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Manage Your Research and Evaluate Your Sources: Managing Your Research

Before you write your paper: Tips on organizing your materials, evaluating popular and scholarly articles, impact metrics and predatory publishing.


Managing all the materials you find and review is a key to success. It is important to STOP and organize your materials. There are several ways to do this. Some prefer to use citation management systems like Endnotes or RefWorks. Others keep electronic folders for each class and subfolders for each project with a spreadsheet or document listing the citations, search strategies and even quotations found. Often, you will need to do both. Find what works for you - and be prepared to change it when necessary.

Collecting Your Research - STOP

STOP (Stop your research, Take a moment to Organize and Pull together your project materials)

You've just spent an hour (or six) searching for and downloading materials. It is critical you take a moment to organize everything you just collected. You may have articles, citations, data, search strategies, quotations, notes, and/or more.

  • Put everything from one project in one place. This could be folder on your computer, a physical folder on your shelf and/or a folder in a citation management system. If you are working on two different papers or projects copy the materials that will be used for both into both locations.
  • Create an identifying label. Label your folders so they match with your project and you can find them when you need them.
  • Document. Even if you use a citation management program (e.g., RefWorks), you may want to create a bibliography (especially if you found quotations you may want to use later) and/or a separate document that includes the databases you searched and the search strategies (or the keywords) you used. (See Tracking your Searches.)

Tracking your Searches

Consider creating a Search Log. This can be used to track your searches through the databases. It could be in an Excel or a Word format - which ever works for you. The Concepts would be the key words related to your search. Related terms would include both author keywords and database subject/thesaurus terms for each concept.

(Note: For a larger view of this image, right click on it, then open in a new tab or window.)

For tips on searching, visit: 

Managing USC Libraries Citations

USC Libraries offers the option to save search strategies and individual citations. Always check to be sure you are signed in (click the Sign in three times if necessary). To Access your search strategy and saved records, click on the Clock or Pin icons.
Retrieve history or pinned citations My Favorites: Saved records, saved searches, search history

Save Searches (Query)

  • Save any search strategy you want to rerun; click Save Query or Pin under the search box
  • USe the bell under Saved Searches to set an alert Alert option; USC Libraries will run the search and send you an email when new items that have been added

Save Citations

  • Similarly, you can save a citation or other records to your favorites by clicking the Pin Record: Cite, email, pin, more
  • Add labels your records to identify the project(s) they are part of and be consistent with the labels across all your folder

Managing Your Resources - Citation Management Programs

Managing all the materials you find and review is a key to success. Citation management programs allow you to import references from various databases and organize them to meet your needs. For more information, visit the USC Libraries Citation Guide and Library Tips: Choosing a Citation Manager and Citation Managers.
Find additional Resource guides under More.

Automatic Citation Generators

Type in your information and have a citation compiled for you. Note that these are not foolproof systems so it is important that you verify that your citation is correct and check your spelling, capitalization, etc. However, they can be useful in creating basic types of citations, particularly for online sources.

  • BibMe -- APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian styles
  • DocsCite -- for citing government publications in APA or MLA formats
  • EasyBib -- APA, MLA, and Chicago styles
  • KnightCite -- APA, MLA, and Chicago styles
  • Scholar Space -- APA, MLA, and Chicago styles including citing uncommon sources
  • Son of Citation Machine -- APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian styles

NOTE:  Many companies that create the research databases the USC Libraries subscribe to, such as ProQuest, include built-in citation generators that help take the guesswork out of how to properly cite a work. When available, you should utilize these features because they not only generate a citation to the source [e.g., a journal article], but include information about where you accessed the source [e.g., the database].