Assignment Organizer
Research Paper Organizer
Research Assistant
21st Century Skills
Homework Help
Asking Good Questions
Copyright Guidelines
Citing Sources Help
Presentation Guidelines
Web Site Evaluation Guide
Helpful Tools
Advanced Search Strategies

Research Assistant: Note Taking and Citing Sources

Ideas About Note Taking and Citing Sources

Note Taking.

Taking notes in middle school and high school should be more than just copying common knowledge and facts or ideas from others. In addition to the note taking from sources such as books, web sites, journals and texts, you should add your own ideas and opinions about the information. You should also be using electronic means whenever possible to take and store notes. This makes them easily accessible and searchable, as well as allowing for ease of revising, amending, and creating a final product or paper. Consider using online note cards available through your NoodleTools account. They can be tagged and sorted, labeled and printed, and made into an outline for papers and projects.

Note taking tips:

Don't copy and paste huge blocks of text. If you need the information from a large amount of text, summarize or paraphrase it. Summarizing means to read a large section for overall meaning then condensing the meaning into 1-2 sentences. Paraphrasing is appropriate for supporting information, biographical information, predictions, hypothesis, and drawing conclusions. You will put the information into your own words. This type of note taking must be cited (giving credit to its source).

Summarize (read a large section for overall meaning and summarize it into 1-2 sentences). Summarizing is typically used for beginning research, i.e., general explanatory material. It must be cited unless the information is common facts and knowledge.

A summary…

    1. is an essential condensation in your own words.
    2. answers the question “what is the author really saying?”
    3. is the result of careful “listening” to the author.
    4. remains faithful to the author's emphasis and interpretation.
    5. does not disagree with or critique the author's opinions.

    Steps to an effective summary

How to Summarize a Paragraph

    1. Read the paragraph twice.
    2. Isolate the topic sentence; if it conveys reliably the meaning of the paragraph, consider it your summary.
    3. Underline key phrases and look for any crucial distinctions or contrasts which form the framework of the paragraph (the difference in attitudes about women in the workforce before World War II versus after WWII, for example).
    4. Write your own summarizing sentence which makes use of those key phrases or distinctions.

How to Summarize an Article

    1. Ask yourself why the article was written and who is the intended audience.
    2. Consider the author's background if known. Does he have a special bias or point of view?
    3. Compare the opening and closing paragraphs.
    4. Read the entire article more than once, if necessary.
    5. Underline key or repeated words and phrases.
    6. Distinguish the author's main idea from details which support that idea or are repetitions and variations on the same theme.
    7. Draft a several-sentence summary which defines the author's main idea broadly enough to account for most of the supporting material introduced.

Spatt, Brenda. Writing from Sources . New York : St. Martin 's Press, 1983.

Paraphrasing is putting smaller sections of text into your own words. No information is left out. It is appropriate for supporting information, biographical, predictions, hypothesis, drawing conclusions.

A paraphrase is...

  1. your own rendition of essential information and ideas expressed by someone else, presented in a new form.
  2. one legitimate way (when accompanied by accurate documentation) to borrow from a source.
  3. a more detailed restatement than a summary, which focuses concisely on a single main idea.

Steps to an effective paraphrase

  1. Read the original passage several times until you understand its full meaning.
  2. Pretend that you have to explain it to a younger person, or someone your age who is just learning English, who won't understand the original. What would you say?
  3. Set the original aside, and write your explanation (paraphrase) on your note taking organizer.
  4. Check your paraphrase with the original to make sure that your version accurately expresses all the important information in a new form.
  5. Use quotation marks to identify any unique term or words you have borrowed exactly from the source.
  6. Record the source (including the page) on your note taking organizer so that you can credit it easily if you decide to use the material into your paper or project.

Modified from “Six Steps to Effective Paraphrasing.” Purdue University Online Writing Lab.
< >.

Copy and paste small portions of text such as specific details, facts, definitions, and statistics. Typically you don't need to cite this kind of information if it is common knowledge, unless it is a new or unique perspective on the knowledge.

Directly quote a source. Quotations are reserved for 1-2 sentence statements that prove a point or reveal an attitude. Don't use quotations to make your point, just to back it up. They are especially appropriate for primary sources such as diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memos, manuscripts, memoirs, and autobiographies. You need to use quotation marks and footnotes.

