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Citing References Efficiently

If you wait until you have completed the draft of your paper or thesis to add references, you may find this task tedious and time-consuming. You may even run into problems where you can’t find a reference for a certain statement and have to rewrite that part. Don’t wait until that late. Here are strategies to ensure you cite references with efficiency and accuracy, starting from when you find aninteresting paper.

1. Organize your references. Establish a system to organize your references. For example,group them into folders and subfolders based on topics. If you use a reference-management program (EndNote, Zotero, Mendeley, to name a few), it may also allow you to add tags to annotate the entries. This way, before you start writing your paper, you can quickly locate potentially useful references. File and tag a paper as soon as you download it. You should also note which ones you haven’t finished reading, which ones are worth further in-depth reading, etc., so you don’t just download a paper and forget about it.

2. Keep notes for each reference. Summarize what you have learned from a reference in your own words. These notes would have more information than the tags you added to the references, and help you determine which ones you will need in your paper without reading the source texts again. You might be able to add notes in your reference-managing program, but even if you don’t have such a program, you can simply create a spreadsheet to keep these notes and indicate their corresponding sources. These notes can serve as the starting point of the statements in your paper, andthe benefit of writing them in your own words is thatthere is no plagiarism.

3. Cite while you write. When writing your own paper, cite the associated references as soon as you finish a statement. As mentioned above, you will have a starting statement from your notes, and you know the corresponding source, so immediately add the reference to that statement. Nearly all reference-management programs have cite-while-you-write functions. You can alter the wording to fit the flow of the paperin any manner you prefer; with the correct reference already attached, you never need to worry about having a statement that is not supported by publications or having a mismatch between your in-text citation and the reference list.

Although a reference manager helpful and highly recommended is, having one is not absolutely necessary. Be creative when setting up your own system to organize your references; you will have no trouble in generating proper references for your paper.

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