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Interdisciplinary & Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research: Research Best Practices & Resources

A resource for student researchers and their faculty mentors.

Books & eBooks

Research Best Practices

  1. Keep a record of all of the books, articles, and websites that you think you MIGHT use.  This will save you a lot of time later when you need to write a reference/work cited list. It's always better to have an article that you don't use than to have to go back and find one you should have saved.
  2. Use the add the item or email records feature in the OneSearch and individual databases. Thus you will have all the record details that will come in handy to locate the items later if needed or when it comes time to write up the reference/work cited list.
  3. If you make photocopies from a print source, make sure that you record the source details such as author name, title, page numbers copies, etc.
  4. Develop a filing system by using folders and subfolders. For e.g., keep journal articles on particular research topics in a folder for that topic. 
  5.  Label your downloaded files in a systematic and consistent way: e.g. 'author, date, shortened title, keyword.' File named 149239080.pdf  will most likely not make sense later and you will have to open each of the documents to remind yourself why they are in your folders.
  6. Use citation generators in a database, but remember to double-check them against a trusted style guide.
  7. Label your own documents. "Paper.docx" is not going to be helpful in the future. Proudly display the paper's title or chapter's name in the filename as well as some way to indicate the version of your document. 
  8. Keep track of your versions. Whenever you send your writings to someone else, don't keep working on that same document. Make a new copy immediately and make changes in there. You want to be able to refer back to the older version that you sent out at a later time.
  9. Make backup copies of your work whether that means your notes or your final product. Use Google Drive or a cloud storage service of your choice.
  10.  Consider using citation management software (such as Mendeley or Zotero) to organize your database of references. 

What is a citation manager?

A citation manager is also called a reference manager and bibliographic manager.

It is a citation database that you build – create lists of articles, books, reports, videos, webpages, etc.

  • Software specially designed for students, scholars, and writers.
  • Formats and generates bibliographies (reference lists) using the citation style you specify (such as APA and MLA).
  • Store, search and organize your research. Add notes, links, PDFs and other file types.

Why use a citation manager?

  • Organize your sources and notes all in one place
  • Tagging allows you to group sources and draw connections
  • Search function helps you find sources and notes easily
  • Web browser extensions allow you to import items directly from the web
  • Easily create in-text citations and bibliographies
  • Collaborate with others on group research projects

There are many options for citation management software. Mendeley and Zotero.and two popular citation managers.


Mendeley is a free citation management system designed to help you gather and organize PDFs, cite references accurately when you write, and share documents with groups.

  • Set up your Mendeley account on the web, download the desktop application (Microsoft WindowsMacLinux) on any number of computers, and install the app on your mobile devices (iOSAndroid). Sync your Mendeley library between all your workspaces.
  • From the desktop application, download and install the Word Plugin compatible with Windows Word 2007, 2010, 2013; Mac Word 2011, 2016; and LibreOffice.
  • Install the Web Importer to save citations directly from databases.
  • Access your library anywhere using the online library.
  • Collaborate with group members and share citations.


Registering for a Free Mendeley Account and Downloading Mendeley Software

Go to and complete the following steps:

1. Create an account

2. Download Mendeley for Windows or Mac

3. Install the Web Importer for your preferred web browser.


Mendeley Help Guides & Video Tutorials 

Below are video tutorials and help guides to help you get up and running with Mendeley. The video tutorials provided below are about 3-4 minutes long.  You could also view additional Mendeley Video Tutorials as well as the help guides created by Mendeley.


Mendeley Help Guides

Getting started with Mendeley Web (Links to an external site.)

Get started with Mendeley Web Importer 

Mendeley Library: Store, organize and search all your documents in one secure place

Choosing a Citation Style

Using the Citation Plugin 

Getting started with Mendeley Cite

Mendeley Video Tutorials 

Registering for a Free Mendeley Account and Downloading Mendeley Software

Brian Wesolowski. Mendeley Tutorial 1 of 16: Registering for a Free Mendeley Account and Downloading Mendeley Software. YouTube. 16 June 2018


Organizing Existing PDFs and Citation Data

Brian Wesolowski. Mendeley Tutorial 6 of 16: Properly Managing Your Collection of Previously Downloaded PDFs. YouTube. 16 June 2018


Uploading PDFs and Referencing Data Simultaneously Through Databases

Brian Wesolowski. Mendeley Tutorial 7 of 16: Uploading PDFs and Referencing Data Simultaneously Through DatabasesYouTube. 16 June 2018


References and Bibliographies Using the Microsoft Word Plugin

Brian Wesolowski. Mendeley Tutorial 15 of 16: References and Bibliographies Using the Microsoft Word Plugin. YouTube. 16 June 2018


Working with In-Text Citations and the Microsoft Word Plugin

Brian Wesolowski. Mendeley Tutorial 16 of 16: Working with In-Text Citations and the Microsoft Word Plugin. YouTube. 16 June 2018



Zotero is a free citation management system where you can collect, manage, cite, and share research. You can use it to store citations, highlight and annotate webpages, and collaborate by using groups through Zotero's website. All your citations will be saved to the Zotero server.