Note taking tips modified from: Stripling, Barbara K. and Judy M. Pitts. Brainstorms and Blueprints: Teaching Library Research as a Thinking Process. Englewood, CO: Libraries Unlimited, Inc. 1988.

Tip for avoiding plagiarism: You will need to add quotes around text that is extracted directly from the source. Summarized or paraphrased notes should be "noted" so you rember to cite as appropriate. (NoodleTools notes will do this for you!) Do this so you won't forget whether or not it is a direct quote or paraphrased when you are using the information in a paper later on.

Possible electronic organizers for note taking:

Use note feature in NoodleTools!

Word processed form

Create your own template or use the one below.
Suggested fields for the note taking form: Name, date, Source (title, author, publication, date, URL, etc.), subject of that information, abstract (pertinent information-paraphrase, avoid copying and pasting huge blocks of text), ideas (record here your ideas and reactions to the information, ways to use it in the paper, your opinions, or further research you need to do on the information). You should save each with a descriptive title or sequential number.

Instructions for saving the note taking form or as a template in Microsoft Word:

  1. Click on this one page form (Modified from McKenzie, 2000.) and Open
  2. Click on this note card form (modified from one by Trey Garza, class of 2006.) and Open
  3. Click on File, Save As...
  4. Click on Trusted Templates or Templates icon on the left for Word 2007. For any other version of Word, you don't need this step.
  5. Title it with a short descriptive name such as NoteForm or NoteCards
  6. Choose Document Template or Word Template for Save as type. Notice that the folder that it will save into has changed to Templates—do not change this. This will save it as a template. Click OK
    Every time you choose New Office Document, (click My Templates for Word 2007) there is an icon for that form. When selected, it comes up as an untitled Word document, but it has the form fields for you to fill in.

    Graphic of person writing on clip boardClick the graphic for the same one page note taking form template (in PDF format). This one is used to record notes by hand. You will need Adobe Reader to view or print. However, you are discouraged from taking notes by hand because you will save huge amounts of time if you don't have to recopy them into your drafts and final paper.


Citing Sources

Do it! Check with your teacher to see if he or she prefers parenthetical citation or footnotes. Here is what you need to know:

  1. If you are using parenthetical citation you will create a Works Cited list on a separate page at the end of your paper. It is alphabetized by author (or title if there is no author).Use this page for examples of inserting the parenthetical citation.
    Use this page for information on writing the Works Cited page.
  2. NoodleTools makes citing your sources easy. You need to fill in the content and it will create the citation.
  3. If you are using footnotes, you will cite your sources on the page on which they appear. Microsoft Word does this automatically:*

    Type the text that you wish to cite. After the period insert the footnote (don't put a space). Here's how:

    • Click on Insert on the menu bar.
    • Click Footnote...
    • Click OK at the dialog box (unless you need to customize it).
    • Word will put your cursor at the bottom of the page with the footnote number. Type in the citation. *The author's name will appear in normal order (not reversed), separated from the other information with a comma. Publication data (City: Publisher, year) appears in parentheses, and no period is used until the very end of the citation.
      • 15Ronald E. Pepin, Literature of Satire in the Twelfth Century (Lewiston: Edwin
        Mellen Press, 1988) 78.

      • Subsequent references
        Pepin 99-101.

        If you use more than one title from the same author, then add the title:
        16Pepin, Parody in Literature 35-37.

    • Continue typing text in the body of the paper above.
    • Note: You can put more than one footnote on a page.

  4. If you are using endnotes, Microsoft Word uses Roman numerals as its default. Change these numerals to Arabic (1,2,3,...) by:
    • Click on Insert on the menu bar.
    • Click Footnote...
    • Click Endnote
    • Click Options...
    • Change the numeration style to Arabic (1,2.3,...)
    • Click OK

*Darling, Charles. A Writer's Pratical Guide to MLA Documentation. [Online] (January 13, 2003).
URL < >.

Links used with permission.

Back to Research Assistant

Library Home  |  Find Books  |  Ask A Librarian  |  Find Articles  |  Home Work Help  |  Policies

Copyright , St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, Austin, TX
Maintained by Regan Schwartz, Upper School Librarian. (