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How Do I Start My Research?

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" and go back to Step 3 and 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.

All of the librarians are here to give you suggestions. Please feel free to reach out to us. 

More Citation Help


For more information on what needs a citation and what doesn't,

visit our Citation Help Guide 

Look for the PDF handouts on the right hand side.

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 the HELM Catalog or search EDS to find other style guides relevant to your discipline.

Citation Styles

The citation style that you use (APA, MLA, Chicago) 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 your campus Library) or check out the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) website:

Major Citation Styles


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 Science


Writing Center

Writing Center Information

A FREE service for students!

FAQs for Students

1. Why should I use the Writing Center?
We help to build upon the skills that you are learning in your writing classes and show you how to transfer those skills into the writing that you will do in other disciplines. Working with a writing tutor allows you to fine-tune your writing skills, which are in high demand in the workforce.

2. Does it cost anything to come to the Writing Center?
No, we are a free service.

3. Can I get help for papers in courses other than English?
Absolutely! We are here to help all writers, regardless of coursework. In fact, we can also meet with you to discuss writing you have done that is not course-related. Students have brought us papers for culinary arts, psychology, economics, history, criminal justice, human services, and other disciplines. Some students have brought in PowerPoint presentations, scholarship essays, and resumes.

4. Do I have to make an appointment?
No, we are offering drop-in tutoring. If you find that you are not able to attend our drop-in hours, please send us an e-mail to request an individualized appointment:

5. Are you offering any in-person tutoring?
We are offering in-person drop-in tutoring and also drop-in tutoring via Zoom, which is a lot like being in-person except for the fact that we are connecting via video conference. We also offer asynchronous feedback on drafts via e-mail. If you aren’t sure how to use some of Zoom’s features, your tutor will be able to assist you with them.

6. What is the difference between synchronous and asynchronous tutoring?
Synchronous tutoring allows you to connect with a tutor in real time. You will be able to talk directly to them, share your document with them, and get feedback right away. Sessions are limited to 30 minutes but can be extended to 45 minutes if there are no other students waiting.

Asynchronous tutoring allows you to e-mail a paper to us, and we will offer you suggestions for improving it within 24-36 hours. This tutoring is never done in real time.

7. Do I need to have a draft of the paper?
A draft is not necessary for synchronous tutoring, but it is for asynchronous tutoring. Students come to the Writing Center for a variety of reasons. Some need help getting started on the paper. Other students need help critically reading a source for a research paper or their textbook for a class. Some are working on organizing their ideas. Others seek help revising their work, sometimes after receiving instructor feedback. Writing Center tutors are here to help you at any stage of the writing process. Even in the digital environment, we are prepared to offer you a variety of options that best suit your needs as a student.

8. What should I bring to an appointment?
Anything that is connected to your assignment. Since we are connecting virtually, have your assignment and assignment sheet open on your desktop. You will be able to share these files with your tutor if you connect synchronously.

If you are sending a draft for asynchronous feedback, then please send your assignment sheet along with your 3 major concerns about your writing. Please send us .doc or .docx files that are attached to your e-mail (not file shared).

9. What will we do during the synchronous appointment?
Your tutor will ask you what you would like help with and will offer advice for you to consider. We want you to leave with more than what you brought to the session and to offer you the specific feedback that you want. Many sessions involve doing some writing or making changes to a draft in progress. Usually, the tutor or the student will read the writing out loud. Sessions involve a back and forth conversation between tutor and student, so we hope you relax and feel free to ask any questions you have. You can expect to leave a session with a specific revision plan that will guide you through the next steps for revising your paper.

10. How often can I come to the drop-in tutoring?
As often as you like.

11. What is the difference between the Library Learning Commons and the Writing Center?
The Library Learning Commons is a centralized location for research assistance, tutoring and academic support services, including the Writing Center. If you would like help learning subject material from a course, you would make an appointment with a subject tutor at the Learning Commons. If you need help finding sources, you would make an appointment with one of the librarians. For any writing or reading-related help, you would want to make an appointment with a Writing Center tutor.

12. Who works at the Writing Center?
Peer, professional, and faculty tutors work at the Center. Peer tutors have earned at least a B+ in ENG 101 and ENG 102, received a recommendation from their professors, and have completed writing tutor training with the Writing Center Coordinator. Professionals have a Masters degree and extensive training in tutoring writing. Faculty tutors teach writing in their courses. As a student, you can decide with whom you'd like to work.