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See some sample notecards here to see how easy and helpful it can be!


Notetaking Software

There are free web based products to help you with notetaking. Use what works for you, they all have different features. EasyBib and NoodleTools work very well for research and resource papers with more than one source. Here you can enter in the citation and for each source you can enter note cards. Once you have notecards that tie the information to the source (quote, paraphrase, ideas, images), you can sort them into piles and move them into an outline for your paper before you write. Watch a video about how to get started with EasyBib and below, a screenshot from Noodletools.

NoodleTools Notecards

You can also try Evernote. It is web-based and will let you organize your notes, images, websites in one place and print them out as needed. There is an App and desktop version that can syncronize. In this program, you can see previews of your notes and search through them to help you stay organized. It doesn't have the citation feature built-in, though.

Some Benefits of Using Note Cards

  • Creating a visual representation of the balance of your sources
  • Dividing your notes from each source into small chunks based on single topics, points, or ideas
  • Keeping your notes concise and therefore more useful
  • Helping you avoid the “book report” error
  • Becoming a “moveable outline” as you enter the drafting stage, allowing you to organize your sources more easily

Of course, before you can reap the rewards of effective note-taking, you need a system that is logical and consistent. The following rules should help you stay on track:

Rule #1: Keep track of your sources.

Because the goal of research is to put experts in conversation with one another, you will almost always use more than one source for your research papers (other assignments may vary). Therefore, keeping track of your sources in your notes is incredibly important. There is nothing more embarrassing than attributing a quote to the wrong source, and nothing more disheartening than discovering that you are unable to use a great piece of supporting evidence because you can’t recall the source. If you take care with this rule, you should be able to use only your note cards to write and check your citations when you are drafting your paper. .

Rule #2: Make an “MLA card” first.

In NoodleTools and EasyBib, you will first create an MLA-style works cited entry.

Rule #3: Keep track of what kind of notes you are making.

Are you writing the exact words of the author, exactly as they appear on the page (including any possible misspellings)? This would be a “Quote” card. If you omit words, indicate that you have done so by putting an ellipsis (…) in their place. Are you putting the information you read in your source into your own words, as a paraphrase? This would be a “Paraphrase” card. Are you making notes about ideas you are having as a result of what you read? Make sure you keep these ideas connected with the source that sparked them, and record the page number, paragraph, or sentence that started you towards the idea. In some cases, you will need to cite the source because you could not have had the idea without first having read and understood the source material.

Rule #4: Balance your sources.

Make sure that you are pulling approximately equally from each of your sources, creating the foundation for a productive conversation in your research paper or supporting your argument with munliple views.

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