Bibliographies and References: Why You Should Keep Track

So you’re making a start on that big essay or dissertation?

It can seem insurmountable, but the fact that you’re making a start is fantastic. Although, you might well be procrastinating writing it at this moment by surfing the internet and coming upon this post…

Regardless, I’m here to give you tips while making a start, because there are ways to help yourself now that you’ll thank yourself for later.


It’s sometimes difficult to go back and find where you read something.

As you’re researching and reading to prepare and write your essay, you’ll be looking at a lot of material. A lot. If you quote or allude to someone else’s writing while you’re in the zone, you might be tempted to just come back to it later to jot down the details. Be warned: you will find it much more difficult later on to source the exact place you found it.

The best way to do it? Make note of your sources — even if you’re not sure you’ll use them - and you’ll thank yourself later.

What can you do to keep track as you go along?

There are several ways to keep track of your sources that will help you in the long run.

Something as simple as a Word doc or Excel spreadsheet can be easily set up to record your references for later. Just copying and pasting a link to the work will do for the most basic list. If it’s a physical book, journal, or other source, you can make note of those manually, too.

If you want to be more thorough, try creating columns for authors’ names, the link for the work, the page numbers, etc. If you really want to help yourself later, take the time to prepare each one in your university’s or department’s preferred referencing style.

Another method for keeping your references up-to-date is to use specially-designed software, such as Zotero or Medeley. These are both free software that allow you to search and store academic papers and articles in project folders, meaning that you’ll have everything collated together easily. Even better, you can output your references at the end of your project in whatever guide you need, be it Harvard, Chicago, or something else.

One of the most important things is to make notes to help your future self make sense of all your saved articles and papers. This could be as simple as summarising the main themes or ideas, noting the important sections, chapters, or paragraphs, or telling yourself to review it again before citing as you only gave it a skim-read before. Your future self will thank you!

There’s no one, best way to keep track of your references — find one that works for you! I’d love to hear about your methods in the comments.

Until next time,


Emily YoungComment