Research Paper Hints: Effective Note-taking Strategies


  1. Work From An Outline
  2. The key to effective note taking is starting out right! Begin by composing an outline for your essay with space for the introduction, three main points and a conclusion. For each main point leave space for evidence and supporting ideas. Then when you begin your research fill out the outline as you go placing your research points in the appropriate spaces. This will save you time! Plus, it should also help you deduce whether or not an idea fits into your essay.

  3. Write In Full Sentences
  4. As you fill out your outline with your research notes write in full sentences using your own words. This may take a little bit of extra consideration in the moment but it will save you even more time when you go to compose the final draft. Think of it this way, you’re multitasking as you fill out your notes. This also helps to assure that your paper is 100% unique and not plagiarized. Sometimes when student’s copy notes word for word their paper ends up flagged by copy-scape because the sentences are identical. You can easily avoid this by re-phrasing your notes on the spot.

  5. Record Your Sources As You Go
  6. While you are filling out your outline using full sentences do not forget to write down your sources as you go. This will help you fill out your bibliography or sources cited page more easily when the paper is all done. Documenting your sources will also help you find your spot if you have to go back and look at something during the drafting process. Smart students; always remember to record their sources in their notes before they begin writing. That way they do not have to go back to resource material that they are using later.

  7. Compose Your Thesis From Your Notes & Outline
  8. Once you have filled out the entire outline you can go back and write your thesis/ topic sentence from the research that you have already gathered. This will guarantee that your introduction is well focused and you will not have to change it as you go. Instead of trying to make your research fit your thesis develop your thesis after you have the notes finished. Just make sure you stay on topic, when you are doing this.

    Go back and proofread your main points and supporting evidence to make sure they work with the thesis that you have chosen.