3 Library Resources to Make Your Life Easier

February 24, 2016

The Merrill-Cazier Library is overflowing with untapped resources and data that live to make your life easier. Don’t wait until after your presentation or paper to find out how to be more efficient and exceptional.

Contact a Librarian

Becky Thoms

Betty Rozum

Britt Fagerheim

Literature Reviews

literature review is the process of identifying existing review and/or research articles that investigate key topics related to your research or provide the background information needed to clarify concepts.

This process can take a lot of time and has the potential to be quite overwhelming if you don’t have an outline or process to follow. The Merrill-Cazier librarians suggest these strategies:

  1. Highlight the main concepts, facts, ideas, and arguments. Look for:
    • What seems important or meaningful to you (don’t just underline something because it sounds important).
    • Points you could explain or share.
    • Points you want clarified. Look for relationships between different works.
  2. Look for relationships between different works. Begin to identify the themes and sub-topics as you read.
  3. Consider the weaknesses, strengths and gaps in the literature as you read.

Download the synthesis matrix to help keep track of articles and key points.

Citation Managers

Citation organizers, or citation management software, are web-based or desktop programs through which you can:

  • Store and organize citations in a raw format, enabling you to quickly format citations in various citations styles
  • Import citations directly from library databases and some websites
  • Import citations directly into documents
  • Build bibliographies

Some of the most popular citation managers are Zotero, EndNote and Mendeley. Not sure which citation organizer will work best for your needs? Take a look at this comparison chart from the University of Idaho.

Data Management

Think of good data management as an insurance policy: it seems like a hassle, but you’ll be happy it’s in place during a crisis. Here are a few librarian-certified tips to help you keep your data under control and easy to access.

Developing a convention for naming files, and be sure that everyone involved in the project is aware of, understands, and uses the file naming convention. Love Your Data has some great examples of folder structures for projects, and great file naming tips. We also have a File Naming handout you can use that gives you quick tips on how to develop a file naming convention.
You need to consider where you will store your research data during your project and how you will back it up. You will want to keep your data safe by backing it up. For important files, follow the 3-2-1 rule: Keep 3 copies in 2 different file formats and store 1 copy remotely (anywhere but your lab space).

Where you store your data will depend on the nature of your data. Check the storage options to make sure it is appropriate for the type of data you will collect. USU’s Information Technology Office provides a University Data Storage Matrix that includes the storage options available and the types of data each are authorized to house.

A README file can be very useful in understanding your data and can be used to help you manage your data. If you plan to deposit your data into USU’s Digital Commons, a README file is required. Learn more about README files:

  • Cornell University Research Data Management Group – Guide to writing “readme” style metadata
  • Georgia Tech Library – README Template page
  • Kristin Briney’s Data Ab Intito blog post on README.txt files
  • Indiana University’s README template

Create a file from a README template.

Citing data is important because it

  • Allows others to verify the data you used.
  • Allows the impact of the data you used to be tracked.
  • Creates a structure, much like that of journal articles, that rewards the produces or datasets.

When citing data, provide information that enables the reader to locate the data set.

  • Creator – who created the data?
  • Publication Year
  • Title
  • Publisher – (name of repository where dataset is published, i.e., ICPSR, Dryad, Digital Commons, etc.)
  • Identifier – a DOI, persistent URL, Uniform Resource Name, other persistent identifier


  • Use the citation format the publisher recommends.
  • Some styles, such as APA 6th, have guidelines (see box at left).
  • Many repositories will provide guidelines for recommended citations.
  • If a publisher of journal does not provide you with a recommended format for a dataset, for example MLA, use the guidelines for an electronic resource and be sure to include all of the components listed above.

Check out these resources for more guidance about formatting and creating citations: