Footnotes are not just busy work. It's very important that you give credit where credit is due by indicating where you found specific pieces of information. If you don't cite your sources, or if you copy or paraphrase text without attribution, you are implying that you are the creator of that information, and obviously that's not the case most of the time. Plagiarism is one of the most serious breaches of academic ethics, and it can ruin your career.
What you can (and should) cite
It's fine to cite these kinds of literature in your assignments, papers, and lab reports:
You should generally NOT cite things like this:
Why not? Because they are not "published" or peer-reviewed, and may not be accurate, reproducible, or safe, and they may not persist over time. There is also a professional bias against such sources. If you are giving a talk or presenting a poster at a conference, and a person asks you where you got a certain piece of information, "I got it from Wikipedia" is definitely the wrong answer!
When it comes to formatting your references in your papers and reports, you should use the accepted "style" for that discipline. Your instructor will tell you which style to use. Styles vary quite a bit, but in chemistry you will typically use the ACS Style Guide as your rule book. (Biochemistry uses a different one.)
As you do your research, you will start accumulating lots of references and articles - and they pile up fast. Setting up an efficient way to manage and use them will save you lots of time down the road. This is where tools known as reference managers come in.
Reference managers have two primary functions:
There are several types to choose from, including software you can purchase for your personal computer, or free web tools. The three most popular products are:
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