Now that you have found some credible, authoritative sources, you may be wondering how to organize the information you found in these sources to help you write your paper. This page provides several methods to help you organize your research before you begin the writing process.
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:
*Note: it is important to only put one quote or paraphrase per notecard.
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.
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.
Another way of organizing your sources could be to use a source table in Word or Excel to keep all of your notes in one place. Using a source table in a program like Word or Excel can help you see all of your notes at once and could help you see the connections between your sources easily. You could list out the different quotes or main ideas from each source to make sure they align well with your thesis statement.
There are a lot of ways that you can organize your table, and you should choose the method that makes the most sense to you. In your table, be sure to include the source name, author, page number (if available), and sections for the direct quotes or paraphrases you want to include.
Below are templates you can use to organize your research using Word or Excel. Feel free to edit the template to organize sources in a way that works best for you.
A research outline is a tool to help you organize your research. A research outline should be created after you have completed most of your research, but before you begin writing your paper. The outline should act as a map to your paper. It is easier to write a paper that is fully outlined.
Go through all of your sources, take notes on the important points you want to include from each source, and then group them by topic until you have the main ideas of your paper. Order these ideas in a way that makes sense and will support your thesis--walk your reader through each idea so that they come to the conclusion of your argument/thesis.
Things to keep in mind about outlines:
Here is an example of an outline structure. Remember, your outline may not look exactly like this, depending on what you are working on.
While these outlines can certainly be used as templates to help you outline your research, if you need to submit an outline for your class, please make sure to follow any requirements for your outline that your instructor requires.
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