Research Paper Notes

(Updated on December 5, 2017 by Michelle Williams)


When preparing to complete a report, it's imperative to take detailed research paper notes of the research being studied.  The research component of a report can take days, weeks, or even months to complete; without a thorough note-taking system, much of the information gained through the research process will be lost as time passes.  Each research paper note must therefore be precise, clear, and well-documented so that the researcher will be able to return to it after a long period of time and use it as the germ from which to create a point.

Research paper notes are different from the notes a student takes in class.  In class, students typically focus on getting down the main ideas, and often use the same language the teacher uses in the lecture.  A research paper note must include more than main ideas; it must be comprehensive in its record of the research and its points.  In addition, it must not use the same language as the source being studied unless it's properly quoted or paraphrased.  Furthermore, whether it's a paraphrase, quotation, fact, or statistic, every report note should record where in the research the information can be found.  This includes noting the author, the work, and the page number.  This way, the student can return to the specific passage later if needed, and will know how to properly cite the note in the finished draft.  
Research Paper Notes
Research paper notes will often be written in notebooks or even in the books or papers they're documenting.  However, it's always best to keep an electronic copy of the notes, and then to store that electronic copy in multiple places.  Keeping an electronic copy is important for two primary reasons: (1) if the hard copy is lost, a backup file exists; and (2) electronic documents are much easier to organize because passages can be cut, pasted, and moved around.  This will be extremely important later, since the report notes will ultimately be turned in to a research paper outline.  If the notes are already in electronic format, it will be very simple to create such an outline.

Everyone takes notes differently, and there's no "right" or "wrong" way to do it.  However, in the interest of time, students should learn when it's best to take notes and when it's best to simply mark a page or section of text that needs to be referenced later.  Often, there will be passages of several hundred words that a student may wish to paraphrase or reference in his/her assignment.  Rather than recording all of the information presented in these passages in note form, it would be best to mark the page and make a research paper note that records the main idea of the passage and reminds the writer to return to the page during the outlining and composition process.

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