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Research paper notes

       Research paper notes are the backbone of any research work, whether that is a basic term paper or a dissertation.  Taking research paper notes in an organized fashion, moreover, is critical, if the notes from a variety of sources are to be synthesized into categories and if appropriate citation is to occur in the final product.  There are some extremely important steps in taking research paper notes, as follows:

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  • It is a mistake to simply take a resource (book, journal article, etc.) and start taking notes, like you would during a lecture in class.  You have nothing but a jumble of information from 5 or more sources, and none of this information is organized into categories.  You will then be trying to cut and paste information that falls into several categories, in order to get those categories organized.  While definitely an old method, the use of index cards for research paper notes is still very effective.  If you are preparing a paper on the cost of the Iraq War to the United States, for example, there will be very apparent categories – money, lives, world reputation, etc.  Each note you take from each source can be placed into one of these categories, so you put the category at the top of the note card, you put the author, work and page number on the first line, and then you take your notes. 
  • When you wish to use a direct quotation from an author, you place it on a note card, under the category, author’s name, work’s title, and page number.  This will be critical if, during the writing of the paper, you intend to use the quote, for you may then reference it correctly.
  • Once the notes are completed, you file them by category.  As you prepare your outline, you are then able to spread out all of the notes in a given category, to determine if authors agree or disagree on specific detail, and what authors may have unique or creative thoughts about that category.

       As stated above, research paper notes are the critical backbone of your work.  If you complete these correctly and precisely, your task will be far easier than for one who has been sloppy and disorganized.  Save yourself the distress and frustration that will most assuredly come if you do not complete this part of the process well.

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