56 5. How to Take Good Notes

How to Take Good Notes While Researching

Be Selective

Even though a source is on your topic, it may not have any new or relevant information:

· Don’t write down what you already know.

· Don’t write down the same general (background) information more than once.

· Don’t write down a story or piece of information that is entertaining but that will be useless to your report.

Take Notes Almost Entirely in Your Own Words

Do not copy whole paragraphs from your sources. You can waste valuable time and energy by laboriously copying material you never even use ? not to mention the wasted time of rereading everything and trying to decide what to use.

Put nearly everything you read into your own words by using summary and paraphrase. Reserve quotation marks (direct quotes) for memorable statements of opinion. Reflect on what you read, and then put it into your own words so that it makes sense to you. As you do so, you will be taking the first step toward refining your own ideas and eventually writing your paper.

Use Direct Quotation

Direct quotations are not just something spoken by another person; they are also any words written by another person. Be absolutely vigilant in putting quotation marks around every word that you take from your sources, even if it’s only one or two words or half a sentence. If the writer quotes someone else, be sure to note who is being quoted and the source of the quotation.

Get Your Facts Straight

Any statistics and facts must be recorded accurately. Take special care to copy all numbers, names, and other facts correctly, and then check them against the original one more time. Be sure to also record your source of information.

Keep Each Note Brief but Understandable

When you can, write in phrases or short sentences that you will be able to skim quickly. Be sure that each note will make sense to you when you read it later out of the context of the whole article or essay.

Keep an Accurate Record of Documentation

In your final paper, you will need to tell exactly where you found your information; so, as you take notes, write down author, title and other bibliographical information for ever source. Beside each note, record the exact page number on which you found the information. If the note covers material that runs more than one page, indicate for yourself where the page changes. This habit will ensure that your documentation is fully accurate.


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