Taking Careful Notes

In recent years, several famous scholars have been accused of plagiarism.  Some have mentioned bad note-taking practices as the cause of their mistakes: in taking information from another source, these scholars had copied several sentences without putting them in quotation marks.  When they transformed the notes into their own text, they believed the sentences to be their own and presented them as such.  The result was plagiarism.

Such inadvertent plagiarism can be avoided by following these guidelines:

  • Use a program like RefWorks or EndNote to keep track of your citations.

  • Write down the author, title, and page number of each source every time you quote directly, paraphrase, or jot down useful facts and figures.

  • Paraphrase accurately.

  • Keep a running list of all sources:  articles, books, online sources and their URLs.

By following these steps, you can avoid the unpleasant scenario of spending hours trying to retrace your steps in order to locate the source from which you obtained your information.

The MIT Libraries provide support for several citation management products including EndNote, RefWorks, Zotero, and Mendeley.