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How to Teach Research Papers - Taking Notes

Updated on January 17, 2013
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The Second Most Vital Piece of the Research Paper

Hands down, the most vital part of the research paper, at least when it comes to the research itself, are the bibliography cards. Without having an effective system to document sources, the risk of plagiarism increases significantly. The next most important piece of the research paper goes hand in hand with the bibliography cards, and it is taking notes. Making sure to take notes correctly and systematically with the bibliography cards is the key to having a successful research paper.

How It Works

During research, when one comes across information that is worthwhile and meaningful to the paper, it needs to be document. There are several points to keep in mind as one takes notes.

First and foremost, be sure to copy the information exactly as it is written in the original source. This means word for word including punctuation, capitalization, etc. It must be exactly how it is written in the source so when it is integrated into the research paper, it won't be plagiarized.

Each note card should hold one piece of information from one source only. Using a note card for different pieces of information will make organizing the outline that much more difficult later on.

There is a fool-proof method to ensure that each note card is directly tied to a source card. Whether the source cards were made on index cards or in a running, numbered list in a Word document, each source should be tied to a number. Those numbers are important in the note card process.

When one lifts information from the original source, they must number that note card with the number from the source they are using. That number should be clear on the top of the card so later one, during the drafting process it can be cited correctly.

The cards should look like they do below:


The students would have multiple note cards from each source, but this is an example to show how it works. Obviously the information from the note card 1 would tie to source card number 1, 2 to 2 and so on.

If the sources are in a Word document, be sure that they are numbered and then match the note cards to those numbers.

What's Next?

After you have taken notes, making sure to copy them word for word from the original text, number them to match the source cards, and put one piece of information per card, it is time to move on to the drafting step of the paper.

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