Student Weekly Tips: Writing and Referencing

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With coursework, lab report and essay deadlines coming, we bring you tips on writing and referencing. Make your essays and coursework read smoother.

Struggling to start? Try this technique:

Freewriting is a great technique to get ideas down on paper just to show you how much you really know (and it’s usually a lot more than you think) as well as what you want to investigate next. It allows you to get your ideas onto paper without judgement and just let your writing flow. It is also a great way to write something knowing you are very unlikely to plagiarize something as you are not writing as you are reading.” — Rachel, Fashion Management and Marketing

“Usually when writing a review article or the introduction/background section of a lab report, I start off with having a word document for messy notes. In the document I write the title and paste the links for all the articles I look at. To this I copy and paste relevant sections or take a note of the article being unhelpful/unrelated. This way I can keep track of everything I read, to not waste time with re-reading unhelpful articles, and be able to find the article for which I remember a fact. This is really helpful when I am only starting to understand a topic, for which I skim through papers that are somewhat based around the research topic I’m interested in. Only after I have a basic understanding of the topic, do I start writing the text. When writing this text, I reference right away, for which the messy notes document is helpful as I have collated all relevant links.” — Isabella, Materials Science and Engineering

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Improving your Writing Skills

“I find having a one-stop document for all my sources helps make report writing an ease. For this I use Notion which lets you create these “universal documents” that can have all forms of data like tables, webpages, images etc embedded into a single page.” — Raghav Vashishtha, Mechatronic Engineering

“I set up an Excel spreadsheet with multiple tabs for different sub topics for an essay. Then in each one I write down all the details for a source (including findings, limitations, future research, methods and extra notes that I need for me). This is usually only for the papers I find I will want to return to however, it is generally hand for any scan reads of resources too as you may find these handy further into your research and writing.” — Rachel, Fashion Management and Marketing

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Making Referencing easier

“When I am writing notes on something I have read, I always use the full reference as the title so I have it prepared and can just copy and paste it into my assignments once I start writing. Then, when I begin writing my assignments, the references are easily accessible and I don’t have to keep stopping to try and find them. Also, the best advice I’ve had about referencing is to always do it as you go along. Every time you add a footnote to your essay, add in the reference, instead of leaving them all to do at the end. This means you are less likely to lose a reference or page number as you can write them up whilst it is fresh in your mind or you have the book or article in front of you. This also saves you from having to try and do all of your referencing after you have completed your assignment when you are tired and stressed, especially if you are getting close to your deadline! You will do a much better job at this when you don’t have to rush it because your referencing is already done!” — Lily, History

“Discovering EndNote really saved me so much time when referencing! The first time it takes a while, but once I got used to the format, it’s extremely easy to use. Most of the scientific papers have the option of directly downloading the reference as a ‘.ris’, ‘.nbib’ or ‘.enw’ file, which already includes all the relevant data, so you don’t need to spend time on filling in the author, title, year (etc.). However, if you wish you can edit these, add notes or even attach the full pdf document. These sources are then saved to the EndNote library, and it only takes a click to add an in-text reference into a Word document, which also automatically updates a reference list at the end of the text. EndNote also allows you to switch between different referencing styles. For scientific writing I usually use a numerated style, while humanities usually use Harvard. Manchester even has its own Harvard Manchester style, so feel free to check that out. Most importantly with referencing is not the style, but that you are consistent with what style you use for the entire document! For more help on setting up EndNote visit the University’s website. If you are still struggling with your referencing go to one of the University’s library drop-ins or referencing drop-ins where a member of staff can help you with your specific questions.” — Isabella, Materials Science and Engineering

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“In conjunction with EndNote I use this website called zbib.org which automatically extracts the relevant information from a website or a web article to generate a ‘RIS’ file which opens in EndNote to generate your reference. Since I’ve added it to my workflow, I’ve noticed that I started using more online articles with which I previously held back due to the effort of manually filling in all the fields. If you’re not very keen on EndNote, citethisforme.com is brilliant for generating bibliographies and in text references that you can manually copy over to your document, Microsoft Word has a built-in reference manager which allows for easy source sharing through simply sharing the Word document. Though it’s a bit more hassle than EndNote, it makes it easier to for a group to add to the same document as it’s simply built-in.” — Raghav Vashishtha, Mechatronic Engineering

“Definitely put some time aside to get to know a referencing software as soon as you can (other than the manual Word referencing tool). I only got familiar with EndNote during my PGCert and now using it constantly throughout my PhD and don’t know where I’d be without it. There are multiple referencing software programmes but the University is currently focusing on EndNote for the majority of support.” — Rachel, Fashion Management and Marketing

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Thanks for reading this week’s tips, we’ll be back next week!

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Library Student Team

Library Student Team

The University of Manchester Library Student Team