Take Notes : Researching Your Topic

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Take Notes :

Sometimes the chore of taking notes for a research paper looms so large that you are tempted just to print out or photocopy everything you find and then worry about making sense of it after you leave the library. That's not a good idea. This practice encourages you to rely too heavily on the original words of your sources before you have digested their ideas. Wholesale photocopying of everything you find is often a shortcut that actually defeats the whole purpose of research and in addition can lead to inadvertent plagiarism.

Many people prefer to take their notes on index cards because cards are easier to sort and reorganize than sheets of notebook or typing paper. Others, however, prefer to keep all their notes in a notebook because in this form the notes are easier to carry around and are less likely to get lost. Still others take notes at the computer and organize them in files. An advantage to this method is that you can make backup files to guard against lost notes and outlines.

Whatever method you choose, be sure that you always include full details about the source along with the information. And always write down the page numbers for all the information you record, whether you directly quote that information or simply refer to it in a summary or paraphrase. For Web pages, always write down the date you accessed a page. If you don't keep track of page numbers at this stage, you will have to go back to your sources to hunt for them. If you don't keep track of access dates for electronic sources, you will have to hope your field's documentation style does not require that information in citations of Web pages.

To continue the section on Researching Your Topic,

1. Set up a general search strategy

2. Use primary and secondary sources

3. Do original research

4. Make a research outline for using the library and the Web

5. Find things out for yourself

6. Be open to serendipity

7. Take notes

8. Manage sources and quotations

9. Manage and evaluate electronic sources

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