Download Zotero Library and Connector:

  1. Close all Microsoft products on your computer (including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, etc.)
  2. Go to
  3. Download and install the Zotero desktop application
  4. Install the appropriate Zotero Connector for your browser (we recommend using Chrome or Firefox)
  5. Set up a user account
    • Upper right corner > Log In > Register for Free Account
    • Use a personal email address to ensure access to your library content after you graduate.

Backup and Sync Your Library

  1. Open the Zotero desktop app
  2. Click Edit (on PC) or Zotero (on Mac) > Preferences >Sync
  3. Enter your Zotero username and password
  4. Check "sync automatically"
  5. Check both boxes under "File Syncing"


Zotero Help Guides & Video Tutorials 

Below are video tutorials and help guides to help you get up and running with Zotero. The video tutorials provided below are about 3-4 minutes long.  You could also view additional Zotero Video Tutorials. as well as the help guides created by Zotero.

Zotero Help Guides

Installation Instructions

Quick Start Guide 

Adding and Saving Content including Webpages 

Adding Saved and Linked Files

Syning Your Zoteor Library 

Creating Work Cited and Reference Lists 

Choosing Citation Styles 


Zotero Video Tutorials


Zotero: Introduction and Downloading

                                 McGill Library. Zotero Tutorial: Introduction. YouTube. 14 June 2019


Zotero Register Account Instructions

                                          Brian Rohman. Zotero Register Account Instructions. YouTube. 16 February 2016


Capturing References from the Web

                                                     Zotero Tutorial: Collecting References. YouTube. 14 June 2019


Adding PDFs and Other Attachments

                                           McGill Library. Zotero Tutorial: Attachments and Notes. YouTube. 14 June 2019


Syncing Your Local and Internet

                                           McGill Library. Zotero Tutorial: Online Syncing. YouTube. 14 June 2019


Organizing Your Library

                                           McGill Library. Zotero Tutorial: Getting Organized. YouTube. 14 June 2019


Adding In-text citations

                                             McGill Library. Zotero Tutorial: In-text Citations. YouTube. 14 June 2019


Adding Footnotes 

                                           McGill Library. Zotero Tutorial: Footnote Citations. YouTube. 14 June 2019


Creating References and Citations

                                           McGill Library. Zotero Tutorial: Creating References & Citations. YouTube. 14 June 2019


Group Collaborations

                                           McGill Library. Zotero Tutorial: Groups Collaborations. YouTube. 14 June 2019

Reading & Notetaking 

Reading mindfully means engaging and interacting with your text. Such mindful process will help you understand your texts better and remember the information longer. One way to do that is to take notes while reading.

  • Mark up the margins of your text with notes about the text. Notes could include:
    • main points/ideas of a paragraph in your own words (shortened and simplified)
    • evidence and key points
    • interesting quotes
    • ideas that occur to you
    • notes about things that seem important to you
    • observations on how the readings connect, confirm, or contradict other readings you have done
    • reminders of how the content of the text may connect with your research
  • Develop your own symbol system. For example:
    • asterisk (*) a key idea,
    • exclamation point (!) for the surprising, absurd, bizarre.


Remember, you are writing these notes for your future self. When you review the text later, your notes will help you remember the content quickly.


Hand Written or Digital?

There are varying thoughts on whether notetaking by hand is more beneficial than typing on a computer or a digital device. Below are some articles that can help you decide how you want to take notes. 

Cole, N. (2020). Pros and cons of typed, digitally handwritten, and paper notes, GUTS Tip. Greater University Tutoring Service. Retrieved from

Hammond, C. (2019). When the best way to take notes is by hand. BBC Future. Retrieved from

Martin, R. & Mueller, P. (2016). Attention students put your laptops away. NPR. Retrieved from

Young, J. (2021). A popular study found that taking notes by hand is better than by laptop. But is it? EdSurge. Retrieved from 


Some content on this page is borrowed from the University of Maryland Libraries Research Guide Organizing your research authored by H.M. Le and Y. Luckert.