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Research Process: A Step-By-Step Guide: 4e. Writing Strategies

A guide to help you through the steps of the research process.

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.

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.

Example Notecard

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!

Example Work Cited Card

Why Outline?

Oultines provide a means of organizing your information in an hierarchical or logical order.

For research papers, a formal outline can help you keep track of large amounts of information.


How to Create an Outline

To create an outline:

  1. Place your thesis statement at the beginning.
  2. List the major points that support your thesis. Label them in Roman Numerals (I, II, III, etc.).
  3. List supporting ideas or arguments for each major point. Label them in capital letters (A, B, C, etc.).
  4. If applicable, continue to sub-divide each supporting idea until your outline is fully developed. Label them 1, 2, 3, etc., and then a, b, c, etc.

How to Structure an Outline

Art History Research Paper Example

Example

Thesis: Federal regulations need to foster laws that will help protect wetlands, restore those that have been destroyed, and take measures to improve the damange from overdevelopment.

I. Nature's ecosystem

   A. Loss of wetlands nationally

   B. Loss of wetlands in Illinois

      1. More flooding and poorer water quality

      2. Lost ability to prevent floods, clean water and store water

II. Dramatic floods

   A, Cost in dollars and lives

      1. 13 deaths between 1988 and 1998

      2. Cost of $39 million per year

   B. Great Midwestern Flood of 1993

      1. Lost wetlands in IL

      2. Devastation in some states

   C. Flood Prevention

      1. Plants and Soils

      2. Floodplain overflow

III. Wetland laws

   A. Inadequately informed legislators

      1. Watersheds

      2. Interconnections in natural water systems

   B. Water purification

IV. Need to save wetlands

   A. New federal definition

   B. Re-education about interconnectedness

      1. Ecology at every grade level

      2. Education for politicians and developers

      3. Choices in schools and people's lives

Example taken from The Bedford Guide for College Writers (9th ed).

Writing the Paper

Writing research papers can be very challenging.

Knowing how to take notes and paraphrase ideas can help.

Recommended Books

Microsoft Office Help

Are you required to use Excel, Word, or PowerPoint for a paper or presentation? Do you feel comfortable using these applications?

If not, you can also visit the Microsoft Office website. The site contains a wealth of information including how-to documents,  templates, and training videos.

Recommended Websites

Literature Review

A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and sometimes within a certain time period. It can be a simple summary of the sources, but it usually has an organizational pattern and combines both summary and synthesis.

Sources included in a literature review may include: books, peer-reviewed articles, newspaper articles, videos, conference proceedings, and websites.You should only include sources that are relevant, recent and reputable.

Source: University of North Carolina's Writing Center