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How To Organize Your Research Paper, Footnotes, And Bibliography


Organization is the key to any form of communication, whether verbal or written. When it comes to organizing your research paper, organization is not an option, but an imperative. Good organization helps you, the writer, maintain a logical flow of ideas while keeping the content of your paper concise and on point.

The organization of your supporting material is equally important. Properly organizing one’s footnotes and reference materials will help you avoid the embarrassing, and sometimes costly mistake of not properly citing someone else’s work; this is what is known as plagiarism. Plagiarism should never been taken lightly. Most academic institutions have stiff penalties for the use of other’s work as one’s own without proper citation.

Proper organization of your paper will help you avoid plagiarism as you systematically list and cite the materials references in your research paper. To do this, I suggest you make an initial bibliography list in a separate Word doc, other word processing document, or on a sheet of paper. As you reference material or knowledge from a particular article, book, or review that you read, apply a footnote reference number, immediately following the content in your paper. Make a note at the bottom of the page that corresponds with the citation number.

i.e.- The prolific use of drugs by youth under 12 has caused an increase in sexually transmitted diseases.1

Footnote: 1 National Center for Disease Control (2014).

Your bibliography will include the full reference citation to all references footnoted within your research paper. Once the footnote is added, transfer (cut and paste or rewrite) the full reference citation to your bibliography page. Make sure that you properly format your references as required by your academic institution. An example of the above footnoted reference for the bibliography is as follows:

The trouble with youth and drugs: A sexual problem. (2014). National Center for Disease Control Journal 7(5), 234-256.

By systematically footnoting and adding to the bibliography page as you write, you will avoid potentially missing a reference citation. Referencing your research paper is the most important element of your work and therefore you should be judicious in the careful citation of your reference materials. This will help ensure that you give the proper credit, where credit is due. This adds to the credibility and originality of your work. Being diligent in how you organize and keep track of your reference material will help you stay on track, focused, and mindful of whose work you are drawing from.

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