Referencing other people's work

When researching online, it is easy to become caught up in the search for information and not keep good records of what you’ve found and where you found it.

If you intend to use other people’s work in any way, you must keep track of where you found the information because:

  1. You may need permission from the copyright holder to use the work, or
  2. You may wish to reference the research in footnotes.

If you don’t record this detail when you find it, you are likely to spend many hours searching for the sources later.

Ideally, recording the source of anything you wish to use for your book or whitepaper should begin as soon as you start research. So, when you find a quote, useful data, or that perfect image, don’t just copy and paste it into your Word document, be systematic and create a process to record where you found it. Here are a few methods I have found useful: 


Create a logically-ordered folder system and copy the URL – the website address – into the appropriate folder. Depending on how you work, you might make these folders large-scale ideas or more granular.

A Document

Create a Word document and copy and paste URLs, the section of text, or the image you may use. 

As you'ill need to find your search results later, a system of labels or tags is extremely useful. Depending on how much detail you need: 

  • Include a heading or descriptor with each URL
  • Create a tagging system that allows you to search for keywords, or
  • Write a note about where this quote or extract might be useful later.


Evernote is a wonderful piece of software that allows you to organise and store written notes, images, and voice recordings. First, create a ‘Notebook’ and within it ‘Notes’ for your major topics. Add keyword tags to your entries as you add go, so that you can find things again easily.

It backs up on to all your devices so you can quickly update when you find something new. I’m sure there is other software that offers similar functions, but I use this all the time.

Details to record

For quotes

  • It can sometimes be difficult to follow the trail of breadcrumbs back to the originator of a quote, but to ensure that you don't breach copyright, it's a critical process.

For references

  • Keep a copy of the exact text you wish to quote
  • If online, record the URL where you found the quote, if from a book, then note the title/sub-title, author, ISBN, and the page number of the text or item.
  • No matter how many references you use in the end, these small steps will reduce future frustrations, leaving you more time to write.