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A Guide to English: Project Managemenet

What our faculty have said . . .

"Research is a recursive process."

"Knowledge is social and collaborative."

"Information has to be organized, and how it is organized makes a difference."

"You have a voice and something to say."


Zotero is a free program for saving citations, taking notes, and formatting reference lists. Once you download Zotero and install a browser connector, you can use it to save webpages, articles in databases, and book references from the library catalog, library databases, Amazon, or Google Books. Your collected references can be synced from one computer to another and can be accessed online through any web browser. Sort your references into project folders, tag them, add annotations and, when you want to create a reference, simply drag them into a document and choose a format. See the Zotero Quick Start Guide to get started, try our very brief general guide to Zotero, or see Jason Puckett's guide for more tips and strategies.

A note for Zotero users - you can set up Zotero to recognize content in our databases by clicking on Edit > preferences > Advanced, and adding under Resolver this URL:

Zotero works with Google Docs. An optional plug-in for Word (or Open Office) is also available. Open Zotero and install the plugin found under Tools - Options - Cite. The plugins will then be found in Word under the Add-Ins tab (PC) or under the scripts menu (Mac).

Want more information? Contact a reference librarian (folke @

NOTE: Though Zotero originally was developed as a Firefox plugin, it now must be downloaded as a standalone program with a Firefox connector installed as an add-on.

Organizing Sources

While you can track sources and take notes in any of a number of ways, at some point you need to sort them thematically to create a narrative about them - in other words, to write your literature review. How you do this is a matter of personal choice. Here are some ideas.

  • Print out a list of the sources you will include, then cut them into strips. Try moving them around to see which sources belong together thematically.
  • Get some sticky notes and write a source author and a keyword or phrase about why you are including it on each square. Stick them on a wall and see which should go together. Then decide what order you want to use as you describe them in your literature review. 
  • If you prefer working on a computer, you can use a program to map out relationships. Mindmup is pretty easy to figure out. You can drag and drop notes to organize them into clusters and lets you save your maps in Google Drive. Prezi lets you map out ideas; the free version doesn't allow you to keep your work private, though, and it requires a sign up. The upside is that you can dress it up in lots of a ways and make a splashy presentation with it as an alternantive to PowerPoint..

Citing Sources

You need to create citations in the form most commonly used by political scientists.The Chicago Manual of Style (or a refined version developed by the American Political Science Association) presents source information in a way that suits scholars in this discipline best.

Remember, if you use Zotero you absolutely MUST edit the results. There will be goof-ups that need to be fixed.

For the most basic kinds of citations, we have a quick guide that gives examples. For more examples, consult the Purdue OWL's guide. Or delve into the manuals shelved near the reference desk for all the details - especially the big fat Chicago style manaul.


Why Cite Sources?

There are at least three reasons why writers cite their sources:

  • To establish credibility with readers by calling on solid, reputable sources as "expert witnesses"
  • To provide readers with the information they need to delve further into the topic
  • To give credit where it's due and avoid plagiarism

When you are preparing a document,use this checklist to be sure your citaitons are complete.

  • Did I provide a reference for every idea that came from a source? Cite all of your sources, even if you put the information in your own words. You do not have to cite sources for "common knowledge" - factual information that can be found in multiple sources such as dates or widely-known information.
  • Do all of my in-text references have a complete citation in my list of sources and can the reader easily move from an in-text reference to the full citation in the list?
  • Does my reader have all the information needed to find each source? 

Because scholars in different disciplines emphasize different things when they read citations, there are many different styles. The MLA style, used for literary studies, makes sure author names and page numbers are provided in an in-text citation because the authorship and exactness of a quotation matters; the APA style used in psychology and other social sciences include the year of publication, because when research was conducted is considered particularly significant. The Chicago Style is used by disciplines such as political science, history and religion, which value sources so much it's common to put all the information about a source in a footnote as well as in a bibliography at the end of a paper.

How do I Use Sources Without Plagiarizing?

The trick to effective writing using sources is remember that sources come from people, and the people you cite are helping you build a case, make an argument, or explain ideas. Use your sources strategically - as allies and informants.

From a reader's perspective, it's helpful to know who you are relying on, so try to introduce your sources with a signal phrase that tells your reader where the source came from and why it's worth paying attention to. Here are some examples.

  • "In a report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, a federal agency that tracks crime, ..."
  • "According to Tim Wu, a law professor at Columbia University and an expert on net neutrality, ..."
  • "A 2011 study from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, a non-partisan, non-denominational research center, found that ..."

Though sources are important, how you talk about them in your own words is paramount. If you are paraphrasing sentences from a source, be careful that you aren't copying the sentence and just changing a word here and there. Even if you cite that source, copying too closely is considered plagiarism. Limit your use of direct quotations to those instances when accuracy of a key phrase is important or when you want to call attention to the particular wording of an idea.

In most cases, your best bet is to know your material well enough that you can set a source aside and write about its ideas in your own words. Otherwise, you run the risk of simply compiling a data dump or creating a patchwork of quotations. When you can sum up the gist of a source - its main point - instead of quoting from it excessively, that will save your reader time and will demonstrate that you really know the material. It will also leave more room for you to put your own stamp on the ideas you are writing about. 

For more about how plagiarism is handled at Gustavus, see the college's Academic Honesty Policy.


photo courtesy of Alfred Hermida

In the end . . .

Joining a conversation already in progress may be a lot of work, plowing through databases and dense prose, and figuring out the rules for introducing your readers to all the other voices that contribute to your ideas can be a time-consuming pain.

But in the end research is valuable - not just for making a point or getting a good grade, but for finding stuff out that can help you make up your mind, because then you have the tools to use your ideas to make the world a better place. 

change the politics

photo courtesy of Joanna Penn

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