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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 4a. Take Notes

A guide to help you through the steps of the research process. This guide is modeled after a guide created by the librarians at Johnson & Wales University.

Tips for Taking Notes by Hand

  • Use index cards to keep notes and track sources used in your paper.
  • Create Work Cited cards for each source.
    • Include the citation (i.e., author, title, publisher, date, page numbers, etc.) in MLA format. It will be easier to organize the sources alphabetically when creating the Work Cited page.
    • Number the source cards.
  • On each note card:
    • Use only one side to record a single idea, fact or quote from one source. It will be easier to rearrange them later when it comes time to organize your paper.
    • Include a heading or key words at the top of the card. 
    • Include the Work Cited source card number.
    • Include the page number where you found the information.
  • Taking notes:
    • Use abbreviations, acronyms, or incomplete sentences to record information to speed up the notetaking process.
    • Write down only the information that answers your research questions.
    • Use symbols, diagrams, charts or drawings to simplify and visualize ideas.

Tips for Taking Notes Electronically

  • Keep a separate Work Cited file of the sources you use.
    • As you add sources, put them in MLA format.
    • Group sources by publication type (i.e., book, article, website).
    • Number source within the publication type group.
    • For websites, include the URL information.
  • Next to each idea, include the source number from the Work Cited file and the page number from the source. See the examples below. Note #A5 and #B2 refer to article source 5 and book source 2 from the Work Cited file.

#A5 p.35: 76.69% of the hyperlinks selected from homepage are for articles and the catalog
#B2 p.76: online library guides evolved from the paper pathfinders of the 1960's

  • When done taking notes, assign keywords or sub-topic headings to each idea, quote or summary.
  • Use the copy and paste feature to group keywords or sub-topic ideas together.
  • Back up your master list and note files frequently!

Forms of Notetaking

Use one of these notetaking forms to capture information:

  • Summarize: Capture the main ideas of the source succinctly by restating them in your own words.
  • Paraphrase: Restate the author's ideas in your own words.
  • Quote: Copy the quotation exactly as it appears in the original source. Put quotation marks around the text and note the name of the person you are quoting.

Example Work Cited Card

Example Notecard