How to Record Notes for the Research Paper

To record notes for the research paper you need to have the bibliographic information of all the sources. These sources can be books, journals, CDs, magazines, newspapers, and websites. You have to preview the sources, skim the information, and finally note it down. The choice of whether to write down notes on paper or typewrite them on a computer is all yours. Many students find it easier to write down the notes because it is easier for them to go through each of them. The choice is all yours what way better suits you and you are comfortable.

How to record notes for the research paper

The process of recording notes from the beginning goes on like this:

  • Find out the sources that you want to use in your research paper
  • Make bibliographic cards for each source
  • Preview each source to get some knowledge about the topic
  • Skim each source to be more concise what you need to note
  • Scan each source
  • Evaluate the note finally for credibility, authenticity, and relevance
  • Note down each note on a separate paper with all keynotes

Decide about the sources

Prior to recording notes for the research paper, you should decide about the sources that you need. There might be many sources or a very few available, it all depends on the topic you have chosen for your research paper. At this point, you cannot decide with finality whether a source will end up in your research paper or not. You should collect as many sources as you have time to read and evaluate, later on, if that source is not much relevant or credible you can leave it. Do not spend too much time in deciding about the sources select as many as possible. You will need to have more time to read, skim and evaluate those notes later on.

Make bibliographic cards

Make bibliographic cards of each source and be very precise in writing them down. You need these bibliographic cards until the very end of your research. Include information such as author name, book, journal or newspaper title, editor name, publisher name, publishing date, page number/s, year of publication, website URL if required etc.

Preview each source

Once you have all the bibliographic cards start collecting sources and previewing them. Previewing is done to get some background knowledge of the topic. Discover the organization of each source so you better get acquainted with it. Learn about the chapters, headings, and subheadings in each source. One way to understand the sources is through reading the indexes, appendices, and prefaces. These provide insight into what and where in your source you will find information that you need particularly. This step will help you get familiar with the work and will save your time when you will take notes.

Skim each source

Sometimes the source that you are using is a long book or a lengthy journal, skimming can help you avoid the unnecessary details and reach the point that you need. If you are working on a source that is already just a small article you can skip this step. Skimming will help you reach the final important paragraph/s that you can quote or summarize for your research paper.

Scan the source

Scanning is a more focused way of looking at your source so that you get what you want out of it. Scanning may help you decide whether the source is useful or not. Scanning will finally make you able to decide on the final note.

Evaluate the source

The purpose of evaluating a source is to ask few questions about the credibility, and reputation of the source. There are many ways you can get to know about this, check out the following things:

  • What is the date of publication? Old sources sometimes become obsolete as new knowledge emerge. You should check with your teacher how old sources you can use in your research paper.
  • What is the reputation of the author? The author is known person who has other works as well, he has a degree from a known university, or his work is published frequently. These things will help you a lot in understand the reputation of his work.
  • What is the language of the material? The language of the source should be free of biases and should be a neutral one.

Note down

Finally, you are ready to take your notes for the research. You can record the notes for the research paper on separate sheets of paper or you can record them digitally. Some students record the notes digitally and later on, they print them out and use them in research. Some students prefer to write down each note and are more comfortable in this way. You can decide for yourself how you feel comfortable and at ease. Three things to consider are completeness, consistency, and accuracy of the notes.

  • Completeness means that your notes should have all the information that you need to put in the research paper
  • Consistency means that if you are using a 4 x 6-inch card for one note all the rest should be of the same size as well. The other way to be consistent is to note down similar information on the similar part of the note. For example, if you write down the source on the top right-hand corner on one note, you should use the same method for each note.
  • Accuracy means that you need to write the passage or paragraph that you are quoting in the same wording as of the book. You cannot substitute the words of the author with your own words this will make it a misrepresentation of the authors’ ideas.


  • Roth, A. J., The Research Paper: Process, Form, and Content, 8th ed., Wadsworth Pub Co. CA. 1999 Pp-106-123



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