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5 Tips for Managing Unruly References

As authors research information to help support the work in their paper, they spend a great deal of time reading references. All too often we wind up with a stack of papers or computer files full of references. These references are important so that authors can cite the information from other sources that they wish to use to either support, acknowledge, or contradict their research. How do we organize and choose the correct references? In this blog we share five easy steps for managing references.

 

1. Sort your references into categories.

 


Most papers have an introduction, materials and methods, results, and conclusion/discussion section. It is best if you sort your references into those categories. The introduction should use references that provide historical information relevant to the paper topic. References used in the materials and methods should help the reader know why the author decided to use particular methods and how those methods are best utilized. When we select references for the results, they can be sub-categorized into those that support or contradict the data. The conclusion/discussion section draws once again on references that support the historical context necessary to understand the work and these references must also aid in the discussion of the relevant data.

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2. Use quality references.

It is important to use the most original reference possible. Additionally, authors need to use up-to-date and reliable references. The authors want to use references that have been peer-reviewed by leaders in the topic field. Peer-reviewed references have been checked for errors by knowledgeable reviewers well-versed in the field being studied.

3. Select references that are easy for people to access.

As our ever-expanding world of technology makes more information available, this is an easier step to manage. Still, we most often should select references that are in the same language as the paper being presented and easy to access by everyone with either access to the internet or a library.

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4. Keep the references to a manageable number.

Unless you are writing a review article and need to tie in the information you are sharing with an extensive number of other papers, select only the most pertinent sources. If a point needs to be validated by external references, this is most often accomplished by referring to three or four sources from unique author sets. Using a few select but widely accepted references that trace back to experts in the field will help readers of the paper being presented better understand the importance of this new work to the field of study.

5. Have all your references printed or in electronic format and easy to access.

In this new day and age there are multiple electronic programs that can be used to sort, catalog, and manage references. All too often people focus on getting the references into these bibliography programs and forget that it is the content of the reference that is critical. Authors need to have the abstract and a few notes about the paper easily accessible and a copy (printed or electronic) of the complete paper should be available. By having the information readily available, it alleviates improper citations and the possibility of plagiarism.

Follow these five suggestions and you will find that managing your references becomes less of a chore!

Graduate Student Survival Guide

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You know those kids from high school, the ones who couldn’t decide what they wanted to do with their lives and got full time jobs straight after graduation? They looked at you with a twinge of envy as you headed off to college while they loaded up on dress suits and sensible shoes. They were certain they’d be following after you in a couple of years; you were certain they’d spend the rest of their lives picking up the boss’s dry cleaning and making coffee for high-powered executives.

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Now, however, you are beginning to doubt yourself. After four years of undergraduate life, a crummy part time job, and riding the bus everywhere, your friends’ lives are starting to look rather enviable. Their full time wages dwarf your measly graduate student earnings and their lifestyle clearly sits a few rungs higher up on the socioeconomic ladder than yours. Resist the urge to start comparing accomplishments because, at this point in your life, you won’t come out ahead.

Help me I'm poor

Your friends in the outside world have been working for a few years now, and they have the consumer lifestyle to prove it. They drive around in the latest hipster-colored micro car while you are still riding the bus on a student pass. They dine out at restaurants with tablecloths and menus that change with the seasons, while you subsist on microwave dinners and cafeteria food. Their clothes reflect the latest fashions and they hang out at trendy bars sipping expensive cocktails. You live in jeans and khakis, topped with t-shirts bearing such witty slogans as “Come to the nerd side. We have pi.”

Come to the nerd side, we have Pi

Your version of a night out on the town is Two Dollar Tuesdays at the student pub, where the antics of freshmen students reveling in their newfound freedom long ago ceased to be entertaining.

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Your friends rent condos in the heart of the city, furnished with matching sofas and chairs, big screen TVs, and bathrooms all to themselves. You, on the other hand, are possibly still living with your parents, accepting home cooked meals and complementary laundry service in exchange for house rules that haven’t changed since you were 15 and frequent interrogations regarding your study habits and social life. Or perhaps you are sharing a shabby rental house with five other students who are equally cash-strapped and lacking in domestic skills, and with whom you compete for hot showers and space in the refrigerator.

