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


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.


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