Have you ever been overwhelmed when searching for sources for a paper? Do you wonder how to sort out which sources will be the most helpful? Are you worried that you won’t have enough time to take notes on everything?
Fear not, young writer! Your friends at the trusty Writing Center have some tips for you on how to do more efficient research and how to take better notes. This way, you can organize your information so it can be put into your research paper without much hassle and stress.
You’d be surprised at how many items come up in a search of something that may seem simple. Be as specific as possible when you are doing research online.
Use quotation marks.
If you use quotation marks in an online search, the database will search for that phrase in particular. For example, if you simply searched friendships among co-workers without quotations, you may find sources that use one or two of those keywords. BUT, if you search “friendships among co-workers,” you will be more likely to find a source with that exact phrasing.
Evaluate the source.
Is the article a scholarly, peer-reviewed article, or is it from a newspaper or magazine? You can narrow down the type of source you want when you search online. Also, if you’re using Google Scholar, it will tell you how many times that source has been cited in other works.
Don’t forget about the library!
The library is always a wonderful source for research. There are specific research librarians who are more than willing to help you find the sources you need. You can also use the multiple databases the library has to find scholarly sources. There is also a brand new feature on the library’s website this semester. Students who need help with finding sources can now engage in a live chat with librarians. How cool is that?!
Determine what information you need before you start.
Read your paper prompt and jot down a few ideas of information you think would be important to mention in your paper. This way, you’ll know what to look for as you’re reading through your sources.
Make a system.
Create your own way to take notes that best helps you organize the information. You could use bullet points for major headings and take notes on that section under that bullet point. Also, WRITE DOWN THE PAGE NUMBER! Every type of citation (MLA, APA, Chicago) requires a page number at some point. Save yourself some time and write down the page where you found the information so you don’t have to go back and look through an entire source for a sentence or two. Trust me, I’ve been doing this for a while and it helps TREMENDOUSLY.
Don’t write everything down word-for-word; try to paraphrase things into your own words so you can write similar ideas in your paper. If you find a direct quote that you might want to use, go ahead and copy it down verbatim (but make sure to label it as a direct quote so you remember).
If you use these tips the next time you have to write a research paper, it will make the process much smoother and organized. Good luck!
Check out these sources for more tips on research and note taking:
-Kelsey, Peer Tutor