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ENG W230: Writing in the Sciences

This is a course guide for all sections of English W230.

Organizing your research

Now that you've got lots of citations and notes about your research, it's time to make sense of it all. There are many ways you can do this. If you've put all your notes about sources on notecards, you can stick them on a wall in the order you think you'll use them. Using tape or putty will allow you to rearrange them as necessary. You could use a whiteboard to draw a mind map of the how you'll structure your ideas using the sources as the pieces of the puzzle and your research question as the center. You can create a mind map online using a tool like Mindomo. Or you could try a citation manager to create virtual notes and tags on each source of information.

You may also wish to revisit the "Take a Moment to Reflect" box on Step 3 to learn how to track your searches. 

The most important thing is to find a strategy that works for you. Pen and paper might work great now, but as you advance in your field, you may need a technological approach. We subject librarians are here to give you suggestions. Please feel free to reach out to us. 

Why do we cite?

Why do we cite? There are many reasons why it is so important to cite the sources you use in your research.

  • You demonstrate to your reader you've done proper research by listing sources you used to get your information.
  • You avoid plagiarism by quoting the words and ideas of other scholars.
  • You are being a responsible scholar by giving credit to other researchers and acknowledging their ideas.
  • You allow your reader to find the sources you used by citing them accurately in your paper by using in-text citations or footnotes in combination with a bibliography or works cited list.

Many databases and even Google Scholar include automatic 'Cite' features that convert all of the information about your article into a neat citation but, beware!! Computer-generated citations often contain errors. You must know your citation style well to identify missing or incorrect information in these citations. If you do not know your style well, see below for some style guides that you can borrow from University Library or search IUCAT to find other style guides relevant to your discipline.

Citation Styles

The citation style that you use (APA, Chicago, CSE) will depend on your professor or your discipline. Below is a chart that shows the disciplines that use certain styles. You may use more than one of these styles in your college or future career, so it is good to be aware of some of the differences. For a nice overview of some of these styles, you can use the official style guides below (found at the Service & Information Desk of UL) or check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) website:

Major Citation Styles

Format Discipline
Modern Language Association
American Psychological Association
Social Science
Council of Science Editors
Life Sciences
Physical Sciences
Chicago Manual of Style
Social Sciences

Thinking About Your Progress

Congratulations, you've made your way through the research process! Was your process messier or more linear than you expected? Research can be long, arduous, confusing, and even frustrating, but in the end it's about discovery. What did you discover about yourself during the process? Reflecting on your progress is part of the research process! 

For your next class or project, your research may take more or less time. It depends largely on your next topic, but also on how well you've learned the skills presented in this guide. Thanks for all your hard work!

Hopefully you've been taking notes all along the way about what you've found and preparing to write about your information sources. But now you should definitely be ready to synthesize your findings and write an annotated bibliography, a literature review, or a paper. If you would like some help with writing, check out the information on this page about the University Writing Center. Good luck!


Citation Management Tools

Citation management tools allow you to keep citations, full-text articles, and other research resources organized in one place. These tools can also be used to format your bibliographies and the citations in your papers according to the appropriate style (APA, MLA, Chicago, etc.) To use these tools, you should be familiar with the target citation style in order to input information correctly and notice any errors in your bibliography. Please contact a subject librarian for further assistance.

End Note

EndNote is software that helps manage citations for bibliographies. Includes an add-in for Microsoft Word. For questions about EndNote, please contact Willie Miller, the EndNote specialist librarian, or your subject librarian.


Mendeley is a free reference manager and academic social network that can help you organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover the latest research. It includes a Microsoft Word plug-in and web importer. For questions about Mendeley, please contact Rachel Hinrichs, the Mendeley specialist librarian, or your subject librarian.


Zotero is a free Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, cite, and share your research sources. It includes an add-in for Microsoft Word. For questions, please contact Ted Polley, the Zotero specialist librarian, or your subject librarian.