Chapter 2: Organizing Your Research

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

  • Execute better strategies for a successful search. (LO2)
  • Examine strategies for maintaining academic integrity. (LO5)

Step 1: Work Smart

What tools you select depends entirely on you as a person. If you prefer to have physical copies versus digital, that will probably guide which tool you use to organize your work. Select one tool from the options below:

  1. Paper Index Cards: Paper index cards are affordable and easy to implement. You can easily reorganize and move items around.
  2. Basic Online Tools:  These tools are often free and simple to use (Google Keep, Trello, and more). These services are digital versions of note cards or sticky notes.
  3. Citation Managers: This is a more advanced tool to use (Zotero, Mendeley, RefWorks), which collect, organize, and format citations. While they take some time to set up, they may save you time over the course of a project.

Step 2: Read, Annotate, Organize

  1. When you find an article, before you do anything else: write down all of the publication information. Copy and paste this into a Word or Google Doc, a citation manager, and so on.
  2. When you find useful information in the article, put down the page number and maybe even the paragraph number to refer to later. It may be helpful to include section number or heading as well.
  3. Next, put down the authors words exactly using quotations marks around it. This will make it clear to you later what words are theirs, so you can cite properly. Or you can also summarize or paraphrase a section, use indicators like S or P so you know which format you use.
  4. If you want to make notes, mark it as ME so you know that these are your own words or ideas; you could also use your initials.
  5. Repeat this format as often as necessary.


Step 3: Write

  • When it is time to write the paper, use the note system to organize your thoughts and process. Developing a system for you will help you as a student or faculty member whenever you are completely research.
  • If you need to adapt throughout the process, keep track of your changes, so that then next time you conduct research you have a streamlined way to conduct research.

References for Remixed Content:

PALNI (2022, June 3). Organizing sources. PALNI Information Literacy Modules.


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Research and Information Literacy with Library Resources by Andrea Bearman and Jill Noyes is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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