Using Sources: Note-Taking Skills for Research Papers

To develop a successful research paper, you must take thorough and well-organized notes. Keeping your thoughts and ideas organized will help to create a concise, structured paper.

Taking Notes

One of the most traditional methods of note-taking is the notecard. On your 3x5 index card you should include the following:

  • The source or a source number
  • The topic of the note on the card
  • The actual note--a direct quote or a paraphrase (paraphrase unless a quote is absolutely necessary.)
  • The page number for citation

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Keeping a Working Bibliography

  • As you find new sources, keep a record of them in your working bibliography.
  • Number each source and include that number in the source area of your notecard so that you can cross-reference your information.
  • Be sure to note all of the citation information for each source so that it can be correctly documented in your final paper.
  • Make your bibliography work for you.

Organizing An Outline

After collecting enough information to begin your paper, organize your ideas in a working outline.

Begin your outline with your thesis statement as your main focus. Then, you can develop your essay plan while staying focused on your major ideas.

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Now you are ready to start writing a well-organized research paper.