How to Take Notes for Your Research Paper

Note the name of your source and page number so that you can easily return to your sources later on when reviewing your notes.

Often times we need to reread the original source when reviewing our notes.  For instance, if you do not readily remember why you found a particular piece of information valuable.  By properly noting where you found something you can quickly and easily review the context surrounding your notes.

do not get bogged down by sources that you do not understand

Often times you will not understand a particular idea or argument that you read when researching your paper.  This is only natural – particularly if you are new to a topic.   Create a section of your notes that relates solely to difficult to understand points and ideas.

Later on, when you have time, you can review those points with your tutor, fellow student or anyone else who may help you to understand them.  Do not, however, get bogged down now during the note taking process with trying to understand them.   You do not want to get side tracked.

If, after attempting to properly grasp the material, you find that you just can’t understand this particular source then do not use it – even if it seems important.  You will only get yourself into trouble as you inevitably demonstrate your lack of comprehension of this particular point.

Understand Your Source Material Before You Start Taking Notes

While some people are able to take good notes as they read something for the first time, most of us need to have a decent grasp of the material before we figure out what we want to do with it.  If this describes how you best work then make sure to properly read and analyze your resources before you start taking notes.  You can, if you wish, make a brief note about information that you want to return to and take proper notes on later on.  But only do this if it doesn’t detract from your ability to properly understand what you are reading.

It’s true that this method takes a bit more time, but it pays off tremendously in the (not so) long run.

The 8 Steps to Writing a Great Research Paper

  1. Pick a good, well-focused topic that you are interested in
  2. Determine the goal and/or purpose of your paper
  3. Gather together the best resources available on your topic
  4. Study and take notes of your resources
  5. Turn your notes into a well-organized outline
  6. Write a rough draft
  7. Revise (over and over again) your rough draft
  8. Get feedback from friends, colleagues and experts (then rewrite again)