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PALNI Information Literacy Modules

Set of 14 modules available for use as LMS or LibGuide versions

Module 9: Organizing Sources


Works Cited Slips ans Source cards

(Marie Slim, Works Cited Slips ans Source cards, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Learning Outcomes

After completing this module, you will be able to:

  • Construct an organization system for compiled research sources using note cards or online organization / citation management tools.
  • Employ ethical practices of incorporating sources into one’s own work through quotations, paraphrases, and summaries.

Most problems with citations begin at the note-taking stage. Three common problems are:

  1. Notes lacking enough publication information to find the original article and/or passage in the article (or NO notes!).
  2. Notes that jumble summary, paraphrase, direct quotation, and/or your own commentary.
  3. The avalanche of web browser tabs. It's 3 am, and you're copying and pasting quotes from 17 open tabs.

Needless to say, finding and organizing your notes and corresponding research is key to a successful research paper.

Select a tool for organizing your notes

Paper Index Cards

Everyware Notes  

(Jazz DiMauro, Everyware Notes, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Go with the old standard. Paper index cards are a simple and straightforward way to help organize your research and a favorite among many researchers. Make sure you have a system in place for how to organize the information on the cards as well as how to organize the cards themselves.

Basic Online Tools: Google Keep, Trello, etc.

Google Keep note art  

(sagesolar, Google Keep note art, CC BY 2.0)

Select an online tool to organize your research. There are many free and simple to use tools available. 

One example is Google Keep, a Google product of online sticky notes. These notes are shareable, searchable, and taggable, which makes them very useful for research and projects. They integrate seamlessly with Google Docs to help you organize your research and take notes.  

Another online tool, Trello, organizes your research into individual cards. You can provide notes, links to sources, and images within each expandable, electronic notecard.

Advanced Online Tools: Citation Managers

Zotero up close  

(Karin Dalzie, Zotero up close, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Zotero, Mendeley, and RefWorks are online cloud applications to collect, organize, and format citations (as well as the actual sources themselves!). They can download full citation information from anything on the web, store and organize citations in folders, and create in-text citations and full bibliographies according to citation styles (MLA, APA, etc.) in your paper. While they take some upfront time to set up, they will save you time in the long run.

Make sure to thoroughly annotate your citations.


(Vossler, 2016)

  1. When you find a promising article, before you do anything else, write down all the publication information. If you use Word or Google Docs, copy and paste this information from the website or database. If you use a Citation Manager (i.e. Zotero, Mendeley, or RefWorks ), you can export this information directly from the web into your citation manager.
  2. When you encounter a useful passage, before you do anything else, put down the page number(s) where you found the quotation. If the article has no page numbers, put down the section number or heading.
  3. Then, either:
    • Put down the author's words verbatim, with quotations marks ("") around them, to make it clear to you that these are all the author's words (If you leave out a chunk of text, note missing text with ellipses (...)).
    • OR summarize or paraphrase the passage. Mark a big S or P to indicate summary or paraphrase. If you use a phrase verbatim, put quotation marks around it.
  4. If you want to make a note about the passage, do that as well, but mark ME next to it, to indicate that these are your own words or ideas.
  5. Repeat, as often as necessary. Some articles may produce a dozen notes; others only one.
  6. When it's time to write the paper, use the note system as you need it. Having a system in place makes it easy to insert author, year, and page # citations as you write, and makes it easy to differentiate between the author's words and your own words and ideas.


The content for this module was drawn from the following sources:

Kearney, V. (2020, July 17). Examples of summary, quotation and paraphrase. Owlcation.

LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research, Texas A&M University. (2016, April 29). Understanding copyright as an undergraduate Researcher. Let us LAUNCH “U” into research!

Runge, S. (2019, September 19). Citing with integrity: How to organize sources. Boston College Libraries Research Guides.

Sevryugina, Y. V. (2020, May 20). Navigating science databases. Discovering scholarly literature by using science literature databases. Canvas Commons.

Vossler, J. (2016). Organizing sources [Video]. Vimeo.


Take a screenshot or photograph of your completed work after completing the following scenario:

You are writing a paper on the biological invasion of grey squirrels in Europe. You found four quotes online, but now need to prepare them for your paper.

  • In order to be able to save the red squirrels and ensure their future in this country, it is absolutely crucial to eliminate the greys which, as you know, are an alien species to the UK and threaten the very existence of the reds, - Source Link
  • In all the visited parks, red squirrels disappeared after quite a short period of coexistence with greys - Source Link 
  • The success of the invasion in spite of the genetic disadvantage of the [grey squirrel] population demonstrates the overall ability of the species as an invader in Europe. - Source Link 
  • We don't normally think of squirrels as killers, but North America's eastern gray squirrels ( Sciurus carolinensis ) have actually been called one of the worst invasive species on the planet. - Source Link

Organize the following four sources and their corresponding quotes by one of the three methods mentioned (paper index cards, basic online tools, or advanced online tools). Use steps 1 - 3 listed under “Make sure to thoroughly annotate your citations” along with the organizational method.


See the Google doc here for quiz questions and answers. Please note, this document is stored on the PALNI team drive and is only accessible to those who work in a PALNI school.


Creative Commons License

All of the PALNI Information Literacy Modules are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.