Learning About Documentation

Some of the most frustrating experiences with writing a research paper can be struggling to locate citation information hours before your paper is due and not knowing what requires citation. Let us help you manage your stress by preparing you to collect your documentation data.

Before you begin researching and taking notes on your sources, it is important that you do some preliminary work to find out what kind of information you need to include in your documentation. Then you will be able to record this information as you research and write. Familiarizing yourself with documentation guidelines ahead of time will also help you avoid unintentional plagiarism.

The University Writing Center provides several resources for you to learn about documentation standards before you tackle your research tasks.

  • Pick up documentation handouts in the center. We have compiled handouts to address the most frequently asked questions about style standards, including explanations and examples of how to cite commonly used sources (books, journals, online journals and web sites).
  • View or download handouts online. Our handouts are available here
  • Use our documentation manuals and handbooks. We shelve dozens of style guides, including the most recent editions of MLA, APA, Turabian, and Chicago handbooks. You can review books on your own at the center or work with a consultant to find out how best to use the manuals and discuss the most important concepts for your paper.
  • Work one-on-one with a consultant to talk through questions and problems concerning documentation. You can even bring in your preliminary sources, learn about how to cite them and begin to compile your documentation.

To visit the University Writing Center for help with documentation, schedule an appointment (262-3144) and bring your assignment sheet and course syllabus, which often indicate what style standard you should follow. Here are some questions to ask your instructor when the style is not specified in class:

  1. Which documentation style do you prefer? What is the standard for this discipline?
  2. Do you have your own guidelines that you would prefer me to follow?
  3. Do you prefer parenthetical documentation or footnotes (or endnotes)?
  4. Do you require specific heading and page number formats?
  5. Do you have an example of proper/acceptable citation that you can show me?