In high school, works cited pages always gave me pause. I would print the specifications of the bibliography style and take great care not to misplace a period or a comma. Invariably, it took me far longer than I expected. When I was in college, I started to use sites like Easybib. But by then, I had a lot more material to review and it wasn’t as simple as producing a works cited page.
What I needed was an easier way to navigate through my research and access the information. I now encourage undergraduate and graduate students alike to use programs like Zotero, Mendeley or Qiqqa. These are free bibliography programs that allow for note taking and link to word processing programs. (If you are willing to pay, Endnote is considered the premium program for bibliography management and note taking.)
Although I prefer and recommend Zotero, Mendeley and Qiqqa have their upsides. Mendeley, for example, also functions as a social networking tool, allowing academics in similar fields to connect. Once a user has archived a certain amount of information in Qiqqa, it will begin to categorize that information through AutoTags. Thus, each of these programs offer unique ways to manage and maintain important material for research projects. There are also a number of tutorials for these programs. For Zotero, it is important to remember that you must have Firefox. I consider Zotero the most user friendly, but it depends entirely on the user.
It is important, however, to introduce students to these programs. Many universities, like Harvard, describe the function of these tools in great detail and actively encourage students to engage with them. We have come a long way from notebooks, binders, and color-coded dividers (elsewhere, I have explored programs that help with note taking, as well). When I was in high school, I printed my materials, organized them by subject or author, and hoped not to lose anything before the paper was due. Twenty-first century students, on the other hand, may organize their materials digitally and instructors must consider training them in this skill.