sources you want are not immediately available -- you'll need to request copies.  Factor in a few days for these requests to be filled.
  • Academic articles are written by experts, for expert audiences.  They deal with dense subject matter and difficult concepts. Assume that you will need to read them multiple times to fully understand them.  Factor in time for close reading, and to look up new words and concepts. This textbook chapter by Karen Rosenberg suggests several strategies for reading scholarly sources (opens in PDF).
  • Sometimes the act of writing sparks new ideas and connections.  You may need to do additional research during the writing process to support those new thoughts.  Start writing up your thoughts early enough so that you can do this additional research if you need to.

Image Credit: Flickr user RLHyde

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