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Organizing Your Research

The Note Card Method

You may have used the Note Card Method in the past to help you organize information for a research paper. The Note Card Method has you write out quotes or paraphrased information on a note card and include information such as the topic of the source and where you found the source.

There are four parts to the Note Card Method:

  • Part 1: Topic
    • This is going to be the main idea from your research assignment that your quote will connect to. Creating and organizing your information will make it easier focus your research and complete your assignment.
  • Part 2: Source
    • This will be the name of the source that your information is from. 
  • Part 3: Quote or paraphrased information
    • This will be either the quote or your paraphrased sentence(s) from the source. What evidence in this source did you find that will support your thesis statement?
  • Part 4: Page Number
    • This is the page number that you found the quote on. If your source does not have page numbers (like an internet source) you can either leave this blank or include the section of the online source that you found this information in. 

*Note: it is important to only put one quote or paraphrase per notecard. 

Example Note Card

Completed note card formatted for a research paper

In the top left corner of the note card is the topic that the quote relates to in the research paper. 

In the top right corner of the note card is an abbreviated name of the source this quote came from.

In the center of the note card is the quote/paraphrased information from the source.

In the bottom right corner of the note card is the page number the information came from.

Next Steps

Because the quotes and paraphrases are on their own note card, you can group and reorder them in the way you want them to appear in your research paper. Use the topic at the top of each note card to group cards by subject. Then put the groups in the order that they should appear in your paper to support your thesis. Next look at each group of notecards, and within each group, order the notecards in the way they'll appear in each paragraph of the paper. 

Think about the order that the information needs to be presented in in order to build a case for your thesis. Once everything is organized by topic and in order, you will have created a map or guide to follow when writing your paper. It may also allow you to spot holes in your reasoning or evidence--you can then return to your sources (or find additional sources) to fill in the needed information.