Organizing Your Research Sources: Double-Entry Journal


A key component to avoiding plagiarism is
developing a consistent and clear way of tracking your sources and keeping notes on your sources. Tracking your sources as you research is like
leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for yourself. The path you take through information sources
like books, articles, and websites, is almost never straight or predictable. With all the twists and turns you take, you
might need a reliable way back to a source you passed by, or a source you used and now
need to cite. The method for tracking sources that we demonstrate
here is called a Double-Entry Journal. It addresses key issues that come up any time
you have sources to keep track of: Source citation information, the source’s location,
those ideas and quotes from the source that you want to save, and those ideas and questions
that come up for you during your research. This method can be adapted to any format you
like, including paper and pencil if that’s your preference. Here we demonstrate with Microsoft Word, but
any word processing program on any device or operating system will work. First, open up a new document – you will
use this only as a research tracker, so keep it separate from your paper or presentation. Give it a heading, then insert a 2-column
table. Click “Insert” in the menu, then “Table”
in the ribbon below. Select 2 columns by as many rows as you like. Between 5 and 10 rows is probably a good number
to start with. Then click on the words “Insert table”
as shown here. Use one row of the table for each resource
you consult. The left side column is for information directly
from the source, and the right side column is for your own original words and ideas. To start, type or copy + paste information
about the source into the left column. You want to include everything you’ll need
to cite the source, or simply copy and paste a citation if one is available. Then type in a note about where you found
the resource: For example, from the Library, a website, a book borrowed from a friend. Include a link too, if the source was found
online. Since the left column has information directly
from the source, it will have direct quotes, as well as summaries and paraphrases. Note how helpful this is: anything from the
left column that you use in your paper will need to be cited. As you add information, use quotation marks
around quotes, and page numbers for everything. You’ll need those when you go to create
your in-text citations for your paper. Remember to make use of the right column too. It’s there to track your own ideas and questions. It’s a place for you to process your own
responses to what you’re reading, and track any questions that come up for you as well. As you read and research more, continue to
add more quotes and ideas for each source. As you locate more sources, add them into
the table you created. Start a new row for each new source, always
starting with information on citing and locating the source. By using this method, you will always be able
to find a source again, and always know where a quote, phrase, or idea came from. As a nice bonus, the notes you make in the
right side column might provide a head start on a first draft of your paper.

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