Research for Technical Report Writing

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you should be able to: 

  • Understand the importance of citing and referencing in the academic writing process
  • Locate the information necessary to correctly cite a source
  • Effectively apply the appropriate citation styles 

1. What is Citing and Why Should you Cite?

Citing is the act of giving credit and acknowledgement to the original creator of the works that you have been used in and that have influenced your report. 

For referencing to be considered complete, you need both an in-text citation and a complete reference in your bibliography.  As a reader comes across an in-text citation, they can then go to the bibliography to find all the information they need to locate the cited document.

Think of a reference as the address of the document.  All components must be present in order for the reader to be able to find the item.

There are many reasons why it is important to appropriately cite and reference others' works within your research, including:

  • Being a responsible scholar by giving credit to other researchers
  • Avoiding plagiarism by quoting words and ideas from other authors
  • Giving your reader the ability to track down the sources you've used
  • Showing your reader that you've done proper research 

If you are interested in learning more about citing, the library has created the Cross your Ts: 3 easy steps to become a citation guru guide

2. How to Incorporate Others' Ideas

There are three ways in which you can incorporate others' ideas into your report.

  • Direct Quoting: Using the author's exact wording from their research
    • Do not use direct quoting too often. It is generally best practice to use your own wording rather than the original author's.
  • Paraphrasing: Using your own words to describe another researcher's idea. 
  • Summarizing: A condensed description of the main / key ideas from another researcher's work

When using any of three methods listed above, you must include an in-text citation and a full reference in the bibliography.

You can learn more about these three ways of using sources and by visiting the BiblioExpert section on Citing Sources

3. Citation Styles

A citation style can be considered as the conventions required to properly cite your sources.  The style will vary according to the guide.  Most styles will fall in one of these categories:

  1. Author-date system
  2. Numbered system

The citation style used will vary by discipline. APA style is frequently used in undergraduate level assignments in the sciences and engineering, while MLA style is used occasionally. Please visit our pages on APA and MLA to learn more about these styles in more detail. 

If you are ever uncertain about which style you should use, ALWAYS ASK YOUR PROFESSOR WHICH STYLE GUIDE IS REQUIRED

Citation Management Software

There are also a variety of citation management tools available that can help you to collect and organize your sources, as well as create in-text citations and full bibliographies in your preferred citation style. 

More information about the three citation managers for which we offer support can be found below.


EndNote Web is the web version of EndNote software. Records from EndNote Web can be exported to a purchased EndNote software database.


Zotero is a free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources.

The library has put together some resources that can help you to get started using Zotero. These can be found in the citation management guide


Mendeley is a free online service to index and organize your PDF documents, collaborate and share information via shared and public collections.

The library has put together some resources that can help you to get started using Mendeley. These can be found in the citation management guide

Comparisons of citation software:

If you are not sure which software to use, you can have a look at these comparison charts which detail the differences in the services they offer.