Notes on Sources
Stages of the Note-Taking Process
The temptation to jump in and start taking notes can be strong. However,
some of your sources are going to have more information than others.
If you start with the best sources, all you have to do when you get
to the others is note any new information.
- Sort your sources into categories: most valuable to possibly useful.
- Start with the most valuable sources.
- Work your way through the sources until you're not finding much
- Stop. Ask: Do these sources answer my questions about the topic?
- If yes, you're ready to start writing.
- If no, you need to find more sources.
- Search for the names of authors quoted in your sources.
- Use important words from your questions as search
or go to ask.com and type
your question in the search
- Check the bibliography or reference list at the
end of your sources. You
can try to find the articles
or other works by the authors
on the Internet, in EBSCO,
or through interlibrary loan.
- Keep researching until you meet Daphne
Gray-Grant's criterion: "Before you begin to
write ask yourself: 'If
a friend, partner or colleague grilled me on this topic,
could I answer most of their questions easily and in plain
not, continue your research."
- Save all of your sources until you've finished writing and revising
your paper. You may find that a statistic you didn't think
you'd need makes a good beginning for your paper. You might
also need to add information to a reference citation.
Methods of Note-Taking
Before word-processing, students were told to take notes on 3
x 5 index cards. Some people still recommend that approach, because
it makes it easy to organize your notes by topic. However,
students often find it too labor-intensive.
Some prefer to underline printouts of their sources. Highlighters can
be your friend, as long as you own the source and you underline
selectively. One technique is to mark long, important passages with
a vertical line in the margin. You can then highlight the specific
details you need within the passage.
You can also cut-and-paste important
information into a Word
file. This works well, as long as you remember to include information
you'll need for the reference list, like author's name and
where you found the information.
Sticky notes can be a note-taker's best friend. You can use them in
- to flag important information
- to find
patterns in your information
notes let you keep track of information and your thoughts about
it at the same time. This strategy uses two columns. If you
find an objection to your thesis, you would summarize or
quote it in one column. In the other, you would add a comment,
such as "this can be my counterargument."
No matter how you
take notes, you should follow these general principles.
- Engage your brain. It's
easy to do too much copying-and-pasting
and not enough thinking. Without critical
thinking, your paper generally can't get a grade higher than
- Have you chosen material that proves your thesis?
- Have you considered
opposing points of view?
- What relationships
have you found among your sources?
- Get a sense of the whole source before you start taking notes.
- If you can’t put the ideas in a source into your own words,
Read an easier source, like an encyclopedia, to build your
- Read actively. Highlight key ideas and note your own questions or
reactions to a source.
- Focus on ideas rather than sticking too closely to your source. If
you put things in your own words, neither the wording nor
the structure of
the original should be recognizable in your paraphrase.
||Too Close to Source
|…America’s fuel is caffeine.
Coffee is the brew kick-starting a nation of bleary-eyed,
CBS Sunday Morning, 11/14/02
is the drink that gives a nation of foggy-headed
sleepwalkers a kick-start every morning.
- Use your
own words as much as possible. Quote only when
is exceptionally well-said
- you want to show
that an expert agrees with you,
- it's important
to have exact language, such as a
- If you take more than three words from the original, quote them.
terms have more than one word.
You need not quote standard terminology
(or shared language) like perennial
allergic rhinitis or parole
Exception: If one word is
used in a way that is unique to that
source, you must quote that one word.
For example, author Raymond
"At least half the mystery novels published
violate the law that the solution, once
revealed, must seem to be inevitable."
Paraphrase: According to Raymond Chandler,
a well-plotted mystery should have only
one "inevitable" ending.
is one of the fastest acting drugs
known to man. When we drink it, almost every cell in the
body, including the brain, absorbs it within minutes. There,
caffeine works its magic by blocking something called adenosine,
a chemical the body releases to tell the brain it’s
tired. Caffeine intercepts the adenosine, turning the "I’m
into "I’m wide awake." The result is an invigorating
buzz coffee drinkers crave.
CBS Sunday Morning, 11/14/02
| Caffeine is stimulating
for two reasons:
it is quickly absorbed,
and it blocks the
chemical that signals
fatigue, adenosine ("Caffeine
||According to a CBS news
is one of the fastest acting drugs known
to man” ("Caffeine Nation," 2002). Once
absorbed, caffeine blocks the body’s chemical signal
of fatigue, adenosine.
Jellinger's Tracking Tool (.doc)
Proverbs paraphrasing practice .(ppt)