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Yes, compared to life as a graduate student, your working friends out there in the Real World seem to be doing very well. But trust me when I say that this is merely an illusion. What you need is a glimpse into the future to put things in perspective…

It’s twenty years from now and your friends are mostly married with children. The earnings that seemed like a windfall fresh out of high school aren’t so flush now that there are mortgages, health and life insurance premiums, and kids who need orthodontic work. Your friends long ago gave up their fancy bachelor pad rentals downtown and now live in cookie-cutter subdivisions way out in some far-flung suburb. They traded in their micro car for a minivan but they commute by public transit because it’s faster and less expensive. At work, they are still waiting for the fourteen guys ahead of them in seniority to either retire or die so they can move up the career ladder, but the most they can hope for is a lower management position because the upper ones are filled exclusively by those with—you guessed it—college degrees.

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Oh, they didn’t plan it this way. But you see, you were smart: it’s easy to decide on a few more years of student poverty when that’s all you’ve known since graduating high school. But when it came time for your friends to consider going back to college, they were already living lifestyles that were hard to give up. The idea of going back to pizza nights and dormitory life was too difficult to endure, so they put it off and put if off and now most of them are just looking forward to retirement so they can finally do something interesting.

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So hang in there, graduate students. The grass may seem greener on the Real World side of the fence right now, but in a few years you’ll see that you made the right choice. You’ll find that, since your friends were too immature to save any of that money they were earning while you were in college, in the end they didn’t come out ahead of you at all.

What like it's hard? Harvard grad student

And while you now have an enjoyable and upwardly mobile career ahead of you, they are waking up to the realization that they inadvertently made a career out of a job that was supposed to be a holdover until they decided what to do with their lives. Try to keep that image in mind the next time you see one of your acquaintances looking all sharp and fashionable on their way to the newest club. You’ll have your revenge one day, I promise.

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Word Crimes With Weird Al

This might be the best thing posted on the internet this year.

We’re going to accept this as an endorsement from Weird Al:

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The song is on Weird Al’s latest album, “Mandatory Fun,” on sale now.

5 Things To Do Before Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

As our economy changes, more people are starting businesses, developing and marketing product that will make a difference for the world, and reaping the rewards of being an entrepreneur. All entrepreneurs have the drive and passion but many lack the preparation. Without preparation, the largest hurdle for most entrepreneurs is the financial success. Many people start with great ideas only to crash and burn nine or eighteen months down the road. Here are five things that every entrepreneur must do before he or she charges down the leadership path of entrepreneurship.

1. Take care of your personal finances.

The key here is to pay down your personal debt. If you are carrying more debt than you can handle with your current employment, it is time to downsize and pay off or eliminate debt before you follow your entrepreneurial spirit. Develop a monthly budget that you can stick to and takes into consideration emergencies such as car repairs, medical bills, and extra household expenses. Make certain you have at least a 12-month reserve of money to pay your bills. As an entrepreneur, you might not get your first paycheck for many months so be prepared to pay your bills from savings.

2. Make certain any of your contractual obligations will not affect your focus.

Look over previous employment contracts and make certain what you are deciding to pursue will not be in violation of that agreement. Review all current agreements you are involved with and if you plan on working part or full time as you follow this dream, make certain you can explain to your current employer how this will not affect your work performance.

3. Limit your distractions.

We all need to have our “fun” and have time for family but it is critical that anything outside of family time be evaluated for how it may take away from your focus on entrepreneurial activities. Keep in mind that you need a few diversions to help you balance your health and mental welfare but you just might have to give up a few of the extra-curricular activities. As a good way of planning your time, limit those extra activities to no more than 90 minutes a day on average.

4. Clean up your social media look.

You are going to be meeting with investors, bankers, potential partners, and of course, those who will purchase your product/idea/service and you need to look professional. Of course, you will dress the part but many of the people you will meet might check out your Facebook or Linked-In profiles, stop by your Instagram or Twitter accounts, and even read your blog. Sometimes when we are having fun, we might post pictures or say things we do not want to share as an entrepreneur. Clean up that image and show your best side.

5. Have a 12-month plan.

This plan needs to include your personal as well as entrepreneurial/business budget. Write, rewrite, edit, review, and seek counsel from trusted friends, colleagues, or professionals on the business plan. Include your vacation, medical appointments, and important events on the calendar portion of your 12-month plan. All of these ideas are very important for people setting off on entrepreneurial projects. The important thing to note is that these ideas also apply to anyone wanting to apply for a new job, write that first book, or set out on any new adventure.

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