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Using and Documenting Sources Correctly
Proper documentation of sources used for a project, presentation or research paper is an important component of the research process. A well-developed bibliography and footnotes allow you, the student, to highlight your hard work while contributing to academic conversations within and outside of the classroom. Documentation makes it possible for anyone reading your work to clearly recognize your own original thinking. And of course, proper documentation is the means of avoiding accusations of plagiarism. Some kinds of projects may not require a formal bibliography: blog postings may simply have links to sources; a written bibliography may not be required for a PowerPoint presentation. In all cases however, you should give credit for any information or ideas that are not your own.
Documentation begins with the first source you consult for your project. As you begin your research, follow these steps:
- Record the bibliographic information for each source you use at the time you first use it. It can sometimes be difficult to find a source you used days or weeks earlier unless you have written down the pertinent information. It doesn't need to be in proper citation format, but be sure you gather all of the information you will need when you write your bibliography.
- Develop a note-taking system that works for you and then use it consistently. Whether you record sources in Word with pertinent notes following the source, use Noodlebib, compile paper notecards, create a Google doc, or have another note-taking process, be consistent and thorough.
- Organize your note-taking so that notes from a particular source are accompanied by the bibliographic information.
- Clearly indicate direct quotes, otherwise, you might not remember when preparing your project. Put copied text in quotation marks or use a different font color to set it apart from more general notes.
- Use Noodlebib for citation. The library subscribes to an online citation program called Noodlebib. Noodlebib offers many tools to assist you with your research, including a place to store your bibliography, note-taking options, and the ability to share your bibliography with a research partner or with your teacher. If you don't have a Menlo Noodlebib account, take a minute to set one up using the directions to the right. Be sure to create an account "linked to our school library subscription" in order to be able to use the sharing features. The library staff can assist you if you need help. There are other citation tools available for free on the Internet (EasyBib, BibMe, etc.), but the free sites have sometimes been found to create incorrect or incomplete citations. The subscription version of Noodlebib offers sharing tools and research assistance that you won't get from the free sites.
What if I'm not writing a research paper?
Most of this tutorial addresses issues that arise while writing a research paper. Projects that are not formal research papers may require a different method for giving credit to a source. Take a look at these options:
If you are preparing a PowerPoint presentation
- Your Bibliography or Works Cited should not appear on a slide at the end of your presentation. It is very hard to format the slide correctly, it looks unattractive to see a slide filled with text, and realistically, no one is going to read that slide. Instead, print out a properly formatted page to turn in to your teacher.
- If you are using images on your slides, put a brief attribution in small print under the image as is shown on this page. A URL or name and date will suffice. Images are not usually included in bibliographies but your teacher may want to see full image citations so be sure to ask.
- Never make a slide titled "Citations," "Websites" etc. that is then filled with a list of URLs. A list of web addresses provides little useful information to your reader.
If you are posting to an online site such as a blog
- A link back to the original source may suffice - ask your teacher so you are clear about what is expected.
- Do not confuse a link with a citation - a link to the source provides information about the source but is not a formal citation.
- If you do use a link to a source, be sure to reference the source within your written text, i.e. "This letter from President Kennedy to Premier Khrushchev illustrates Kennedy's efforts to end the weapons build-up in Cuba."
- Don't try to put a bibliography on an online posting as it is difficult to format properly. Instead, turn in a print copy of your bibliography or Works Cited page.
You can set up or update your Noodlebib account by clicking this link:
Be sure to select "an account linked to a school library." Then enter the school library username: menlo, and the password: knights. If you have an account but haven't used it in a while you may need to revalidate your account. Log on, enter the passwords above and you'll be all set.
Click here if you have a question or comment about this tutorial.