To take good notes is to know in advance what you are looking for. So, it is essential that you carefully define the nature and scope of your research, and stick to it. Again, time management is important for the simple fact that you don't have much time.
-- Steven Kreis
Fact Fragment Frenzy
Ten Tips For Taking Notes
Your research notes should include all the information necessary to write your research paper. You should take extreme care as you create these notes. Develop questions you want answered to really narrow your topic down, so you know exactly what to search for.
1. Start with a new Doc.
Consider naming each of your Docs by sub headings to keep your notes and paper organized from the start. You can title your Docs one each for the questions you are researching or one Doc for each source you use.
2. Devote an entire Doc to each idea, note, and source.
Don't try to fit two sources (quotes and notes) on one Doc. No sharing space to keep things organized!
3. Gather more information than you need.
Use the library, Databases, and the Internet to find potential sources for your research paper. You should continue to research until you have quite a few potential sources—about three times as many as your teacher recommends.
4. Narrow down your sources.
As you read your potential sources, you will find that some are helpful, others are not, and some will repeat the same information you already have. This is how you narrow your list down to include the most solid sources.
5. Record as you go.
From each source, write down any fact fragments or quotes that could be useful in your paper. As you take notes, try to extract just the main words to use later to paraphrase these fact fragments into sentences. This reduces the chances of committing accidental plagiarism.
6. Include everything.
For each note you will need to record:
- Author's name
- Title of reference (Website, book, article, interview, encyclopedia, etc.)
- Reference Who Owns the Website information, to include name, and date you found the information on the Web.
- If using print material, include publisher and page number
- Your own personal comments
7. Create your own system and stick to it.
For instance, you may want to mark each of your Docs with spaces for each category, just to make sure you don't leave anything out.
8. Be exact with direct quotes.
If at any time you write down information word for word, be sure to include all punctuation marks, capitalizations, and breaks exactly as they appear in the source. Before you leave any source, double-check your notes for accuracy. You must include the name of the person who you are quoting and the source from the original quote.
9. If you think it might be useful, write it down.
Don't ever, ever pass over information because you're just not sure whether it will be useful! This is a very common and costly mistake in research. More often than not, you find that the passed-over tidbit is critical to your paper, and then you won't find it again.
10. Avoid using abbreviations and code words as you record notes.
Especially if you plan to use quotes. Your own writing can look completely foreign to you later. It's true! You may not be able to understand your own clever codes after a day or two, either.