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4. Take Notes

Once you have a list of sources, you can begin taking notes. Using note cards to take notes is a good idea because they make it easier for you to sort and arrange your notes as you build your outline in Step 5. You can use regular index cards to take notes or use virtual note cards in NoodleTools. Careful note-taking helps you avoid accidental plagiarism.


 
Each note card should contain:

  • Source information - a shortened version of the title or the author's last name. Just be consistent!
  • Page number - Give the page numbers from any books, magazines, or newspapers where you found the information. Online databases will usually give you the page numbers of your document if it originally appeared in print. If you are citing a regular Web page, give the paragraph number.
  • Heading - label your note card with a heading so that you'll know what it is about later when you organize your outline.
  • One Main Idea - Your note card should only contain one main idea from a single source. So, information about the health risks of smoking should not appear on the same card as information about what country has the most smokers. Those are two separate ideas.
Tips for note taking:
  • Stay Focused & Be Selective: Take notes on information that is relevant to your topic. If you are writing a paper about why Chinese people moved to America, you do not need information about German immigrants or information about the way Chinese people dressed (unless it relates to why they moved). It may be helpful to you to create a basic outline (Step 5) before completing all your note-taking.
  • Paraphrase - Take notes in your own words. Read a piece of information, then look away and write down what you understood. Then, look back to make sure you understood correctly.
  • Direct Quotations - You should not write a paper using all direct quotes, but if you must quote someone, copy their words exactly and put quotation marks around them.
  • Your Own Ideas - If you have your own idea about your topic, write it down on a separate card. You won't have to cite yourself in the paper, but this way you'll know which ideas really came from your own head and which came from the information you read.
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