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Module 3: Understanding Sources: Tracking Sources

Citing your resources

Formal college papers are formatted in a precise way. The common formatting styles are APA (American Psychological Association); MLA (Modern Language Association); and the Chicago style. There are hundreds more but these are the top three.

These styles will teach you how to format a paper. They cover every aspect of a research paper, including the bibliography. Your instructor will tell you which style to use for your research paper.

Why create a formatted bibliography? Three reasons:

  1. When you write a formal paper you will be incorporating the ideas of other people into your work. If you use someone's idea you must give them credit.This is the ethical use of information - give credit where credit is due.
  2. You are writing a paper that proves you understand a topic or idea. This includes an understanding of what other people think about your chosen topic. How well do you incorporate these ideas into your research project? One criteria for proving your understanding is by submitting a properly cited paper and bibliography.
  3. You are also learning how to communicate in a professional setting. College students all over the country, who have declared the same major as you, are learning these same skills. For example, if your profession uses the APA format and, after graduation your supervisor hands you a report written in the APA style, you will understand how to present a professional response.

The Library has the current APA, MLA and Chicago style manuals at the Information Desk. For further assistance, check out these links:

Tracking Sources

Once you find your appropriate sources, how do you keep track of them?  There are several ways to stay on top of your sources as you go about your research, ranging from note cards and legal pads to software designed to create bibliographies for you.  Here are your options:

  • Handwriting citations on note cards or legal pads.  Include the article title, the author, and information about the journal: title, year of publication, and volume/issue numbers
  • Copying and pasting source info into a blank word document.
  • Downloading and saving or printing articles as you find them.
  • Using database features that allows you to send a list of articles to your email.
  • Using Microsoft Word’s “Manage Sources” feature (under “References).
  • Using Microsoft’s OneNote, which automatically adds a source link from anything you copy and paste from the web.
  • Using Zotero, which keeps all your references and reference-related materials in a searchable personal library and creates citations and reference pages for you.  Especially good for large projects and those interested in graduate school.

Courtesy University of Michigan-Flint’s “Keep track of Useful Sources as You Find Them"