Writing is difficult enough as it is, so anything that can streamline the process is invaluable. And if you’re citing sources, one thing you can do is sort your list of references out early so you can type those in-text citations at the end of a sentence as smoothly as any punctuation. When you’re on a roll with a rough draft, you don’t want anything to disrupt your flow of ideas. Any stray thought can potentially derail the train on its journey to the end of the document, causing you to omit a statement that may have made the difference between agreement or disapproval in your reader’s mind.
If I’m writing a non-fiction piece with sources to cite, I find it invaluable to have my references readily available so I can insert them in-line as naturally as I would a period or comma. In the past, I have made the mistake of pushing through my rough draft from start to finish, only to realize I now had to go back line-by-line for the expressed purpose of picking out sentences that should have citations and tediously adding them in. This added an entire new step to the writing process; a step that was unnecessary, and one I’m glad I now have a system to accommodate for.
When I have a large number or sources I’ll be citing for a piece, I like to form my reference list as I come across information I’ll be using, rather than simply recording where I found it so I can form the reference list later on. This may require some detailed familiarity with the citation style you’re using, which I am fortunate enough to have at this point. Having this information compiled in advance becomes a useful tool I can use when writing my rough draft.
When I’m writing a research paper; a report on an experiment; an analysis of a case study; or some other piece which may require a reference list several pages long, I like to have that list available at the side of my screen in another window next to my document so I can easily place the appropriate information in-line right when it comes up without having to stray from my spot on the page. I used to scroll down to my references, gather the information, then return to my spot to type it in, but I found moving my eyes slightly to the side to be much more efficient than scrolling all over the place.
Using this method has substantially decreased the amount of time I spend writing, especially over long pieces. I encourage anyone referencing other material in their work to develop a system that enhances efficiency. By cutting down the time spent on drafting, you can increase the time available for editing, which will ultimately result in an overall higher quality of writing.