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Information Skills - Using Another Author's Reference List

Reference Lists

Publishing conventions (e.g. APA, MLA, CSE...) dictate the complete list of sources used in a publication looks to the reader.  You may see the term Works Cited, References, or Bibliography. The entries may be alphabetized or ordered to match where they appear in the text.  They may be collected in long lists at the end of the paper or as footnotes at the bottom of every page.

However they appear, reference lists allow you to get into the brain of the author!  Using their list as a guide for your own research will save you time and give you context to issues within a subject area.

5 Ways to Use a Reference List for Research

  1. Gather additional keywords to improve your own search strategies. The terms that other authors use in their titles are likely preferred terms in the field and will help you in future searching.
  2. Find articles or publications that don't appear in your Molstead Library search results. As librarians, our dream is to give users immediate access to EVERYTHING. The reality, however, is that quality materials are expensive!  At a minimum, they require 1) subject expertise of the authors, 2) strong editors, 3) professional publishers to format and print the information and 4) individuals like database employees or librarians to organize all the information so it can be located for use.  If you find "the perfect article" in a reference list, but we don't have access to it through Molstead Library, submit an InterLibrary Loan request. We will get it to you as soon as possible!
  3. Discover big-name authors in a field. If you see an author's name repeatedly in a reference list, it probably means they are a leader in the subject.  Make a mental note to find some of their original work.
  4. See the variety of document types that can be used to support your thesis.  If a professional before you used journal articles, books, conference proceedings or government documents to argue their points, the same type of documents will probably help you.
  5. Familiarize yourself with professional publishing standards of your field.  The more lists you see, the more comfortable you will become at creating and formatting your own reference lists.