Read Your Sources and Take Notes
After you've gathered your sources, begin reading and taking notes.
- Use 3 x 5 index cards, one fact or idea per card. This way related ideas from different sources can be easily grouped together or rearranged.
- On each index card, be sure to note the source, including the volume number (if there is one) and the page number. If you wind up using that idea in your paper, you will have the information about the source ready to put in your footnote or endnote.
- If you copy something directly from a book without putting it in your own words, put quotation marks around it so that you know it is an exact quotation. This will help you to avoid plagiarism. (For more, see What is Plagiarism?).
- Before you sit down to write your rough draft, organize your note cards by subtopic (you can write headings on the cards) and make an outline.
Check out the differences between these two note cards for a research paper on baseball:
Good note card:
WB, 2, p.133
Star players become national heroes
Many Americans could name every major league
player, his batting average, and other accomplishments.
(What batting records were set?)
- Lists source (World Book, Volume 2, page 133)
- Includes heading or subtopic
- Is limited to one fact
- Has personal note/question
Bad note card:
Baseball becomes popular
Ty Cobb (Detroit Tigers) outfielder one of the great
all-time players. Another star was Honus Wagner,
a bowlegged shortstop.
"Whoever wants to know the heart and mind
of America had better learn baseball."
- Source not indicated in top right corner
- Heading too vague
- Too many facts
- No name after quotation