How to Keep Track of Facts, Argue Intelligently, and Stay InformedsteemCreated with Sketch.

in #education6 years ago (edited)


There is more information today than ever before.

Research suggests that 90% of the world's data in 2013 had been generated in the previous two years. That's absolutely staggering. Even when I focus only on issues I truly care about, it's hard to not feel overwhelmed by all the information I come across on a daily basis. Yet while there's more to learn than ever, we're better equipped to manage information than ever before.

Why Keep Track of Information?

🗂️ Stay informed on issues you care about 🗂️

Here's an example: I'm pursuing a career as a research scientist in the United States, which is often dependent on government funding. If the current presidential administration announces plans to cut the budget of the National Institutes of Health by 20% or diminish funding for graduate students in the sciences, that's something I would like to know. And if Congress rejects these budget proposals, I should keep tabs that, too.

☑️ Readily debunk myths ☑️

Another example: I really like tofu. About once a month I hear someone repeat a popular pseudoscience myth: soy disrupts men's hormones. That's a myth! In fact, two studies have shown that soy does not affect men's hormones, and is associated with reduction of prostate cancer risk, as well as reduced breast cancer risk in women. I'm always ready to fight some fake science.

⏳ Save time ⏳

I never have to crawl through the internet looking for something obscure I read a few months ago. By tracking sources, you can save some serious time.

📖 Build a better informed community 📖

If you're talking about something that's really important, 'trust me' is something you should never have to say or hear. Providing sources and builds a stronger and smarter community.


How to Cite Like A Professional

Use software

There are many platforms that help you manage information, such as Zotero, Mendeley, and EndNote. Personally, I like Zotero because it is both free and open source. (Note: I am not affiliated with or endorsed by Zotero.)

Example: using Zotero

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 3.05.57 PM.png

Save as you go. With software built into my web-browser, I'm only a click away form saving something important. Once a source is saved, it's easy to add notes.

Take a look at my "soy and hormones" folder, which I used earlier in this post to debunk a common myth:

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 1.37.09 AM.png
Screenshot of a Zotero folder, showing items' attachments and notes

With citations saved, you can create a bibliography in seconds using any citation style. I use APA because it's what my own field of research uses. For example, here's where I found all the info I referenced in this post:


Alexis Wolfe. (2017, June 13). Trump Budget Proposes Deep Cuts to STEM Education. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from
EndNote. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2017, from
Jacob Carter. (2017, July 13). How President Trump’s Proposed Budget Cuts Would Harm Early Career Scientists. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from
Kelly, N. (2017, March 16). Trump’s Budget Proposal Cuts NIH Funding by 20 Percent. The Atlantic. Retrieved from
Mendeley - Reference Management Software & Researcher Network. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2017, from
Open-source model. (2017, September 14). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from
Pear, R. (2017, September 11). Congress Rejects Trump Proposals to Cut Health Research Funds. The New York Times. Retrieved from
SINTEF. (2013, May 22). Big Data, for better or worse: 90% of world’s data generated over last two years. Retrieved September 15, 2017, from
Zotero | Home. (n.d.). Retrieved September 15, 2017, from

Thanks for reading!



Zotero is the most beautiful thing. It makes it super easy to save and organize sources while you're casually browsing the web. I definitely need to use it more beyond academic coursework. Keep fighting the fake science! 💪

Glad other people find it useful! Will do, @jshmu!

Also great about zotero is the possibility to work with different quotation and bibliography styles. Makes life a lot easier.

I wish I knew about Zotero or other platforms while I was in school... haha. I app my lifestyle and routine but when it comes to source/citation, I always went for the old school way: print the article, make a "source" binder. I knew it took 2x time but I was apprehensive about using the software simply because I did not know where to begin or look for the right one. Thanks for sharing! I should recommend using the platforms to my colleagues too.

Happy to be helpful, @mintvilla! Software really has saved me a ton of time in work, and using it to track everything from environmental issues to politics has served me really well also.

TY... this should be taught in schools LOL

I wholeheartedly agree!

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Thanks for the visibility!

awesome post @somethingburger. I'm still using Mendeley but am thinking of switching to Zotero. Maybe a post would be a comparison of the different citation softwares? @jshmu sounds up your alley too! Personally, I started on Papers (I think I even paid a subscription once) and have now become pretty dependent on Mendeley since I started using it 3 years ago. Sounds like you've got a great head start on a solid literature library.

Thanks for the support, @benfink! Here's a good comparison between Zotero and Mendeley. You should never have to pay for something. And it's true, my lit library is... quite lit.

Side note: Mendeley's ownership is a source of heavy criticism. Interesting read.

OH NO I didn't know Elsevier owned Mendeley. That kinda seals it. Gotta switch to Zotero. btw here's a similar comparison table that includes EndNote if you want to save the link in that fancy library of yours

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